Books: Gone from the Mirror

West St. Paul writer Susan Koefod’s young adult novel explores how women piece together identity.

In 2013, on a plane to San Francisco, birthplace of Beat poetry, writer and mother Susan Koefod reflected on the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Writers she’d just won. Artist, it told her. Artist? She, a woman of the ’70s women’s lib movement: writer and mother and daughter and wife. She reflected on the breakaway Beat poets.

Then, in a flash, her book: A girl comes home to find her image gone from the mirror.

The protagonist of Koefod’s first young adult novel, Naming the Stars, explores what makes her unique. Her face on a milk carton—“Missing”—partially answers. The tangible qualities: playing the sax, collecting stones.

 “I was thinking a lot about my daughter.” Koefod says. “She was in her final high school years at the time.” Koefod spent about a year, beginning in 2013, writing the book.

“I’d constructed a whole life around what people thought of me, how others saw me, what I’d seen in the mirror. It was so easy relying on what lay outside myself to construct my world, my reality. I was a daughter, a sister, someone’s friend. Others defined me and made me who I was. Without them, I was invisible. Without them, I was no one.”
 —excerpt from Naming the Stars

Naming the Stars, published in September 2016 by Curiosity Quills Press, is available on, and at SubText Books and The Red Balloon Bookshop, both in Saint Paul.