Music plays a key role in healing from hidden loss
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
‘The Trumpet Lesson’ explores how societal attitudes about teenage pregnancy, race, adoption, family, and homosexuality affect personal integrity
Mexico – A breathtaking look at the impact of a life-long secret occasioned by 1960’s attitudes toward teenage pregnancy and race, Dianne Romain’s debut novel, The Trumpet Lesson (She Writes Press, September 24, 2019), cross-examines music, family, and friendship in recovery from a lifetime of hidden longing, shame, and grief.
Fascinated by a young woman’s performance of “The Lost Child” in Guanajuato’s central plaza, painfully shy expatriate Callie Quinn asks the woman for a trumpet lesson — and ends up confronting her longing to speak of her own lost child, the biracial daughter she gave up for adoption more than thirty years before. Callie learns the value of playing and speaking from the heart. Yet, having convinced herself that she must remain silent for her daughter’s sake, Callie uses denial, dark humor, and evasion to guard her secret. She risks abandoning everyone she dares to love. But to speak, Callie must confront the deepest reasons for her silence, the ones she conceals from herself.
The Trumpet Lesson was recently announced as the winner in “Women’s Fiction” for the 2019 American Fiction Awards.
Dianne Romain grew up in Missouri and studied philosophy at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. After completing her PhD in Philosophy at UC Berkeley, she taught feminist ethics and philosophy of emotion at Sonoma State University and published Thinking Things Through, a critical thinking textbook. While in California, she practiced fiction writing techniques in a women’s writing group. In Guanajuato, where she lives with novelist Sterling Bennett, she took up the trumpet as research for her debut novel, The Trumpet Lesson. Her current writing projects set in Guanajuato include short stories and a second novel. Visit her at https://dianneromain.com/.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Trumpet Lesson
Dianne Romain | September 24, 2019 | She Writes Press
Paperback ISBN: 978-1631525988 | Price: $16.95
Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction
Praise for The Trumpet Lesson
“The Trumpet Lesson is a beautiful literary novel focused on healing and the families that are forged abroad.”
― Foreword Clarion Reviews
“Romain clearly renders the complex racial dynamics of the times in which the characters lived.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Dianne Romain’s daring and delightful first novel, The Trumpet Lesson, crosses boundaries, opens wounds, and heals them, too. This is a book for anyone who has known the pains and joys of families, both old and new. Are there lessons in this book that moves gracefully from Missouri to Mexico? Indeed there are. Those who go below the surface of the narrative will find them, and they will be amply rewarded for their efforts.”
— Jonah Raskin, author of A Terrible Beauty: The Wilderness of American Literature
“A beautiful story of a woman adapting to a foreign land, The Trumpet Lesson breathes with the authentic atmosphere of Guanajuato, colorful characters, how a trumpet lesson feels, musical lives, and plenty of philosophy. Bravo!”
— John Urness, soloist and principal trumpet of the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra
“Try as she might, Callie’s plan to hide from life after a fateful decision is doomed. This witty, heartwarming ‘lesson’ in human nature navigates the complexity of guilt, regret, and longing. It
shows how the heart will always find a way to form family, no matter how unconventional. All you have to do is learn to breathe — and perhaps buzz your lips.”
— Rita Dragonette, author of The Fourteenth of September
In an interview, Dianne Romain can discuss:
* Finding common ground between members of different cultures
* Her backgrounds in philosophy and fiction and how they influence each other
* How she learned to play the trumpet to get to know her trumpet-playing characters
* Shifting gears in writing: her experience writing short fiction, analytic philosophy, and now literary fiction
* Her fiction-writing journey and how it led her to this novel
* Her decision to donate royalties to nonprofits
An Interview with Dianne Romain
You grew up in Missouri and lived in California for many years. What drew you to move to Mexico? What role does location play in The Trumpet Lesson?
At SSU we had a number of students with Mexican heritage, and so I went to Mexico on sabbatical to improve my Spanish and learn more about Mexico. I fell in love at first sight with Guanajuato, a small, historic canyon city with stunning geography; colonial architecture; and international and national music, art, and literature. Something delightful and unexpected happens all the time.
As for The Trumpet Lesson’s location, Guanajuato offers a wealth of symbols: mazelike pathways, blind alleys, tunnels, and the Subterrania (a street that winds above a hidden river). There are mine shafts in the surrounding hills. Callie gets lost in town and she panics at dark mine shafts. She is lost and afraid of knowing herself. But there is gold to be found in dark places.
Can you tell us a little bit about the differences you’ve experienced in writing your textbook and your novel? Was there any unexpected overlap?
I wrote my textbook with two audiences in mind: undergraduates taking critical thinking and their professors. I wanted the textbook to be engaging and user-friendly for students and yet precise and thorough enough for their professors. I wrote the novel for an audience interested in character-driven fiction, music, and life outside the US. As for overlap, I do some story telling in the textbook. Both books highlight different ways to use language, address emotion, and invite reflection and compassion.
What has been your experience with music? Why focus so much of this novel on the trumpet?
I grew up with music. My mother sang around the house and for weddings and funerals. I sang in the church choir and high school chorus, took piano lessons, played flute in junior high, and banged a bass drum in the high school marching band. In graduate school I returned to the piano and took lessons off and on for years. I also played tin whistle and pounded out piano cords when we hosted Irish music parties at our old farm house in California. We also hosted piano concerts when my piano teacher or one of her students would come up from Berkeley. She and her husband performed for the launch of my text book. I took up the trumpet as research for The Trumpet Lesson.
As for the focus on the trumpet in the novel, I was looking for work in Guanajuato for a young woman from the US. The orchestra served that purpose. I like questioning stereotypes, so I made the woman first trumpet. In the novel Callie is hiding from others and from herself. You can’t hide when playing the trumpet. Callie has trouble breathing. You have to breath to play the trumpet.
What inspired you to write Callie’s story?
I was writing about a writing group member who had written stories of the other members of her group, but had not written her own story. It came to me one morning that she had relinquished a baby and had never told anyone. I was so moved that I began shaking. I knew then it was the story I needed to tell.
Did you find it difficult to write certain aspects of her story?
Writing Callie’s thoughts of losing her baby was the most painful emotionally. I added humor to the story as it was too difficult otherwise for me to manage the pain. As far as the writing craft, it was difficult tying all the subplots together: Armando’s lost dog, Armando’s troubled love life, Pamela’s relationship with her mother, the mysterious behavior of Callie’s mother. It was like trying to weave many colors and textures together in a coherent design. Or trying to have the elements of a meal be varied, complementary, and ready to be served at the appropriate time.
How has your background in philosophy influenced your writing?
My study of ethics relates to the difficulties the characters have with integrity, and my study of emotion relates to how I describe the inner lives of the characters. Because of my study of feminist philosophy I’m interested in the complexity of race relations, in stories with characters from marginalized groups, and in imagining a healthy society. Callie is from a white working-class family, fell in love with a black youth, and relinquished a baby. Societal attitudes in the 1960’s led her to experience her love and her loss alone. The novel offers an alternative society, where characters form a mutually supportive family with members from marginalized groups.
The Trumpet Lesson touches on so many aspects of life, race, sexuality, what family means, to name a few. Ultimately, what do you hope readers take away?
Reflection, compassion, and another view of Mexico. Readers tell me that they reflect on their own secrets and regrets when reading the novel. They feel comforted, too, by the novel. Readers also tell me that they feel more compassion for women who have relinquished babies. Many readers comment, too, on the descriptions of Guanajuato. One reader said she wanted to move there after reading the novel. I expect other readers will take away a different view of Mexico and Mexicans than the US press offers.