Trailer Trash by July Westhale


Pub date: March 16, 2018

$16.95, 6x9, 76 pages, perfect bound
ISBN 978-1-888553-94-9
Purchases for the trade are handled by SPD.

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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.

Download the Press Release

Author Interviews:

(January 8) by Kristy Lin Billuni at Sexy Grammar

(January 18) by Diriye Osman at Buzz Feed

Book Reviews:

(January 17) by Katy Tandy at The Establishment


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.

“Grief is a staggering weight, but certain persons carry it with a style of swagger. As vulnerable as it is tough, Trailer Trash swaggers through a childhood of loss, poverty, and rural isolation to stand before us and make a singular music: “Amazing Grace Played on a Common Saw.” A common saw can cut deep; a common saw can help you build. But in the hands of July Westhale, it indeed fashions an amazing grace out of both grievous injury and its long aftermath. From an agricultural landscape that “rises in welts,” from a people “earnest/in our destruction,” these poems arrive as hymns to survival, hymns whose lyrics refuse the erasure of working class lives from the memorable and consoling music only poetry can make.”

—Brian Teare, author of The Empty Form Goes All the Way to Heaven


“The searing poems in Trailer Trash explode like flares, illuminating glimpses of a harsh landscape.  A tomato is “sliced thick and vicous…menses on Irish thighs,” a mother brings home a pregnant jackrabbit caught in a trap to slit its belly, “knowing/ the body to be a stasis and the desert a hell,/ and the knife the only bridge between the two.”  And yet the girl-woman at the center of the poems finds strategies for keeping hope alive. But the speaker does more than survive..  The heart of this book, perhaps surprisingly, is the tremendous love that comes through for the people and places, and that transforms “something familiar but annihilating” into its opposite by the end: “the good hymnal feeling of nothing new.” 

—Sharon Bryan, author of “Sharp Stars”


Excerpt from Trailer Trash

Crop Dusters

When I woke up, I couldn’t tell which of my sisters I’d become.
We smelled of eggs, and I broke us by leaving the trailer.
If you can, pretend the alfalfa field is the Celestial City.
A man, surely a prophet, walks his dog in a pilling robe.
He is the color of sky. His dog carries the truth in its leg.
The truth is a hard knot, difficult to rub out.
The planes, by now, have come and left us a magic trail.
The trail is a beanstalk to the Lord, and we must have faith.
Our water browns after the Lord’s planes come, but we are faithful.
If I had to guess, I’d say John the Baptist. He’d have baptized
a sick dog. He’d have believed a sick dog could find the beanstalk.
Every morning, the air is as thick as syrup from a pitcher.
It is quiet, sliced up, and ready to digest, like a hymn.
The hymnal of the morning moves North, to Eagle Mountain.
Our melon fields have been blessed by the Lord.
We and our canals are filth waiting to be turned to loaves.

from Trailer Trash copyright July Westhale


July Westhale

July Westhale, Kore Press Author

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.

She is the author of The Cavalcade, a chapbook, through Finishing Line Press, and Occasionally Accurate Science, a children’s book of collective nouns, forthcoming from Nomadic Press. She is working on several other projects at present, and also paints, makes comics, and embroiders.

She is a regular contributor at The Establishment, and her work has also appeared in The Huffington Post. Her essays have been nominated for The Best of the Net, and Best American Essays. Her most recent poetry can be found in burntdistrict, Eleven Eleven, 580 Split, Quarterly West, and PRISM International.

Trailer Trash is her first full-length poetry book, and has been made possible through generous grants and residencies from Dickinson House, the Vermont Studio Center, the Tom and Evelyn Newbury award, Sewanee, and the Lambda Literary Foundation. Trailer Trash will be published March 16, 2018 and is available for pre-order now through Feb 1, 2018.



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Trash Tour Reading Dates: February-May 2018

February 2018 (West Coast + South)

OREGON: Feb 2-9

  • Portland (Feb 2-9th)


  • Sou’wester (Feb 9-15th)
    • July will be reading & teaching a workshop at Sou’wester on Feb 10th

March / April 2018 (East Coast & Midwest)

GEORGIA: March 1-5

  • Atlanta: Charis Books

FLORIDA: March 5-10

  • Tampa: AWP, March 9, 7pm (Kore Press, Kelsey Street Press, Belladonna joint reading) at The Bunker in Ybor City, FL

PENNSYLVANIA:  March 12 week

  • Philadelphia: March 13, 8pm, for You Can’t Kill a Poet at Tattooed Mom
  • Harrisburg: March 14-15, LGBT Center

NEW YORK: March 13-23

  • NYC: East Coast Book Launch, March 16, at WORD bookstore with Genevieve Walker, Courtney Gillette, Nico Grelli, & Jenn Baker

MASS: March 23

  • Northampton, March 23, 4pm at the Smith Poetry Center with Leslie Aguilar
  • Northhampton, March 25, Living Room Reading Series

DC: March 28th-31st

  • With Liz Laribee 


  • Dayton, April 1
  • Columbus, April 2nd, 7pm, at Bossy Grrls
  • Dayton, April 3rd, 7-9pm, at Dayton Distillery
  • Dayton, April 4th, meeting with the LGBTQ Youth Advocacy Group at Dayton High School (time TBD)


  • Oakland, April 7th, feature National Poetry Month poet for the Oakland Public Library, 2:30pm at the Temescal Branch

MICHIGAN: April 5-9th

  • Grand Rapids

April 2018 (Southwest & West Coast)

ARIZONA: April 15 & 16

Tucson, April 15, 10am-noon, at Kore Press in The Dunbar Pavilion, Workshop & Talk. $20 $10 for LGBTW writers, AIDS/HIV and Trauma workers).

April 16, 6pm, at Kore Press in the Dunbar Pavilion, 325 W 2nd St 85701, room 201. Featured reader at Kore’s Open House. Proseco, nibbles, and books. Free and open to the public.

NEW MEXICO: April 18-24

  • Santa Fe, April 18th at Collected Works
  • Albuquerque, April 21


  • Oakland, West Coast book release party at the Starline Social Club


  • Atlanta, October 18th, 7:30pm, at Charles Bookstore

Read more »

Additional information

Weight .29375 lbs
Dimensions 6 × 9 in