A fierce and illuminating debut from FOLD founder Jael Richardson about a young woman who must find the courage to determine her own future and secure her freedom
Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. In this world, Elimina Dubois is one of only 100 babies taken from the Gutter and raised in the land of opportunity as part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government.
But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina finds herself all alone, a teenager forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of who she is and where she belongs. Elimina is sent to an academy with new rules and expectations where she befriends Gutter children who are making their own way through the Gutter System in whatever ways they know how. When Elimina’s life takes another unexpected turn, she will discover that what she needs more than anything may not be the freedom she longs for after all.
Richardson’s Gutter Child reveals one young woman’s journey through a fractured world of heartbreaking disadvantages and shocking injustices. Elimina is a modern heroine in an altered but all too recognizable reality who must find the strength within herself to forge her future and defy a system that tries to shape her destiny.
“Both familiar and fantastical, like the best books are, Gutter Child is a story told by a writer brilliant in her craft and keenly attuned to her readers. This is a book you can’t just read; you feel it, you hear it, you carry it with you. You can’t meet Elimina Dubois without loving her and once you do, you’ll follow her to the very last line.” - Cherie Dimaline, author of Empire of Wild and The Marrow Thieves
"A deep, unflinching yet loving look at injustice and power.” - Chatelaine
"An outstanding and fearless story that follows a young woman’s journey of self-discovery and strength as she forges her own way in a ruthless society. . . . Richardson expertly details the small beauties, hardships, and hopes that accompany such an arduous life, which makes Gutter Child a powerful and unforgettable novel. - Quill and Quire (starred review)
"Tense and suspenseful, Richardson's novel ultimately left us with a sense of hope." - Apple Books
"A gripping tale of rebellion and perseverance, but it's also about the psychological wounds of existing in a world where you are not wanted." - Zoomer magazine
Paperback, 384 pages
JAEL RICHARDSON is the artistic director of the FOLD literary festival, the books columnist on CBC Radio’s q and an outspoken advocate on issues of diversity. She is the author of The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Father’s Life, a memoir based on her relationship with her father, CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey. The memoir received a CBC Bookie Award, an Arts Acclaim Award and a My People Award. A children’s edition was published by Groundwood Books. Her essay “Conception” is part of Room magazine’s first Women of Colour edition, and excerpts from her first play, my upside down black face, appear in the anthology T-Dot Griots: An Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers. Jael Richardson received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph. She lives in Brampton, Ontario.