While Canadians of a certain age will instantly associate actress Anais Gransofsky with her Degrassi series character Lucy Fernandez, her recent memoir The Girl In The Middle goes beyond this role and captures the way her family history shaped her lived childhood experiences. With parents from two very different backgrounds — separated by their racial, religious, and socioeconomic status — the author writes with humility and honesty about how these differences shaped her understanding of her family’s history and herself.
Granofsky’s book centers on her childhood in the seventies and eighties, but it is exceptional because it carries readers into the deeper histories of freed Black slaves in Ohio, Toronto’s nascent Jewish community, and America’s Eastern-inspired counterculture spiritualism. With Granofsky herself as the intersection of these influences, the context she provides in how they shaped her parents and grandparents grounds the author as more than a curious individual seeker. Rather, it highlights a universal message for her work, that we all come from somewhere, and that none of our stories are completely linear or tidy. Granofsky’s ability to engage with these histories with a clear, and often courageous, gaze invites readers to join her in the vulnerability of all our stories.
The author does not shy away from describing the truly difficult circumstances through which she lived, the poverty and racism experienced by her mother and her family, the antisemitism and dislocation of her father’s family, or her parents’ economic, spiritual, and marital distress. Perhaps it is that time allows her to bring a more compassionate and even-keeled view of her past to her writing, but she also maintains a tight narrative that rejects pity.
The Girl In the Middle is not a book for readers who are hoping for a glitzier inside look at the world of Degrassi. It is, however, a richly rewarding book for readers who are willing to go deeper into the story of an individual balancing on the edge of the disappointments, expectations, biases, and hopes of the generations that came before her.