Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You: A Novel

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    Donna Decker

    Publisher: Inanna

    Year: 2015

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 360 pages

    ISBN: 9781771332019

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Winner, IPPY Silver Medal

Finalist, 2016 International Book Awards, Women’s Issues

Through the braided narratives of three spirited characters, this novel bears witness to the infamous crime that metastasized uber-civilized Montreal, the “Montreal Massacre,” when on December 6, 1989, fourteen female engineering students were murdered in their classrooms. The novel focuses on the lives of Deirdre, a first-year female engineering student at Aquitaine, who takes a Women’s Studies course as an elective and Marin, a student at Cantech who ponders what it means to be a female engineering student in such a chilly gendered climate. Everyone wants Marin at her party. Bohemian and beautiful, she is as passionate about constructing sets for theater and opera as she is about Trey, the one man she can finally trust. Deirdre is earnest and perceptive, but too naïve to know that frat boys can be dangerous, and she is drugged and raped at a party in an infamous men’s residence. Jenean, a francophone female journalist working in both languages, is feisty and urbane, a feminist who longs for peace between the sexes even as she ponders splitting from her live-in partner. She finds herself on the killer’s list of 19 women he would have liked to kill. Set in that tragic historic moment, on two college campuses fraught with gendered antagonisms, this novel tells the story of the victims, following the imagined lives of these women as they happen headlong into the December 6 tragedy — a story disarmingly accurate that explores the profundity of deepest love and unimaginable loss. It follows them through a semester of college, from the crisp autumnal beginnings to that tragic winter. It does not end there. It then takes up with the families and survivors, examining the enduring effects of the massacre’s 24 minutes of inarticulate inhumanity.

What People Are Saying

“From the very first words of her prologue, Donna Decker draws you into the story. You are “there” before you are fully aware that her beautifully crafted novel is tackling profound issues. I believe that caring about a problem, emotion, without taking action to solve it, is irrelevant. Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You is the marriage of emotion and action. Decker’s novel underscores the myriad ways in which women’s lives are shaped — and too often destroyed —by the inequality that often leads to violence. Her book offers us the chance to delve deeper into conversations about gender inequity and violence against women that must be confronted to ultimately enrich the lives of us all – women and men.” Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1997), Chair, Nobel Women’s Initiative

“It took me ten years to understand that the story of the Polytechnique Massacre did not belong only to me but belonged to my society of feminists, of artists, of those who wanted to bear witness, to understand. My private story, however, belongs to me. And the Polytechnique massacre story is built on thousands of private stories of victims and their families, of all Polytechnique students, teachers, employees, and of all those whose life was transformed on that day. In Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You, Donna Decker re-imagines private stories to transcend December 6th and bring back to life the memory of my classmates.” —Nathalie Provost, P. Eng., wounded on December 6th, 1989

“December 6, 1989 – a seemingly ordinary winter night – fourteen people are dead at l’École Polytechnique de l’Université de Montréal. Amongst these, my sister: Maud. Possibly, before this date, as important as it was, the phenomena of violence against women still seemed abstract, without face, without soul, of no importance. This ‘problem’ in our society is all too often summarized as a few editorial lines in a judiciary chronicle or revealed in dark photos of an anonymous body found in a squalid alley.… Until now – Donna Decker’s novel offers us the most comprehensive accounting to date of the crime that continues to engage the conscience of a country.” Sylvie Haviernick, sister of one of the fourteen victims of the Montreal Massacre

“This novel, based on the tragic events of December 6th 1989, is an important commemoration of victims of the Montreal Massacre. With convincing characters and meticulous reconstruction of details, Donna Decker shows us that the killer was not a lunatic, but that his actions were a direct consequence of the negative attitude towards women in society. This is a very important point, because once you proclaim someone like him a monster, it means he is an exception and therefore society is not to be blamed for his actions. On the other hand, if you make a reader aware of the atmosphere of hatred towards women, the whole society becomes responsible for his heinous crime. This book is also a strong condemnation of society’s negative attitudes towards women’s emancipation. I am grateful that Donna Decker, with this book, has made me aware that in modern times, in a civilized country, women were killed just because they were women.” Slavenka Drakulić, author of Holograms of Fear, Marble Skin, and S. A Novel About the Balkans

“Each December 6th since 1989, I gather with women working against male violence from Vancouver, Montreal, Moscow, London or Paris to acknowledge the importance of the Montreal Massacre but also to organize a better future for women. Still Donna Decker, in her novel Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You, through excellent journalistic research, reveals and conveys some social and political realities that I didn’t know. She links historical facts with the story-telling techniques of fiction to help us imagine how other men and women lived those days. Most importantly, she commits to women and to honesty about this specific group of women. Time, unearthed details, and her feminist sensibility holds out for us a perspective on the truth of those public and private events. Sparked by both the murders and the responses of our institutions, thousands of women took over Canadian streets protesting murderous male rage. After twenty-five years, extreme events of male violence worldwide again illuminate the rape culture that spawns them. Reading this book puts us in good company while we consider when and where to run for shelter from men’s violence against women and when and why to defy it.” Lee Lakeman, author of Obsession, with Intent

“This historical novel could not be more timely. Anchored in the events of the Montreal Massacre, the book imagines in rich and carefully researched detail the possible lives of the women engineers attacked by the shooter on December 6, 1989, and the lives of their friends, family members, and others affected by the shooting, including engineers, feminists, and even feminist engineers on other campuses. In doing so, the novel does a justice to the women the world lost on that day. In addition to humanizing those affected by the Montreal Massacre, the book expertly contextualizes the misogynist school shooting in the broader settings of sexism in engineering, violence against women on college campuses and gender-based violence more broadly. A must read for anyone seeking to make sense of the all too real connections between gender-based violence and barriers to advancement of women in stem fields.” Donna Riley, Professor, Department of Engineering Education, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

“This book is immaculately researched, and the characters empathetically imagined. Given the recent media scrutiny of gendered crime on college campuses, it is a must read!” Kevin O’Hara, author of Last of the Donkey Pilgrims

About the Author

Donna Decker is a writer and an English professor at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, whose teaching includes a seminar on school shootings. In 2010, she was one of 25 professors selected from among 150 applicants to be a Ms. Magazine Feminist Scholar based on her project about the 1989 Montreal Massacre. “Intentional Venom: Making Meaning of School Shootings.” The course, created by the author several years ago, has become a popular elective, and grew out of her research on the Polytechnique murders. A mother of three, she lives in Ashburnham, Massachusetts.

Book Details

Author: Donna Decker
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-77133-201-9
Size: 360 pages
Publisher: Inanna
Year: 2015

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