How do you fit in in a new country when you’re a “giant freak,” you don’t speak the language and bizarre things are happening to your motherland as well as to your body? In a candid and peculiar voice reminiscent of Heather O’Neill’s Lullabies for Little Criminals, Aga Maksimowska tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl in an adult’s body whose coming of age in a country undergoing a revolution is interrupted by a sudden and cruel move to Canada. Readers will find the story of the Autumn of Nations, in 1989 in Eastern Europe, a time when youth took to the streets to rebel against a century of suffering under Communist rule, relevant to our time when youth in Egypt, Libya, Syria and many other Arab nations attempt to throw off the yoke of their autocratic regimes. Gosia presents a child’s perspective of revolution, a traumatic time of change which for Gosia herself coincides with the insurrection of her own body and the devastating absence of her migrant-worker parents: a mother who works in Canada and a container ship machinist father who ferries Asian goods to Europe. A sudden move to Canada forces Gosia to experience the tumults of puberty in a foreign land far from loved ones who remain in Poland as it undergoes drastic transformation and struggles to rebuild and invent a new reality for an old republic. In Canada, like many children of migrants, Gosia is unsure of her identity: she’s neither Polish nor Canadian. As she grows up, she’s forced to weave a new existence for herself, one that includes new multi-ethnic influences and old familial traditions.
Funny and touching, the book’s often outrageous narrator is as unforgettable as she is relatable. This novel of identity, loyalty, journey, perseverance and politics is quintessentially Canadian.