One of the things Dorene O’Brien liked about being a reporter was meeting different people and listening to their stories.
The former journalist puts her ear to good use in “Voices of the Lost and Found,” her first collection of short fiction.
O’Brien laughingly insists that her life is fairly routine and nothing like that of her characters, probably a good thing, given that those characters — a crisis line volunteer, a jaded prostitute, a young graffiti artist, a mother haunted by her childhood kidnapping — are often troubled, wounded souls.
The people who populate “Voices” are men, women, young and old, rural and urban dwellers. When she was invited to assemble a collection for Wayne State University Press’s Made in Michigan series, she worried that the disparate nature of her stories would make it impossible to give the book a unifying theme. O’Brien turned that into a positive, though, by highlighting those differences.
The first-person narrators in “Voices” are a far cry from those O’Brien met during her self-described homogeneous childhood in Hamtramck, where she was surrounded by fellow Polish Catholics who all knew each other, and more a product of O’Brien’s experiences as a reporter and a Postal Service employee. She eventually left her job in the training department of the post office to get her master’s degree in English from WSU, but not before the melting pot environment left an indelible impression on her.
“Voices” has won high praise from O’Brien’s peers. “Queenpin” author Megan Abbott said O’Brien’s literary voice “is very much her own — blazingly original, calling to life an unforgettable gallery of desperate characters.” Writer Shirley Geok-Lin Lim declared the stories as “fierce, economical, completely persuasive and compelling.” And O’Brien has stacks of awards to her credit, including the Bridport Prize, “New Millennium Writings” Fiction Award and a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Causes Dorene O'Brien Supports
The Humane Society, ACLU, Defenders of Wildlife