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About the Author-
Gabriella Goliger: Gabriella Goliger’s first book, Song of Ascent, won the Upper Canada Writer’s Craft Award; she is also the winner of the Journey Prize for Short Fiction. Her work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She has been involved with the Canadian Jewish peace movement for twenty-five years.
May 1, 2011
A complex coming-of-age story about an only child of Holocaust survivors whose keen sense of outsiderness and otherness is intensified by her struggle with coming out as a lesbian.
This debut novel is set largely in Montreal between 1959 and 1970. Goliger (Song of Ascent, 2003) creatively structures the narrative into five parts to correspond with important and often painful passages in Toni Goldblatt's life. "The Mountain" introduces Toni at eight years old, a tomboy who regards dresses as "a frilly prison," loves that "their street hugs the wild side of Mount Royal" and can't possibly live up to "be the miracle child her mother insists God delivered at Toni's birth." Conflicts abound. Her mother Lisa, originally from the Bohemian town of Karlsbad, sews alterations at Shmelzer's and fiercely wants a better, bigger life for her family. The author effectively weaves strands of residual Holocaust fears with Toni's own confusing secrets regarding her emerging sexuality. At 15, she's sent to Camp Tikvah, a Jewish camp in the Laurentians, where she feels like "loose debris," even more of an outcast than at school, and falls in love with the "sassy" (and straight) song instructor Janet. Swept up by the excitement of the Six Day War, Toni, now 18, embarks for Jerusalem; she returns to Montreal when her beloved book-rescuing father dies. The pace picks up when Toni discovers Loulou's, an under-the-radar lesbian bar where she continues to question "Who am I? Neither male nor female, neither fish nor fowl"—and moves even faster in part five when Toni does indeed become a "girl unwrapped," with all its complications and meanings. The personal is emphasized over the political, which is in fact dealt with somewhat superficially, but that is most likely the author's intent.
Ambitious in scope, at times poetic with strong imagery, this is a literary work that ultimately resonates with hope.
(COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
- Kirkus Reviews "A complex coming-of-age story about an only child of Holocaust survivors whose keen sense of outsiderness and otherness is intensified by her struggle with coming out as a lesbian ... Ambitious in scope, at times poetic with strong imagery, this is a literary work that ultimately resonates with hope."
- Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan "Though rooted in her Jewish heritage, Toni Goldblatt must wrestle with it too. The adult Toni, the courageous character that emerges in Gabriella Goliger's first novel, has her own strength, complexity and loveliness."
- Quill and Quire "Goliger's precise writing shows the hallmarks of a seasoned professional who knows exactly how to engage her reader: thoughtful prose, vibrant imagery, and compelling characters. Girl Unwrapped is a universally approachable story of self-discovery, told by a skillful and poised writer."
- The Globe and Mail "The tender closing of Toni's painful odyssey is filled with the blessings that come with no longer having to hide the truth. Goliger's symbolic transliteration of Lisa's Sabbath chant, "Chew's life," appears to have worked its magic."
- Canadian Jewish News "An enticing and delightful coming-of age novel."
PublisherArsenal Pulp Press
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