Our Q&A with author Aga Maksimowska about her first novel Giant.
Words and Photo by Filip Terlecki
Congrats to Aga Maksimowska on the launch of her first novel Giant which she officially unveiled to a packed house at The Supermarket in Toronto’s Kensington Market.
Set in Poland in 1989 amidst the looming fall of the iron curtain, Giant tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl whose coming of age in a country undergoing a revolution is interrupted by a sudden and cruel move to Canada.
It’s a story that in many ways mirrors the upheaval happening today in the Arab World.
Check out our Q&A with the author and find out how you can win a copy of the book.
What do you think will surprise readers about this novel?
A couple of years ago, when I was first shopping the manuscript around, a literary agent told me that people don’t care about Eastern Europe and therefore won’t buy the book. If she was right, then I think readers who somehow get their hands on Giant will be surprised at how much they care about the narrator of the book, Gosia, and the places she occupies, both Polish and Canadian. She’s a likeable and absorbing character, and most of all she’s quirky and funny. Humour is so necessary when dealing with tragedy. It can also heighten tragedy, so readers might be surprised that Gosia can make them laugh and cry all in one scene. Life throws many obstacles her way; she’s not sentimental about them. She’s real and practical and persnickety. I think readers will also find Poland captivating. I hope they will walk away from Giant with some paradigm shifts about Eastern Europe.
How difficult was it to write a story from the perspective of an 11-year-old girl?
At times it was difficult, at other times easy. Writing from the perspective of someone so young is tricky because you have to remove layers and layers of life experience and knowledge from your brain and think, ‘How would an 11-year-old perceive this situation, this relationship, this behaviour, etc.?’ or ‘How would she react, feel, think?’ and so on.
Sometimes you can rely on memories of how you thought, behaved, felt when you were 11, but then again, who really remembers that well that far back. So in the end, writing from the perspective of a child is a bit like method acting. It’s one part empathy, one part imagination, one part hard work and practice, and one part trial and error. It can be an enjoyable exercise though.
Kids are fascinating, honest and perceptive. Who better to comment on the world than an 11-year-old, a human old enough to read a newspaper, buy groceries and make a meal for herself, but young enough to need to be tucked in at night, appreciate a bedtime story and miss it when it’s not read to her.
Giant is, in part, a child’s perspective on the revolution of 1989. In what ways does the book parallel what we are seeing in the Arab world now?
I see both revolutions as movements of young people who were and are passionate about their homeland and hungry for autonomy, as well as hungry for real recognition from the rest of the world. People want to matter, individually, but also collectively—nationally—and need to be recognized by countries with large spheres of influence, like the United States.
In Poland, it was student gatherings, student-produced flyers and youth protests that gave the Solidarity movement real momentum. Young people were also instrumental during the Arab Spring. Youth are extremely patriotic, proud of what their compatriots have to offer the world—art, literature, music, invention—and they want to participate fully in a global economy of goods, ideas and creations, free of autocratic regimes that censor and silence them. If 11- to 17-year-olds could vote, they would turn up in droves. They would put the rest of us to shame. I think any reader who can empathize with a need to be heard will enjoy Giant. It’s really a book about voice: purpose, independence, and validation.
For a chance to win a copy of Aga’s novel email us with an answer to the following question:
What is the name of the narrator in Giant?
Please send you answers to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight on June 8.
Giant can also be purchased at Ben McNally Books, Another Story, Type Books, Book City, Amazon.ca, as well as direct from Pedlar Press. The book is a paperback and costs $20.
And for a more extensive discussion about Giant check out the Soliloquies Anthology website.
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