Friday, April 18, 2014

Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis, reviewed by Susan Thomas

Pajama Press, 223 pages, paperback $12.24 from Amazon

Moon at Nine is set in Iran shortly after the Iranian revolution. The pervasive aura of political unrest creates a situation where social injustice and religious intolerance build tension and form the backdrop for a young girl’s rite of passage. 

Fifteen year old Farrin has much to hide.  Her parents’ support of the exiled Shah forces her to live a life of secrets, their illegal activities leaving them all in constant danger of discovery by the Revolutionary Guards.

Born to a wealthy family, Farrin is exposed to many forbidden treasures, videos and books delivered by the mysterious “man with a suitcase.”  She attends an academy for girls where enrollment was formerly coveted by families of good standing. Its reputation has since fallen and because of her life of privilege, she is not accepted by her fellow students. Though her resilient character allows her to survive the marginalization she suffers at the hands of her peers, her restless spirit demands more.

Sadira, a strong and passionate young woman, becomes part of Farrin’s life in a whirlwind of friendship and excitement when she enrols at the school. The girls feel an immediate connection but it is this attraction which presents Farrin with her most dangerous challenge yet. Drawn to each other in a way that is condemned by the religious police, the girls snatch private moments when they can.  Soon, Farrin becomes tired of living a lie, and empowered by the depth of her feelings for Sadira she risks everything to proclaim her love.

Discovery leads to isolation and discipline, and looking at the moon at nine each night from their separate locations offers them their only form of emotional connection, until they devise a plan to be together once again.

Deborah Ellis
From a formerly prestigious girls’ school to the horrors of Evin prison, the girls pay a high price for their disobedience.  Meagre subsistence in a refugee camp in Pakistan may offer the last resort.

Canada is a country that sparkles with diversity, and the dynamics created by the coming together of cultures can be unique and exciting.  A glimpse into the background and traditions of new Canadians is always an educational and sometimes intoxicating experience.

Looking deeper though, it can be brutally shocking to become aware of practices that are accepted as cultural norms in other countries.  In this book we get a glimpse of some of the harsh realities that are imposed on others in their native homelands.  

Accepting persecution or trying to escape are the two certainties which present themselves to those who suffer oppression. Is this really much of a choice?

Gay and lesbian youth have suffered the world over, sometimes driven to desperate measures and even suicide, to gain the recognition and acceptance they deserve.  Movements across North America are finally beginning to offer the support and develop the awareness needed to form a truly inclusive society. This is sadly not the case in other countries.

Multi award-winning author Deborah Ellis excels in creating stories of determination in the face of adversity and social injustice. Here, she presents us with a sensitive and passionate tale based on the true life experiences of a young woman in Iran, where execution is the accepted form of punishment for gays or lesbians.

This is a story of love, courage, perseverance and ultimate betrayal by family, friends and country. Beautifully told, Ellis’s work represents the struggles and efforts of young people everywhere to gain acceptance in a world where inclusivity is not just a dream, but a reality.

Susan Thomas can’t imagine a world without books and loves to share the adventure by creating stories of her own.  She is a school administrator who spent many happy years as a Teacher/Librarian, immersed in the world of children’s literature. Susan was born in England but emigrated to Canada as a child, and now lives in Southern Ontario with her husband and her three children. 

She is very pleased to have recently published her first young adult novel, Incarnation, with Evernight Teen, under her maiden name of Susan Nolan. Check out Incarnation hereFor information on submitting to Evernight see here. And for information on submitting to Pajama Press, see here.

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Bolton, Caledon, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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