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Presented By: Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

CREES Distinguished Lecture. From the Soviet Gulag to Franco’s Spain: Historical Fiction’s Power for Global Dialogue

Ruta Sepetys, Author

Ruta Sepetys, Author Ruta Sepetys, Author
Ruta Sepetys, Author
4-5 pm: Meet the author, signed books available for purchase
5:30-6:45 pm: CREES Distinguished Lecture
7 pm: Screening of "Ashes in the Snow"

What determines how history is preserved and recalled? Why do some stories become part of the collective consciousness while others remain untold?

In this lecture, Sepetys will examine the fragile tension between history and memory as well as story and historical fiction as a framework for human understanding. She will discuss the power of family narrative and witness testimony and her approach for creating fiction from facts. Published in over sixty countries, Sepetys will present the varying global interpretations and teaching methods of the history contained in her books on World War II and its aftermath for Lithuanians, Poles, and Germans, to illustrate how the historical fiction genre —and the human dynamics surrounding historical events—might be used to facilitate awareness, dialogue, and progress.

The lecture will be followed by a screening of “Ashes in the Snow,” Marius A. Markevicius, director (98 min., 2018), based on the novel "Between Shades of Gray," by Ruta Sepetys.

Ruta Sepetys (Rūta Šepetys) is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction published in over sixty countries and forty languages. Sepetys is considered a “crossover” novelist as her books are read by both students and adults worldwide. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta is renowned for giving voice to underrepresented history and those who experienced it. Her books have won or been shortlisted for over forty book prizes, are included on over thirty state reading lists, and are currently in development for film and television.

Ruta is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. Born in Michigan, she was raised in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Ruta is passionate about the power of history and story to foster global dialogue and connectivity. She has been invited to present at NATO, European Parliament, the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, and Embassies worldwide. She was awarded The Rockefeller Foundation’s prestigious Bellagio Fellowship for her studies on human resilience. The New York Times Book Review declared, “Ruta Sepetys acts as champion of the interstitial people so often ignored—whole populations lost in the cracks of history.”

Ruta was bestowed the Cross of the Knight by the President of Lithuania for her contributions to education and memory preservation and was recently honored with a postage stamp containing her image. She is extremely proud to be of Baltic heritage, even if that means she has a name no one can pronounce.

Ruta lives with her family in the hills of Tennessee.

If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to attend this event, please reach out to us at at least 2 weeks in advance of this event. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.

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