A Letter in the Wall
Eileen Brill — 2022
It’s 1971, and Joan Dumann fears her former business partner wants her dead—but her anxiety is less about dying than it is about feeling disrespected and invalidated. As she constructs a letter about her predicament, she revisits her past. Born into a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family in 1915 and raised with privilege and opportunity, Joan wrestles with her turbulent thoughts and unfulfilled desires—an internal battle that often results in self-destructive tendencies. When she attempts to push against the norms for women of her time in order to forge her own identity, she is met with resistance. Yet she might also be her own worst enemy, often alienating those who care deeply for her. Both manipulative and vulnerable, naive and conniving, Joan is, like many people, complex and misunderstood. Inspired by a letter written by the real Joan, found hidden in the wall of a Pennsylvania home more than half a century later, this story is a fictionalized imagining of who she was and what motivated her. Moving through several decades and events—from the 1918 influenza pandemic to Prohibition to the Great Depression to Vietnam—A Letter in the Wall examines the internal and external factors that influence one woman’s journey toward independence and empowerment.