Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book Review: 'Paper is White' by Hilary Zaid

California author Hilary Zaid earned her PhD in English form the University of California, Berkeley and publishes her debut novel PAPER IS WHITE having published a short story MY TRIPLE X VALANTINE’S AT THE FAR PONT SENIOR VILLAS previously: with this new book she is most assuredly making an impressive entry into the literary scene – and especially the LGBTQ genre. She is a 2017 Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers' Conference and an alumna of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the Tin House Writers' Workshop. Her short stories have appeared in Lilith Magazine, The Southwest Review, The Utne Reader, CALYX, The Santa Monica Review, and The Tahoma Literary Review: her stories have been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Hilary works as a freelance editor in Oakland, California.

Hilary opens this riveting story with a haunting paragraph – ‘On the night my best and oldest friend sped three thousand miles west to hear the news of my engagement, it struck me finally with the force of revelation that I couldn’t get married without telling my grandmother first. My parents had loved me in their own distracted way. But my grandmother, a widow, had cherished me. That night, as Fiona’s jet dipped into the thick, blurred batting over San Francisco Bay, I lied to my fiancĂ©e about where I was going and crept into the shadowed living room of the house we shared to dial my grandmother’s number. She had been dead for five years.’

This is the quality of suspenseful writing that fills the pages of this sensitive story about coming to grips with the past and building a future. The synopsis Hilary provide is excellent – ‘When oral historian and assistant curator at the Foundation for the Preservation of Memory in San Francisco Ellen Margolis and her girlfriend Francine decide to get married, Ellen realizes that she can’t go through with a wedding until she tells her grandmother. There’s only one problem: her grandmother is dead. As the two young women beat their own early path toward marriage equality, Ellen’s longing to plumb that voluminous silence draws her into a clandestine entanglement with a wily Holocaust survivor—a woman with more to hide than tell—and a secret search for buried history. If there is to be a wedding Ellen must decide: How much do you need to share to be true to the one you love? Set in ebullient, 1990s Dot-com era San Francisco, Paper is White is a novel about the gravitational pull of the past and the words we must find to make ourselves whole.’

Warm, touching, and sensitive this is a book especially for our times. Grady Harp, April 18
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.