September 19 Writer Birthdays

1861 – Anna Brigadere, Latvian writer, poet, playwright, children’s writer, and autobiographer whose work illuminated the lives of Latvian women in the late 19th century.

1889 – Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany, African-American educator and civil rights pioneer who was coauthor and subject, along with her younger sister, Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany, of the bestselling biography, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years, (written with journalist Amy Hill Hearth), which made Sadie famous at age 103. The trio followed it up with a second book, The Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom; after Bessie’s death at age 104, Sadie and Hearth created a third book, On My Own At 107: Reflections on Life Without Bessie. Sadie, who passed away in 1999 at age 109, and her sister were also the aunts of acclaimed science-fiction author Samuel R. Delaney.

1894 – Rachel Field, Newbery Award Medal-winning American author best known for the children’s novel Hitty, Her First Hundred Years.

1900 – Wlodzimierz Slobodnik, Polish poet, translator, satirist, and author of numerous books for young adults.

1911 – William Golding, Nobel Prize-winning British novelist, poet, and playwright, best known for his classic book, Lord of the Flies and his other novels, “which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world today.”

1918 – Penelope Mortimer, British journalist, biographer, and novelist.

1919 – Khumar Barabankvi (real name Mohammed Haidar Khan), Indian/Pakistani Urdu poet and lyricist.

1922 – Salil Chowdhury, Indian Bengali composer, poet, playwright, and lyricist.

1922 – Damon Knight, American science-fiction author, mostly known for his short stories; the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have named their Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award after him.

1933 – Ingrid Jonker, South African poet who is often called the South African Sylvia Plath, because of the intensity of her work and the tragic course of her life; she committed suicide at the age of 31 by walking into the sea and drowning.

1938 – Keorapetse William Kgositsile (also known as ‘Bra Willie’), South African poet and political activist who was South Africa’s National Poet Laureate; his influential collection, My Name is Afrika, established him as a leading African poet.

1947 – Thomas H. Cook, Edgar Award-winning American mystery author.

1947 – Tanith Lee, celebrated British author of science-fiction and fantasy novels and short stories.

1960 – Maud Sulter, Scottish writer, poet, playwright, photographer, educator, artist, and curator of Ghanaian heritage.

1960 – Oksana Zabuzhko, Ukrainian poet, novelist, and essayist.

1963 – Milena Ercolani, award-winning Sammarinese author, poet, novelist, children’s writer, and teacher who is president of the Sammarina Cultural Association, which promotes the artistic work of San Marino, a tiny independent country surrounded by north-central Italy.

1964 – Yvonne Vera, Zimbabwean novelist and short-story writer whose novels are known for their poetic prose, difficult subject matter, and strong women characters, and are firmly rooted in Zimbabwe’s difficult past.

1969 – Duncan Ryuken Williams, Japanese-born writer, professor, and Soto Zen Buddhist priest whose research focuses on Zen Buddhism, Buddhism in America, and the mixed-race Japanese (hapa) experience.

1970 – Suki Kim, South Korean-born, American-based journalist who is author of the award-winning novel The Interpreter and a bestselling literary nonfiction book, Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite; she is the only foreign writer ever to have lived undercover in North Korea for immersive journalism.

1972 – N.K. Jemison, American psychologist and author of science fiction and fantasy, best known for her Inheritance trilogy; her fiction explores a wide range of themes, notably cultural conflict and oppression.

1972 – Rebecca Skloot, American writer who specializes in science and medicine; her bestselling nonfiction book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was made into a movie by Oprah Winfrey.

1973 – Jeff Chapman (better known by the pseudonym Ninjalicious), Canadian urban explorer and author who founded the urban exploration zine Infiltration: The Zine About Going Places You’re Not Supposed To Go. His doctors claimed that the cancer that killed him at age 31 was caused by carcinogens he came into contact with while exploring places that were supposed to be off-limits.

1974 – Sabrina Calvo, French poet, screenwriter, game designer, comics writer, science-fiction writer, and illustrator; she identifies as a transgender person, with her work before 2018 published as David Calvo.

1975 – Caroline Fourest, French feminist writer, author, film director, journalist, columnist, radio presenter, and magazine editor.

1975 – Gina Trapani, American tech blogger, writer, web developer, book author, and co-founder of the Lifehacker blog.

1977 – Tryno Maldonado, Mexican novelist and literary editor who has been named by Colombian magazine Gatopardo as one of the best young writers in Latin America.

1980 – Linda Ifeoma Ikeji, controversial Nigerian blogger, writer, and television broadcast entrepreneur; Forbes magazine has included her in its profiles of Africa’s 20 Most Prominent Women.

1981 – Mohamed Salah El Azab, award-winning Egyptian novelist and short-story writer who has been called “one of Egypt’s rising literary talents.”

September 18 Writer Birthdays

1709 – Samuel Johnson, English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer and who has been called, “arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history.”

1854 – Eufemia von Adlersfeld-Ballestrem, German novelist who was one of the few female writers in 19th century Germany who did not use a pseudonym.

1864 – Itō Sachio (pen name of Ito Kojiro), Japanese writer, poet, literary critic, novelist, and tanka poet.

1869 – Jagadananda Roy, eminent Indian Bengali author of popular science articles and science-fiction books and short stories; most of his fiction was written for teens.

1893 – William March, American author and U.S. Marine who was known for his novel Company K.

1905 – Agnes George de Mille, important American choreographer, dancer, author, biographer, and autobiographer; one of her most groundbreaking works was Black Ritual or Obeah, which she choreographed for the American Ballet Theatre; performed by 16 Black female dancers, it was the first representation of black dancers in a New York ballet performance of a dominantly white company. But she is better known for Rodeo, whose score was by Aaron Copland. De Mille revolutionized musical theatre by creating choreography that not only conveyed emotions but also enhanced plot through an awareness of acting, not just of physical technique. She is also known for her books, including, among others, a memoir and a biography of choreographer Martha Graham. She is the niece of acclaimed film director Cecil B. DeMille.

1912 – María de la Cruz Toledo, Chilean writer, journalist, political commentator, politician, political commentator, and activist for women’s suffrage who became the first woman ever elected to the Chilean Senate.

1916 – Mercedes Salisachs, award-winning Spanish Catalan writer and novelist who began writing as a teenager and published her final novel at the age of 97.

1920 – Doris Mühringer, award-winning Austrian poet, literary editor, short-story author, and children’s writer who is considered a major Austrian poet.

1921 – Maria Judite de Carvalho, Portuguese novelist, short-story writer, poet, and playwright.

1927 – Noel Perrin, American columnist, rural essayist, and professor whose interests included poetry, children’s literature, farming, and the environment.

1933 – Sir Christopher Bruce Ricks, British literary critic and scholar whose books include Dylan’s Visions of Sin, Milton’s Grand Style, and Tennyson.

1934 – Richard Kluger, Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and author who writes on society, politics, and history.

1935 – Govindaray H. Nayak, award-winning Indian Kannada poet, writer, and professor.

1938 – Olga Nolla (full name Olga Nolla Ramírez de Arellano), Puerto Rican poet, writer, journalist, and professor.

1941 – Michael Hartnett, Irish poet and translator who wrote in both English and Irish; he was one of the most significant voices in late 20th-century Irish writing and has been called “Munster’s de facto poet laureate.”

1945 – Francine Caron, prolific, award-winning French poet, writer, translator, and founder and editor of a quarterly poetry journal.

1947 – Drew Gilpin Faust, American historian and first female president of Harvard; her books have been finalists for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She has been ranked by Forbes as the 33rd most powerful woman in the world.

1948 – Lynn Abbey, American fantasy novelist, short-story writer, and computer programmer who is best known for her bestselling “Thieves’ World” fantasy adventure series.

1949 – Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ (born Lệ Thủy, Quảng Bình), award-winning Vietnamese poet.

1950 – Anna Deavere Smith, American playwright, professor, and actor.

1954 – Einar Már Guðmundsson, award-winning Icelandic author of novels, short stories, and poetry; his novel Englar alheimsins (Angels of the Universe) has been adapted as a film.

1954 – Steven Pinker, Canadian-born experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist, and author of popular science books such as The Language Instinct and The Better Angels of Our Nature.

1956 – Christopher Lynn Hedges, award-winning American journalist, author, and war correspondent.

1957 – Heinrich Stephen Samuel Willemse, South African literary critic, author, editor, professor, and anti-apartheid activist.

1959 – Maria João Mira, Portuguese screenwriter who has authored many successful telenovelas.

1968 – Kim Thúy, award-winning Vietnamese-born writer, lawyer, and restaurateur who fled Vietnam with her family as a child after the fall of Saigon, joining more than one million Vietnamese boat people and spending months at a refugee camp in Malaysia before emigrating to Canada.

1970 – Abdul Rahman Yusuf, Egyptian poet whose work focuses on issues facing Arab nations as well as the aesthetics of Arabic poetry.

1986 – Hayati Çitaklar, Turkish playwright, director, novelist, editor, poet, and actor.

1992 – Jidanun Lueangpiansamut, award-winning Thai author of fantasy stories and yaoi novels (in Asia, yaoi refers to manga that features sexual romance between men, specifically as created by and for women).

Genealogical Rabbit Holes

OMG. I posted last night about how stunned I was to be able to link up with some research that other amateur genealogists had posted online, allowing me to expand one branch of my family tree back another three generations. The line I was tracing is my maternal grandmother’s family. And I was thrilled last night to see the name of one of my sixth great grandfathers!

I posted that entry about my latest discoveries, giving some details about my ancestors stretching back into eighteenth-century Italy. I thought my work for the night was done.

And then I found more. I was up way late last night because I fell into one of those genealogical rabbit holes, where one discovery leads to another, and another, and another.

And now I know the name of my NINTH great grandfather. He was Agostino Agostinelli, and he was born in 1620 or a bit before that. So I’ve reached the Renaissance! I don’t have a location within Italy for him, but most likely he was in the Marche region of Italy, like everyone else in that line down to my great grandparents, who emigrated to the U.S. from there in the early 1900s. I do know that Agostino’s kids were born in Le Marche.

Speaking of Agostino’s kids, a generation down, I have slightly more information. Now we’re talking about my eighth great grandfather, Agostino’s son, Benedetto Agostinelli. Benedetto was born in 1640 in Scapezzano, Ancona, Marche. He married Maria Gambelli on Feb. 11, 1664, and they proceeded to have three sons, Giorgio, Tomasso, and Lorenzo, all born in the same town where the couple got married. I have no death dates for Benedetto or his sons, but his wife Maria died in 1717 at the age of 76, which seems pretty darn long-lived for 1717. Her oldest son, Giorgio, became my seventh great grandfather. She died in a different village in the same region.

I’m speaking of all this as if it’s definite. But that everything I’ve found is completely unverified; I’ll have to do a lot more research to confirm a lot of the information. The reason it’s all tentative is that I’m synthesizing and applying dug up by strangers whose work I can’t yet verify, and figuring out how it connects to my own family tree. The level of detail others have coaxed from old records is impressive, and makes me think that one of them, at least, is a careful researcher. But finding my own evidence for all of this could take years. Still, for now I’m reveling in my newly found ancestors.

I wish I could post photos of all of these people, but of course cameras hadn’t been invented yet! It would be cool if some Renaissance master had painted them, so I could see what they looked like. But I’m pretty sure nobody in my family was ever rich and prominent enough to have portraits painted, so I’ll have to make do with imagining them, for now.

September 17 Writer Birthdays

1783 – Nadezhda Durova, Russian author who was the first known female Army officer in the Russian military; she became a decorated cavalry soldier while disguised as a man. Her memoir, The Cavalry Maiden, is significant because it is one of the earliest autobiographies in the Russian language, and because few junior officers in the Napoleonic wars published accounts of their experiences.

1850 – Guerra Junqueiro (full name Abilio Manuel de Guerra Junqueiro), Portugese poet, journalist, author, and playwright; his highly satiric poems criticizing conservatism, romanticism, and the Church helped inspire the creation of the Portuguese First Republic.

1864 – Anagarika Dharmapala, Sri Lankan (Sinhalese) writer and Buddhist revivalist who was the first global Buddhist missionary, one of the founders of non-violent Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism, and a leading figure in the Sri Lankan independence movement against British rule.

1867 – Masaoka Shiki, Japanese poet, author, and literary critic who was a major figure in the development of modern haiku poetry.

1883 – William Carlos Williams, Pulitzer Prize-winning and National Book Award-winning American modernist poet, writer, and physician who is credited with inventing a uniquely American form of poetry whose subject matter centered on everyday circumstances and the lives of ordinary people.

1885 – Prabodhankar Thackeray (pen name for Keshav Sitaram Thackeray), Indian social reformer and prolific author who campaigned against superstitions and social evils in India, including untouchability and child marriage.

1901 – Sir Francis Chichester, English adventurer, aviator, and sailor who was the first person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route, and the fastest circumnavigator, in nine months and one day overall; he wrote many books, stories, and articles about sailing, navigation, science, natural history, and his own adventures, and is the subject of a 1979 rock song, “Single-Handed Sailor,” by Dire Straits.

1902 – Beatrice Miles, Australian writer who was described as Sydney’s “iconic eccentric” and was known for her ability to quote any passage from Shakespeare for money. She lived for two years in a hospital for the insane, after her father had her committed because he was tired of bohemian behavior and lifestyle; after that, she lived on the street and was known for her outrageous behavior, but also for her compassion for the sick and dying. Her most notorious escapades involved taxi drivers, to whom she refused to pay fares; when drivers refused to pick her up, she sometimes damage their cabs in retaliation, including ripping a door off its hinges. A voracious reader, she read two books a day and spent hours at the State Library until she was banned; her writings, including such titles as Dictionary by a Bitch, I Go on a Wild Goose Chase, I Leave in a Hurry, and Notes on Sydney Monuments, are now in that library.

1908 – John Creasey, Prolific English author of crime novels and science fiction who used least 28 different pseudonyms for his 600+ books.

1909 – Elizabeth Enright, Newbery Medal-winning American author and illustrator of children’s books.

1916 – Mary Stewart (born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow), English novelist, children’s writer, and poet; she is remembered for her romantic mystery novels, and especially for her Merlin series of historical fantasy.

1927 – Hélène Langevin-Joliot, French physicist, researcher, and writer.

1929 – Anant Pai (popularly known as Uncle Pai), Indian educationalist, comic writer, and children’s writer who was a pioneer in Indian comics; he is most famous as the creator of comic book series that retold traditional Indian folk tales, mythological stories, and biographies of historical characters.

1931 – Jean-Claude Bajeux, Haitian writer, political activist, Minister of Culture, and professor of Caribbean literature.

1931 – Ayako Sono (曽野 綾子) award-winning Japanese novelist, short-story writer, columnist, and essayist who was part of the Third Generation movement in Japanese literature.

1932 – Robert B. Parker, American crime writer, most famous for his series of novels about the fictional detective Spenser.

1935 – Ken Kesey, American counterculture author who considered himself a link between the Beat generation and 1960s hippie culture; he is best known for his book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

1936 – Victor Watson, English children’s writer, children’s literature scholar, editor, and teacher; he is particularly known for an award-winning series of war stories for children ages eight to thirteen, beginning with the book Paradise Barn.

1937 – Albertine Sarrazin, Algerian-born French novelist, short-story writer, poet, journalist, petty criminal, and prostitute who was best known for her semi-autobiographical novel L’Astragale.

1938 – Herman Hendrik ter Balkt (H.H. ter Balkt), award-winning Dutch poet, writer, and teacher.

1938 – Dilip Chitre, Indian writer, poet, screenwriter, filmmaker, film critic, translator, linguist, and painter; he was an important writer in both Marathi and English.

1939 – Carl Dennis, Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet.

1947 – Allama Muhammad Idrees Dahri, Pakistani philosopher, Islamic scholar, preacher, writer, author, poet, and researcher.

1947 – Gail Carson Levine, American author of young-adult novels, best known for her Cinderella-retelling “Ella Enchanted” series.

1949 – Maria Barbal, award-winning Spanish Catalan writer, novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and children’s writer.

1949 – Jennifer Crusie (pseudonym for Jennifer Smith), award-winning bestselling American author of contemporary romance novels and mysteries; she is also a literary critic and nonfiction writer on popular culture.

1950 – Lawrence Anthony, South African author, explorer, and environmentalist.

1951 – Alexander Kanengoni, Zimbabwean writer, author, and journalist who took part in Zimbabwe’s war for independence.

1953 – Choi Ihn Suk, South Korean writer, playwright and screenwriter who is a significant figure in Korean Realism.

1954 – Jana Kolarič, award-winning Slovenian writer, poet, playwright, novelist, translator, and children’s writer.

1957 – Gebran Ghassan Tueni, Lebanese politician who was editor and publisher of the daily newspaper An Nahar, established by his grandfather (also named Gebran Tueni).

1960 –Elsebeth Egholm, Danish writer, journalist, and screenwriter who is most widely known as the author of crime novels and the creator of the television series Those Who Kill.

1962 – Anjum Rehbar, award-winning Indian poet who writes in Urdu and Hindi.

1968 – Cheryl Strayed (born Nyland), award-winning American memoirist, novelist, essayist, and podcast host whose bestselling book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, was made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon.

1977 – Igor Štiks, Bosnian/Yugoslavian law professor and novelist.

1982 – Hope Larson, American cartoonist and graphic novelist.

Throwback Thursday: Family History Research

I’ve been doing some research lately in and on various other websites, and tonight I think I struck gold. I was poking around in the family of my maternal grandmother, and suddenly there were lists of names and dates. Most of this still needs to be confirmed with other sources, but I just tentatively identified ancestors extending that branch of my family tree back three more generations!

Until tonight, I could only get back to my great grandparents in that line. I am talking about my grandmother’s parents, Fortunato and Francesca Piccioli, who emigrated from Italy to Pennsylvania in the early 1900s. Tonight, I discovered the name of Fortunato’s father — Nicola, my great-great grandfather. I also have learned the names of his parents, Antonio and Maria, and of Antonio’s parents, Domenico and Maria. (Yes, many of my female ancestors were named Maria.) I even have exact birthdates and lists of children for some of these people.

The earliest ancestor I identified tonight is my great-great-great-great grandfather, Domenico Piccioli, born in 1748 in Marche, Italy. His wife was the former Maria Agostinelli, born in 1751.

Domenico and Maria had eleven children, eight girls and three boys. Four of those children were named Camilla or Camillo! That sounds funny, but the reason was tragic. Their oldest child, Camilla, was born in 1774 and died in 1789, a few days after her fifteenth birthday. A year later, they had a son and named him Camillo, presumably after his sister. He lived only a few weeks. Three years later, in 1793, another Camilla was born. She lived for four days. Finally, in 1796, Maria gave birth to another Camilla. Unlike her older brother and sisters she was named for, my great-great-great Aunt Camilla grew up. She lived until 1855, when she passed away in the same town where she was born, at the age of 58.

Altogether, at least four of Domenico and Maria’s eleven sons and daughters died in childhood. But I don’t have dates of death for two of the other daughters, so it could be as many as six who never reached adulthood.

My great-great-great grandfather, Antonio, was their fifth child. He grew up and at age 25 married a woman one of the aforementioned Marias. The couple had five children — four boys and a girl. Antonio died at age 38, when his youngest, my great-great grandfather Nicola, was not quite a year old.

Nicola, by the way, was named after his own older brother, who lived only two days.

I am so excited by these finds. I’ve been trying for years to get farther back than the late 19th century. I got chills when I realized I was staring at a list of names that reached more than a hundred years earlier.

I still have many gaps to fill in, and I need to verify what I’ve found with other sources. But it should be so much easier to do that with actual names to look up.

September 16 Writer Birthdays

1846 – Anna Kingsford, English physician, writer, poet, philosopher, novelist, suffragist, and activist for the rights of women and animals; she was only the second English woman to obtain a degree in medicine, and, as a staunch anti-vivisectionist, the only medical student at the time to graduate without having experimented on a single animal; her thesis, written in Paris as L’Alimentation Végétale de l’Homme, was on the benefits of vegetarianism and was published in English as The Perfect Way in Diet.

1851 – Emilia Pardo Bazán, Spanish countess who was a novelist, journalist, literary critic, poet, playwright, translator, editor, and professor; she is known for introducing naturalism into Spanish literature, for her detailed descriptions of reality, and for her groundbreaking introduction of feminist ideas into the literature.

1880 – Alfred Noyes, English poet best known for ballads such as “The Highwayman.”

1887 – Louise Arner Boyd, American author and explorer of Greenland and the Arctic, who wrote extensively of her explorations, leading to the newspapers calling her, “the Girl Who Tamed the Arctic.” In 1928, she chartered the supply ship Hobby, which had been used by famous explorer Roald Amundsen, for one of her Arctic exploration trips; when she learned that Amundsen had recently disappeared while attempting to rescue Italian explorer Umberto Nobile, she offered the ship and her services to the Norwegian government to search for Amundsen. She found no trace of him, but for her extraordinary efforts, the Norwegian government awarded her the Chevalier Cross of the Order of Saint Olav; she was the first American woman and only the third woman in the world to be so honored. In 1955, she became the first woman to fly over the North Pole.

1888 – Frans Eemil Sillanpää, Nobel Prize-winning Finnish writer praised “for his deep understanding of his country’s peasantry and the exquisite art with which he has portrayed their way of life and their relationship with Nature.”

1898 – H.A. Rey, German-born children’s book author and illustrator who worked with his wife Margret Rey; they are especially known for the beloved Curious George series.

1911 – Krishnalal Shridharani, Indian poet, playwright, author, and journalist.

1919 – Ku Sang, Korean poet, writer, essayist, and journalist; some of the themes of his poetry included health, spirituality, and pollution of the environment.

1926 – John Knowles, American novelist best known for his book A Separate Peace; the plot is not autobiographical, but the setting is based on Knowles’s experiences as a student at Phillips Exeter Academy; The Devon School, the book’s setting, is a thinly veiled fictionalization of Exeter, with both campus and town easily recognizable.

1929 – Margarita Carrera, award-winning Guatemalan writer, poet, philosopher, professor, and journalist.

1934 – Yashwant Trivedi, Indian Gujarati poet, writer, translator, literary critic, and essayist.

1935 – Jules Bass, with his partner Arthur Rankin, Jr., American writer and animator responsible for the Rankin & Bass stop-motion films, including the classic Christmas television special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; he was also a composer, writer, and children’s author, notably of Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon.

1938 – Taru Valjakka, Finnish opera singer, actor, writer, musicologist, and choir director; she had a central role in the rise of the new Finnish opera in 1970s.

1939 – Breyten Breytenbach, South African writer and painter who was arrested as an opponent of apartheid and wrote The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist while in prison.

1943 – James Alan McPherson, American essayist, short-story writer, and professor who was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

1944 – Martine Blanc, French author and illustrator of books for children; she has also worked in film animation.

1948 – Julia Donaldson (born Julia Catherine Shields), English writer, playwright, lyricist, and performer who was the U.K. Children’s Laureate; she is best known for her popular rhyming stories for children, especially The Gruffalo.

1949 – Paolo Brera, Italian writer, journalist, poet, translator, linguist, economist, and science-fiction writer.

1949 – Motti Lerner, Israeli writer, playwright, screenwriter, pedagogue, and activist.

1950 – Henry Louis Gates, African-American author, historian, literary critic, professor, editor and filmmaker who promotes the importance of African-American literature and hosts the PBS television Finding Your Roots, which combines the work of expert researchers in genealogy, history, and genetics with historic research to tell guests about the lives of their ancestors.

1953 – Nancy Louise Huston, Canadian-born French novelist and essayist who writes primarily in French and translates her own works into English.

1957 – Ángel Luis Arambilet Álvarez (known professionally simply as Arambilet), Dominican novelist, poet, screenwriter, painter, graphic artist, filmmaker, and systems engineer.

1959 – Asif Aslam Farrukhi, Pakistani writer, editor, journalist, anthologist, translator, and physician.

1963 – Rafael Reig, award-winning Spanish writer, philosopher, academic, literary critic, and science-fiction novelist; his PhD in literature examined 19th-century literary depictions of prostitution.

1964 – Molly Shannon, American screenwriter, comedian, actress, author, and children’s book writer who came to prominence as a cast member at Saturday Night Live.

1966 – Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, award-winning Zimbabwean editor, writer, academic, and literary critic.

1966 – Wil McCarthy, American science-fiction novelist, short-story writer, and science columnist.

1966 – Elizabeth McCracken, award-winning American novelist, short-story writer, and editor.

1971 – Prasoon Joshi, Indian poet, screenwriter, and lyricist.

1972 – Peter Kerecman, Slovak lawyer and non-fiction author who has published books and articles on press freedom, the history of advocacy, and other areas of law.

1973 – Justin Haythe, London-born American novelist whose debut novel The Honeymoon was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.

1974 – Tariq Saleh, award-winning Lebanese-born Brazilian journalist, editor, and BBC correspondent who covers the Middle East and Africa and is best known for reporting on conflicts, human rights, and refugees.

1980 – Aisha Sasha John, Canadian poet, writer, artist, and dancer.

1984 – Helga Flatland, award-winning Norwegian novelist and children’s writer.

1993 – Bian Jinyang (pen name Yang Yang), Chinese author who published his first books at the age of nine; his work has been compared to the Harry Potter series.


I recently got a new Fitbit and have been exploring all the different features. One thing I only just started looking into is its sleep-tracking abilities. Supposedly, if I wear it to bed it can tell when I’m asleep from my heart rate and the lack of steps taken, and can even pinpoint when I’m in REM sleep. REM sleep is the dreaming stage of sleep.

Except that sometimes it doesn’t get it right. A few days ago I delved into the detailed sleep report, and discovered that it claimed I’d slept fourteen hours that day! I seldom sleep more than five or six, so that was a surprise. But having the Fitbit think I’m sleeping when I’m not is only part of what I noticed. It turns out that the thing had me not only sleeping but in REM sleep — in the middle of the day, when I wasn’t actually asleep at all.

I hadn’t kept close track of just what I was doing during that time, but I’m going to start paying more attention. I’m a writer, and I read a lot. So often I am stationery in one place for long periods of time. Wouldn’t it be interesting if my vital signs while I’m, say, reading or writing actually mimic those of dreaming?

September 15 Writer Birthdays

At Boston Common, the Make Way for Ducklings statues of a mother duck and her babies commemorate Robert McCloskey’s classic picture book in the location where the book is set. (That’s my son in the photo.)

1613 – François de La Rochefoucauld, French author of maxims and memoirs who was was one of the leading exponents of the “maxime,” a French literary form of epigram that expresses a harsh or paradoxical truth with brevity.

1789 – James Fenimore Cooper, American writer of romantic historical fiction dealing with frontier and Indian life, as well as sea tales; author of The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer; he also wrote nonfiction.

1890 – Agatha Christie, prolific British mystery writer and playwright, most well known for her Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot series; she is considered the bestselling novelist of all time.

1890 – Claude McKay, Jamaican-born poet and novelist who was a major writer of the Harlem Renaissance.

1894 – Jean Renoir, French screenwriter, film director, author, and biographer who wrote Renoir, My Father, the definitive biography of his father, the celebrated impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

1897 – Merle Curti, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian.

1901 – Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich (born Elizabeth Charlotte Henrich), German novelist, history professor, and philosopher.

1905 – Ramkumar Verma, Indian Hindi poet, writer, and politician who published one act-plays and several anthologies of his work.

1909 – Betty Neels, prolific English romance novelist who was a retired nurse when she heard a woman in her local library bemoaning the lack of good romance novels and decided to write one herself.

1914 – Orhan Kemal (pen name of Turkish novelist Mehmet Rasit Ögütçü), Turkish novelist, screenwriter, and poet known for realistic novels that describe the life of the poor in Turkey.

1914 – Robert McCloskey, American children’s book author and illustrator; many of his books were set in Maine, but his classic picture book, Make Way for Ducklings, was set in Boston. (The photo shows my own teenager at the Make Way for Ducklings statues at Boston Common, where the book takes place.)

1915 – Fawn Brodie, American biographer and professor who sparked a dramatic rethinking of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy with the biography, Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, the first modern examination of evidence that Jefferson had taken his slave Sally Hemings as a concubine and fathered children by her; she also wrote biographies of Mormon leader Joseph Smith, Richard Nixon, and others.

1916 – Constantin Virgil Gheorghiu, Romanian writer, novelist, and diplomat.

1918 – Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning American professor of business and economic history who wrote about industrialization and the history of management structures.

1919 – Heda Margolius Kovály, Czech writer, novelist, crime writer, autobiographer, and translator who survived the Lódz ghetto and Auschwitz, where her parents died, and escaped while being marched to Bergen-Belsen.

1921 – Richard Gordon (also known as also known Gordon Stanley Ostlere), English surgeon who also was a novelist, screenwriter, and history author; most of his work centered around the the practice of medicine and health-related topics.

1926 – Takamaro Shigaraki, influential Japanese Buddhist writer, philosopher, and professor.

1927 – Carlos Germán Belli de La Torre, award-winning Peruvian poet, writer, journalist, and translator of Italian descent.

1927 – Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena, Indian Hindi writer, poet, columnist, and playwright.

1929 – Moawad GadElrab, Egyptian physician, author, short-story writer, columnist, artist, and professor; many of his works of literature have been adapted for television.

1934 – Tomie DePaola, beloved American author and illustrator of more than 200 children’s books, including Caldecott Honor book Strega Nona and Newbery Honor book 26 Fairmount Avenue.

1935 – Allan Savory, Zimbabwean writer, scientist, biologist, ecologist, and politician whose writing advocates a systems-thinking approach to managing resources.

1938 – Lya Fett Luft, Brazilian writer, poet, novelist, and journalist who is also a prolific translator.

1939 – Elizabeth Odio Benito, Costa Rican writer, lawyer, judge, politician, and university teacher.

1940 – Anne Moody, American author who wrote about her experiences growing up poor and Black in rural Mississippi, and her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

1940 – Norman Spinrad, multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated American science-fiction novelist, short-story writer, nonfiction author, critic, and essayist.

1941 – Elizabeth Edwina Smither, award-winning New Zealand poet, novelist, short-story writer, and librarian.

1945 – Mouna Bassili Sehnaoui, Egyptian-born Lebanese author, illustrator, and artist.

1949 – Marie Arana, Peruvian-born author, memoirist, screenwriter, editor, journalist, and critic who is Literary Director of the U.S. Library of Congress.

1954 – Hrant Dink, Turkish newspaper editor, journalist, editor, columnist, opinion journalist, human-rights activist, and football player.

1954 – Nava Semel, Israeli author, screenwriter, playwright, poet, translator, journalist, and children’s writer; her short-story collection Kova Zekhukhit (Hat of Glass) was the first work of fiction published in Israel to address the topic of the “Second Generation” – the children of Holocaust survivors.

1955 – Adélaïde H. Edith Bignon Fassinou (also known by her married name, Allagbada), Beninese novelist who writes in French; she is also Benin’s General Secretary for UNESCO.

1962 – François Bloemhof, award-winning South African author, playwright, composer, copywriter, and film reviewer.

1964 – Sirpa Kähkönen, award-winning Finnish novelist, young-adult writer, editor, and translator.

1965 – Marcela María Delorenzi (better known by her stage name, Daisy May Queen), Argentine radio host, television presenter, and writer, currently based in India.

1968 – Simona Škrabec, Slovenian author, literary critic, essayist, linguist, and translator who is fluent in eight languages.

1969 – Dan Lungu, Romanian novelist, short-story writer, sociologist, and essayist.

1972 – Toh EnJoe, award-winning Japanese author, novelist, and science-fiction writer.

1972 – Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, Spanish writer, journalist, and news anchor who is Queen Consort of Spain, as the wife of King Felipe VI.

1977 – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning Nigerian writer of novels, short stories, and nonfiction; her most famous works are the novels Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah.

1982 – Jesse Andrews, American novelist and screenwriter who adapted his first novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, for film.

Purging Progress

It’s getting emptier. Isn’t it?

I recently posted about the difficulties of trying to clear the stuff out of one of our storage units so we can stop paying stupid amounts of money for it each month. Then I posted again about the progress, however slow, we were finally making on getting more possessions out of there.

Today we went to the storage place again and went through yet more stuff. We moved some of it to our other storage unit, brought some home to sort through, and lugged a whole carload to Goodwill to donate.

The first photo shows what the unit looked like about a week ago. And the second shot shows what it looked like this evening, after today’s purging session. Our goal is to have it emptied by the end of the month.

September 14 Writer Birthdays

1728 – Mercy Otis Warren, American poet, playwright, author, and political writer and propagandist of the American Revolution; in 1790, she published a collection of poems and plays under her own name, which was highly unusual for a woman at the time; in 1805, she published the three-volume History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, one of the earliest published histories of the American Revolution, and the first that was authored by a woman.

1843 – Lola Rodríguez de Tió, Puerto Rican poet, author, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist who was the first Puerto Rican-born woman poet to establish herself a literary reputation throughout Latin America.

1860 – Hannibal Hamlin Garland, American novelist, poet, essayist, biographer, short-story writer, and researcher into the supernatural; he is best remembered for his fiction involving farmers in the Midwest.

1869 – Lyubov Fyodorovna Dostoevskaya, Russian author, short-story writer, and memoirist whose father was the famous novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky; she was also known as Aimée Dostoyevskaya.

1879 – Margaret Higgins Sanger (also known as Margaret Sanger Slee), American birth-control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse who popularized the term “birth control,” opened the first birth-control clinic in the United States, and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

1908 – Tsendiin Damdinsüren, Mongolian author, translator, and linguist who wrote the text to one version of the national anthem of Mongolia.

1910 – Edith Thacher Hurd, prolific American children’s author who coauthored several of her books with famed writer Margaret Wise Brown; Hurd’s husband, Clement Hurd, illustrated many of her books.

1911 – William Howard Armstrong, Newbery Medal-winning American children’s author and educator, best known for the classic novel, Sounder, about an African-American sharecropping family in the southern U.S.

1920 – Mario Benedetti, Uruguayan journalist, novelist, playwright, poet, and journalist who is not well known in the English-speaking world, but who, in the Spanish-speaking world, is considered one of Latin America’s most important writers of the latter half of the 20th century.

1924 – Alexander Artemiev, Russian Chuvash poet, prose writer, translator, and literary critic.

1929 – Suheil Bushrui, Israeli writer, poet, literary critic, translator, professor, and peace activist, well known for bringing Yeats’s poetry to an Arab-speaking audience.

1929 – Larry Collins, American novelist, journalist, editor, and nonfiction author.

1929 – Ferdinand Oyono, Cameroonian writer, politician, and diplomat; his literary work, written in French, is recognized for a sense of irony that reveals how easily people can be fooled.

1930 – Anne Bernays, American novelist, nonfiction author, editor, and professor; her book What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers (coauthored with Pamela Painter) is one of the most widely used guides to creative writing.

1930 – Anton Nikolov Donchev, Bulgarian politician who is also a popular writer of historical novels and a screenwriter for Bulgarian historical drama films.

1931 – Ivan Klíma, award-winning Czech novelist and playwright.

1933 – Hans Faverey, award-winning Dutch poet, psychologist, and lecturer of Surinamese descent; his poetry was more popular among critics than readers, who thought of it as dense and difficult, but Favery usually laughed at such remarks, insisting that it really is not that hard.

1934 – Sarah Kofman, French writer, philosopher, autobiographer, and university teacher.

1934 – Kate Millett (full name Katherine Murray Millett), American feminist writer, educator, artist, and activist, best known as the author of Sexual Politics.

1937 – Radu Klapper, Romanian-born Israeli writer, poet, author, librarian, and critic; his book, “Jews Against their Will,” dealt with the relationship between famous figures and their Jewish identity.

1938 – Tiziano Terzani, Italian journalist and author, best known for his extensive knowledge of East Asia and for being one of the few western reporters to witness and write about both the fall of Saigon to the hands of the Viet Cong and the fall of Phnom Penh at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

1939 – Aslan Gahraman oglu Gahramanly, Azerbaijani playwright, short-story writer, and scholar.

1942 – Bernard MacLaverty, award-winning Irish novelist, screenwriter, and short-story writer; two of his novels, Lamb and Cal, have been made into major films, for which he wrote the screenplays.

1946 – Dida Drăgan, Romanian poet, musician, and pop star.

1947 – Park Yeonghan, South Korean novelist and short-story writer whose award-winning bestselling book The Distant Ssongba River was based on his experiences as fighting in the Vietnam War.

1948 – Marc Reisner, American environmentalist and writer best known for his book Cadillac Desert, a history of water management in the American West, which was included on a list of the 100 most notable English-language works of nonfiction of the 20th century.

1949 – Kodavatiganti Rohini Prasad, Indian Telugu-language author, writer, physicist, nuclear physicist, and expert in Hindustani classical music; he wrote books on science, music, and other subjects. He was the son of well known Telugu writer Kodavatiganti Kutumbarao.

1950 – Juan Carlos Boveri, award-winning Argentine author of novel and short stories whose works are characterized by originality and depth, as well as criticisms of society; he is also a psychologist, sociologist and cultural anthropologist.

1950 – John Steptoe, African-American author and illustrator of children’s books that illuminate the African-American experience; his best known book, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, was considered a breakthrough in African history and culture.

1952 – Sudhir V. Shah, Indian neurologist, professor, and writer who is known for his research on brain cells and for articles and bestselling books on neurology and spirituality; he donates to charity the earnings from his books.

1954 – Wu Chin-fa, Taiwanese writer and politician of Hakka and indigenous descent; his writing often explores ethnic conflict in Taiwan from the perspective of youths.

1955 – Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning Australian-born journalist and author whose best known book is the novel March, which focuses on the absent father of the March family that is the subject of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women.

1955 – Pier Vittorio Tondelli, Italian author and journalist who wrote a small but influential body of work and was controversial for his use of homosexual themes.

1957 – Grażyna Wojcieszko, award-winning Polish writer and poet.

1958 – Garikipati Narasimha Rao, Indian writer, lecturer, and Telugu-language Avadhani (literary performer). Avadhanis are respected for their abilities to spin out verses conforming to Telugu grammar on literally any subject an audience suggests, and
display extreme powers of memorization.

1964 – Martín Hahn, Venezuelan writer, screenwriter, and playwright best known for writing telenovelas of mystery and suspense.

1965 – Aline Poulin, award-winning Canadian writer, poet, archivist, and literary reporter.

1966 – Jolita Herlyn, Lithuanian novelist, university teacher, and television presenter.

1967 – Michael Schmidt-Salomon, German author, philosopher, journalist, and children’s writer.

1968 – Shūichi Yoshida (吉田 修), award-winning Japanese novelist, short-story writer, and lyricist.

1971 – Henrietta Rose-Innes, award-winning South African novelist and short-story writer.

1973 – Asieh Amini, Iranian poet and journalist currently residing in Norway; she is an activist for women’s rights and against the death penalty, especially against the stoning of women and minors in Iran.

1976 – Adelle Stripe, award-winning English writer, poet, and blogger whose debut novel, Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, was based on the life and work of playwright Andrea Dunbar.

1978 – Gabriel Torrelles, Venezuelan writer and filmmaker who is editor-in-chief of Urbe, Venezuela’s first youth newspaper.

1987 – Ekiwah Adler Beléndez, Pushcart Prize-nominated Mexican poet and editor; after traveling far from his remote mountain village home in Mexico to receive lifesaving spinal surgery, he returned to Mexico, where he established writing workshops for students, including those with cerebral palsy and other movement-related disabilities, to help them to tell their stories in their own words.