Drawing on her peripatetic childhood as the daughter of a travelling salesman, and her adult residence in one of Atlanta's seedier crack neighbourhoods, columnist and NPR commentator Hollis Gillespie has assembled a comic, poignant memoir about her life, starring her unusual family and her crazy friends.
When Hollis Gillespie almost ran a neighbour over with her car in her Atlanta neighbourhood, he yelled at her the insult that became the title of this memoir. Hollis Gillespie is a "bleachy-haired honky bitch", and her memoir, written as a collection of interlinked stories, explores her unique world.
From her childhood as the daughter of an alcoholic travelling trailer salesman and a mother who made bombs for a living, to her adulthood with a group of unusual and colourful friends, Hollis consistently finds and elaborates upon the odd, twisted details of everyday life.
The stories in 'Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch' contain both irreverent and profound moments: an account of her parents' divorce and her father's death is particularly touching when her mother breaks down after realising that her vain and spendthrift husband had forgone his love of expensive shoes in order to have a large enough apartment for his children to visit him in.
Other episodes venture into the absurd: a friend who wants to be jettisoned from an airplane upon his death (with his cat strapped to his chest) admits that he hopes his final journey will end with his body impaled on a playground swingset.
Gillespie's childhood travels take her from California to Europe, where her mother continued her unlikely career in the arms industry and where Hollis and her siblings are exposed to European "culture" such as Amsterdam's Red Light district and its Museum of Sex, in which her mother, having viewed all the displays, asks a startled attendant: "is this all there is?"
Gillespie's comic voice is akin to that of David Sedaris and David Rakoff, and her book mines a similar terrain: the absurdities of family life and daily existence, but with a wicked and twisted sense of humour that is all Hollis's. Sample chapter titles include 'My Mother And The History Of Pornography', 'Born-Again Booze Weenie', 'I've Always Been A Bad Whore', and 'Home Sweet Crack House'.