Stella Pope Duarte‘s new book, Writing through Revelations, Visions, and Dreams, the memoir of a writers’s soul, is an intriguing book. Stella does much more than tell stories from her own life, she invites us to wake up and pay attention to the signs in our lives.
She struggled for weeks to understand the dream she had about her father, who said to her, “It’s right there, mija, in front of you, what you have to do next.” What was she supposed to see? Why wouldn’t her father tell her? But she didn’t let it go or forget it. She stayed aware, waiting for more information. She didn’t run to look up what the dream meant in a dream book, because only the dreamer can untangle the meanings of dreams. She continued to question the dream until she was in a bookstore, and a book fell off the shelf at her feet. It was a book abou a South African woman of mixed race and the love and hate she experienced. It dawned on Stella that this woman’s values were similar to her own, even if they lived thousands of miles apart. “She wrote what she knew,” and at that moment, Stella understood that it was the hallmark of every writer, and she could no longer distance herself from her own past.
In her talk at Changing Hands Bookstore on Thursday night, Stella told us she finally discovered that her father had foretold her becoming a writer. As a family therapist and a college professor, she had thought her career was in place, but her life of writing hadn’t begun. (Stella won the National Book Award for If I Die in Juárez in 2009)
Stella tells rapid-fire stories about growing up in Phoenix’s poorest barrio and living with domestic violence for years. She is brutally honest about this time in her life and what she learned from it. She shows the following slide:
It says, “If you come to terms with the dark parts of who you are, you won’t have to marry them.” It was a profound moment. We are so attracted to what we are not, and feel it missing in our lives. It seems tempting and exotic, and yet, once we marry it, it becomes the foreign irritant in our lives that we struggle to change. We all know about the futility of changing other people, but that is the dance we do–we see the dark other parts of ourselves in a lover, we want it manifested, and when it does, we want to distance ourselves from it. You can’t do both, at least not at the same time.
The book is a combination of memoir, self-help for writers, and a comfort for those of us who have dreams that confuse and inspire us. The slim, 162-page volume is a quick read and an interesting view into the heart of a writer.
–-Quinn McDonald couldn’t stay home and write; she had to go hear Stella Pope Duarte speak. And she’s glad she did.