A Joy To Be Hidden

Ariela Freedman

March 2019

Alice Stein, a young graduate student living in a vivid and chaotic late-90s East Village, loses her father and grandmother in a single year and is given the task of cleaning out her grandmother's Brooklyn apartment. In the process of doing so, she begins to unlock a family secret. Accompanied by her precocious downstairs neighbour, a twelve-year-old girl named Persephone, she sets out on a quest to understand her family and herself. In the process, she will discover lost children and buried love affairs, histories she wants to believe and people she can't trust, a village in Hungary and an artist's loft in Harlem.

A coming-of-age story about hidden pasts and the legacy of trauma and displacement, A Joy To Be Hidden is told with humour and insight. We can never quite forget the title quote — “It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found” D. W. Winnicott — and we discover, over the course of the novel, that it applies to everyone.

SHORTLISTED for the 2019 QWF Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction
SHORTLISTED for the J.I. Segal Award for the Best Quebec Book on a Jewish Theme



Ariela Freedman was born in Brooklyn and has lived in Jerusalem, New York, Calgary, London, and Montreal. She has a Ph.D. from New York University and teaches literature at Concordia’s Liberal Arts College in Montreal, where she lives with her family. Her first novel, Arabic for Beginners (LLP, 2017), was shortlisted for the QWF Concordia University First Book Prize and is the Winner of the 2018 J. I. Segal Prize for Fiction. A Joy to be Hidden is her second novel.

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What they say
49th Shelf Top Fiction of 2019
Association of Jewish Libraries

Alice Stein is a young woman who seems like she should have it all together. She is a graduate student at NYU, teaches creative writing, and lives in a small NY apartment. But she is adrift in her own life. She dips into the lives of others, discovering that some people live with secrets and some tell lies.  

The first encounter we see is with Alice’s grandmother, Helen, in hospice. In her fragile state, Helen is more open and warmer than she had been while healthy. But Alice doesn’t pursue a relationship with her and instead lets herself be distracted. After Helen’s death, Alice learns that her grandmother had been institutionalized at some point. At a family wedding, Alice meets Bella, a childhood friend of Helen’s. Again, she is slow to follow up on meeting. She meets Bella once, but by the time Alice looks for her again, Bella has died. Instead of connecting with her own family, Alice spends time with Persephone, the neglected young daughter of her downstairs neighbor. After an improbable cross-country road trip with Persephone, Alice retreats into herself and finds refuge at her mother’s house. Her younger siblings gradually draw her back into the world.
Sheryl Stahl, Library Director, Frances-Henry Library
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles    
March 2020, Newsletter, Association of Jewish Public Libraries  


49th Shelf Top Fiction of 2019
49th Shelf

Alice Stein, a young graduate student living in a vivid and chaotic late-90s East Village, loses her father and grandmother in a single year and is given the task of cleaning out her grandmother's Brooklyn apartment. In the process of doing so, she begins to unlock a family secret. Accompanied by her precocious downstairs neighbour, a twelve-year-old girl named Persephone, she sets out on a quest to understand her family and herself. In the process, she will discover lost children and buried love affairs, histories she wants to believe and people she can't trust, a village in Hungary and an artist's loft in Harlem.
December 2019, 49th Shelf

 


"Ranks high on the all-time list"
James Fisher, Miramichi Reader

Having enjoyed two of Linda Leith Publishing’s recent titles (Hutchison Street and The Philistine) I picked up Ariela Freedman’s newest novel, A Joy to be Hidden hoping the quality of writing would be sustained. A few pages in, and I was entirely hooked into reading it. While her protagonist Alice Stein is likeable, it is Ms. Freedman’s intimate description of a corner of New York City in the late 90s that makes A Joy to be Hidden a real joy to read. If you could judge how much I savoured a book from the number of pages I have bookmarked, then A Joy to Be Hidden ranks high on the all-time list here at The Miramichi Reader. My first bookmark appears just four pages in. 
Read more.
April 2019, The Miramichi Reader


"A haunting power"
Danielle Barkley, Montreal Review of Books

In classical mythology, Persephone is forcefully separated from her mother and taken to the underworld. She is eventually able to return, but the reunion is incomplete: Persephone must forever spend a portion of time hidden away, moving through a cycle of appearance and disappearance tied to the seasons. Through both indirect and direct reference, this myth infuses Ariela Freedman’s novel A Joy to Be Hidden, where secrets, loss, and separated family members interweave through multiple plot lines. The novel’s epigraph quotes D. W. Winnicott’s caution that “It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found,” but the allusion suggests a grimmer inevitability: that what has been hidden can, at best, only ever be partially recovered.
Read more.
March 2019, Montreal Review of Books


"Down to earth and very hard to put down"
Timothy Niedermann, Ottawa Review of Books

The title of this novel comes from a quote by the British psychoanalyst Donald W. Winnicott, the full version of which serves as the epigraph: “It is joy to be hidden but disaster not to be found.” Author Ariela Freedman is thus declaring her intentions before one reads a word of the main text: People like to keep things private, hidden from the world, but keeping those things hidden may have negative effects on others.
Read more
March 2019Ottawa Review of Books


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