WESTMINSTER WEST—Local author Crescent Dragonwagon is the featured guest at the Dover Free Library’s upcoming annual fundraising event and dessert social on Aug. 7 at the Dover Town Hall.
The author of more than 50 published books, Dragonwagon’s oeuvre spans five genres: novels, cookbook/memoirs, poetry, and children’s literature. For one of her children’s books, “Half A Moon And One Whole Star,” she received the Coretta Scott King award.
Dragonwagon’s “Passionate Vegetarian” earned her a James Beard award, and she counts the late Julia Child as a student of hers, graduating from her “Fearless Writing” workshop.
A life of writing was a natural choice for Dragonwagon: her parents were both published writers.
Dragonwagon’s mother, Charlotte Zolotow, was a poet and editor; her father, Maurice Zolotow, was a freelance writer and Marilyn Monroe’s first biographer, the only one to publish a biography of her while she was alive.
And her name?
At 16, she was preparing to marry her first husband, and they both shared their disapproval of the expectation a woman must take her husband’s surname. They also cared little for the meanings of their given first names; his referred to war and hers was authoritarian, and they both disagreed with those cultural constructs.
On her website, Dragonwagon explains.
“It was the ’60s; we didn’t agree with much. [My fiancé] came up with the new first names for us: Crispin, for him, meaning ‘the curly-headed one’; Crescent, for me, meaning ‘the growing’ (once erroneously reported in a newspaper interview as meaning ‘the growth.’)"
Their last names were chosen under the pressure of the pending marriage ceremony.
Crescent suggested, “’Maybe we’re taking ourselves too seriously, maybe we should pick something completely frivolous.’ He said, ‘Like what?’ I said, ’Oh, um, uh, like Dragonwagon.’"
Crescent Dragonwagon also wanted to avoid riding on the coat-tails of her well-known parents, aiming to establish her independence as a writer. And, by the time she felt a twinge of regret from her youthful decision, she had already published a few works and had made a name -- albeit an unconventional name -- for herself. So, she kept going with it.
Dragonwagon makes her home in Westminster West. Born in New York City, she spent many summers here at the family farm. In 2002, she bought the farmhouse from her aunt, and now lives there full-time.
When the Dover Free Library asked Dragonwagon to present at its yearly fundraiser, she enthusiastically accepted. Acknowledging her family’s love of libraries, she considers herself a “great library user” and counts them and post offices as two honorable public institutions.
From her home, she has easy access to three local public libraries - those of Putney, Rockingham, and Westminster West - and visits and supports them often.
Dragonwagon notes the Westminster West Public Library planted a honeycrisp apple tree on its grounds to honor her late partner, David Koff, thus strengthening the bond she feels with her local library.
Dragonwagon describes herself as “a fairly entertaining improv speaker-slash-performer,” and, at the Dover Free Library event, guests can expect an evening of engaging storytelling to accompany the desserts donated by area individuals and businesses.
“I’m interested in the process of storytelling. Why we need to read, write and tell stories,” Dragonwagon explains. “Whereas stories have beginnings, middles, and ends, life isn’t so neat, and most of us arrive in the middle of other people’s stories throughout our entire lives, right from birth. We crave narrative... [and its] power... to give meaning to our lives. It brings order to the chaos of life."