About the author: Ilie Ruby is the author of The Salt God’s Daughter (September 2012) and the critically-acclaimed novel, The Language of Trees, which debuted in 2010 and was selected as a Target Emerging Author’s Pick and a First Magazine for Women Reader’s Choice, and for which complex Chinese rights were sold. Raised in Rochester, NY, she was a teacher in Long Beach, CA on the heels of the Rodney King Race riots of 1992, and spent five years living in Belmont Shore, the setting of her newest novel. Ruby is a graduate of the University of Southern California Professional Writing Program and holds a masters degree in education. She is the winner of the Edwin L. Moses Award for Fiction, chosen by T.C. Boyle; a Kerr Foundation Writing Scholarship, and the Phi Kappa Phi Award for Creative Achievement in Fiction. Ruby is also a recipient of the Wesleyan Writer’s Conference Davidoff Scholarship and the Barbara Kemp Award for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship. She has worked on PBS documentaries in Honduras, worked as a counselor for blind and autistic children and adults, and has edited books on writing. Ruby is a painter, poet, and mother to three children from Ethiopia.
About the book: Salt God's Daughter by Ilie Ruby
Set in Long Beach, California, beginning in the 1970s, The Salt God’s Daughter follows three generations of extraordinary women who share something unique—something magical and untamed that makes them unmistakably different from others. Theirs is a world teeming with ancestral stories, exotic folklore, inherited memory, and meteoric myths.
Meet Diana Gold, who raises her two daughters on the road, charting their course according to an imagined map of secrets drawn from the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Meet her daughters—Ruthie and Dolly—who are raised in the back of their mother’s station wagon and then later in an old motel turned retirement home on the ocean, a place where the residents run with half-packed suitcases into the ocean at night, where lipstick kisses are left on handkerchiefs and buried in empty bottles, and where love comes in the most unlikely and mysterious of places—perhaps it even walks right out of the ocean in the form of a man.
Ruthie and Dolly are caught in the wilds of this enchanted landscape, fiercely protective of each other and unaware of how far they have drifted from traditional society. But when they are suddenly forced to strike out on their own, they are caught in the riptide of a culture that both demonizes and glorifies female sexuality. It is within this conflicted landscape that tragedy strikes. Years later, Ruthie’s daughter is born with a secret that will challenge her ties to the women in her family, and to the ocean.
Impeccably narrated in two powerful and distinctive voices, The Salt God’s Daughter puts a feminist spin on a traditional Scottish folktale about the selkies—a provocative, timeless story that explores our ability to transcend the limitations of a world that can be hostile to those who are different, and to find joy and belonging in our unmistakable humanness.
A letter to the readers of The Salt God's Daughter:
The stories of the women who populate The Salt God’s Daughter were inspired by a confluence of real life and a Celtic myth, which I learned from a folksong my mother used to play on the guitar, “The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry.” While the myth is the map, its many roads reflect the experiences of women I’ve known, and of seventeen young girls I never knew but whose histories crossed my path.
One night two years ago, I was working late in my office doing some research on bullying, specifically the bullying of girls and women. As a mother of two daughters, one of whom is in middle school, bullying is always on my radar—when I heard about two girls who took their own lives in recent months, I knew I had to find out more. So began many hours of research. At first, I found the stories of four girls. Then six girls, and finally seventeen girls. Seventeen girls in the last several years have committed suicide because they were bullied at school, many of them for their sexuality, some of whom were victims of date rape.
I found seventeen girls in just a few hours—how many more had gone unnoticed by the media? How many more were still suffering? As a light rain fell across my office window and dawn broke, I wrote the names of these seventeen girls on a piece of paper.
There are moments as a writer when you feel inspired, when you must decide what story you will tell next. Then, you must think about how this story will be told. Who will read it? Will it be embraced? Will it be found by the people for whom you are writing it?
My journey has taken me from the elementary school classrooms of Los Angeles during race riots, to the jungles of Guatemala for public television, to the remote hills and blistering sands of Ethiopia to work with orphaned children. I have been a literacy volunteer, a Special Olympics advocate, and a counselor for women in residential treatment centers. However, I don’t think I ever felt my calling as strongly as I did in the moment I decided to write this book.
This book is my way of giving a voice to those whose who had been silenced. The women in this story appeared fully formed and purposeful, and their struggles and epiphanies still feel very raw and real to me in a way that only a novel can offer.
The Salt God’s Daughter is a book about light—the kind that takes your breath away in the first hint of morning, the kind that can never be dimmed regardless of the struggle. My hope was to illuminate the female experience through generations—not only those times that are shrouded, but also those that are lovely and beautiful, and made indelible with light. At its heart this is a story about true love, sometimes found between mothers and daughters, in the secrets of sisters, and in the arms of the first person with whom you ever shared your heart.
When all is said and done, this novel belongs to resolute sisters Ruthie and Dolly. Their journey of discovery and survival is at the center of this story.
All my best,
*Disclaimer: I received this product for review. All opinions are my own.*