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Daughters of Silence

Daughters of Silence

Strong female voice, a clear-eyed narrator examining self and family.

Ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano fills the skies. Flights are grounded throughout Europe. Dessie, a cosmopolitan flight attendant from Canada, finds herself stranded in Addis Ababa — her birth place.

Grieving her mother's recent death, Dessie heads to see her grandfather, the Shaleqa — compelled as much by duty as her own will. But Dessie's conflicted past stands in her way. Just as the volcano's eruption disordered Dessie's work life, so too does her mother's death cause seismic disruptions in the fine balance of self-deceptions and false histories that uphold her family.

As Dessie reacquaints herself with her grandfather's house, familiar yet strangely alien to her diasporic sensibilities, she pieces together the family secrets: the trauma of dictatorship and civil war, the shame of unwed motherhood, the abuse met with silence that gives shape to the mystery of her mother's life.

Reminiscent of the deeply immersive writing of Taiye Selasi and Arundhati Roy, Rebecca Fisseha's Daughters of Silence is psychologically astute and buoyed both by metaphor and by the vibrant colours of Ethiopia. It's an impressive debut.

Rebecca Fisseha is the author of Daughters of Silence, chosen by CBC Books and 49th Shelf as one of the most anticipated books of fiction of the year and by Quill and Quire as one of the Best Books for 2019. Fisseha's stories, personal essays, and articles explore the unique and universal aspects of the Ethiopian diaspora and have appeared in literary journals and anthologies such as Room Magazine, Joyland, Lithub, Zora, and Addis Ababa Noir. Born in Addis Ababa, Fisseha now lives in Toronto.

"With her plane unexpectedly grounded in Addis Ababa, Dessie, burdened with secrets and mourning the death of her mother, is forced to confront a history that is different from what she'd been raised to believe. Featuring gorgeous prose and a most compellingly prickly narrator, Fisseha's debut novel is a puzzle, a page-turner, and a triumph." — Kerry Clare

"Fisseha's assured debut straddles two worlds and is vividly, insightfully, embedded in both. She takes on some of the trickiest of family and cultural dilemmas with affection and beady-eyed aplomb." — Aida Edemariam

"A story of trauma and reckoning, of flight and return, told honestly, written boldly." — Tessa McWatt

"Fisseha's remarkable debut tells the story of a family fractured by secrets and grief and a young woman's journey to find healing and survival. Dessie is a character I will not forget, and her voice — confident, vulnerable, and sharp — stayed with me. This book will break your heart and then precariously mend it back together." — Ayelet Tsabari

"Rebecca Fisseha maps a young woman's journey into adulthood and forgiveness with care, sensitivity, and sly humour." — Djamila Ibrahim

276 pages
Pub date: September 10, 2019