Rita Dove was born in the highly industrialized city of Akron, Ohio, on August 28, 1952. On her mother’s side, her family had well-established roots in this northern urban center, and they had achieved a certain level of comfort and prosperity. Her father’s side of the family had moved to the North during the great migration of African Americans that took place in the years after World War I. Brought up in a strict but loving environment, Rita Dove became a precocious and highly inquisitive young student. Her first attempt at writing was a childhood story titled “The Rabbit with a Droopy Ear.” The young author solved the rabbit’s problem and straightened his ear by having him hang upside down from a tree.
The city of Akron left a deep and lasting impression on Dove’s mind. The parks and hilly streets, the Goodyear rubber and tire factories, and the Quaker Oats oatmeal plant all became graphic images that she employed in the poetry and fiction of her mature life. In a real sense, Dove never left Akron.
After completing high school in Akron, Dove moved to the college town of Oxford, Ohio, to continue her education at Miami University. The surrounding countryside, with its barns and silos and its abundant corn and bean fields, also left her with vivid memories that she would later use in her writing. After her graduation from Miami University, Dove moved to Germany to continue her studies at the Universität Tübingen. While in Germany, she met her husband, the novelist Fred Viebahn, with whom she had a daughter, Aviva. She returned to the United States to study at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. In 1977, she received an M.F.A. in creative writing from Iowa and joined the ranks of the...
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