What I’m writing now: The Daytonians

History collides with the present in The Daytonians when department store staff discover the relics of an infirmary on the abandoned tenth floor, evidence of a time when a family-run business cared about their employees.

There’s Noelle in Dayton’s women’s shoe department. Her lunch-hour tryst in the old infirmary with an underemployed immigrant stock boy results in a baby girl she cannot keep or make known to her future husband. Noelle’s secret is not the only one that could soon be exposed. From the retail staff to the marketing department, nearly everyone has hidden something from the others, including a recently deceased store nurse who worked there in the 1940s.

At 93,000 words, The Daytonians is upmarket fiction, in the vein of Emile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise, ITV/PBS’s Mr. Selfridge’s, or Steve Martin’s Shopgirl, but at the turn of the millennium as the corporatized department store industry consolidates. The staff’s droll humor survives even if their jobs and expectations about life won’t.

Catherine Dehdashti’s career includes 20 years as a PR writer at the University of Minnesota, as well as freelance food writing and retail work. Her recent essay in the Minneapolis Star Tribune showed what Dayton’s meant to those who worked in the now-shuttered store, including herself. 

Dehdashti wrote The Daytonians with guidance from The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, where she is a member. She holds a master of liberal studies degree from the University of Minnesota. Please email Catherine Dehdashti if you are a publisher or agent interested in The Daytonians.