Sarah Krasnostein’s compelling portrait of Sandra Pankhurst is Text’s breakout Australian non-fiction title.
A poignant and powerful celebration of one remarkable woman’s unrelenting drive to make order from chaos, The Trauma Cleaner documents the transformative life of Sandra Pankhurst: raised in a working-class suburb of Melbourne as the abused adopted son of a Catholic family; now the owner of a highly successful trauma cleaning business.
From an early marriage, fatherhood and divorce, to living full-time as a woman, Sandra has been through a lot: as a transgender sex worker she successfully prosecuted a violent rape through the courts in the early 1980s, she worked in the drag clubs of Melbourne and the brothels of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, a remote outback town, and came back to become Victoria's first female funeral director. Later she was an upper middle class housewife, before she lost it all and turned her life around once again.
Here’s a quick round-up of why The Trauma Cleaner is one of our top books of 2018.
‘Sarah Krasnostein’s writing is warm and curious. And, carefully, it draws a portrait of Pankhurst you’ll remember long after you’ve finished reading—a woman who is quietly, wonderfully triumphant while standing at the middle and centre of despair.’—The Pool
‘Krasnostein’s playful yet heartfelt debut is one of the most arresting works of biography you will read in a long time.’—The Guardian
‘A book that is as hard to read as it is hard to put down. A story of pain and loss and loneliness, of trauma and transformations and sassy humour. And cleaning...It is a hilarious and poignant tale of a woman who defies all labels...Krasnostein is a very fine writer. Her debut book is a compelling and honest story of human survival, and love.’ —The Australian
A ‘one-of-a-kind biography’– Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
"Through countless encounters with the fetid, the neglected, and the downright tragic, Parkhurst has found meaning and peace, and [author] Krasnostein a singular subject whom she approaches with well-deserved awe.’—Booklist (starred)
‘A transgender former prostitute cleans up the fetid houses of the psychotic, the hopeless and the murdered. Sounds like some dubious TLC special, but it’s a fascinating bio of Sandra Pankhurst… Revelatory.’—People
‘Compelling and fascinating.’—Oxygen
‘Pankhurst is an engaging, sympathetic, and fascinating person, and Krasnostein does an excellent job of balancing Pankhurst's personal story with those of her clients.’—LitHub Crimereads
‘Intriguing...A complex protagonist makes for engaging material.’—Publishers Weekly
‘Krasnostein has given us an extraordinary gift of humanity, life, and determination while carefully guiding us through the unspeakable conditions in which people find themselves in the face of trauma. Through sublime writing, Sarah Krasnostein expertly renders an unforgettable portrait of Sandra, one of the most compelling people I have ever read…Krasnostein is a master storyteller.’—Sarah Schmidt, author of See What I Have Done
Australian Prizes for The Trauma Cleaner:
- Winner, Victorian Prize for Literature, 2018
- Winner, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, 2018
- Winner, ABIA General Non-Fiction Book of the Year, 2018
- Shortlisted, Indie Book Award for Non-fiction, 2018
- Shortlisted, ABIA Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, 2018
Read an extract here