“Never be ashamed of where you come from.”
Publication date is March 16, 2018.
Winner of 2016 Kore Press First Book Award, selected by Robin Coste Lewis
Trailer Trash is a book about the cotton-country of Riverside County, Southern California, in1980s/90s. A book about poverty, ravaged landscape, and gender, it touches on a fuller, dustier California than Hollywood would have you believe. It is not only a book of class and struggle, it is also a book of triumph, beauty, and constructed worlds. It interfaces with grief and sanctuary in equal measure, creating a deeper understanding of origin stories. Never be ashamed of where you come from, these poems say, even when where you come from is broken, and dry, and made of tin.
Praise for Trailer Trash
2016 Kore Press First Book Award Judge, Robin Coste Lewis:
“When I read the title of this collection, I’ll admit it: I didn’t want to read it. I thought––obnoxiously––that I knew what I would find before turning its first page: cute, pink poems about poverty––which is to say, a style of writing I wanted to avoid completely. I was wholly unprepared for the exceptional skill and aesthetic courage I encountered when I opened the book, skill and courage that remained from the first line to the last. It is so much easier to perform rather than to be honest. You can offer the world a mask, then walk away, pretending to be somewhere, someone. This is especially true when one is poor, or a woman. But from beginning to end, these poems about both are neither cute, nor nice. They are strong, quiet, new, unapologetic, even ruthless in their refusal to play any role, including “girl” or “poor.” Which is to say, July Westhale constantly creates wholly unfamiliar constructions that run back and forth between that pole of both exquisite and horrifying with courageous agility. Evoking the language of myth, history, sociology, Westhale takes a sign as overused as “trailer trash” and utterly destroys that myth (or is it nightmare?) completely. Furthermore, she refuses to look away from the true complexity of gender and poverty, or more specifically, what it actually means to grow up both poor and girl. It isn’t new––class analysis––of course not. Indeed, one could argue that class is precisely what women within patriarchy write. What else could we write, century after century, when it took us so long to own property or even vote? That’s called a tradition. But what’s exciting for me is I know this collection, “Trailer Trash,” will take its rightful place within this exquisite history. What’s even more thrilling, however, is the awareness that this voice is completely distinct, these narratives, this terrain belong only to the narrators who tell them. And that’s something that one can never force, nor fake. Indeed, perhaps the greatest gifts of this collection is that it does not run from the complexities of class and gender, nor the Athenian feat of locating unpretentious, deeply psychological lyric to render them.”
—Robin Coste Lewis, National Book Award winner for Voyage of the Sable Venus.
July Westhale is a writer, educator, and adoptee. She was born in Arizona, but has lived largely in California, and has been in Oakland for the last ten years. She has her hand in many pots: teaching Creative Writing, working in reproductive health/patient advocacy, and writing to pay rent. She writes expansively in several genres (YA, Creative Nonfiction, Journalism), but her crux is always poetry. Her work largely deals with the intersections between personal and global trauma, class, place, and ideas of home—in landscapes and in people. She is constantly reconciling the disparity between academia and the poor/working class, and engaging in larger conversations about breaking down borders between the two.