The inspiration for A Star Is Born, author of a book of financial tips for women, and one of the world’s most famous flappers, Colleen Moore left a legacy that flourishes in Rooney’s new novel, From Dust to Stardust. The book, full of hope, is an elegantly told fictionalized version of her life, under the new name Doreen O’Dare. In this interview, Rooney talks about some of the book’s most powerful themes.
Harél searches for joy with the recognition of how much we are up against in the world. His has a willingness to see sharply the challenges and obstacles that are often devastatingly difficult to understand—to admit joy through inquiry and truth. If we do not see clearly, we are victims of magical thinking, wholly unprepared for those inevitable struggles and painful circumstances that are unavoidable.
Ch’anzu’s narrative arc drives the novel forward, as does a mystery that begins to unfold in the the strange confines of the dreamlike village. Through this story, Ch’anzu begins to explore hir own background, trauma and ghosts, that become part of the app being created, self-reflexively looping back to the creative unfolding that the reader is experiencing.
As our detective duo uncovers new facts, and tangos with a decidedly subpar and self-serving police chief, their position in society and ability to move through the world unencumbered becomes even more important. Like wealthy daughter-of-a-lawyer Nancy Drew, their bold moves and demanding lines of questioning are only possible because they have the resources and status to back them up.
Near the middle of the book, Smith concludes her elimination experiment. Changing her habits has helped her regain her equilibrium, but the shift is not as drastic as she envisioned. Life looks the same as it did pre-pandemic but clearly something in her inner experience has changed.
All in all, these poems are sensitive, moving, perceptive, and carefully crafted gems. Discouragement might lurk in the words, yet the balance is tilting toward hope. As expressed in the poem “A Close and Constant Rage,” the poet notes “my continuous rage colliding / with the natural world, … / surround me with a can-do moment of hope.”
She laughs when she talks about those who think she’s locked up somewhere “blowing square bubbles.” She went on to have a “normal” life, got married, raised a family, wrote twenty novels, worked as an anthropology professor at the Colorado School of Mines, volunteered as the first female EMT in her mountain community, tutored students in Hebrew, made jam and sewed clothes…and made trouble when necessary.
Whitacre makes it clear from the start that this is family folklore handed down over generations at Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas celebrations and other family gatherings. Indeed, the second poem, “Jennie at Thanksgiving,” introduces us to the central figure, now a toothless old lady who is hard of hearing, her food “ground to mush” so that she’s able to eat. “She gums away fitfully.”
This book will be of interest perhaps most to Franklin fans who will appreciate the spotlight shifting from him to the multiple women who play secondary characters in his biographies. It must be noted that Stuart does more than simply tell the stories of these players that usually otherwise merely populate the background of the US colonial and revolutionary drama; she offers several insightful and challenging reappraisals.
Ottaway explores the way that women are often taught to mask emotions which can make diagnosis difficult. The book is also deeply personal, putting the reader directly into the experience and incorporating a welter of complex emotions, sensations, and perspectives that are powerful. Poetry is the right medium, embracing the complexity through rhythm, structure, imagery, and an engagement in the senses that creates immediacy.