Rita Ciresi was born in New Haven, Connecticut, a city which serves as the backdrop for most of her fiction. She is the author of four award-winning novels and two short-story collections.
Her first collection of short stories, Mother Rocket, won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times' Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.
Her first novel, Blue Italian, was published in hardcover by Ecco Press, in paperback by Delacorte, and translated as Blau ist die Hoffnung by Goldmann Verlag, Munich. Blue Italian was selected by Barnes and Noble as part of their "Discover New Writers Series." Reviewers have praised the novel as follows: "Rita Ciresi's beautifully written, bittersweet first novel examines love and marriage with unflinching honesty. The ending, with its moving, explicit sense of loss, resonates long after the book is closed." (Elle) "There is a sure hand and a keen eye reporting from the two ethnic camps. . . . Despite their faults and excesses. . . the characters. . . are funny and sympathetic in their misery." (New York Times) "This is honest, earthy, warm, and funny--as well as heartbreaking. Highly recommended." (Library Journal) "There is real substance in this tragicomic story of two people with smart mouths and starved hearts groping their way towards a love they don't get much chance to enjoy." (Publisher's Weekly) "A remarkably accomplished debut." (Booklist)
Ciresi’s second novel, Pink Slip, was winner of the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Prize for the Novel and an alternate selection of the Literary Guild and the Doubleday Book Club. It was translated into German as Ein Mann fur Lisa (Goldmann Verlag, Munich) and into Dutch as Vlinders (Arena Publishers, Amsterdam). Critical response to Pink Slip was as follows: “Wit and humor are the keys to this lively novel.” (Mademoiselle) “It’s refreshing to find a female narrator with an authentically lusty voice.” (New York Times) “A moving love story.” (Redbook) “Ciresi mixes the tragic and the comic aspects of love in hilarious fashion.” (Tampa Tribune-Times) “Bright characters and sharp dialogue make this witty romantic comedy a worthy sequel to the author’s admirable Blue Italian.” (Dallas Morning News) “Pink Slip amuses from start to finish.” (Penn Stater).
Ciresi’s volume of linked short stories, Sometimes I Dream in Italian, was published to positive reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and newspapers from the St. Petersburg Times to the New Haven Advocate. The New York Times Book Review listed the volume under its “New and Noteworthy Paperbacks” and stated, “Ciresi has a lovely ear for dialogue and the ability to nail the details in descriptions that are both funny and painfully accurate.” The collection was a Book Sense 76 pick and a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize; it was translated into German by Goldmann Verlag as Italienische Kusse.
Remind Me Again Why I Married You is a sequel to Pink Slip. Told in alternating voices, Remind Me explains what happens when a man who values his privacy above all else marries a woman who is writing a tell-all novel. The Hartford Courant called it "a cutting commentary on the lasting implications of 'til death do us part.'" AroundPhilly called the novel "a straight shootingly honest and winsome but giddy tale about a sharp dressed gal who fooled around, fell in love and makes a go in the suburbs. The Chicago Tribune said, "Each [narrator] has a self-deprecating sense of humor that turns their silly spats and patches of boredom into refreshing, wry takes on long-term partnerships." "[Ciresi] tells the unvarnished truth about the hilarity, humanity, and sweetness in the best of relationships." [The Southern Scribe] "Ciresi's depiction of post-singleton life is clever and surprisingly honest." (Entertainment Weekly)
Bring Back My Body to Me, a romantic comedy about two cancer survivors who meet and fall in love over the objections of their families, was runner-up for the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and a quarterfinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The reviewer from Publishers Weekly stated that the novel was "Sensitive, funny, and charming. . . a refreshing entry to the very clogged sub-genre of cancer lit."
Ciresi has received support from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Virginia Commission on the Arts, the Florida Department of State, and the National Writer’s Voice. Her residencies include visiting writer at the American Academy in Rome, a fellowship to the Hawthornden International Writers’ Retreat in Lasswade, Scotland, and stints at the Virginia Center for the Arts, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Santa Fe Art Institute. She has written the first and final drafts of most of her work at the Ragdale Foundation, an artists' colony located in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Ciresi serves on the advisory board of Italian Americana (a cultural and historical review) and serves as fiction editor of 2 Bridges Review. She is professor of English and director of creative writing at the University of South Florida in Tampa.