Roxana Robinson

Cindy Seip

Roxana Robinson is the author of five previous novels, including Sparta and Cost; three collections of short stories; and the biography Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Vogue, among other publications. For her novel Dawson’s Fall (Sarah Crichton Books), author Roxana Robinson draws from the lives of her great-grandparents. It is set in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1889, and Robinson’s tale includes entries from her family’s journals and letters as it spans the life of her tragic hero, Englishman Frank Dawson, as he attempts to navigate the country’s new political, social, and moral landscape. A man of fierce opinions, Dawson came to this country as a young man to fight for the Confederacy in a war he understood as a conflict over states’ rights. He later became the editor and part-owner of the Charleston News and Courier, and found a platform of influence in the editorial column and emerging as a voice of the New South. With his wife and two children, he tried to lead a life that adhered to his principles – equal rights, rule of law, and nonviolence – but couldn’t control the political whims of his readers. As he addressed in his columns questions of citizenship, equality, justice, and slavery, his newspaper rapidly lost readership, and he was plagued by financial worries. Finally, Dawson—a man in many ways representative of the country at this time—was felled by the very violence he vehemently opposed. Booklist noted that “Robinson’s documentary novel . . . proves unyielding and compelling in its timely themes, with many depictions of how white men’s seething resentment erupts into racist violence and how Southern codes of honor and toxic values, particularly slavery, corroded individual lives and the national character.”