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Author Picks

Fictional Reinventions

Photo of Dawn Tripp

Dawn Tripp


I did not set out to write a novel about Georgia O’Keeffe. I was sixty pages into another book when I saw a show of O’Keeffe’s abstractions at the Whitney. That show was a revelation as I realized that O’Keeffe, in her twenties, was one of the first American artists—male or female—to explore pure abstraction in art. Her abstract pieces of 1915-1921 are bold, fiercely original works in watercolor, charcoal, oil, and she continued to make key innovations in abstraction throughout her life. The Whitney show also revealed O’Keeffe as a woman who claimed her sexuality in markedly progressive ways, although she explicitly rejected the gendered, eroticized interpretations of her art made by predominantly male critics in 1920s New York. I was fascinated, and I wanted to know: Who was Georgia O’Keeffe? Why have I never seen the full range and scope of her abstract art before? Why isn’t she known for this?

The work of creating a biographical novel involves a continual dialectic between the historical record and the fictional voice. This novel went through many incarnations as I absorbed new details of O’Keeffe’s experience. When letters exchanged between O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz were released in 2011, I reshaped whole sections of the novel. Even after Georgia was in production, I went back through the novel several times to be sure the voice of the story was alive on the page.

The five books below are slim, powerful reimaginings. They are short novels, less than 200 pages, with forms that reflect the kaleidoscopic nature of truth, self, history; how we assemble new mythologies whenever we create narrative, and how every narrative—whether it is designated fact or fiction—has consequence.

About the Author

Dawn Tripp

Dawn Tripp’s fourth novel, Georgia, is a national bestseller and finalist for the New England Book Award. Tripp is the author of three previous novels, Moon Tide, The Season of Open Water, which won the Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction, and Game of Secrets. Her essays have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, The Believer, The Rumpus, Psychology Today and NPR. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.