By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
Northeast Portland native – and Grant and Fernwood alumna – Jennifer Vandever has followed her acclaimed first novel, The Bronte Project, with her second, American Tango, and it is set in her hometown.
Vandever, who grew up in the Grant Park neighborhood and is the daughter of Bill and Ruth Vandvever, divides her time between Portland and Los Angeles. She teaches at Emerson College’s Los Angeles program, writes with humor about the rituals of liberal Portland and the vagaries of love, sex and marriage.
Tango tells the story of Rosalind Plumley, a 30-something artist whose work has dwindled to decorative paintings of hummingbirds she sells at the upscale children’s boutique where she works. Reluctantly, she takes a tango class with her mother and finds herself on a path of her own desires and a new understanding of her family’s complicated history.
To research the book, Vandever took tango lessons. “It’s a lot harder than it looks!” she said.
“My main character is at a real crossroads and has some magical thinking about what will make her happy. I wanted to explore how we grieve our losses, both real and imagined, and make peace with our messy, imperfect selves and relationships.”
Her first book, about a young scholar’s search for the lost love letters of Charlotte Bronte, was published by Random House in 2005. The New York Times Book Review called it “witty and artful” and the Christian Science Monitor dubbed it “wickedly clever.”
Her second book was published by Melograno Press, an independent publishing house. Vandever, who has been a co-writer and associate producer of an independent film, “Just One Time,” said she sees parallels between indie films and books.
“The indie ethos really appeals to me – I like the freedom and control,” she said.