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.

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
"Alice through the looking glass"
Norman Ravvin, CJN

Ariela Freedman’s second novel, A Joy to be Hidden, offers a portrait of another time, the late ’90s, when the world of ideas was dedicated to uncertainty, to “ambiguity, ambivalence, struggle, rather than boxes of received wisdom.”  The novel follows Freedman’s first, Arabic for Beginners, which won the 2018 J.I. Segal prize for fiction...
A Joy to be Hidden offers a counter-narrative to the upbeat opportunities advertised on Internet ancestry sites or through the prospect of discovery by DNA testing. Prone to seeing her world through the words of writers she admires, Alice turns to Samuel Beckett, who warned that “we cannot escape the past because the past has deformed us.”
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March 2019, The Canadian Jewish News


"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. 
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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.
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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.
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March 2019Ottawa Review of Books


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