Where did you get the idea for this book?
Part of the answer is the writing process itself. Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird writes about the importance of letting your characters tell you their stories. Erica Jong took it a step further in Any Woman's Blues by adding margin notes in which the author and the character argue about the direction the story is going. It's not the character complaining to the author, but the author complaining about where the character is taking her.
Following that advice, I just sat down with a yellow pad and a Parker fountain pen and started writing. No one was more surprised than I when Dottie started telling me a story about waking up on October Mountain in a snowstorm and realizing that she had been drugged and raped. However, it didn't occur to me to question her about it until my wife Doris, the first to read chapters, asked me the same question you did. So I asked Dottie and her answer became part of my book blurb. She said that millions of women, hundreds every day, have stories of rape that never get told. She told her story because she could. Because she had to. Because maybe people would hear in a work of fiction a Truth that they could not hear in any other way.
And those millions of women are people who are close to me. I dedicated Off Season to all the women I love – all four and a half billion of them. That is not eros or filios but agape. Why should a woman have to be family or a close friend for us to get incensed and motivated by her violation? That’s like saying I don’t care about school shootings until my sons’ school is shot up.
We have a double standard about rape in this country. If a man rapes a woman before he kills her, that's enough to up the ante from life in prison to the death penalty. But if he gets a classmate drunk at a frat party and takes advantage of her, well that's certainly nothing to ruin a swimming career over.
If there was one rape that energized me, it was one that highlighted this double standard. A few years ago there was a rape on the campus of Eastern Connecticut State University. A woman walking across campus after dark was dragged into the bushes and raped. It was a horrible crime. It was on the Channel 8 News every night for a week. But more disturbing for me was the fact that statistically there were probably at least ten date rapes on that same campus during that week that we never heard about. While investigative journalists were pressing officials for what they were doing to prevent recurrence of this incident, no one cared if anything was being done to prevent date rape. And date rapes can be even more devastating, because these are the ones where the messages of male-dominated society make the victim complicit, leaving her to wonder what she had done, why she was such a bad person that she deserved it. All the messages of self doubt that the victims of Dr. Nassar related on national television. All the messages that Dottie has to cope with on her journey of healing.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Off Season: A Novel of Healing
by E.S. Ruete
Dottie woke up wondering where she was and why she was so cold. The first thing she noticed was that she must be outside – she was lying on cold ground and snow was hitting her in unusual places. That’s when she noticed the second thing. Her skirt was pulled up past her waist and her panties were gone. Damn those bastards. It started to come back to her.
Dottie is now on an odyssey; a journey not of her choosing; a journey of healing, integration, and reconciliation that will involve her partner, her friends, her enemies, her church, her whole community. And her rapists. As she fights her way through social stereotypes about rape and rape victims, she also finds the strength to overcome society’s messages of who she should be and lays claim her true self. But the memories, the loss, the anger – and the fears – never go away. No woman chooses to be raped. I asked Dottie why she chose to tell me a story of rape. She said that millions of women, hundreds every day, have stories of rape that never get told. She told her story because she could. Because she had to. Because maybe people would hear in a work of fiction a Truth that they could not hear in any other way.
“Look to your left. That person has divinity inside them. Look to your right. That person has a divine spark. Now tap the shoulder of the person in in front of you. When they turn around, say, ‘Namasté. I honor the divine spark within you.’
“As you prepare to celebrate Christmas, as we prepare to invite one another to the communion table, think on this: Mary was an unwed mother, but she was not unclean. Joseph was a lecherous old man, but he was not unclean. The shepherds lived in the fields with the sheep, but they were not unclean. The Magi were heathens from a pagan land and probably not circumcised, but they were not unclean. And Jesus was born among the donkey dung and slept on top of a cow’s supper, but He most assuredly was not unclean.
“Let it be so.”
As Pastor Allen spoke, Mandy sat with her arms folded across her chest and her legs pressed together. When others were looking left and right, she didn’t move, and when she was tapped on the shoulder, she didn’t turn around. She just pursed her lips into a tighter line.
But those who sat near her thought they saw the least glimmer of a tear in the corner of her eye. Whether it was for her church, or for the Pastor, or for herself, no one could guess. Even Mandy didn’t know. But part of her, a part she was afraid of, a part she was trying to ignore, thought that maybe, just maybe, it was for Dottie.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
E.S “Ned” Ruete is an author, speaker, group facilitator, women’s rights activist, LGBTQIPA+ ally, lay preacher, guitar picker, and business analyst. He is the author of Seeking God: Finding God’s both/and in an either/or world and Lead Your Group to Success: A Meeting Leader’s Primer.
Now retired, Ned lives in Niantic, Connecticut with his second wife. He continues to offer pro bono group facilitation and facilitation training to schools, churches, community groups and not-for-profit organizations. He has led strategic planning retreats for United Action Connecticut (UACT), Fiddleheads Food Co-op, and ReNew London. He is actively involved in LGBTQIPA+ advocacy and annually attends and presents sessions at the True Colors Conference. He is a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) formerly served on the Association Coordinating Team (ACT, the IAF Board of Directors). He was associate editor of Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal and has contributed articles to Group Facilitation, The Facilitator, and other publications on group facilitation and management consulting.
Off Season is Mr. Ruete’s first fiction work
See his consulting products at MakingSpaceConsulting.com
and his books at MakingSpaceConsulting.com/Publish:
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