#PubDay Book Review | “The Fourteenth of September” by Rita Dragonette

Posted Tuesday, 18 September, 2018 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: JKS is the first publicity firm I started working with when I launched Jorie Loves A Story in August, 2013. One of the benefits of working with JKS is the fact the publicists not only read my blog and understand my reading life but they have the knack for knowing what I want to be reading ahead of knowing which stories might captivate my own attention! I am thankful I can continue to read the stories the authors they represent are creating as they have the tendency of being beloved treasured finds throughout my literary wanderings.

I am honoured to continue to work with them now as a 5th Year Book Blogger. I received my complimentary ARC copy of “The Fourteenth of September” from the publisher She Writes Press courtesy of the publicist at JKS Communications in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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What inspired me to read ‘The Fourteenth of September’:

I personally love Feminist Historical Fiction – I trust the publisher as it’s one I’ve become fond of in recent years, whilst I adore finding strong female stories in #HistFic which are rooted in living histories and the persons who lived stories so incredible they are honoured in fiction. Definitely a good fit for me. Also, I never studied the Vietnam War in school – I had the memories of the era and generation from both my parents and my grandparents who openly discussed what was going on during those times but I never personally read or researched it myself. (with the exception of the Non-Fiction release ‘Those Who Remain’)

What captured me the most is the ‘coming to conscience’ moment for Judy and the choices she was facing which may or may not have correlated well with her military family.

Felt like the kind of dramatic story I would appreciate which is why I choose to read this title at the end of Summer in-line for celebrating it’s publication!

A side note about why I classified this as Historical Fiction rather than Contemporary – as I generally consider works post-1945 as being strictly ‘Contemporary’ but there are a few random exceptions to this particular self-driven ruling in regards to classifications of the stories I am reading on my blog. ‘The Fourteenth of September’ felt to me to be a brilliantly conceived and conceptionalised ‘time capsule’ of a particularly inclusive period of turbulence in American History – thereby, giving me a decided impression of a) a drama back-lit by a war everyone & their cousin has heard about irregardless of which decade/century of birth b) the particular mannerisms of the inclusivity of the story and c) although I am technically a close-cousin in years to the age of Judy, I feel like this was a firm step ‘back’ from whence I entered the world. Thereby, classifying this as ‘Feminist Historical Fiction’ because for me, it was a full generation behind me even if technically that is not theoretically accurate if you go by the fact I’m a GenX girl! (laughs)

IF your a regular reader of my blog, I won’t have to explain to you about my penchant for *Feminist Historical Fiction*, however, if your visiting with me through this review for the first time, you might want to give a nod of a glimpse into my archive for this niche of fiction I love discovering! Likewise, I have a few upcoming ruminations I’ll be sharing with you – the first of which will be ‘The Lost Queen’ by Signe Pike!

And, yes if you spied the collective works of Nicole Evelina featuring her incredible #Arthurian after canon series, I can happily *announce!* I shall be reading the concluding *third!* installment of her series this *October!* Mum’s the word on the rest of the titles which will be forthcoming!Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

#PubDay Book Review | “The Fourteenth of September” by Rita DragonetteThe Fourteenth of September
by Rita Dragonette
Source: Publicist via JKS Communications

Fifty years ago America was at a critical turning point in history as radical social and political unrest swept the nation. Tension built as the world watched the upheaval of change – from voting rights to feminism, from the assassinations of iconic leaders like civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic presidential nominee Robert F. Kennedy, to the promise of space travel. Above all, the Vietnam War came to a head, casting a shadow over American life that profoundly affected most aspects of that and every generation since.

We think we know it well. And yet, with a half-century of distance, we’re only now fully appreciating the full impact and diversity of perspectives possible, and parallels to today, as evidenced by, for example, the recent Ken Burns PBS documentary “The Vietnam War.” Among what we’ve learned: we’ve only scratched the surface of the female stories of the time.

In her compelling debut novel, “The Fourteenth of September” (Sept. 18, 2018, She Writes Press), author Rita Dragonette uses her personal experiences as a student during one of the most volatile years of the war and gives voice to the women of her generation. In the story, Private First Class Judy Talton celebrates her 19th birthday by secretly joining the antiwar movement on her college campus. As the recipient of an army scholarship and the daughter of a military family, Judy has a lot to lose. But her doubts about the ethics of war have escalated, especially after her birthdate is pulled as the first in the new draft lottery. If she were a man, she would have been among the first off to Vietnam with an under-fire life expectancy measured in seconds. The stakes become clear, propelling her toward a life-altering choice as fateful as that of any lottery draftee.

“The Fourteenth of September” portrays a pivotal time at the peak of the Vietnam War through the rare perspective of a young woman, tracing her path of self-discovery and a “coming-of- conscience.” Judy’s story speaks to the poignant clash of young adulthood, early feminism, and war, offering an ageless inquiry into the domestic politics of protest when the world stops making sense.

“Though women weren’t in danger of actually being drafted, they were ‘in it’ sharing fear, outrage, and activism, particularly during the days of the first Draft Lottery and Kent State, when it felt an age group — a generation — was in jeopardy, not a gender, even if that wasn’t always fully appreciated,” Dragonette says. “It’s an important perspective with a rich and complex backstory that has informed the involvement of women in protests through to and including today’s ‘Never Again’ movement.”

Genres: Current Events, Feminist Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Social Science, Women's Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1631524530

Published by She Writes Press

on 18th September, 2018

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 376

Published By: She Writes Press (@shewritespress)
originated from She Writes (@shewritesdotcom)
an imprint of Spark Points Studio LLC GoSparkPoint (@GoSparkPoint)
& BookSparks(@BookSparks)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #FourteenthOfSeptember, #HistFic or #HistNov & #SheWritesPress

About Rita Dragonette

Rita Dragonette

Rita Dragonette is a former award-winning public relations executive turned author. Her debut novel, “The Fourteenth of September,” is a woman’s story of Vietnam which will be published by She Writes Press on Sept. 18, 2018, and has already been designated a finalist in two 2018 American Fiction Awards by American Book Fest, and received an honorable mention in the Hollywood Book Festival.

She is currently working on two other novels and a memoir in essays, all of which are based upon her interest in the impact of war on and through women, as well as on her transformative generation. She also regularly hosts literary salons to introduce new works to avid readers.

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my review of the fourteenth of September:

Judy is on the fringes of her adulthood – etching out the final year of her teens, caught in the tides of the backlash stemming from the Vietnam War and finding herself on the diving lines between politics, social justice and the vocalised protests of her generation. It is a stirring scene, where two factions of University students are separated by their beliefs and politics alike – engaging in a free for all of independent protest, seeking each other to understand the opposing position with more than a bit of juvenile attack strategies. Here we find Judy amongst the throngs of her peers, seeking not necessarily to be noticed but to see who is noticed. She wants to get the layout of the scene, tucked away in plain sight, observing with owl-like precision and hoping against hope she’s unnoticed herself in return.

You can’t quite put your finger on what Judy is game for accomplishing – at least not in the beginning pages – her story starts to draw out a bit towards her random encounter with Vida, a sharp-spoken twenty-something who has a particular attachment to smoking, fierce words of declaring wrongs against those she supports and a mysterious edge about her which strikes Judy as the kind of girl she ought to know but never could imagine herself becoming. Or, could she? There is quietness about how Judy is both self-reflective and self-motivating towards internal change – as isn’t that the point of the charade?! To seek out whom she really wants to be – where her voice lies and where her alliances draw her to move next?

The scene where we learn the hypothesis for Dragonette’s novel is writ into the close friendship Judy carved out with Pete their freshman year. Two innocent students wicked happy for a full scholarship to study their respective fields with the slight addition of serving their country in order to achieve the aide funds. The rub for Judy, however, was what was the cost of an education if you did not own your own thoughts, beliefs and morality? Where was the dividing line between duty, honour and personal choice? These two friends are each walking towards their futures with two different perspectives – where one chooses to overlook the complications, the other chooses to spin those complexities into a personal self-study of sociological choice vs expectation of what you previously felt you had been convinced to believe as your own truths.

What I found interesting is how Judy’s mother was trying to influence her daughter to accept the realities of siblings – whilst Judy was growing up, the preference of course was on her brother – who would receive the most help and would be secured on a path towards University. He could want for nothing whereas Judy would be left to sort everything out on her own. Saving enough to attend school past high school was something ingrained into her mind but not something which touched her conscience til it was nearly too late to effectively do anything about it. You truly feel for her plight – she’s trying to come of age like everyone else but with the pressures at home to accept her plight as a ‘girl’ and of the keen fact none of the other girls’ her age every made it out of her hometown or into a career path outside of the obvious avenues; it was like try to swim upstream without knowing your final destination.

You had to give her mother credit though – she wanted her daughter to follow in her footsteps (as a war-time nurse) but the issue with that is the fact her mother must have embraced the path, as you gather the same isn’t true of Judy. It is not her calling, it is merely a ‘way out’ to justify how to extract yourself from a life you knew would go nowhere fast except straight into marriage and being at the beck and call of a husband you most likely won’t be in love with in the first place. The heaviness of her situation and the pervasive ways in which her mother kept filling her head with worrying over the future before the future ever arrived – you had to wonder, how did Judy filter out all of that and still know who ‘Judy’ was as a person? Then, again, perhaps that was what was fuelling her stance on the war now – what if one act of rebellion was the first time you could raise your own voice without others trying to persuade you to think differently than you do?

The closer Judy was becoming to being a full-fledged member of her new group (the hippies against the war) the closer she was becoming to step outside her entire life’s plan (up to this point). Her conscience-in-arms was Pete, a mutual candidate for the Army scholarship who liked reminding her about her commitment to the Army and of what was at stake if she was found out. You had to give Pete credit – he was putting his head out where most wouldn’t and you could tell he cared for Judy, but she was too busy trying to sort out ‘herself’ than to consider who was crushing on her or even wanting to be her protector. Pete fit the bill on both counts but overall, you sensed he knew she hadn’t yet made the full eclipse towards re-defining herself outside the small towne girl he knew she was when she arrived. I think that stung the most – Judy was tired of the image she carried about herself and she wanted to do something more than what was expected; by her mother, by Pete, by the Army and if to be honest? By everyone. She was tired to being conditioned to think and feel – for once, she was striving to think on her own terms. That in of itself was where her courage started to grow and where her tenacity was sprouting wings.

The rhythm and sequence of their relationship was growing strained – the closer Judy attempted to tell her mother where her thoughts were running, the more her mother pushed her to realise the realities of her choice to accept the Army’s scholarship. The problem of course, was how unsettled Judy felt – before she had the chance to interact with Vida and her group, she only had the musings she had gleamed from a concentrated source of popular opinion. Now, she was thrust into the scene at a University where ‘everything goes’ and ‘anyone can be anybody’ to the point where she was caught up in the tidal pool of sorting through which group best held her heart and soul. Was it enough to accept her fate or was it what she felt she was fated to living which was causing the most anguish in her spirit?

Judy was the quiet interloper into the fold – she nudged the group with well-placed arguments of her own, keen insights into topics they were either musing about already or thoughts they hadn’t yet considered – yet, all the same, she hadn’t opened herself to being vulnerable enough to explain her own situation. You had to wonder – was it out of fear of their immediate rejection? Their shocked acceptance of a girl coming to terms with her own beliefs or would it cause a fracture in their own awakening about alliances, allegiances and the friends’ whom you never truly know as well as you think you do?

The realities of war are all around the students but the horrors of the present situation has not yet reached their humble campus or of other campuses in the country. I grew up knowing about Kent State inasmuch as the other major events outlined by Judy in the novel as being the kind of events which do alter your perspective – on the world and on the country. Their the kind which define a generation and which led towards change in the next generation if it can’t be won in the current one whose become inspired to activism and advocacy. I was awaiting a moment in the novel – of where The Fourteenth of September would intersect with my own memories rooted in the stories I was told as a young girl by my family.

Before my remembered history of the time-line in the story, Dragonette infused our heart with a powerful self-actualisation exercise through Judy’s eyes – when she was prompted to think of what could eclipse the six seconds she might be given to live at war. The purposefulness of that moment – the articulation of her role and the vulnerability of catapulting herself beside the soldier – there was an incredible somberness to it and a resolve we hadn’t quite seen in her up to this point. It marked the first moment where we saw Judy contemplating her path and if she had the gumption to pursue being a nurse.

Most of what was being revealled to me in the story were outside of my purview as the experiences of both the author and that of her lead character Judy, were not the memories of my immediate family members. It is interesting how vividly aware Dragonette held onto her experiences to effectively give us such a keenly strong representation of what a character could articulate of her own living history. It is almost as if truth, fiction and the realities of what impacted the author the most fused directly into the backbone of the novel – granting The Fourteenth of September a curiously strong niche of authenticity carved out of a historical moment which has never been forgotten. A moment in history which continues to inspire and grant us keen insight into the choices outside our own control.

As we tucked back closer into the lives of Judy’s friends, we started to see where they were separated from each other; of which of the boys was most concerned about being drafted, which one was holding back a secret about his health and of the girls’ which of them took all of this more personally than others and the ones who felt they were being chastised for things out of their control when they had dedicated themselves to the cause. They were living vulnerable lives – against a tide of change they could not stop nor control – nothing was making much sense and all of this was happening in such a short period of time, you wondered how they could deal with any of it long term.

There is quietness about the Feminism in The Fourteenth of September – whether intentional or retrospectively accurate is unknown to this reader – however, what granted this the best approach is how realistically it felt the girls’ in the story might have felt a bit overshadowed by their male peers who were constantly spinning their rants, accelerating their protests and vocally representing themselves in a way which did not allow the girls’ to have equal chances to voice their own feelings even if they shared their same conclusions. Instead, the girls’ find their own strength behind the boys – perhaps even letting themselves percolate their own thoughts a bit more into an organised structure of insight rather than to remain impulsively convicting.

A notation on language and context:

Generally speaking, I have a fierce aversion to stronger words flickering throughout the stories I am reading – however, I do have a few exceptions to this rule – one relates to any story involving mental health & mental illness, the second involves stories of trauma and abuse and third, there are moments within the sphere of reading ‘war dramas’ where to be perfectly honest, I’d be surprised if fierce language wasn’t being used given the nature of the story-lines. Thereby, there are quite a few flickerings of stronger words embedded into the context and content of this novel, however, this was also the most talked about war in American History – wherein, I chose to accept the content as it was disclosed for that particular reason.

There were a few depictions of war – especially as reflected through Judy’s remembrances of her mother’s nursing service during the last World War which were difficult to get through – as the horrors of war and of being a nurse are never easy to swallow. Thankfully I’ve read war dramas centred on nurses to expect some of this even if each time I read a nurse’s insight into war, I feel it is wholly new and dearly difficult to transition past such as I had with these passages inclusive to Judy’s story.

This reads more like a documentary or a memoir rather than a fictional novel – inserting yourself into the thoughts, feelings and the mindset of this historic year in the late ’60s as if you travelled directly back into the throes of the protests and the angst of what everyone universally felt and regularly voiced aloud.

on the historical writing styling of ms dragonette:

Outside of the fact I haven’t read too many stories about this particular war era, I do know the era of the ’60s quite well – first through the music, then through popular culture. Through that particular vein of entrance, I can attest to how charming Ms Dragonette entertained me – she has a classy way of inserting us straight into the hallowed haunt of the college kids – the Tune Room. Where it’s not about how posh or bluntly lipped you are – its about what you stand for and what your willing to promote as being your gut-punched beliefs. This is the era of protests and vocalisation – where the draft was unpopular and where University students could make an impact on American History.

It wasn’t just from the nuances of how the girls’ dragged out their cigs, the assertion of free thinking minds bent against a war no one support or the background elements which classify this as dearly present in the ’60s themselves, you feel caught up in the currents of Judy’s life – first as an outsider of the Freaks and then, as a girl sorting out her thoughts as she matures into a woman (of the tenderness of nineteen years) who is changing how perceptions and her alliances. She was laying down the foundation of her own protest and curiously enough, it was done with a quiet somberness of someone who was not entirely confident in their actions but felt motivated to carry them out altogether. In this way, Ms Dragonette eases you into Judy’s shoes – letting you get your bearings, soaking in the atmosphere and providing a keen insight into who Judy was from an outsider point of reference.

As move through the motions of Judy’s life, Dragonette pulls back her lens and enlarges the world-view of her characters – as this was very much a ‘closed shoppe’ setting – where we were infused into the counter-culture alighting itself on the campus but even then, there were filtration’s of the outside world penetrating through this dedicated focus. As Dragonette continued to etch out her vision for this story, we see the truthfulness of her hope to re-align readers directly into the experiences and culture she once lived thereby strengthening our own empathy and understanding for what was critically important to remember about 1969 and 1970. For without memory or learned memory, history has the most unfortunate ability to repeat itself.

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Stepping through the time portal, I happily tuned into the ’60s via #Spotify thereby allowing myself the grace of the familiar in regards to the music intrinsic to the generation in which Judy grew up & the one I knew myself as I was passionate about the music throughout the 20th Century during my own formative years. By setting the atmospheric overlay with music, I carted myself into ‘The Fourteenth of September’ with a wickedly multi-dimensional immersive experience! Consider doing the same if you pick up a copy – you will not be disappointed!! Hmm,… I wonder which artists will resonate with you!?

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This book review is courtesy of:

JKS Communications: A Literary Publicity Firm

JKS Communications Reviewer Badge

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There are a few stories I wasn’t able to finish reading which I was #blessed to become introduced to via JKS. I am in the process of finishing them now, as Summer folds into Autumn. Therefore, the two I am most eager to dig back inside are as follows: Aphrodite’s Tears [of which I featured a lovely convo with the author] & The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds [of which I tweeted about rather blissfully when I first began my readings]. Stay tuned, dear hearts — for these will be my next reviews on behalf of JKS!

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{SOURCES: Book Cover Art for “The Fourteenth of September”, author biography, author photograph of Rita Dragonette, book synopsis, and reviewer badge were provided by JKS Communications and used with permission. Tweets are embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 18 September, 2018 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 20th Century, ARC | Galley Copy, Based on an Actual Event &/or Court Case, Blog Tour Host, College & University Years, Coming-Of Age, Content Note, Feminine Heroism, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, History, Indie Author, JKS Communications: Literary Publicity Firm, Life Shift, Military Fiction, Passionate Researcher, Political Narrative & Modern Topics, Realistic Fiction, Social Change, Sociological Behavior, Sociology, The Sixties, The Vietnam War, Vulgarity in Literature, Warfare & Power Realignment, Women's Fiction, Women's Rights

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