Cultural Quarterly
Fall 2008
Volume XXI, Number 4
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Dorian Cirrone
Challenges Young Readers
To Ask Questions, Believe in Themselves

By Stephanie Krulik

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Dorian Cirrone
Dorian Cirrone

“I always knew I wanted to be a writer,” Dorian Cirrone emphatically says. “The thing that attracted me to writing as early as the third grade was the technique of rhyming words. The words and the way they sound is why I became a writer.”

Cirrone writes with a zest for language evident in her books for fourth graders, in her short stories, most definitely in her young adult novels. “I want the reader to be totally immersed in the words. I create characters that look inside themselves, who are forced to decide if this is what they really want to do,” Cirrone says.

Her craft of raising questions rather than answering them and believing in yourself is fundamental.  Cirrone’s young adult novel, Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You, based upon a Margaret Atwood poem she read while working on a Ph.D., teaches girls not to be vain, to wear red shoes and not to be contained. The primary character, Kayla, is based on a real dancer whose adolescent development overpowers her body and who wants to dance professionally.  She is a metaphor for women who make themselves look and act according to society’s rules. Cirrone leaves the ending open.
“I would do this again,” she says. In fact the three main characters in this book are aspects of herself: she was a serious dance student, she studied feminist literature in graduate school and she enjoys all artistic endeavors.

While attending Barry College in Miami Shores, Cirrone was influenced by her freshman college English professor, Phyllis Laszlo, who “opened my eyes to hidden meanings and symbolism in English Literature.”  Cirrone reads non-fiction as a tool to infuse her fiction with meaningful themes. She still talks about reading childhood books by the English-born writer Noel Streatfield.

Cirrone writes about people who go outside the lines by helping readers find their inner strength

Dorian Cirrone
Dorian Cirrone

. The title for Prom Kings and Drama Queens came from a John Mayer song, “No Such Thing,” which, she says, “encourages young people to look inside themselves; to decide if this is something they really want to do.” The dominant character, Emily Bennett, charges the reader not to conform; not to let craving for popularity or material goods prevent you from being your best self.

Believing in yourself is a thread that runs through all her work. In Cirrone’s Lindy Blues mystery chapter books for seven- to ten-year-olds, The Missing Silver Dollar reveals pint-size Lindy’s excellent “nose for news.”  On school shuttles with her daughter, Cirrone noticed pink flowers that opened and closed with the sun, a significant aspect of the ice cream mystery, The Big Scoop.

Cirrone is able to change voice and genre as easily as a chameleon changes color. She characterizes her brother, who was a teenage high jump record holder, in the anthology, Sports Shorts.  In the anthology, Lay Up and Long Shots, he is portrayed as a middle-age surfer, based upon a handicapped surfer she saw at Sunny Isle beach in Miami. Cirrone notes, “I remember the feeling of awe when I saw him surfing with one withered leg.”

Cirrone continues to answer oblique questions, raise doubts and fears, gives strength to character while making the reader feel comfortable within her words. Her current project takes place on the New Jersey shore - one summer in the life of a 13-year-old girl on the brink of growing up, but who doesn’t want to. “I always had the idea that the story needs to be in my head first, but once I sit down at my computer, I’m always surprised at what happens.”

 

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