Leila Marshy's debut novel The Philistine (Linda Leith Publishing) finds a young woman casting off the tethers of her life in Montreal to search for her father in Cairo – and discovering her sexuality in the process – in a story that Ann-Marie MacDonald says "spans – and transgresses – sexuality, culture and countries."
Montrealer Leila Marshy is of Palestinian-Newfoundland heritage; she can tell a good joke, but it bombs. She is a former editor of the online culture journal Rover Arts. She founded the Friends of Hutchison Street, a groundbreaking community group bringing Hasidic and non-Hasidic neighbours together in dialogue. She has published stories and poetry in Canadian and American journals and anthologies. The Philistine is her first novel.
Why you need to read this now:
June is Pride Month, and there's no better time to get to know Nadia Eid, the protagonist of Leila Marshy's first novel, The Philistine. At twenty-five, Nadia leaves her boring job and boyfriend behind in Montreal and embarks on a quest to find her father, missing somewhere in Cairo. And she finds much more. A visit to an art gallery brings her into contact with Manal, a young artist. And with her she finds a love that opens up a world of possibilities and questions. This is a searing LGBTQ romance, and also a complex story about the discovery of identity and one's place in the world.
For a book propelled by the forces of love what is particularly powerful is Marshy's unsentimental and unflinching gaze. As Kathleen Winter has said, Marshy "makes you feel you've watched her scenes through a high-definition kaleidoscope." And Ann-Marie MacDonald has described The Philistine as a "coming-of-age story that spans – and transgresses – sexuality, culture and countries." Need more recommendations? No, just pick it up. You'll be glad you've chosen to spend some of this warming season in Leila Marshy's vivid Cairo.
X plus Y:
Possible X + Y comparisons abound, from Karen Molson's
The Company of Crows to Amber Dawn's Sodom Road Exit, and many others. What all these books have in common is youth as a locus of discovery and how deeply our identity is bound with whom and how we find love. In the expansion – some might say explosion – of recent LGBTQ literature these talented writers stand out for their ability to portray with honesty and poignancy the lives of girls and women.
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Thanks to Carmelita at LLP for introducing us to the technicolour world of Leila Marshy's
The Philistine, available now. For more debut fiction (delivered on a Friday),
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