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She Was

The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn

Short Stories


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"She Was is gripping, deep, relevant and extremely rich as a cultural document that elaborates and brings new light on some of the critical issues facing people in this society. Its handling of race, and especially the work of memory is very important ... it should enter into a long life in American letters." -- David Carrasco, professor of religious studies, Harvard University

From the author of the acclaimed novel The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn comes a spellbinding story of a woman whose hidden past finally catches up with her.

Doreen Woods is many things: a successful dentist who donates time and skills to the needy, a loving wife and mother, a sister who cares for her dying brother. She has carefully built an exemplary life. But all of this is threatened when a comrade from the ‘70s shows up. Over the next week Doreen’s past rushes in as she is forced to admit to her family and herself the actions that caused her to change her name and identity three decades earlier.

In 1970 she was impressionable and idealistic Lucy Johansson. When her brother Adam came home from Vietnam, damaged and bitter, they moved to California together where she raged against the war and the Establishment with many others of her generation. She joined an anti-war group and participated in increasingly militant protests designed to bring attention to their cause and to change the world for the better. But all the best intentions and careful planning couldn’t keep things from going terribly wrong.

Told from a 21st century perspective, She Was spans the width of the American continent and the depth of social upheaval of the last half of the 20th century. She Was explores the violent, determining act in one woman’s life that mirrors the formative trauma of her age. She Was is a story about the indelible nature of the past, about hiding in the ordinary, and, ultimately, about making amends.


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