An Osseo woman’s prohibition exploits beget a novel

Sometimes a creative writing exercise can really pay off.


It certainly did in the case of St Paul writer Mary Desjarlais, who’s first novel “Dorie Lavalle” is just out. MPR’s Euan Kerr spoke with Desjarlais, who explained how the book came about:

The book grew out of a writing class taught at Saint Kate’s by author Jonis Agee. She assigned students the task of writing about a relative about who they knew little.

DesJarlais immediately remembered the expression she saw in a vintage picture of her great-aunt Dorie.

She lived in rural Osseo, just north of Minneapolis in the 1920s. Dorie posed with her sisters. But while they were crowded together, Dorie stood off to one side, looking determined.

“This was a woman who got tired of being poor,” DesJarlais said. “They were farmers, the land was not able to yield a good crop and she thought, ‘What can I do to make some money?’ Prohibition was raging. People wanted a drink. She decided to take that opportunity.”

To find out more about Dorie LaValle’s bootlegging adventures, you can click on the audio link below, or read the full story here.

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