An exclusive Authorlink AUDIO interview with Jennifer Dubois,
October 2012 Authorlink Edition
In Jennifer DuBois debut novel, A PARTIAL HISTORY OF LOST CAUSES (Dial Press Trade Paperback 2012), a long-lost letter links two disparate characters each searching for meaning against seemingly insurmountable odds – a former Soviet chess champion running a presidential campaign against Putin and a young woman living in fear of a disease she knows she will inherit.
Here, Jennifer talks with Authorlink about how her own personal experiences informed the novel, and of how she learned to write with such depth and detail at an early age.
DuBois says of her interest in Russia, I had the opportunity to travel to Saint Petersburg, then Leningrad, as a young child, and the trip made a great impression on memy fathers choir sang songs about freedom that the crowd really responded to, and even though it would be a lot to say I internalized any of the political realities of the time, there truly was a certain energy there in 1990 that stayed with me. This sparked a lifelong interest in international politics generally and Eastern Europe specifically. When as an adult I read about Garry Kasparovthe real-life world chess champion turned dissidenthe seemed like the kind of character that belonged in a novel as much as in the world: brave, visionary, slightly mad. Chess serves as a beautiful metaphor both for politics and for mortality, and Ive always been drawn to how the political and personal can be threaded in fiction. So I found myself writing about a character who resembled Kasparov in some broad ways. And the more research I did the more I was drawn to the complexities and absurdities of Soviet life, and what a unique canvas that world provided for a novel.
Irinas story has a more personal origin. DuBois says, my father became ill with Alzheimers disease when I was twelve, so I grew up against the backdrop of a lot of questions about intellectual identity vs. personal identity, what cognition means for selfhood, and what you do when you already know the situation you're in will unfold badly. I liked the idea of writing about a character who was wrestling with these questions. And as I was writing I realized that Aleksandr and Irina were fundamentally doing the same thing: proceeding with grace and courage in the face of doom."
About the Author
Jennifer Dubois was born in Northhampton, Massachusetts in 1983. She earned a BA in political science and philosophy from Tufts University and an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was a Teaching-Writing Fellow. She recently completed her Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, where she now teaches. Jennifer's short ficiton has appeared in Playboy, The Missouri Review, The Kenyon Review, The Northwest Review, The South Carolina Review and The Florida Review. Visit her online at www.jennifer-dubois.com