Long before the Internet with authors’ webpages, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, I knew quite a bit about the authors whose books I read. I knew the names of their best friends, husbands, and children. I was able to surmise when they divorce, and when they remarried. I could tell when their children got married, the birth of grandchildren, and the death of a loved one. I knew their interests and hobbies from the environment to rescuing pets, knitting or four wheeling. And many times I knew of the struggle to get published, or family disapproval of their chosen genre. I discovered all this from just opening the book and reading the dedication page.
Like many readers, I do visit my favorite authors on their various medias. I am sure if they were my friends, then I would be more interested in where to buy the best tea in Seattle or what a great bargain they got on the little black dress or the wonderful gift their husband gave them for Christmas. But since I don’t know them that well, these things aren’t always what I’m looking for, though I know some readers love it. I much prefer for them to tell me about their books. I want to know what they are working on now. Is it part of a series? When will it be published, and when will an excerpt be posted? However, I always read the dedications in their books.
Some authors wonder about even writing them, questioning if they actually are read. While I can’t speak for other readers, I never tire of reading them.
There are numerous reasons why I love to read them. One, the dedication is right there in front of me. Two, dedications are short, usually fifty words or less but they give me a vivid snapshot of the author’s life without seeming intrusive. Three, dedications help me identify with the author. Some authors that I read are very successful. They travel to Europe for month long vacations. They do research in Greece, Rome, and Ireland. They buy apartments in Paris. Now I don’t begrudge them their success, but that part of their life is a far cry from mine. Reading a dedication to a loved one crosses all social and economic barriers. Dedications are about people that matter. When I read a touching or humorous one it emphasizes our commonalities rather than our differences.
Far be it to me to tell an author what to write, because dedications are very personal. However, I do enjoy the ones that tell a little story, or give an explanation rather than just: To John or To Nancy. If only the names are given I get caught up in trying to figure out who they are, unless it’s one like Kathleen Giles Seidel’s dedication in Don’t Forget to Smile to Anne Stuart, Beverly Sommers, Deirdre Mardon and Donna Bell which is fairly self- explanatory. For example, Sharon Shinn’s Dark Moon Defender dedication is: “For Joe Because you, too, have had to fight so hard, and because you love the books,” and that touched me. I really didn’t have to know the relationship, because we all have had friends or loved ones who have faced hardship with dignity and courage.
Some dedications are so hauntingly beautiful, illuminating sadness and loss. I stand in awe of the authors’ ability to pay homage to a lost loved one. Recently I opened Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden and read: “For my sister, who, as always has gone on a step ahead, and still dances in my memory and my heart”. Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ dedication in What I Did for Love states: “In Memory of Kate Fleming/Anna Fields There aren’t enough words to fill the silence you’ve left behind. We grieve your loss and miss you more than we can ever say.”
Some authors use dedications to illustrate their sense of humor. Anne Stuart in Ruthless wrote: For my darling middle-aged editor who’s very tolerant, and my brilliant agent who’s very fierce. Julia Quinn’s dedication in Just Like Heaven reads in part: And also for Paul, even though when I went to him for medical advice to save my ailing hero, he replied, “He has to die.”
Do you read the author’s dedication page or do you feel it is a waste of paper? If you read them, do you have a special one that has touched you recently? Or one that made you laugh?
– Leigh Davis