The One with the Tough Daughter

Jo Witek, Fille de (2017)

I’m under the impression that in English, the insult “sonofab…” is only for boys and that no similar insult exists for the daughters… In French, gender equality has reached verbal abuse (but not other more positive areas…) and both daughters and sons may be equally insulted, although on the receiving ends, it’s supposed to be worse for boys. But to be the daughter of a prostitute is a heavy burden indeed, and one that Hannah tackles head on.

She’s a tough one, is Hannah. She is a teenager whose passion is running. She trains tirelessly and as she runs, mile after mile (kilometer as it is set in France), she lets her feelings and her anger drains away. Running is a way for her to be a champion, to protect herself and to keep others at bay. In the eyes of others, Hannah is Olga’s daughter, an Ukrainian prostitute who arrived in France because of sex traffickers  and who has slowly reclaimed a precarious freedom from her exploiters. Olga and her best friends dote on Hannah but the young woman walks a fine line between shame, lies, prejudices and distrust. Because of her mother’s work, will she be able to trust and love a man? She has learnt early on how people despise her mother but how many men still secretly visit her. Will a young man love her?

This is a YA novella (an oddity in publishing terms) told directly by Hannah, in one breath almost, and it packs a punch. It reads in one sitting, but you cannot easily shake the inconvenient truth that Hannah confronts. I loved that it wasn’t sordid and hopeless, and I definitely look forward to discover other novellas in this collection.

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