A coming-of-conscience novel in which a young woman in college on an Army scholarship risks future and family to secretly join the anti-war counterculture.
Rita Dragonette is a writer who, after spending nearly thirty years telling the stories of others as an award-winning public relations executive, has returned to her original creative path. The Fourteenth of September, her debut novel, is based upon her personal experiences on campus during the Vietnam War. The novel, which came out from She Writes Press in September 2018, went into a second printing in January 2019. It has been designated a winner for Women’s Fiction in the 2018 Beverly Hills Book Awards, a finalist for two American Fiction Awards by American Book Fest, a finalist for two National Indie Excellence Awards, and has received an honorable mention in the Hollywood Book Festival. She is currently at work on three other books: an homage to The Sun Also Rises about expats chasing their last dream in San Miguel de Allende, a World War II novel based upon her interest in the impact of war on and through women, and a memoir in essays. She lives and writes in Chicago, where she also hosts literary salons to showcase authors and their new books to avid readers.
Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, Rebecca West, James Joyce, Tim O’Brien, Jennifer Egan
Last book read:
The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai
The book that changed your life:
The Razor’s Edge, by Somerset Maugham, about a very religious man who doesn’t believe in God. I first read it at exactly the right age—seventeen. It helped me settle my conflicts about faith at a young age and showed me how literature could humanize the big issues. It also seeded my wanderlust to travel the world (Paris in particular) and my curiosity about different ways to tell stories (this one has a narrator who is not a central character). Above all, I was obsessed with the characters and wanted to slap Isabel for giving up Larry (I would never have done it), keep Larry from giving up the inheritance that allowed him to travel and keep learning, and save Sophie. From then on, I wanted to both read and write stories where characters would be this alive on the page.
Your favorite literary character:
Clarissa Dalloway, from Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. In the course of her day, preparing for her evening’s party, we learn everything about her–her past, her present, her fears about the future as well as her entire post-war era. A precise, exceptional portrait of an unexceptional but revelatory life. And don’t you want to sit her down for a cup of tea at the end and keeping talking about it all?
Currently working on:
Another novel, a homage to The Sun Also Rises called La Querencia, about expats who have gone to San Miguel de Allende with their last dream.
Words to live by:
We learn our history from facts and nonfiction, but we understand it through narrative.
Advice to new and aspiring authors:
Get into a community. You will go farther, faster. There is no longer any reason to go it alone.
“A brilliant depiction of how the urgency of political commitment complicates the self-absorption of adolescence. This is a novel for those who marvel at the profound decisions we were called upon to make so young, but also for a new generation facing the crucial questions of the turbulent world that will define them.”
– Barbara Shoup, author of Looking for Jack Kerouac, An American Tune, Night Watch, Faithful Women, Wish You Were Here, Vermeer’s Daughter, Stranded in Harmony and Everything You Want
“Rita Dragonette’s novel reveals what I have known for a long while—that she is a writer of great talent and integrity who infuses this debut work with an energy and vision that lifts it far beyond the ordinary coming of age story. This is an important book, not to be missed.”
– Gary D. Wilson, author of Getting Right and Sing, Ronnie Blue
“This novel magnificently arcs the distance between the deeply personal and the global. It sharply depicts a seminal point in history, while tackling universal questions about how we measure the need to act versus personal cost. Dragonette has given us a work of recent historical fiction with profound relevance for today.”
– Barbara Monier, author of You, In Your Green Shirt,A Little Birdie Told Me and Pushing the river
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