The HSW Literary Agency



Karen Hill

Karen Hill was born in Newmarket, Ontario, and raised in Don Mills. After completing her B.A. in French and English Literature, she lived in Europe for ten years, mainly in the former West Berlin. She later returned to Canada where she worked in the field of Adult Literacy and ESL, raised a daughter, and started writing.

Work on Offer:

Café Babanussa

Ruby Edwards is determined to free herself from her family and the racial homogeneity of Don Mills, Ontario, in the late 1970s. While her childhood friends chatter endlessly about marriage and the suburbs, Ruby has more cosmopolitan aspirations. Taking after a black, gay, great-uncle who studied in Germany in the early 1930s, Ruby heads to West Berlin to forge an identity of her own.

West Berlin in the 1980s is a city of lush greens, cheerless skies, and perpetual protests. Ruby is quickly drawn into the Bohemian cultural scene, finding a home amongst Arab, African, and European outsiders. Here she has freedom to explore her developing racial and sexual identities—even as she struggles with mania and psychoses. Only after surviving a psychotic breakdown does Ruby understand she must abandon the relationship she is in: with a man much like her controlling father. Ruby’s struggle with mental illness continues to define her as she edges back towards life. Music, friends, food, sex and travel sustain her as she strives to maintain a balance. Yet Ruby soon realizes that Berliners will never cease to see her as an exotic, foreign creature—an “Auslaender.”

Café Babanussa is a story of gender, race and ability; of self-healing; of growing up and pushing through the boundaries of east and west, man and woman, black and white, sanity and madness.

Manuscript available
Rights: World