Sub Rosa

Dawn, Amber. Sub Rosa: A Novel. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010. Paperback. 310p. $19.95. ISBN: 978-1-55152-361-3.

In Amber Dawn’s first novel, runaway Little is rescued from a bad night at the Legion and taken to a mysterious haven isolated from the city. Sub Rosa is a place above memory, where sex workers with unusual charms fulfill the needs of the “live ones” who find their way in. Sub Rosa exists between the city (where life continues as before) and the Dark, where zombie men and ghosts reside.

Little settles into life on Sub Rosa, but after one member of the family escapes back to the city, the community starts to change. When the city threatens to impinge on Sub Rosa, Little uses her knowledge of it to help preserve the delicate way of life. As Little forgets and remembers and rebuilds her past, she learns that she can’t find everything she needs on Sub Rosa.

The magical realism of Sub Rosa remains grounded in Little’s steady narration. The book contains some short, but graphic descriptions of sex and attempted assault, as well as some coarse language. It won the 2011 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Debut Fiction. It is recommended for any public or academic library, particularly those collecting contemporary Canadian literature.


Reviewed by, Kelly McElroy
Undergraduate Services Librarian
The University of Iowa Libraries

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