"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."—Booklist
Angela Tehaan Leone’s debut novel, Swimming Toward the Light, depicts a Lebanese immigrant family in Washington, DC in the 1950s and gives us entrée into the 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 Mama’s despotic regime. With unflinching candor, the narrative moves toward an unexpected and devastating conclusion.
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.
Series: Arab American Writing
6 x 9, 200 pages