Husband, Father, Drag Queen, Sex Worker, Wife Sarah Krasnostein S The Trauma Cleaner Is A Love Letter To An Extraordinary Ordinary Life In Sandra Pankhurst She Discovered A Woman Capable Of Taking A Lifetime Of Hostility And Transphobic Abuse And Using It To Care For Some Of Society S Most In Need PeopleSandra Pankhurst Founded Her Trauma Cleaning Business To Help People Whose Emotional Scars Are Written On Their Houses From The Forgotten Flat Of A Drug Addict To The Infested Home Of A Hoarder, Sandra Enters Properties And Lives At The Same Time But Few Of The People She Looks After Know Anything Of The Complexity Of Sandra S Own Life Raised In An Uncaring Home, Sandra S Miraculous Gift For Warmth And Humour In The Face Of Unspeakable Personal Tragedy Mark Her Out As A One OffThis Is A Truly Unique Book, Taking The Humanity Of S Town, The Beauty Of H Is For Hawk And The Sensitivity Of When Breath Becomes Air To Create Something Of Startling Originality


10 thoughts on “The Trauma Cleaner One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster

  1. says:

    The Trauma Cleaner, Sandra, is a horrible person but the blurb says, Sarah Krasnostein s The Trauma Cleaner is a love letter to an extraordinary ordinary life The author excuses the awfulness of her subject every time by harking back to her upbringing.Sandra, then a boy, had a traumatic upbringing, an adopted child who was rejected and sent to live in a shed in the garden, or a bungalow, at age 9, 11 or 13, his and others recollections vary It s always better to tell the truth as that way you don t have to have a good memory, If you can t keep your story straight, you are probably lying.Eventually the traumatised child grows to be a man and marries and has two sons When his gay side, his drag queen side, makes it impossible to remain married, he leaves, taking the car and leaving his wife with the house, the mortgage and the children He couldn t care less about anyone but himself He becomes Sandra and being quite beautiful according to the author, the pics show a very masculine looking tall, slim blonde she gets many men, including illegally marrying one She never shows real caring for them unless it affects herself.The Trauma Cleaning business is the interesting part of the book Sandra employs a lot of people to clean up after disasters, but mostly from hoarders and those that let their pets use their entire house as a bathroom Sadly this most interesting part is very sketchy This, as the blurb says, is a love letter to Sandra by the author.At the end of the book, Sandra is reunited, after 40 years, with one of her sons She makes it clear to him and the author he isn t going to benefit for her will, she s left her money elsewhere The final cutting blow of a man woman who loved only themselves and didn t see anything wrong with that at all.This is a very sketchy review of a book that was quite well written but I did not enjoy It is 3.5 stars for writing and interest but 2 for enjoyment so I rounded it down The best review of this book is by Carol, you can read it here


  2. says:

    Recently, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death was popping up in discussion, and I had been toying with a re read until fortuitously offered the chance to read Trauma Cleaners What perfect serendipity Don t you wonder, just a bit, about the secret lives of cleaners Their tricks for getting out blood The crazy things they encounter Sadly, though the blurb makes it sound as if such stories are the focus, the book centers on Sandra, the owner of a trauma cleaning business As Sandra was born a man and eventually transitioned to a woman, this still had potential for fascinating insight into the process of change, going from dysfunction to order While I think that might have been the theme the author was hoping for, there was too little reflection to make it work.It begins with an introduction by the author, sharing some of the purpose and challenges in writing this book, but her deep affection for Sandra is clear It s followed by a trauma cleaning of Kim s home, an artist and tenant who has let trash, her pet rats and her art get out of control The story soon transitions to Sandra s history, beginning in 1950s 60s with Sandra s parents They adopted Sandra, born Peter, when they were unable to have their own children, although speculation is that Peter may have been the product of an affair When they had their own biological children, Peter found himself being pushed out the door literally to a back shed.That bank and forth between time frames structures the entire book a section on a place Sandra is cleaning and the current resident, followed by a chapter in Sandra s life The format for Sandra s history is strictly chronological, beginning with childhood, though the current cleaning project timeline is unclear.I ve never been a fan of unreliable narrators, and Sandra is unreliable than most It isn t a personal criticism with a faulty memory, I m unreliable in my own way with details but a storytelling one how can you tell the story of someone who admits, Many of the facts of Sandra s past are either entirely forgotten, endlessly interchangeable, neurotically ordered, conflicting or loosely tethered to reality She is open about the fact that drugs may have impacted her memory It is also my belief that her memory loss is trauma induced The solution, in my mind, would have been relentless fact checking, research, and interviewing, but instead Krasnostein relies on a combination of often isolated incidents, a couple of interviews, and rather florid storytelling Though the sex work she does and the drugs she takes and her overriding need for constant company frequently mean that she is not in control of herself or her environment, she is excellent at acting otherwise to conceal any vulnerability So she does not cry in public and, while she might comment in the same tone as one comments on traffic that she is experiencing pain or discomfort, and through, of course, she feels pain deeply, she never actually shows it or make any practical adjustments to accommodate it Krasnostein is prone to making such sweeping statements without any supporting detail or commentary from Sandra showing she believes this.One of the troubles of this kind of storytelling like any auto biography, really is that in distance, it sometimes becomes easy to judge people That may be why I prefer autobiographies like An Unquiet Mind, because it is easier for the subject to share their thoughts and perceptions, and thus easier to understand without judgement.In this case, the writer isn t able to get very much into Sandra s head, so much here that would be the meat of the story goes almost unaddressed I don t think this is the writer s fault any time such issues are brought up, it sounds as if Sandra quickly dismisses them with a don t remember, love, kind of comment Sandra, for instance, fathered two children She currently has no contact with them, and we have very little insight why, although it is clear the writer also wonders She s also politically conservative, which seems surprising given her trans background, extensive drug use and history of supporting herself through sex work Again, not really explained Nor is the simple fact of why she wears pristine white shoes and refuses to wear gloves at her cleaning jobs We re left with the visual portrait of a presumably complex person this is how she makes her money, this is how she dresses, these are the things she buys, these are the people she hangs around with It lacks the larger social context of Janet Mock s Redefining Realness with the exception on a chapter that deals with rape , as well as her attention to detail on the transition As an aside, I found Sandra s general dismissal and non discussion of the process of transitioning to be fascinatingly oblique.Ultimately, though I eagerly picked it up, it never really paid off for me The lack of insight into either Sandra or the trauma cleaning case studies process meant it was unsatisfying on either front However, it was written engagingly enough that it wasn t a waste of time or utterly frustrated, just too surface to really engage me emotionally or intellectually Kind of like watching a segment of Entertainment Tonight, or Hoarders instead of a thoughtful, in depth analysis one hopes for from a book It does make significant strides in this direction in the last hundred pages or so of the story.Two and a half stars on my It was okay scale, rounding up because it was very readable.


  3. says:

    WOW..What a story My god I never read a story like this one I knew other friends liked this book..but it was really Esil who inspired me to read this I almost sent my library ebook back to the library thinking I didn t have time to read it or some other excuse I ve started Crime and Punishment so I figured that might be enough trauma haha But all I can say is WOW WOW WOW Sarah Krasnostein did a terrific job writing this book sentence after sentence was beautiful and deeply felt often sharing her own relationship to Sandra but the real heroine is Sandra Pankhurst Book or no book.yet some life stories REALLY DESERVE to be written.and this is one of them I didn t even know that this was going to be the story that it was I thought it was going to be the ins and out of cleaning crime scenes It was that, too..but really just a one part It s SANDRA WHO STAYS WITH ME.much less about her business The founder of Specialized Trauma Cleaning services in Melbourne, Australia I fell in love with this extraordinary womanflaws and all Now about my age in her 60 s This is a human survival story like none other I ve read And her heart compassionate heart is bigger than life itself My god Sandra s life growing up was soooo devasting sad She was an adopted unwanted child, abused, neglected, unloved She was kicked out of her home by age 17 married by 18 Sandra was living her life as Peter THE FATHER of two boys while beginning to transition she walked out abandoning her to children We learn about this, too Enter prostitutionher drag queen days..life of drugs, and alcohol, as if horrific abuse wasn t enough We get the entire story of how Sandra started her business and all that it entails I thought about readers TRYING to imagine cleaning those homes and thinking that 99% of us know they could never do it Sandra cleans them with love.This quote sums up my experience of Sanda clear it breaks her heart to see anyone suffer She supports people emotionally helping them let go of emotional trauma as well as their physical nightmares Really beautiful real and inspiring Despite seeing the same shit each day for 21 years, Sandra treats each client as unique in their circumstance and equal in their dignity I asked her once how she manages to maintain that attitude of compassion and absolute non judgment I think it s a drive for me that everyone deserves it because I deserve it as well, she explained.


  4. says:

    You ll just have to read this one for yourself to understand It s a multi layered tale about Sandra Pankhurst, who is nearly impossible to describe without just writing a book about her, as the author has done She s currently running a business that cleans up crime scenes of all kinds, disasters, drug labs, hoarding situations of property and or animals, both current and past, scenes which can be filthy, dangerous and toxic She knows her stuff like nobody s business and has a crew she manages very efficiently The other part of the story is Sandra herself and each of her rebirths she has gone through each time she s had to pick up and start over, what she s gone through getting to where she is in life It s been a tough road which would have broken a lesser person yet still, Sandra perseveres despite being ill, still trying to help others It s quite a story and worth reading An advance copy was provided by NetGalley and the author Sarah Krasnostein for an unbiased review St Martin s PressApril 10, 2018.


  5. says:

    I would give this six stars if I could.


  6. says:

    The Trauma CleanerOne Woman s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay and DisasterSarah KrasnosteinMY RATING PUBLISHER St Martin s Press PUBLISHED April 10, 2018REVIEWThis story found within the pages of THE TRAUMA CLEANER One Woman s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster was unexpected I thought the book was about cleaning up after deaths, crime scenes, and hoarders and how one woman fights the good fight to do this I didn t know I would be reading about the horrendous childhood and difficult life of this woman who was born as a boy I didn t know I d be reading about the details of her sex change operation and her rough life in the brothels And while Sandra Pankhurst should be admired for her perseverance and her compassion in her cleaning business, the book tries to cover to much and goes to far It is interesting that an author would even attempt a full life biography of a woman with a self professed faulty memory, and then continue to remind the reader that this or that may not be accurate throughout the book It casts doubt on the entire story Author Sarah Krasnostein is very much a part of the book and the story She followed Sandra Pankhurst to various cleaning scenes over a four year period At the end of the first chapter Krasnostein describes this book as a love letter to Sandra Krasnostein s admiration and affection for Sandra is apparent through the book, with such sentiment as I have the rapturous experience, many times, of simply listening to her swear The chapters which deal with trauma cleaning are seemingly told by Krasnostein as the observer But by placing herself in the story she gets in the way These chapter are interesting, but are little than a documentation of what Krasnostein sees The chapters which reveal Sandra s life history are told from a third person point of view and while gut wrenching, held little interest given the expectation from the title The transitions in point of view from chapter to chapter make the book a little difficult to read The writing was also difficult to follow, requiring frequent rereading of pages and paragraphs to determine who was speaking or who was being discussed There are an immense number of people and name changes referenced in the book and keeping up with everyone adds to the struggle THE TRAUMA CLEANER was a trying read Thanks to NetGalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


  7. says:

    Most fascinating person ever This is the number 1 most fascinating person I ve ever come across, seriously Her far out life and her far out job just slay me For the entire book, my eyes were in startle position and my brain was in wonder warp I could not put this biography down It s about a person named Sandra I can relate to her life as much as I can relate to jumping out of an airplane Her life has been bizarre, but that s putting it mildly I m not going to elaborate though man do I want to in the off chance you re going into the book blind The layout of the book is creative Chapters alternate between the story of Sandra s life and reports of her cleaning jobs The writer goes to the sites along with the cleanup crew so you get a first hand report of what s happening The way the book is set up, showing past and present Sandra, gives you a vivid picture of her unusual life I was interested equally in both stories, so I never got annoyed when the focus switched.Sandra s strange past is startling and heart breaking you will do a lot of gasping , yet you can t help but admire her resilience and sense of survival She is a very complicated survivor, and her psychology is fascinating Some of Sandra s choices will infuriate you she s not always likeable She has memory and health problems due to a lot of substance abuse and hormones, yet she is a model citizen with a great work ethic She has lived through many traumatic events way than one person should have to it s a wonder she isn t catatonic or dead Instead, she holds no pity parties Or at least none that we the reader can see the biographer adores her and puts a positive spin on everything Sometimes the writer s idol worship is annoying, but mostly not Oh, the cleanups The thought of feces, rats, bugs, and stench of course makes me sick But getting to sit in my calm and relatively clean surroundings and read about these faraway gross scenes worked out just fine The descriptions of the pungent piles and the people who own them are detailed and vivid I was right there, a fly on the wall although I probably should stay away from the bug imagery , able to watch without smelling or tripping over shit This is the time when you re plenty grateful that the visits are virtual.You get to hear the hoarders stories, and they fascinated me Their stinky piles reflect a unique and mystifying psychology What were the hoarders like, pre stink What do they think about it all now Do they feel good or bad when their house is clean I have to admit that my secret paper hoarder self got antsy Nothing like a little shock therapy to make you clean up your act You better believe that I tackled the growing piles of junky paper on my table it was starting to look pretty bad And then there s Sandra How can she stand it What in the world could make her want to enter these toxic environments That just fascinates me too What s in Sandra s head as she goes off to work every day I guess she s all la de da, I ll just pull out my sledgehammer and dislodge some of the stuck on caca that engulfs every inch of this home, while holding my nose so I don t puke Forget about grabbing my Bon Ami I ll get out my rake and crowbar if you don t mind Her business is thriving and she prides herself in being a perfectionist Sandra has a way of working with hoarders, handling them with respect as she rescues them from the piles engulfing them She treats them gently and tries to lower their hugundous anxiety I got a peek into what made some hoarders tick, and I got to see, in detail, how a team goes about cleaning up the mess what tools they use, what health precautions they take They all wear space outfits except Sandra, who goes into each home sort of dressed up Who in the hell signs up for this job Surprisingly, I have a Complaint Board, which I hardly ever drag out for a 5 star read But although you can barely see the complaints because I wrote in very light chalk , they can t be ignored.Complaint Board Come on, biographer What s with all the dialogue This isn t fiction with its fair share of dialogue, quotation marks everywhere, but this book often reads like that Hello, this is a biography, which means there is no way you know the precise conversations people had Having actual words coming out of actual people s mouths is just all wrong I think this is done for dramatic effect, but you shouldn t be going for dramatic effect in a biography You say that Sandra has memory problems all the reason to avoid quoting conversations This complaint has an asterisk, because every time I read a conversation, I winced, knowing you weren t writing truth So you can imagine how much I liked this book if I am willing to overlook this Shame shame shame sung to the tune of Aretha Franklin s Chain Chain Chain Biographer, I share your interest in shame and I have been meaning to read Bene Brown s books on the subject, but really, discussions of her ideas don t belong in a biography It doesn t do the book any favors when you decide to play amateur psychologist Luckily, you kept this discussion very short I forgive you I feel bad for you, but At the end, you talked very briefly about your own depression I hate to be callous, but it s not cool to talk about your own psychology in a biography Sorry.There That s over with So let me end by saying again that I loved this book The writing is lyrical and smart I loved the sentences I m especially impressed because the author s day job is as a lawyer The scenes, both of Sandra s life and her jobs, are hard to stomach, but they are so well described, you feel like you re watching a movie I recently talked lovingly about this book to a non reader acquaintance She couldn t understand why anyone would want to read this book What s the point , she asked, and I knew she meant it was too wild and weird for her and she had absolutely no interest in hanging out in gross houses with an oddball Well, the point is, it s a great book, well told and riveting Plus I just love to read about anything or anyone bizarre Actually, I didn t know I wanted to hang out in gross houses until I was there Oh what a book I won t forget this one for a long, long time.


  8. says:

    I recently read Maid, which I liked but didn t love I found the mix of focus on the author s life and her observations of the people she worked for as a maid somewhat incongruous In a way, The Trauma Cleaner does the same thing, but so much better Sandra Pankhurst runs a company that cleans homes that seem beyond the possibility of being cleaned the homes of hoarders, people plagued by disease and addiction, and the sites of horrendous deaths Sandra herself has survived and gracefully so what seems like an impossible life Born a boy, adopted into a horribly abusive family and changing sexes in the 1980s in Australia, her survival and spirit are quite extraordinary The author of this biography follows Sandra for a few years, writing about her life and her work The parts about her work also include a peak at the lives of the people who live in the houses Sandra cleans The story is emotional, but it s also full of sharp edges and humour This is a powerful tribute to a woman who went to extraordinary lengths to live an ordinary life I especially liked listening to the audio because the narrator did a fabulous job giving Sandra a voice Thanks to GR friends Debbie and Bianca for pointing me towards this powerful book I finished it a few days ago, but it s still with me.


  9. says:

    My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.A blend of biography and memoir, The Trauma Cleaner meditates on what it means to live with the memory of great pain The book alternates between describing the daily work of Sandra Pankhurst, a trans woman who owns a trauma cleaning business, and charting Sandra s traumatic personal history, from her abuse as a child to her estrangement from her children after her transitioning process Sarah Krasnostein abandons any pretense of authorial distance from her subject, and passionately sympathizes with Sandra her prose is effusive, her characterization sentimental She skillfully juxtaposes Sandra s difficult life against the harrowing stories of the people whose homes she helps clean A few things bothered me about this book, namely the author s frequent paraphrasing of her sources as well as her use of a made up birth name for Sandra while reconstructing her life pre transition But Krasnostein s style is compelling, and her book paints a vivid portrait of a complex personality.


  10. says:

    Find all of my reviews at What s the difference between a private library and a book hoarder Feces Now for the question of the day can Kelly.gif up a non fiction review This book has received mixed reviews from my friends, but after seeing Debbie s reaction I figured it was worth me rolling the dice It totally was too and really my only complaint was this was supposed to be a BI.O.GRA.PHY People who write books like these are only supposed to be telling you about the person they are writing about They aren t supposed to show their obvious raging boner of a crush on their subject or interject their own sob story into the mix Me no likey that bit.Now on to the part I can see being a peeve for many others Most of the trips on the way back machine to Sandra Pankhurst s history can be reacted to like such Her memory fails her in many of the places where it counts the most which makes her a very unreliable narrator for the remainder It also makes non fiction read like fiction which is waaaaaaaaaaaaay beneficial to achieving a high score on the Kelly and Mitchell entertainment scale Really, the only issue I have with the way Pankhurst s history is presented is that a certain type of people who wouldn t ever even read this book to begin with, but certainly would have no problem bashing it will use it to say that gender identity is a mental disorder brought on by a person s upbringing and that makes me barf But fuck those people, right The other thing I kept thinking while reading was why didn t James Frey do this when he wrote his memoir Remember James Frey and his million little pieces that made Oprah all Hindsight is 20 20 for that fella But anywho, if you aren t a big non fiction reader and looooooooooooooooooove shows like this Nothing makes me clean house quicker than a Hoarders marathon, knowwhatI msayin You might find this to be a winner for you too.