Montreal Reads: Girl Unwrapped by Gabriella Goliger

by Heather

Girl UnwrappedThis is the story of Toni, a girl growing up in the 1960s and ′70s and trying to navigate what it means to be gay and Jewish in Montreal. Goliger explains that she “wanted to explore how having the dual identity—marginal identity—can enrich someone. Toni is marginalized to some extent, certainly in the times she is growing up, for her sexuality, but her Jewish identity is something that perplexes her, and she has to wrestle with that as well.”1

In Girl Unwrapped readers follow Toni all the way from her seven-year-old tomboy beginnings, spent mucking about on Mont-Royal, to her first crush at Camp Tikvah to the trials of high school and on to Israel after the Six-Day War. Every stop on her life’s path adds to her complexity as a character. By the time Toni returns home after her travels, she has become more independent, more determined, and she begins to carve out a place for herself in the city. She creates a life that allows her to be true to her passions, her principles, and her roots.

Goliger does an amazing job of taking readers with Toni on this journey: every place and person she describes comes to life in the kind of detail that makes Toni’s story feel as though it might be one’s own memories. Toni’s recollections of her family, neighbours and nemeses, her friends, crushes and girlfriends reveal so much about her—her interpretations of these people tell us at least as much about Toni as about them. On finishing this book, I imagined what it would be like to track Toni down now to find out what has happened in her life in the decades since the close of the story—she’s just one of those characters who ends up feels like someone you once knew.

Montreal landmarks in Girl Unwrapped: Outremont, the mountain, Snowdon, Dorchester Avenue (now René Lévesque Boulevard), McGill University, the McGill “Ghetto” (i.e., Milton-Parc), Old Montreal, Schwartz’s, Phillips Square

photo_gabriellagoligerGabriella Goliger was born in Italy and grew up in Montreal. She has also lived in Israel; the Eastern Arctic; Victoria, BC; and Ottawa, ON, where she now lives.

lineNext up: Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz.

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1 Fagan, Noreen. “Gabriella Goliger’s novel goes deep on lesbian and Jewish identity” in Daily Xtra. Feb 3, 2014.

Photo credit: unknown

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