The Trauma Cleaner

The Trauma Cleaner

One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster

Book - 2018
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Winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature, Sarah Krasnostein's The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster is the fascinating biography of one of the people responsible for tidying up homes in the wake of natural--and unnatural--catastrophes and fatalities.

Homicides and suicides, fires and floods, hoarders and addicts. When properties are damaged or neglected, it falls to Sandra Pankhurst, founder of Specialized Trauma Cleaning (STC) Services Pty. Ltd. to sift through the ashes or sweep up the mess of a person's life or death. Her clients include law enforcement, real estate agents, executors of deceased estates, and charitable organizations representing victimized, mentally ill, elderly, and physically disabled people. In houses and buildings that have fallen into disrepair, Sandra airs out residents' smells, throws out their weird porn, their photos, their letters, the last traces of their DNA entombed in soaps and toothbrushes.

The remnants and mementoes of these people's lives resonate with Sandra. Before she began professionally cleaning up their traumas, she experienced her own. First, as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home. Then as a husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, and trophy wife. In each role she played, all Sandra wanted to do was belong.

The Trauma Cleaner is the extraordinary true story of an extraordinary person dedicated to making order out of chaos with compassion, revealing the common ground Sandra Pankhurst--and everyone--shares with those struck by tragedy.

Publisher: New York, NY :, St. Martin's Press,, 2018
Edition: First U.S. edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781250101204
Branch Call Number: ANF 363.7092 KRA
Characteristics: 291 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


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Nov 28, 2018

For a biography, the author put in a lot about herself; unfortunately, she is markedly less interesting to me than the purported subject. also, the author often comments that she "just doesn't know" or "can't understand " something; this can be perhaps explained by the paucity of the index. Still worth a read because the subject is interesting and seems quite likable and courageous.

mko123 Sep 05, 2018

As a woman who has experienced a lot of trauma in her own life, Sandra Pankhurst, a professional bio-hazards technician, has the gift for dealing with people on the edge of society. She is able to gracefully handle the mentally ill and the hoarders who see themselves as trash even as they are unable to throw away the junk of life that is drowning them. Sandra herself is a mystery, and as her layers of memories resurface, I was amazed that she was able to transform a life of abysmal pain into a healing art.

LibrarianDjaz Aug 31, 2018

Poignant, complex, messy and marvelous, The Trauma Cleaner documents the life of a trans woman who has survived and thrived through failures and success both, making a life and niche for herself despite transphobia at the hands of her parents, police, and society.

This book is more than just about cleaning in the aftermath of traumatic events, deaths, or in the face of hoarding. It is about the trauma of the kind of masculinity that abuses and wounds and weaponizes itself against those it sees as weaker. It is about the trauma of being transgender in a world where so many seek to punish any perceived deviation from the norm. It is about the trauma of a hard childhood and how that follows you. It is about hardships and trauma of surviving life in a society that prefers to keep some on the margins. This book is visceral, delving deep into the metaphorical and literal shit that trauma can bring. If you’re seeking viscera and not just the visceral, this book may not be for you.

Jul 31, 2018

Beyond the obviously interesting career that the subject Sandra Pankhurst has chosen, this biography constantly surprises and challenges the reader with Pankhurst's unbelievably unique story. Despite living a strikingly different life than Pankhurst, I found her story was able to heal parts of me I had no idea it could. This is not a biography where you always will love and agree with the choices the subject has made and the explanations she gives for these more challenging choices do not always satisfy. And that's okay. This book asks you to approach it with an open mind.

TSCPL_ScarlettFH Jul 14, 2018

I was attracted to this book because I enjoy interesting stories about unusual topics. I was expecting this book to be more about the work than the person doing the work. To my surprise, the story is as much about the person as it is about her work. This is a beautifully written memoir full of sadness and loss but also humor and self-acceptance. Highly recommended.

DCLadults May 29, 2018

I love the feeling of wanting to hug a book to my chest and feeling grateful that I found it. For me, this rare. This story of a very hard life offered new seeds of thought, sudden epiphanies, and a different means of looking at social norms. I understand that this is not a book for everyone because it deals with topics such as child abuse and rape but, for me, by showing how the protagonist dealt with these issues I learned to undefine people and find beauty and strength in unexpected places.

Apr 30, 2018

I was drawn to this book by the title, and then thoroughly engaged when I found this to be a fascinating portrayal of a survivor: her storied past as a childhood abuse survivor, a husband, a sex worker and rape survivor, a wife, an entrepreneur, and ultimately, an independent woman. A really tough story beautifully written. Winner of the 2018 Victorian Prize for Literature (Australia).


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Jul 31, 2018

He won't, for many years, realize the glorious corollary of this: that there is nothing he could possibly have done to make them not love him. And although he will come to know this over the next forty years, to hold the dry thought in his mind, he will never come to feel it in that part of him below the neck, where true security resides. This will leave him prone to the dark like a light bulb screwed into its socket and flickering.

Apr 30, 2018

"Using words as disinfectants, we are trauma cleaning. Word by word, sentence by sentence, we are reuniting fragments scattered by chaos to create heat and light. We cannot always eliminate what is bad or broken or lost, but we can do our best to put everything in its place, such Order being the true opposite of Trauma."

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Jul 31, 2018

asiaklg thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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