November 19, 1967
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Alma mater||Hillsdale College|
Ruta Sepetys (also known as Rūta Šepetys; born November 19, 1967) is a Lithuanian-American writer of historical fiction. As an author, she is a #1 New York Times bestseller, international bestseller, and winner of the Carnegie Medal.
She is a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellow and the first American writer of young adult literature to speak at the European Parliament and NATO. Her work is published in over sixty countries and forty languages and is currently in development for film and television.
Born in Michigan, Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. She earned a B.S. in International Finance from Hillsdale College. While overseas, she studied at the Centre d’études Européennes in Toulon, France and at the ICN Graduate Business School in Nancy, France.
Following graduation Sepetys moved to Los Angeles. In 1994, she launched Sepetys Entertainment Group, Inc., an entertainment management firm representing Grammy-award-winning guitarist Steve Vai, multi-platinum songwriter Desmond Child, Orange County modern rockers Lit, and Emmy-nominated film composer Niels Bye Nielsen.
In 2002, Sepetys was featured in Rolling Stone magazine's "Women in Rock" special issue as a woman driven to make a difference. Sepetys is on the Board of Advisors for the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business at Belmont University and is also a director of the Make a Noise Foundation, a national non-profit that raises money for music education. Sepetys published her first novel in 2011 and currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee. She has been described as a "seeker of lost stories" who hopes to give voice to those who weren't able to tell their story.
Main article: Between Shades of Gray
Her first novel, Between Shades of Gray, about the Genocide of Baltic people after the Soviet occupation in 1941, was critically acclaimed and translated into over 30 different languages.
The book is considered a roman à clef, with fictional characters wrapped around actual events and experiences. Ruta states that the novel represents the "extreme suffering and tremendous hope" displayed by the people of the Baltics.
In March 2013, Ruta became the first American author of young adult literature to give a presentation at European Parliament. Her discussion with MEPs in Brussels centered on the novel, the history of totalitarianism in the Baltics, and the importance of historical fiction. The novel is developed as a film, Ashes in the Snow.
Sepetys is a writer of historical fiction. Although Between Shades of Gray was initially written for children and young adults, the book has been widely read by many worldwide and is considered a book for all ages.
Main article: Out of the Easy
Out of the Easy is Sepetys' second published novel. It was released on February 12, 2013 and features Josie Moraine, a young woman in the 1950s French Quarter of New Orleans who struggles to escape her family and become the author of her own destiny. The story explores themes of feminism in historical context and post-war America. The novel became a New York Times bestseller and was chosen as an Editor's Choice in The New York Times on February 15, 2013.
Main article: Salt to the Sea
Salt to the Sea was published on February 2, 2016, and chronicles the 1945 refugee evacuation from East Prussia and the MV Wilhelm Gustloff disaster.
The sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff is the single largest maritime disaster in history yet, to many, the story remains unknown. In their starred review, Publishers Weekly said, "Sepetys delivers another knockout historical novel...she excels in shining light on lost chapters of history and this visceral novel proves a memorable testament to strength and resilience in the face of war and cruelty." The New York Times added this in their review of Salt to the Sea—"Ruta Sepetys acts as champion of the interstitial people so often ignored—whole populations lost in the cracks of history." In June, 2017, Salt to the Sea was awarded The Carnegie Medal for stimulating empathy and solidarity.
Sepetys' novel, The Fountains of Silence, was released on October 1, 2019. It is set in Madrid during the dictatorship of Spain's Francisco Franco. The story explores the repercussions of war and the complexities of the dictatorship in Spain.
One of the topics covered in the book is the lost children of Francoism, who were children abducted from Spanish Republican parents and given to families deemed "less degenerate." The number of abducted children is estimated to be up to 300,000. The stolen children were sometimes also victims of child trafficking and illegal adoption.
Between Shades of Gray has been released in an unabridged audiobook by Penguin Audio, narrated by Emily Klein; and has been translated into 30 languages and sold in as many countries.
It has also been adapted for film by Ben York Jones, directed by Marius A. Markevicius and produced by Chris Coen, Marius A. Markevicius, Žilvinas Naujokas, and Ruta Sepetys. The film is titled Ashes in the Snow and stars Bel Powley, Martin Wallström, and Lisa Loven Kongsli. It is set to release in Lithuania in October 2018, and will release in the US in early 2019.
Out of the Easy has been released in an unabridged audiobook by Listening Library and is narrated by Lauren Fortgang.
Salt to the Sea has been released in an unabridged audiobook by Listening Library and is narrated by Jorjeana Marie, Will Damron, Cassandra Morris, and Michael Crouch.
In 2017, Salt to the Sea was optioned by Universal Pictures for film to be produced by Lorenzo Di Bonaventura. The Screenplay was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber whose credits include “500 Days of Summer,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Our Souls at Night,” and “The Disaster Artist”.
In June 2018, to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Lithuania's original independence, the Postmaster General in Lithuania unveiled a commemorative set of postage stamps. The project, Pasaulio Lietuva (which translates to "Lithuania of the World") paid tribute to people whose work creates and strengthens awareness of Lithuania. Ruta Sepetys was featured in the limited edition stamp series. 
On June 19, 2017, Ruta Sepetys was awarded The Carnegie Medal (literary award) in a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. Sepetys, who was previously shortlisted for The Carnegie Medal in 2012 for her novel Between Shades of Gray, commented: "As a writer, I am drawn to underrepresented stories and history in hiding. History divided us, but through reading we are united in story, study and remembrance. That is the power of books."
On June 6, 2013, Sepetys was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. The honor of Knight was bestowed by the President of Lithuania in a formal ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius. Sepetys was decorated for her contributions to education and culture in conjunction with her global efforts to share the history of totalitarianism in the Baltics.
In 2015, Sepetys was awarded the Rockefeller Foundation's prestigious Bellagio Center residency in Lake Como, Italy. As a Rockefeller Bellagio fellow, Sepetys was invited to spend a month at the Foundation's Bellagio Center interacting with other international resident thought leaders, policy makers, artists, and practitioners who share in the Foundation's pioneering mission to "promote the well-being of humanity."