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Swimming Toward the Light
A Novel

Angela Tehaan Leone

Cloth $24.95    |    978-0-8156-0857-8    |    2007

A moving portrait of one Arab American family exploring its deep devotion to family and its destructive domestic traditions.

"Oh, how sweet a mother’s love, until it becomes too suffocating. Set in Washington, D.C., in the 1950s, Leone's debut novel tells a painful saga of a Lebanese immigrant family stuck between cultures. Irene, a sweet, obedient girl and the youngest in a large family, suffers a dangerous bout of influenza at age three. After nursing her back to health, her mother becomes fiercely protective, and Irene grows up under her watchful eye, never allowed to have friends or play outside the home. But with high school comes a modicum of freedom, and Irene slowly starts to come into her own, encouraged by two kindly neighbors who notice her unusual talent for singing. Mama, ever suspicious of American ways, tries desperately to prevent this blossoming, and her stifling love forces Irene down a tragic path. Lottie, Irene’s older sister, is the wise narrator of this story as she tries, years later, to figure out what went wrong. Fans of Arab-American literature will especially love the details that flavor Leone’s touching novel."

"An unflinching and powerful debut novel."
Sue William Silverman

"Leone brings a heartbreaking sensitivity to her story and the authority of a true witness."
Joseph Geha, Through and Through: Toledo Stories

"Grips the reader with the searing immediacy of a memoir."
D. H. Melhem, New York Poems

Swimming Toward the Light depicts a Lebanese immigrant family in Washington, D.C., in the 1950s and gives us entrée into a male-dominated, independence-stifling culture where female roles were rigidly prescribed. While the three older children liberated themselves by leaving home, the two youngest daughters, Lottie and Irene, were left to endure their parents’ repressions and their Mama’s despotic regime. With unflinching candor, the narrative moves toward an unexpected and devastating conclusion.

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Angela Tehaan Leone is a prize-winning fiction writer, poet, and teacher of English and dramatic arts. She is an active member of Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI). She lives in McLean, Va.

6 x 9, 200 pages

Swimming Toward the Light

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