‘The consequences for living openly as a transwoman were life-threatening. So understandably she didn’t share her complete life history with many people. Hardly anyone knew the full story. So the gift of her candour when I showed interest was something I was always grateful for.’
Sarah Krasnostein’s book The Trauma Cleaner has been causing a stir in Australia since release. It tells the remarkable true story of Sandra Pankhurst, a woman who has lived many kaleidoscopic lives. Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra was many things: husband and father, drag queen, sex reassignment patient, sex worker, businesswoman, trophy wife . . .
About the book
A woman who sleeps among the garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris, and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by an accidental overdose.
But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.
Sarah Krasnostein has watched the magnificent Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to the living and the dead – and the book she has written is remarkable. It is not just the compelling story of a fascinating life; it is an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.
Podcast guest: Sarah Krasnostein
Sarah Krasnostein was born in America, studied in Melbourne and has lived and worked in both countries. Earning her doctorate in criminal law, she is a law lecturer and researcher. Her essay ‘The Secret Life of a Crime Scene Cleaner’ was published on Longreads and listed in Narratively’s Top 10 Stories for 2014. She lives in Melbourne and spends part of the year working in New York City. The Trauma Cleaner is her first book.
Duration: 27 mins.