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Fiction Own Voices

Reuniting With Strangers

A Novel

by (author) Jennilee Austria-Bonifacio

Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
Own Voices, Southeast Asia, 21st Century
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

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Inspired by the work of Souvankham Thammavongsa, Catherine Hernandez and Wayson Choy, this unforgettable novel follows the reunification of Filipino caregiver families over one Canadian winter—and the mysterious progress of Monolith, who appears and disappears in their lives.

When five-year-old Monolith is taken from the Philippines to live with his mother in Canada, he immediately lashes out. Unable or unwilling to speak, he attacks her and destroys his new home.

Everyone wants to know why—and everyone has a theory. But unlike the solid certainty his name suggests, the answer isn’t so simple.

From a cliffside town in the Tagaytay highlands of the Philippines, to the Filipino communities in the desert of Osoyoos, the Arctic world of Iqaluit, the suburbs of southern Ontario, Sarnia's Chemical Valley, Montréal’s Côte-des-Neiges, and Toronto’s Little Manila, Austria-Bonifacio takes readers into the kaleidoscope of the Filipino diaspora, uncovering the displacement, estrangement, resilience and healing that happen behind closed doors.

As each chapter unfolds, truths are revealed in humorous, joyful, devastating and surprising ways: through an incisive caregiver's instruction manual, a custody battle over texts and e-mails, a disarmingly direct self-help guide, a series of desperate résumés, a kundiman songbook, and more.

Monolith appears again and again, as a misbehaving boy in a store, the subject of town gossip, a face in a fundraising campaign, a client in questionable care, a dying man’s beacon of hope—and an unlikely new friend.

Compellingly readable, incisive and resonant, Jennilee Austria-Bonifacio’s stunning debut opens a window into the homes and hearts of the Filipino-Canadian community.

About the author

Jennilee Austria-Bonifacio is the author of Reuniting With Strangers: A Novel Told in Stories (Douglas & McIntyre), which was a finalist for the Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award. As the founder of Filipino Talks, she is a speaker and school board consultant who builds bridges between educators and Filipino families. After completing her Masters in Immigration and Settlement Studies, she studied at the Humber School for Writers and completed a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Born and raised in Sarnia, Ontario, she now lives in Toronto.

Jennilee Austria-Bonifacio's profile page

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