Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Debra Dean

Debra Dean is the bestselling author of four critically acclaimed books that have been published in 21 languages. Her debut, The Madonnas of Leningrad, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year. She teaches creative writing at Florida International University.

Dean's latest book, Hidden Tapestry: Jan Yoors, His Two Wives, and the War That Made Them One, tells the remarkable true story of Belgian-American artist Jan Yoors – childhood vagabond, wartime resistance fighter, polyamorous New York bohemian – and the two women who agreed to share his life. Best-selling author Ross King has called this “one of the most remarkable artistic stories of the twentieth century.”

Recently I asked Dean about what she was reading. Her reply:
What is Debra Dean reading? At the moment, a lot of student’s stories. But I recently finished Dawn Davies’ memoir Mothers of Sparta. She was on the Megyn Kelly show talking about the title essay, a powerfully frank account of her son who is autistic and has some dangerous behaviors he can’t control. It’s a great essay but only one of several; the collection digs deep into a range of experiences. In one, she is a young woman unmoored by the motorcycle death of her boyfriend who, in comforting a dying stranger in the street, makes a rough peace with God. In another, she is pregnant (and not one of those pregnancies where you glow but an Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of pregnancy) and because her brain is no longer functioning well, she repeatedly tries and fails to make a Thanksgiving pie to impress the new in-laws. There’s a funny essay about assuming the identity of a soccer mom. The threads that hold them all together are Davies’ startling honesty, her humor, and a lyrical reverence for the moments big and small that add up to a life.

I’ve also dipped into the To Be Read pile on my nightstand and am immersed in Ben Lerner’s novel 10:04. I’ve never read anything quite like it—Lerner’s analytical and digressive prose makes the world of novels feel suddenly dated. He captures the queasy state of the current moment, when the future is no longer a given.
Visit Debra Dean's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Mirrored World.

--Marshal Zeringue