(510) 859-4718 customersupport@namw.org

Polly Hansen
A Minor, Unaccompanied

In this coming-of-age memoir, a young girl struggles to survive with little parental supervision. Born of two free-wheeling parents in the mid-1950s, young POLLY, the youngest of three, is raised in the creative, narcissistic atmosphere of professional theatre in Baltimore, Maryland and watches every Friday night as her mother flirts on stage as a seductive French maid. PENNY, her gorgeous, promiscuous, life-of-the-party mother, fascinates young Polly who absorbs lessons about sex, manipulation and power.

Enduring a turbulent childhood where violence frequently erupts between her parents, adolescent Polly moves with her family to the wealthy northern Chicago suburbs during the counterculture of the 1960s. There, she falls in love with HUGO, a man 11 years her senior. Intrigued by his wealth, her parents deem him eccentric, but charming, and condone their friendship. When Polly later reveals that she may be pregnant, they do virtually nothing to stop him. Polly continues to see Hugo, even though he takes other lovers.

When Polly’s parents divorce, her older brother and sister leave home. Polly moves to a commune just before her 16th birthday with her mother’s permission. She then travels across the country with a new boyfriend seven years her senior, ultimately ending up alone and homeless in San Francisco and engaging in survival sex for food and shelter.

She returns home to Illinois, moves into her mother’s new apartment, and enrolls at a new high school as a junior. Polly does well in school for the first time and excels in her music studies playing the flute. In the middle of the school year, her mother remarries and moves to Washington, D.C. with her new husband, leaving Polly behind in the apartment with two graduate students as roommates. Polly is seventeen.

On the outside Polly is doing well, but on the inside she is crippled by self-loathing, shame and the pain of abandonment. She seeks the help of a psychologist who runs weekend encounter groups where he and his clients verbally abuse Polly, calling her nasty and vile. Polly believes she deserves this treatment. But one woman, JOYCE, takes Polly under her wing and invites Polly to live with her family after she graduates high school. Polly accepts. She becomes part of the family, goes to church with them, and learns the meaning of love, commitment and responsibility.

But her old life tugs at her. Who does she want to be, this new Polly, or the old one that is at least familiar? She starts seeing Hugo again, but when she runs into the man who trafficked her in San Francisco, she is faced with the direness of her choices. Polly wants to believe in herself and stop making bad choices. She wants to believe she is good. With that hope in her heart, she leaves the psychologist’s practice, leaves Joyce’s home, and sets out on her own path, determined to believe she is worthy of love and acceptance, most of all from herself.


Polly Hansen’s unpublished memoir “” won Memoir Magazine’s 2022 Memoir Prize for Books coming-of-age category under the title “Nasty Girl.” Her work is published in various journals, including Grande Dame Literary, The Heartland Review, Midwest Review, and many others. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband and two black dogs often mistaken for small black bears on leashes. You can find her at pollyhansen.com and @9ofPentacles.



Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from NAMW.

You have Successfully Subscribed!