Sandra Pankhurst, 2016

Photo: David Krasnostein

* Winner, Victorian Prize for Literature, 2018
* Winner, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, 2018
* Winner, Australian Book Industry Awards, General Non-Fiction Book of the Year, 2018
* Shortlisted, Indie Book Award for Non-fiction, 2018
* Shortlisted, ABIA Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, 2018
* Shortlisted, Dobbie Literary Award for a first time published author, 2018

BEFORE SHE WAS A TRAUMA CLEANER, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, sex reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife…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.

A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his living room. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.

Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead—and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.

A “one-of-a-kind biography”
– Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review Summer Reading Guide

“The Trauma Cleaner pays tribute to a person who’s an absolute life force, even among the death and decay and squalor and stench that she works in every day and the crushing difficulties of her own past. And it’s a story told more beautifully than you can possibly imagine.”
– Amanda Smith, ABC Radio National’s Best Summer Reads

“A superbly written book about the re-doutbable Sandra Pankhurst and her work as a trauma cleaner…This is the startling life story of Pankhurst, a trans woman with a heart the size of Uluru, written in Krasnostein’s irresistibly warm, frank, intelligent voice as she describes sites of sadness and horror that take the reader straight to the dark heart of the human condition.”
– Kerryn Goldsworthy, Best Books of 2017, Australian Book Review

“Sarah Krasnostein does a marvellous job of illuminating Sandra Pankhurst the person…it’s the vignettes of Pankhurst’s early life and upbringing in Melbourne, interspersed throughout the book, that make for compelling reading.”
– Readings Best Non-Fiction 2017

“This is a book which resists the temptation to fill in the gaps. In that sense, it enacts trauma itself. Krasnostein doesn’t try and insist that all the details of these complex lives add up – she merely describes them vividly, lovingly and respectfully to make a single statement: this is a life.”
– Judges’ Report, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards – Shortlist, 2018

“Krasnostein is an astute observer of human nature and her understated yet elegant prose is reminiscent of Helen Garner.”
– Readings

“Krasnostein’s playful yet heartfelt debut is one of the most arresting works of biography you will read in a long time.”
– The Guardian

“An anomalous, indelible treasure.. Krasnostein allows Sandra’s story room to breathe and expand, to quietly but confidently stake its claim to the reader’s heart.”
Kill Your Darlings

“This is a book as multifaceted as its subject. It’s a meticulously put-together biography…It’s a wondrous portrait of an inspiring character…It’s an eloquent discourse on trauma, pain and ways of coping…”
– The Saturday Paper

“Written with sensitivity, insight and warmth. Krasnostein has pieced together a compelling history through careful research and interviews. The Trauma Cleaner is no ordinary trauma narrative: we see how the infliction of multiple traumas has left this fascinating woman uniquely placed to restore order among the despair of others, and it is with similar care that Krasnostein has produced this book.”
– Books+Publishing

“[Sandra] is one of the most extraordinary characters you will ever find in a work of non-fiction…The Trauma Cleaner is a disturbing and fascinating read with a heavy, beating heart at its centre…[Krasnostein] shows how a writer can empathise and engage with a subject yet still paint a realistic portrait.”
– The Australian

“[Pankurst’s] story is probably one of the most touching, thoughtful and thought-provoking you will ever read…Sarah Krasnostein tells it with moving compassion, even love.”
– The New Zealand Herald

“An extraordinarily impressive debut, in terms of both quality of writing and treatment of the subject matter…Krasnostein handles her material with respect, grace and compassion.”
– The Sydney Morning Herald

“Krasnostein creates a humane portrait of a woman who has somehow found fertile ground in the mess of life. A brutal, heartbreaking and utterly moving story of survival – and a quiet kind of triumph.”
– Better Reading

“A life-affirming symphony composed of notes plucked from the detritus of everyday existence. Deeply humane in its execution, Sandra’s story will move you, challenge you and continually delight you.”
– Bram Presser, Author of The Book of Dirt

“Surely the most original non-fiction book of the year… Written with warmth, humour and sensitivity, The Trauma Cleaner is utterly fascinating.”
– Page & Blackmore Booksellers