Happy Valentine’s Day, book peeps! I’m over the moon to have my good friend and book sister, Sonia Saikaley, on the blog today. Sonia is a ridiculously talented author and wonderful person. We’ve known each other for many years now and I cannot imagine travelling this writing journey without her friendship, wisdom, and support. I’m thrilled to introduce you to her and her latest novel THE ALLSPICE BATH. This story resonated strongly with me as a daughter of immigrants trying to balance personal dreams with parental expectations. You’re in for a treat today, folks!
Congratulations on your beautiful book, Sonia, and thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us today. xoxo
AK: Tell us a little about yourself.
SS: I was born and raised in Ottawa and I am the youngest of four sisters. I come from a large Lebanese family. In the past, I worked as an English teacher in Japan and belly-danced as part of my self-introduction to my students. It was a great way to make them feel comfortable with a new teacher. I enjoy long walks, drinking green tea, staring out my solarium and reflecting on life and spending time with my family and close friends. I have a degree in Psychology and I am intrigued by what makes people do what they do and how they overcome painful experiences in their lives.
AK: What’s the premise of your book?
SS: “The Allspice Bath” is a story about a young Lebanese-Canadian woman named Adele Azar who must find a way to balance her parents’ desire for her to follow the traditions of their Lebanese culture with her dreams of being an artist. Can she find her freedom without losing part of herself in the process? Set in Ottawa, Toronto and Lebanon, “The Allspice Bath” is a reminder that dreams are possible in spite of hardships and healing can only begin with forgiveness.
AK: What inspired you to write it?
SS: I grew up in the seventies and eighties in Canada and there were very few books about women or girls of Lebanese heritage so I never felt I was represented in the work I read. As a result, I wanted to write about someone who has a dual connection to the old and new worlds. We live in a diverse society where many Canadians have one foot in another culture and one in the Canadian culture so I felt it was important to write a story about such a character and her struggles.
AK: What authors do you admire and/or have influenced your development as a writer? Please feel free to add specific books, we love recommendations!
SS: I admire the works of Naguib Mahfouz, Hanan al-Shaykh, Haruki Murakami, Emily Nasrallah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Edwidge Danticat, Joyce Maynard and Shilpi Somaya Gowda. I would recommend Mahfouz’s book “The Beginning and the End”; al-Shaykh’s “The Story of Zahra” and Murakami’s “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”.
AK: What are you working on now?
SS: I am currently rewriting an old manuscript set in Thailand. It’s a story about a young woman who must return to a painful past in order to find peace.
AK: What question do you wish I had asked, and answer it!
SS: Your questions were thoughtful and thorough, Anita. Maybe if I had to ask another question, I would ask what advice would you give to a beginning writer and here’s my answer: Don’t give up.
Thank you so much, Anita, for this wonderful opportunity and I wish you continued success with your writing and look forward to more words from you. (AK: Aw, thank you, Sonia! I feel the same way about you.)
Release date: May 2019
It is 1970. The evergreens are thick with snow despite it being the month of April. In an Ottawa hospital, another daughter is born to the Azar family. The parents are from Kfarmichki, a village in Lebanon but their daughters were born in Canada. Four daughters, to be precise. No sons. Youssef is the domineering father. Samira is the quiescent mother. Rima, Katrina and Mona are the traditional daughters. Then there is Adele, the newest member. “You should’ve been born a boy,” Samira whispers to Adele shortly after her entrance into the world. As she grows, Adele learns there are certain rules Lebanese girls must follow in order to be good daughters. First off, they must learn to cook, master housework, learn Arabic and follow the traditions of their culture. Above all, they must save themselves for marriage. But Adele dreams of being an artist. When she is accepted to the University of Toronto, this is her chance to have a life outside the confines of her strict upbringing. But can she defy her father?
When Youssef surprises her with a family trip to her ancestral home, Adele is excited about the journey. In Lebanon, she meets Elias. He is handsome and intelligent and Adele develops feelings for him until Elias confides to her that her unexpected meeting with him was actually a well-devised plan that is both deceitful and shocking. Will this unravel the binding threads of this close-knit Lebanese family? Crisscrossing between Ottawa, Toronto and Lebanon, “The Allspice Bath” is a bold story about the cultural gap and the immigrant experience.
Where To Get Your Copy:
Inanna Publications: https://www.inanna.ca/product/allspice-bath/
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