USEREVIEW 080 (Capsule): Dreaming of You
Dreaming of You (Astra House Books, 2021)
ISBN 978-1-66260-059-3 | 192 pp | $30.00 CAD | BUY Here
To call a book ‘haunting’ is a cliché. Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s debut novel, Dreaming of You (Astra House Books, 2021) is haunted — an important distinction. This novel-in-verse is so haunted, in fact, that it holds a séance to resurrect Tejano pop star Selena Quintanilla. It’s so haunted that it’s narrated by a gossiping Greek chorus. It’s a book in which Lozada-Oliva forces herself to look into a mirror and ask, “What’s it like to model yourself off a dead girl?” It’s a sensational story: the kind of stuff that inspires both rumours and quiet introspection.
Dreaming of You is also a horror story about celebrity worship, death obsession and what is means to be seen. Lozada-Oliva’s poetic renderings of karaoke bars, dating a sea monster and the infamous dead celebrity prom will haunt your eyelids for days. You will feel her voice in your head for weeks. It will itch at your scalp and make you wonder if you can ever be alone in a room again, for better or for worse.
Lozada-Oliva’s poems got stuck in my head like pop songs. ‘I Watch Selena’s Open-Casket Funeral’ (pp. 22-23) is a meditation on death anxiety that interjects images of beauty and gore with women who fear for their lives, expressed casually as superstition. This drama is set to the backdrop of Selena’s open casket funeral: “… how they / peel a face off then back on, prick needles into the corners / of eyes to make you look like you’re sleeping.”