Out Now - THE TRAUMA CLEANER: One woman's extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster by Sarah Krasnostein

Winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction

Sandra Pankhurst 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.
— The Australian


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

Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, brothel keeper, 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 amongst the rotting food she compulsively buys. 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 spent four years trailing the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst as she brings order and care to 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.

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About 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.

About Text Publishing:

A leading Australian independent publisher and three-time winner of Small Publisher of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards. In 2018 Text was named the inaugural Best Small Publisher of the Year at the Indie Book Awards, voted for by independent booksellers. Launched in 2012, the Text Classics list champion Australian greats including Thomas Keneally and Kate Grenville, while Text is also committed to finding and publishing the best contemporary writing for an international audience. Text publishes internationally acclaimed authors including Herman Koch, Ruth Ozeki, Yann Martel, Geoff Dyer, Jeanette Winterson, Lionel Shriver, Ali Smith, Julian Assange and J.M. Coetzee in the local market, while selling numerous leading authors to publishers around the world. They include Tim Flannery, Graeme Simsion, Lloyd Jones, Toni Jordon and Peter Temple. Text is distributed by Turnaround in the UK.

Praise for The Trauma Cleaner

Readings Non-Fiction Book of the Month (October 2017)
Longlisted for the Australian Independent Booksellers’ Indie Book Awards 2018

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 redoubtable 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”

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

“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

“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” Sydney Morning Herald