The Heart Begins Here is the story of the ever-optimistic, earnest Sara Requier and her disintegrating seven-year relationship with the cynical Wanda Wysoka. Along with her relationship struggles, Sara must contend with the drastic changes in the book industry that threaten her feminist bookstore, as well as a mother who refuses to accept her daughter's lesbianism. Then, just as Wanda decides to leave Sara, Wanda's new young lover, Cindy, is murdered. The story takes place in a western Canadian city in 2001 -- much of it in Sara's bookstore, Common Reader Books -- in the shadow of the disturbing political climate that followed the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. This is a transitional point in the Canadian book industry: the proliferation of big box stores, the expansion of the Internet -- and Sara is caught up in the concomitant changes in her community. The book explores themes of love and loss, of the lingering effects of a dysfunctional childhood, of misogyny, of personal and societal homophobia, and especially the challenge of integrating the personal with the political.
Jacqueline Dumas is a writer and educator who lives in Nova Scotia. She was a long-time resident of Edmonton, Alberta, where she ran Aspen Books (1977-1985) and latterly Orlando Books (1993-2002), a progressive, feminist bookstore that promoted countless writers from across the country. Her published works include: Madeleine & the Angel (1989), winner of the 1989 Georges Bugnet Award for Best Alberta novel, and a finalist for the 1989 Books in Canada/W.H. Smith Best First Novel Award; The Last Sigh (1993); a children's picture book, And I'm Never Coming Back (1986); and a one-act play, Secrets, which was produced at the 2013 Edmonton International Fringe Festival. In 2012, she edited an anthology of work by second language writers, Writing in the Margins (Writers Beyond Borders). Her community involvement and commitment has earned her various awards, including awards for service to the Gay and Lesbian communities and the YWCA Woman of Distinction for the Arts.
"The Heart Begins Here is a delightful read that made me both think and laugh out loud. Sara's feminist bookstore is failing and her long-time lover is cheating. Dumas brings all of Sara's difficulties to life in incisive and often satirical prose. She skewers disastrous poetry readings and lesbian hangouts, but her true targets are cruelty, misogyny, and homophobia. As the title promises, the novel offers wisdom as well as humour, and pain as well as love."
--Caterina Edwards, author of The Sicilian Wife and Finding Rosa
"The Heart Begins Here is a novel for these times, exploring issues that many of us ponder regularly: the impacts of international conflict on individual lives; the effects of digital technology on how we create and access books and other forms of culture; the challenges of navigating the world as who we are, rather than as who others think we are&,dash;or who we ought to be. This is a novel about beginnings, changes, endings--of relationships, of business ventures--and about how the knowledge we gain as we progress (often unwillingly) through these cycles is essential to our ability to move forward. By turns poignant and laugh-out-loud funny, Jacqueline Dumas's new novel deftly keeps us turning pages, as much for the pleasure of reading her writing as from our keen interest in discovering what will happen next."
--Mary W. Walters, author of The Woman Upsatirs, Rita Just Wants to Be Thin, and Cool
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