This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 08/07/2019 [Online], Available: https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/author-started-writing-her-memoir-of-poverty-and-survival-whilst-in-a-homeless-hostel/ [Accessed: 2019, Jul 02]
“There is no time for socialism when you are surviving. I write mainly so I can feed my daughter.”
There is a new and long overdue strand of literature emerging from the rise of the working class author. From Darren McGarvey’s Orwell Book Prize-winning and bestselling debut Poverty Safari to Kerry Hudson’s recently-released Lowborn, the new crop are putting pen to paper their painful experiences of poverty. The newest recruit is Cash Carraway, whose debut Skint Estate is due for release on July 11.
Skint Estate is a story of survival through one of the largest projects of gentrification that Cash describes as the social cleansing of the native-born and low-income Londoner. Though she now has a council tenancy in an area that bears the highest rate of UK knife crime, Cash started writing her book in a homeless hostel and still receives Universal Credit. She spoke to me about the surreal moment when she told her Job Centre work coach she had a book deal with Penguin. It is ironic that an advance Cash received for a recent play she wrote, called ‘Refuge Woman’, led to a benefit sanction which made her homeless.
Cash, 38, has an unusual CV having, at one point, held down six jobs in an effort to ensure the survival of both her and her eight year old daughter, Biddy. But the role she describes in most detail in her book is the years she spent naked on a peep show stage before masturbating males in London’s Soho. Customers quickly became infatuated with Cash’s changing physique while pregnant and she describes one undignified moment where one man shouts: “Turn around and spread. I want to see that baby’s head.”
Reflecting on her pregnancy, Cash fought back against peer pressure from her daughter’s father and friends to have an abortion but indicates the notion never even crossed her mind. She says: “My daughter saved me during that dark time, I spent many times sitting on Hampstead Heath looking over a panoramic view of London talking to my bump.” And despite the political threads woven through the tapestry of Skint Estate, Cash is very matter of fact about her reasons for writing: “There is no time for socialism when you are surviving. I write mainly so I can feed my daughter.”
As Cash and I drew our conversation to a close last week, there was a knock at the door with a delivery from her publisher. As she rips open the package containing 14 copies of her new book, she tells me that each of her working class friends intend to buy several copies to give away while her middle class friends keep asking if she can get them a free copy. I ask how she feels holding so many copies of her book: “It is a lovely feeling, kind of exciting. I feel quite strange right now, I think I feel hopeful.”