May 10, 2022
Lea Roback was a feminist and labor activist who was raised in a large Jewish family in Quebec, Canada. In the novel Lea (Linda Leith Publishing, 2022), Ariela Freedman describes a strong, vibrant woman whose life spanned the 20th century. Lea Roback spoke four languages, and wherever she was in the world, she fought for workers’ rights, votes for women, access to contraception and abortion, pay equity, social housing and free education. She was often in the center of world history—in Berlin during the rise of Nazism and Moscow during Stalin’s reign of terror. She was intelligent, passionate about equality, and ultimately worked in factories as a union organizer. The real Lea is remembered by the work of the Lea Roback Foundation, which offers scholarships to women, the Lea Roback Research Centre, which focuses on inequality and public health; and the Maison Parent-Roback, which links community organizations that advance women's rights and social justice causes.
Ariela Freedman was born in Brooklyn and has lived in Jerusalem, New York, Calgary, London, and Montreal. She has a Ph.D. from New York University and teaches literature at Concordia's Liberal Arts College in Montreal, where she lives with her family. Her debut novel, Arabic for Beginners (LLP, 2017), was shortlisted for the QWF Concordia University First Book Prize and won the 2018 J. I. Segal Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, A Joy to be Hidden (LLP, 2019), was shortlisted for the Segal Prize in 2020, and was a finalist for the The Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. When she isn’t reading, writing or teaching, Freedman loves riding her bike, hiking in the countryside, and wandering through the city. For the last two years, she has deeply missed travelling.