Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta – James Hannaham

One of my favorite books in a year of favorites, although this is an all over the board book emotionally and socially for this older white woman of privilege. Carlotta was Dustin when she went to a liquor store with her cousin. He commits an armed robbery that landed them both in prison. Most folks would have been paroled long before serving their full 22 years, but Carlotta Mercedes transitioned while in prison and she just can’t seem to get a break. She is frequently put into solitary for her own safety and then is assaulted by Dave the guard. She remembers, throughout the time-shifting story, her way of surviving in prison, her love for a very scary guy, what one does to make it when all you have is a window and a weed growing in the cement and a system of sending notes under doors.

When Carlotta does manage to get out, on parole and so on probation, she knows some of her family will never accept her. Many will resent her grandmother agreed to house her. She wants to reunite with her son, now a young adult, but he hasn’t written back over the years. His grandmother owns the house, spilling over with raucous family members including Carlotta’s mother, sadly in late stages of early Alzheimers offers to lend her clothes for her first probation appointment. Very sweet scene and what Carlotta has to wear is ultimately an outfit you cannot unsee. Thrown in the the “what to wear” as a trans woman is lust for clothes one cannot afford and a great makeup routine that required some resourcefulness in prison. Once “out” there are some interesting, kind of “Pretty Woman” scenes that are hysterical and sad all at once.

Carlotta’s sensibilities are constantly fresh, funny, cynical, human. Only she seems to see that the little girl cousin who is performing for the family is a lousy singer. Only she can be responsible for the terms of her parole that require her to not to be around alcohol — at a time when her family’s home seems to be party central. Only Carlotta would be stuck in sleeping on mattress in a closet and still find people have invaded her bedroom during one of these parties. Only she would pursue a job as a driver when she doesn’t have a license and then spend time trying to figure out how to drive — in Brooklyn — with no experience. There’s a sweet optimism, a ton of naivety and yet well-earned street smarts and plenty of original take observations in this woman. We all root for her. We learn a new way of looking at the world through her.

There are some terrific characters, my favorite being her grandmother, the family matriarch with old lady energy who cooks for the parties, feeds her morbidly obese son who is unable to leave his room anymore, gives Carlotta enough to get by and more importantly accepts her. Carlotta’s probation officer is a fabulous mix of supportive, distrustful, dismayed and all business as she does home visits and keeps tabs on her new charge. Carlotta was worried about a number of relationships, since her best friend stopped communicating with her for years, but they find each other and have some adventures while figuring out if there’s a friendship still. The men are a little bit stereotyped, well — a lot of characters are, but the neb are less fleshed out, playing collateral roles or foils for humorous escapades. There’s a lot of living to do in a short time when you get out of prison after years of trauma, abuse, rejection. There’s lots of temptation. There’s lots of what might have been. I know I give a shit what happened to Carlotta! I’m attached to her and do not want her to go away after one book.

Such a fresh read, almost educational and tender and terrible. Highly recommend!

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