Deb Jannerson. The Women of Dauphine. Nine Star Press, 2019. 221 pages
The Women of Dauphine is New Orleans poet and essayist Deb Jannerson’s debut novel, and while it is aimed at young adults, it is not an easy or comfortable read. It is perhaps better to say this is a necessarily uncomfortable read. At the heart of the story is lesbian ghost sex, but this book deals with topics much more horrifying than ghosts: sexual violence, suicide, and conversion therapy chief among them.
What some might dismiss as a silly topic, lesbian ghost sex, Jannerson, won the 2017 So to Speak Nonfiction Award for an essay about queer intimacy and PTSD, turns into a vehicle for an emotionally powerful story that both entertains and inspires. This book is much more than a paranormal romance.
When Cassie’s family moves into a decrepit house in New Orleans, the only upside is her new best friend. Gem is witty, attractive, and sure not to abandon Cassie—after all, she’s been confined to the old house since her murder in the ’60s.
As their connection becomes romantic, Cassie must keep more and more secrets from her religious community, which hates ghosts almost as much as it hates gays. Even if their relationship prevails over volatile parents and brutal conversion therapy, it may not outlast time.
This book will resonate with anyone who has survived parental abuse, conversion therapy, religion based homophobia, and adolescence in general.
Deb Jannerson has written two collections of poetry, Rabbit Rabbit (Finishing Line Press, 2016) and Thanks for Nothing (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Jannerson won the 2018 Flexible Persona Editors’ Prize for a piece of flash fiction about gruesome work injuries, and a Two Sisters prize for a story about switching bodies with her cat. She has been shortlisted for other honors, including The Writer’s Summer Flash Contest, the William Faulkner-Wisdom Competition, and a Pushcart Prize. More than one hundred of Jannerson’s works have been featured in anthologies and magazines, including viral articles for Bitch. She is currently working on a novel about preteen superheroes.