Arsenal Pulp Press
Are you tired of flashy postmodern novels that leave you admiring but unmoved? Are you interested in Canadian social history, or Jewish Canadians, or post-Holocaust fiction or lesbian fiction that leaves you with something to think about?
Have I got a book for you. Award-winning author Gabriella Goliger's Girl Unwrapped fits beautifully into the growing stack of literature about Jewish lesbian daughters of Holocaust survivors. Born in a working-class neighbourhood of Montreal in the 1950s, Toni Goldblatt yearns to achieve the social acceptance desired for her by her parents. Girl Unwrapped combines the themes of coming of age and coming out as Toni struggles within and against the claims on her identity as a daughter, a Jew, a Canadian whose parents have funny accents, and a girl who simultaneously admires and is repelled by the feminine norms of the time.
Toni's struggles take on the form of a heroic quest as she battles internal and external demons in search of a life that is both acceptable and expressive of her real feelings. Her journey moves across social classes and neighbourhoods, Jewish communities in Montreal and in Israel, and down the torturous paths of first loves.
Nothing comes easily to Toni. Her difficult relationship with her parents, who are suffering the damaging effects of their traumatic losses in the Holocaust, is echoed in the difficulties she encounters at Loulou's, the old-fashioned lesbian bar caught between repressive heterosexist laws and an emerging lesbian feminist movement.
One of the strengths of the novel is the sure way Goliger incorporates social and political issues of the times into Toni's life. Phenomena as diverse as the Six-Day War and tensions between bar dykes and lesbian feminists form parts of the intense discussions swirling around her.
Whether you are old enough to remember them or young enough to want to know about them, you'll find lots to engage your interest. The book is written in language poetic enough to be interesting, while never distracting from the feel of a good read.