Junkette by Sarah Shotland
June 28, 2014
White Gorilla Press, Belford, NJ
From the Urban Dictionary online:
A female who swoons over the junkie-type rock stars. Known to find attraction in boys who smoke, do drugs, are overly skinny, have stoner eyes, messy hair, are in bands, etc.
Junkette: Check out that hot guy over there.
Other Person: WHAT? He’s hot?! He’s a heroin addict that weights like 50 pounds.
Person A: So how was concert last night?
Person B: It was good, but Amanda kept swooning over the band members despite the fact that they looked like they were going to die of an overdose any second.
Person A: Well, it’s expected. Afterall, she’s a total junkette.
After that definition and reading the book, I believe, however, this book’s title could be defined as “female junkie.”
Junkette is a very quick read that is filled with food for thought by playwright and writing professor at Chatham University, Sarah Shotland.
One of my friends lent me this book that was lent to her because the author’s family and my friend’s family know each other very well. Just to put it in perspective, I know who the author’s family is, but do not “know” know them. However, there is a connection because both of our families are of Irish descent from a community of farmers outside of Dallas, Texas. Any time I can read a book with some sort of connection, I am interested and willing to promote. Also, I happen to have taken aerobics from the author’s mother a few decades ago.
All of that aside, I was excited to know that this author is a successful young creative, writing and teaching at the small, private college, Chatham, in Pittsburg, PA. Her book is fiction, but as all authors do, she probably has weaved in some personal experience.
The book focuses on Claire Cunningham and her life as a bartender in New Orleans set before Hurricane Katrina. Or rather, her life as a junkie trying to figure out how to get her shit together and get out of the vicious cycle of drug addiction. You know right away that Claire is too smart to waste her time in that vicious cycle, but you are powerless to help and can only read and see what happens. Shotland introduces readers to some sad characters, but characters who spout some wisdom and truths and show empathy and mercy more than not.
Also, Shotland has Claire flash back to short vignettes when she is growing up. Here is an excerpt where Claire flashes back to getting lice when she was young, as she has realized she is infested in the present:
There are living things breeding in my head, fucking and sucking and eating and laying eggs, they’re being born and dying on my head.
I read Anne Frank too young, 7 or 8, I must have been. I was convinced the Nazis were planning a surprise attack on America and since I was the only one aware of this, they would come for my family first. This led to elaborate precautionary measures. I needed to be with an adult, able-bodied woman at all times–one who would be sent to the work line and not the death line. I located spaces large enough for a family to hide, the first being the AV room at Our Lady of Perpetual Hope Elementary School. Smaller places I could hide alone. The massive organ pipes at the Meyerson Symphony Center. The cabinet beneath the school stage where the folding chairs were stored.
But the worst part was the nightmares:
The Nazis find my family hiding in the AV room
We are evacuated from Dallas on the train tracks that
run through Casa Linda Park
We arrive at a camp and I hide underneath my mother’s
We are in the showers, naked
A woman stands over my head with an electric shaver
And then I woke up–always right before my hair was shaved.
Another short excerpt:
Most people make the mistake of believing the movies they see about junkies. Most people think junkies are skinny, emaciated even. I only wish. I can’t blame people. I thought the same thing. Which is one reason I am so bitter about this whole affair. I thought I might lose a few pounds at least.
I look forward to more writing from Sarah Shotland.