Gabriella Goliger's novel, Girl Unwrapped, won the Ottawa Book Award for 2011. Set in Montreal in the 1950s and 60s, it's a coming-of-age story about a girl whose budding lesbian desires clash with the mores of her times and the expectations of her Holocaust scarred parents. Gabriella's first book, Song of Ascent, won the 2001 Upper Canada Writer’s Craft Award. Her latest novel is Eva Salomon's War, which garnered praise from the renowned Canadian authors Joan Thomas and Frances Itani.

Gabriella was co-winner of the 1997 Journey Prize for short fiction, was a finalist for this prize in 1995 and won the Prism International award in 1993. She has also been published in a number of journals and anthologies including Best New American Voices 2000 and Contemporary Jewish Writing in Canada.

Born in Italy, Gabriella grew up in Montreal and has also lived in Jerusalem, the Eastern Arctic, Victoria, B.C. and Ottawa, her long-time and permanent home. In the 1980s and early 90s, Gabriella was active in Ottawa's GLBT community, as editor of the community newspaper, volunteer on the Gayline and co-founder of the Women's Coming Out Discussion Group. She has been with her partner, Barbara Freeman, since 1981.


Qs & As

What led you to become a writer?
It’s something I always wanted to do. My mother had a poetic sensibility, read aloud to me and planted in me the seeds of a lifelong love of language and stories. She would herself have like to become a writer but she never had the opportunities I had at the time, education or encouragement.
 
What motivated you to write Girl Unwrapped?

I wanted to write from the two major sources of my identity and my outsider status as the lesbian and the Jewish me. However, this book is not autobiographical. I worked at making my protagonist, Toni Goldblatt, a character unto herself rather than an alter ego. She's taller, butchier, more spontaneous and more bumbling than I ever was. I drew on my own life of course, but the events in the novel are fiction, as are the characters.

What inspired you to write Eva Salomon's War?
The story of Eva Salomon’s War is loosely based on some personal family history. I had an aunt who went to Palestine in the 1930s and had a relationship with a British policeman. And she too had a very nasty, traumatizing encounter with ultra-nationalist Jewish extremists. I never heard this story from my aunt herself, only from other family members, and only the bare bones, only in whispers, so to speak. My aunt died fairly young, before I was at an age and stage where I might have asked her questions directly. I wanted to try to understand, through the process of writing fiction, what might have happened.