When Emily Gray Tedrowe ’95’s brother, a Marine, was serving in Iraq in 2006, she ignored news of the war and tried to stay focused on caring for her newborn baby: “I was just so focused on getting through the experience that for a long time I didn’t want to read or write about war at all,” she says.
But after her brother’s safe return, she found herself thinking about the lives of those who remain behind when their loved ones go to war. Drawing on her own experiences and extensive research about military families and veterans, Tedrowe wroteBlue Stars, a novel about the struggles of families coping with a wounded soldier returning from war.
Tedrowe introduces readers to two women: Ellen, a bookish literature professor who sends short stories to her adopted son during his deployment; and Lacey, a wayward young mother who marries a soldier for stability and struggles to play the dutiful Army wife. When both soldiers are injured, the women relocate to apartments near Walter Reed Army Medical Center, enduring months of unresponsive doctors and bureaucratic mismanagement as they fight for better care for the men, who have psychological wounds.
Although her personal experiences helped shape the book, Tedrowe says much of her fiction is “purely invented and imagined. It’s really the most fun part of writing — getting to play the game of what it would feel like to be in another person’s life.”
Tedrowe began writing fiction in secret, escaping into her characters’ lives as a break from working on her Ph.D. in English literature. A mother of two and a professor of English and creative writing at DePaul University, Tedrowe writes from 5 to 7 a.m. in a closet that has been converted into an office. Writing Blue Stars“reminded me of all the gratitude I have: for my brother and his return, for all the men and women who serve, but also for the men and women who remain behind — what they go through every day and the sacrifices they make.”