Lily visits Clyde River

Summer is a time of discovery. Visitors come and go, some are featured in our newspapers and others pass through more quietly. The creatively-talented folks who come to make their own discoveries engage us to rediscover our own inspiration in this place. Within the busyness of life and daily duties, our visitors remind us to take some time to walk through country fields and along sandy shores and feed our artistic imaginations.

Yesterday, a few of us were fortunate to spend a couple of hours with a quiet visitor to Clyde River, Lily Poritz Miller. She recently published her first book, In a Pale Blue Light, featuring a personal family story of growing up among racial turmoil in South Africa after narrowly escaping Lithuania and Nazi Germany’s occupation. Here is a description of the book that appears on the Sumach Press site:

A story of loss, defiance and change emerges from the magnificent setting of Cape Town in the late 1930s through the outbreak of World War II. Young Libka Hoffman is struggling with the loss of her father and the social conventions that frown upon her relationships with her most trusted friends. Libka’s exploration of socially forbidden territory eventually brings her to expulsion from her school and ostracism by her peers.

Told in a moving and lyrical prose, In a Pale Blue Light conveys an authentic and rarely achieved insight into Jewish life in South Africa during the tumultuous times around World War II.

Lily was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and when she was 15 years old, she moved with her family to the US. She worked in book publishing in New York at The MacMillan Company and McGraw-Hill. When she moved to Canada, after some months, she met with Jack McClelland who hired her on the spot. She became senior editor at McClelland and Stewart in Toronto where she edited books of now famous Canadian writers such as Leonard Cohen, Mordecai Richler, Michael Ondaatje, Farley Mowat and Alistair MacLeod. After years of helping other writers achieve their dreams of being published, it became time to write her own book of the story that she knew best.

Here is an audio link of Lily reading a portion of In a Pale Blue Light. What struck me most about Lily was her voice, the layers of which revealed someone who had seen, felt and heard the darkest aspects of humanity but remained vulnerable and open to the regenerative and fiercely positive strength of humanity. In her petite frame is a determined voice that represents the voices of those who cannot speak and clear eyes not clouded by injustice.

Thanks to J’Nan Brown for hosting the event in her 19th century mansard-roofed home far from the road with a long view to the river. We sipped iced tea and remembered how important it is to set aside the cares of the day and deliberately indulge ourselves. Our thanks to Lily for sharing a part of her visit with us along with the company of her quietly-in-the-background book editor Jennifer Day and offering us a glimpse into the lives behind the writing.

We hear from her that she is busy working on the sequel to her book so when it is published we can take satisfaction that a portion of the book was written at her brother’s farm home overlooking Clyde River.

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