Written by Atara Beck    
Tuesday, 20 October 2009

In a Pale Blue Light
By Lily Poritz Miller
Sumach Press
Softcover, $24.95

TORONTO -  The local first-time author of a stunning new
novel based in 20th-century South Africa is one of several
literary figures scheduled to appear at this year's annual
Jewish Book Fair.

Lily Poritz Miller, author of In a Pale Blue Light, will discuss
her oeuvre on Oct. 26, 2 p.m., at the Lipa Green Centre. A
book launch was held last week at Indigo Books at Yonge and
Eglinton, where the author spoke about her journey to
becoming a writer.

Writing the book was a "unique experience" for Poritz Miller,
who began a long editorial career in book publishing in New
York and moved to Toronto 18 years ago, where she became
senior editor at McClelland and Stewart and worked with
distinguished writers, including Leonard Cohen, Michael
Ondaatje and Farley Mowat.

"I used to be invisible," she said. As an editor, "you have to
merge into the world of the writer in every way."

When Poritz Miller began writing her novel, "what perhaps
had been in my subconscious totally consumed me," she said.

Although not an autobiography, the book's protagonist bears
many similarities, both in circumstance and in spirit, to the
author, who was born in South Africa to Lithuanian Jewish
immigrants, lost her father at a young age and moved to
America with her family at 15. Her mother would regularly run
to the post office and check for news of family survivors of
the Holocaust on lists at the Red Cross and the Jewish
Agency, and she always returned home disappointed.

Eventually Poritz Miller's family learned that in 1941, "in a
single day, my mother's entire family was wiped out."

"I was born into a very troubled world," she told the audience.
In South Africa, "everything seemed questionable and wrong.
Why was the beloved black man who scrubbed the floors
treated in such an inhumane way? Though I was never
political and had no means of comparison, in my heart I felt
very uncomfortable."

The novel also highlights the profound antisemitism that was
prevalent in white South African society, which had made
Poritz Miller feel "insecure, imperfect. It certainly did leave a
deep scar."

In a Pale Blue Light is a beautiful and deeply touching work of
fiction that is bound to have a profound impact on the reader.