Sandra Pankhurst has been many people throughout her life, but professionally she is a trauma cleaner in Melbourne, Australia. Sandra, assigned male at birth, has lived a harrowing life. Sarah Krasnostein’s biography alternates between Sandra’s past, present, and the path that has led her to her current work and clients in the uncommon trade of trauma cleaning — cleaning, ordering, and sanitizing a space after traumatic events have occurred, such as, but not limited to, a ghastly death, fire, flood, hoarding, or meth lab.
Sandra experienced extreme abuse as a child and then abuse from the outside world due to her identity as a transgender woman and, later, a sex worker. But the descriptions of Sandra’s clients and her interactions with them, no matter what the state of their homes may be, are respectful, thoughtful, and empathetic. Krasnostein ultimately paints a portrait of a person who is multi-faceted, with faults and flaws, as well as an almost superhuman dedication to her work and life. This book examines gender identity, the impact of trauma on mental health, the search for belonging, the phases of a life, and much more. I warn the reader, however, that there is a particularly graphic description of sexual assault in the middle of this book, and some depictions of death and decay may be difficult to read.
The Indy Book Club’s March theme is Biographies and Memoirs. Join us live on Zoom for a discussion of this book on April 1, 2021, at 6pm. You can find more recommendations on this theme and others at independent.com/indybookclub.
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