Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Dorothea Dreams, Charnas explores an issue which is probably of considerable importance to her personally, the relationship between the successful artist and society and, more specifically, that between the successful female artist and social justice. The title character is a talented painter who, just as her career was beginning to take off, chose to flee the New York art world and live a hermitlike existence near Taos, New Mexico. For the last two years, unknown to anyone, she has been creating her masterpiece, a mixed media work literally glued to the face of a cliff. Dorothea has totally rejected the demands put upon her by both the artistic community and her daughter, who is active in feminist politics.

Meanwhile, in nearby Albuquerque, trouble is brewing in the barrio. Unprincipled land developers, with the local police in their pocket, are using underhanded tactics to buy up a neighborhood which they plan to gentrify at an enormous profit. When the people of Pinto Street protest, a police-instigated riot occurs and one young hothead, Roberto, ends up on the run, his asthmatic little sister in tow. They hijack a bus and end up at Dorothea's, holding her, her friend Ricky (who is dying of cancer), and the busload of art students as hostages.

Dorothea is a woman who is totally wrapped up in herself and her art. Charnas uses the appearances, first of a ghost, then of Ricky, then of Roberto and his hostages, to force Dorothea to...

(The entire section is 377 words.)