I recently asked my library colleagues what were their favourite reads of 2017. I received enough titles to fill more than one column, but here are some that you may not have heard of.
Set in 19th century Philadelphia, Lilli De Jong, by Janet Benton, tells the story of a young unwed pregnant woman banished from her Quaker community. Lilli makes her way to the Philadelphia Haven for Women and Infants, which promises a reputable adoption and a fresh start, albeit one built on lies. When she decides to keep her daughter, Lilli faces many challenges and hardship. Told in diary format, this well-researched novel is a poignant narrative of the painful choices women faced at that time.
Balli Kaur Jaswal was born in Singapore and raised in Japan, Russia, the Philippines, Australia and the U.S. With a title bound to attract attention, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is the story of Nikki, the daughter of Indian immigrants. Working as a bartender in a pub in West London, she has spent most of her life distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community. After her father dies, leaving the family with financial difficulties, Nikki takes a job teaching creative writing at the temple, where the students are mostly proper Sikh widows expecting to learn English. When one of the women finds and shares a book of sexy stories in English, Nikki teaches them how to express their own untold stories. It is an engaging tale of women defying patriarchal and cultural traditions.
Letters to a Young Muslim is series of letters from Omar Saif Ghobash to his sons. The author was born to an Arab father and a Russian mother in 1971 in the United Arab Emirates, the same year the country was founded. When he was only six years old, Ghobash lost his father to a violent attack and soon realized that severe violence surrounded him in his home country. As he grew older, he began to reflect what it means to be a Muslim, and, in 2008, he became the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia. The book addresses young Muslims like his sons and explores what they can do to achieve peace and prosperity in today’s world.
Pauline Dakin’s memoir Run, Hide, Repeat is an unforgettable story of family deception and betrayal. An assistant professor at the University of King’s College School of Journalism in Halifax, Dakin is a journalist who has worked in radio, television and print. She spent her childhood on the run when, without warning, her mother moved her and her brother thousands of miles away from family and friends. While their life seemed normal on the outside, disturbing things like break-ins, car thefts and an attack on a family friend suggested otherwise. Years later, Pauline’s mother explained that she had been running from the Mafia and they were under the protection of a secret task force. Putting her journalistic training to work when she began to suspect her mother’s story, Pauline uncovered the strange truth. It is a suspenseful page-turner.
For these or other reading suggestions, visit the George Mackie Library, or go to fvrl.bc.ca.
Frances Thomson is the community librarian at the George Mackie Library. For more information about books and events at the library, visit fvrl.bc.ca.