August 13 Writer Birthdays

1802 – Nikolaus Lenau (born Nikolaus Niembsch von Strehlenau), Hungarian/German/Austrian poet who is considered Austria’s greatest modern lyric poet.

1906 – Vishram Bedekar, Indian Marathi-language author, poet, screenwriter, and film director.

1939 – Danièle Djamila Amrane-Minne, French writer, poet, professor, feminist activist, and combatant in the Algerian War; she was one of the few European women convicted for assisting the National Liberation Front during the Algerian War. Her PhD dissertation on the participation of Algerian women in the war, based on interviews with 88 women between 1978 and 1986; was published as a book, Des femmes dans la guerre d’Algérie, which was the basis for the film Algeria: Women at War.

1948 – Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, British writer of romance and mystery novels who has sometimes used the Jane Austen-inspired pseudonyms Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennett.

1960 – George Packer, National Book Award-winning American journalist, essayist, nonfiction author, and playwright who specializes in U.S. history and foreign policy.

1961 – Tom Perrotta, American novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

1963 – Valerie Plame (full name Valerie Elise Plame Wilson), American spy and author of spy novels who was the subject of the 2003 Plame affair, in which her identity as a CIA agent was leaked and published by Robert Novak of the Washington Post; no one was formally charged. She wrote a memoir detailing her career and the events leading up to her resignation from the CIA; she has subsequently written several spy novels.

1967 – Amélie Nothomb (Baroness Fabienne-Claire Nothomb), prolific bestselling Belgian novelist.

1973 – Kamila Shamsie, award-winning Pakistani novelist and short-story writer who is best known for her book Home Fire.

August 12 Writer Birthdays

1774 – Robert Southey, English poet and biographer.

1831 – Helena Blavatsky, Russian-German occultist who founded the Theosophical Society.

1859 – Katharine Lee Bates, prolific American writer, poet, essayist, novelist, travel writer, children’s author, editor, college professor, scholar, and social activist; today she is primarily remembered as the author of the poem “America the Beautiful,” which became the lyrics to the popular patriotic song.

1866 – Jacinto Benavente, Nobel Prize-winning Spanish dramatist renowned “for the happy manner in which he has continued the illustrious traditions of the Spanish drama.”

1867 – Edith Hamilton, German-American author, essayist, educator, and scholar of the Classics; her 1942 book Mythology is still considered a standard introductory text on the subject.

1876 – Mary Roberts Rinehart, American mystery writer, sometimes called the American Agatha Christie; she is credited with originating the phrase, “The butler did it,” and was cited by Bob Kane as an inspiration for his “Batman.”

1880 – Radclyffe Hall, English novelist and poet who is best known for the novel The Well of Loneliness, a groundbreaking work in lesbian literature.

1889 – Zerna Sharp, American teacher, book editor, and children’s author; she created the “Dick and Jane” beginning readers that were widely used in schools in English-speaking countries for more than 40 years.

1920 – P. Singaram,Indian Tamil writer who lived most of his adult life in Indonesia and Malaysia who is considered one of the greatest Tamil novelists of the modern era, despite having authored only two novels.

1925 – Donald Justice, Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, essayist, editor, librettist, and teacher; one critic said of his poems, “They were great in the way that tells us what poetry used to be, and is, and will be.”

1926 – Wallace Markfield, American comic novelist best known for his first novel, To An Early Grave.

1928 – Fatima Meer, South African author, screenwriter, sociologist, academic, educator, politician, and prominent anti-apartheid activist.

1931 – William Goldman, American novelist, screenwriter, and playwright who wrote the Oscar-winning scripts for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men.

1937 – Walter Dean Myers, prolific African-American author of young-adult fiction, picture books, and nonfiction who was the Library of Congress’s National Ambassador for Young People’s literature and a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. His novel Fallen Angels is on the ALA’s list of frequently challenged books because of its language and depiction of the Vietnam War; he is especially known for writing about the challenges of urban life for young black men and the complicated moral minefield they must negotiate to stay alive. One of his goals in writing was to expand the face of publishing so that children of color could see themselves reflected in literature.

1940 – Gail Parent, American novelist and Emmy-winning screenwriter, best known for her writing for television, most notably for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, The Carol Burnett Show, and The Golden Girls.

1945 – J.D. McClatchy, American poet, literary critic, opera librettist, and essayist.

1946 – Deborah Howe, American children’s author who, along with her husband James, wrote the book Bunnicula and its sequels, about a vampire bunny who sucks the life out of vegetables.

1948 – Sue Monk Kidd, American novelist, memoirist, essayist, editor, and nurse, best known for her bestselling novel The Secret Life of Bees.

1955 – Ann Martin, American children’s author who created the juvenile book series “The Baby-Sitters Club.”

1956 – Akimi Yoshida, award-winning Japanese manga author and illustrator, best known for the crime thriller series “Banana Fish.”

1964 – Katherine Boo, American journalist and author whose first book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, won the National Book Award in 2012.

1970 – Anthony Swofford, American writer and former U.S. Marine whose autobiography Jarhead recounts his experience during the first Gulf War.

Learning Curve

Alexandria has announced that the city schools will be all-virtual when school begins next month. It was the last of the local school districts to make that announcement. So the school year, at least to start with, will take place online.

I have mixed feelings. Last spring was disastrous for my son trying to complete his senior year online. Technical issues, a lack of communication, laziness, confusion, and a severe case of senioritis made for a depressed teen and an unproductive final three months of school. I would hate to be facing that again — though, in all fairness, the school system has come up with a more structured program for online learning, now that teachers have had time to put something together, instead of having to improvise on the fly. I think it will work much better for most students than the virtual learning of last spring.

On the other hand, opening up the schools would be even more disastrous. I keep hearing from proponents of schools opening in person that students could learn while staying six feet apart from each other and their teachers. These people apparently have never been inside a modern American school. The rooms are too crowded to allow for distancing. Even using the larger spaces — cafeterias, gyms, and auditoriums — would not give nearly enough space for the kind of distancing that health experts say is necessary. The schools were already overcrowded and underfunded. And now we’re suddenly supposed to find the space, and enough teachers, to spread the kids out over a much wider area?

President Trump keeps saying that kids are “almost immune,” despite all evidence to the contrary. And he turns a blind eye to the danger to teachers and other school staff — not to mention the students’ families and communities.

All in all, I’m glad that area schools are remaining virtual for now, but I’m also glad that my son graduated.

My son’s alma mater T.C. Williams High School stands empty these days, or nearly so, and students will continue off-site until at least some time in November.

August 11 Writer Birthdays

1823 – Charlotte Mary Yonge, English novelist who wrote religious books that helped spread the influence of the Oxford Movement.

1885 – Sophia Parnok, Russian poet, writer, journalist, linguist, and translator whose work explores her own sense of Russianness, Jewish identity, and lesbianism; she has been called “Russia’s Sappho,” for writing openly about her lesbian relationships. She worked as a journalist under the pen name of Andrei Polianin.

1892 – Hugh MacDiarmid, pen name of Scottish poet Christopher Murray Grieve, whose most well-known work is the book-length poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle.

1897 – Enid Blyton, British children’s author also known as Mary Pollock; she is best known for the Character Noddy, and for such series as “The Famous Five” and “The Secret Seven.”

1897 – Louise Bogan, American writer, poet, and literary critic who was the fourth U.S. Poet Laureate and the first woman to hold the position.

1898 – Luang Wichitwathakan (also known as Wichit Wichitwathakan), Thai major general who was a novelist, historian, playwright, politician, and diplomat; he was largely responsible for changing the name of the country from Siam to Thailand.

1908 – Don Freeman, American children’s book author and illustrator; author of the classic Corduroy.

1915 – Suzanne Césaire (née Roussi), French writer, teacher, scholar, anti-colonial and feminist activist, and Surrealist; she married poet and politician Aimé Césaire.

1917 – Inge Scholl, German writer whose brother and sister, Hans and Sophie Scholl, were core members of the White Rose student resistance movement in Nazi Germany and were executed by the Nazis. Inge Scholl wrote several books about the White Rose after the war.

1921 – Alex Haley, African-American novelist, screenwriter, and biographer who co-authored The Autobiography of Malcolm X but was best known as the author of the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, for which he traced his own ancestry back to Africa. Roots was made into a seminal television miniseries and is credited for touching off Americans’ interest in studying their family histories.

1922 – Mavis Gallant (Mavis Leslie de Trafford Gallant, née Young), Canadian short-story writer who was also a novelist, playwright, journalist, and essayist; she spent much of her life in France.

1932 – Keiko Kishi, Japanese writer, actress, and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador.

1936 – Andre Dubus II, American short-story writer and essayist who was the father of the author Andre Dubus III.

1938 – Bapsi Sidhwa, Pakistani-born American novelist and screenwriter of Gujarati Parsi descent who writes in English. A documentary about her life called Bapsi: Silences of My Life is expected to release 2021.

1944 – Joanna Cole, prolific American children’s book author, writer, and librarian who is best known as the author of the beloved Magic School Bus series, which was also made into a television program and video games. She passed away in July 2020.

1946 – Marilyn vos Savant, US American magazine columnist, author, playwright, journalist, and lecturer who is listed as having the highest recorded I.Q. (intelligence quotient) and is best known for her Parade magazine column, “Ask Marilyn.” She was born Marilyn Mach but adopted her mother’s maiden name; Savant means “learned person.” She married Dr. Robert Jarvik, who invented the Jarvik-7 artificial heart.

1961 – David Brooks, American political and cultural commentator who writes for the New York Times, and has authored several books on American culture.

August 8 Writer Birthdays

1640 – Amalia Katharina of Waldeck-Eisenberg (Countess of Erbach-Erbach), German poet and composer.

1863 – Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey, American ornithologist, naturalist, zoologist, and writer who wrote nature guides, including the first modern field guide to birds; she also organized early Audobon Society chapters and was an activist for bird protection.

1884 – Sara Teasdale, American lyric poet who won the Columbia University Poetry Society Prize, which later became known as the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1896 – Marjorie Rawlings, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author whose best-known work was The Yearling, a young-adult novel written before works for young adults were considered a separate genre.

1922 – Gertrude Himmelfarb, Jewish American author, essayist, and conservative “historian of ideals” who wrote on the need for Victorian-era morals to invigorate contemporary social policies.

1927 – Maia Wojciechowska, Newbery Award-winning Polish-born American author of children’s and young adult books who also wrote under the name Maia Rodman. In addition to writing, she spent time as a matador, an undercover detective, and a motorcycle racer; by age 11 she had parachuted out of an airplane three times; at age 12 she fled the Nazis through Romania and Italy to reach France, where her father was chief of staff of the Polish air force.

1952 – Robin Ophelia Quivers, American radio personality, author, and actress, best known as the long-running news anchor and co-host of The Howard Stern Show.

1952 – Valerie Sayers, American novelist, short-story writer, essayist, critic, and professor.

1954 – Elizabeth Ann Tallent, Pushcart Prize-winning American short-story writer, professor, and critic, known for her poetic style, vivid settings, and complex themes.

1964 – Anastasia M. Ashman, American author who resides in Turkey and writes on ex-pat women’s issues.

1983 – Hitomi Kanehara, award-winning Japanese novelist, best known for her bestselling book Hebi ni piasu (Snakes and Earrings).

Photo Friday: Great Blue Heron

We’re still mostly stuck at home these days, waiting for the pandemic to run its course. We do try to take a walk outside each day. Tuesday was an odd day. A major tropical storm came through the area in the morning, with a ton of rain. And then, early in the afternoon, the rain cleared away, the sun came out, and the weather turned gorgeous. Instead of strolling around our own neighborhood, as we usually do, we drove to Old Town Alexandria and walked along the riverfront, where this Great Blue Heron nicely posed for pictures.

August 7 Writer Birthdays

1831 – Frederic William Farrar, Indian-born cleric, schoolteacher, author, and poet; he was a pallbearer at the funeral of Charles Darwin in 1882.

1848 – Alice James, American diarist; she was the daughter of theologian Henry James, Sr., and sister of psychologist William James and novelist Henry James,

1890 – Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, labor leader, activist, and feminist who played a leading role in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and was Chair of the Communist Party USA; she was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union and a visible proponent of women’s rights, birth control, and women’s suffrage.

1903 – Louis Leakey, British archaeologist and author who helped establish the theories of early human evolution beginning in Africa.

1906 – Nelson Goodman, influential American philosopher.

1928 – James Randi, Canadian-American stage magician and skeptic, whose writings debunk pseudoscience and paranormal subjects.

1928 – Betsy Byars, American author of children’s fiction who has won a Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and an Edgar Award; she is best known for her novel Summer of the Swans.

1933 – Jerry Pournelle, American scientist, essayist, journalist, and science-fiction writer who also wrote in the technology and computer field; he is best known for his collaborations with Larry Niven, including The Mote in God’s Eye.

1942 – Garrison Keillor, American author, poet, and radio personality, best known for his long-running show A Prairie Home Companion.

1949 – Matthew Francis Parris, South African/British journalist and politician.

1950 – Alan Lee Keyes, American conservative political activist, author, diplomat, and perennial candidate for public office.

1950 – Terry Randolph Hummer, American poet, critic, essayist, editor, and professor.

1952 – Larry J. Sabato, political scientist, analyst, and prognosticator who is a University of Virginia professor.

1953 – Anne Fadiman, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning American author.

1955 – Vladimir Sorokin, popular Russian poet and dramatist.

1957 – Paul Dini, comic-book author, screenwriter and producer who works in the television and comic-book industries.

1960 – David Duchovny, American actor, writer, producer, director, and novelist; he is best known for his role as Fox Mulder in the TV series, The X-Files.

1960 – Deborah Ellis, bestselling Canadian author and anti-war activist who often writes about the children coping with difficult decisions in troubled parts of the world; her best known book is The Breadwinner.

1963 – Rochelle Alers, American writer of romance novels who has also written under the pen names Susan James and Rena McLeary.

1968 – Francesca Gregorini (born Countess Francesca McKnight Donatella Romana Gregorini di Savignano di Romagna), Italian screenwriter and film director; she is the daughter of former Bond girl Barbara Bach and the stepdaughter of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.

1969 – Scott Hanford Stossel, American journalist who is editor of The Atlantic magazine.

1983 – Brit Heyworth Marling, American actress, screenwriter, and film producer.

August 6 Writer Birthdays

1644 – Louise de La Vallière, French writer, autobiographer, duchess, and lady-in-waiting who was the mistress of Louis XIV.

1735 – Lady Hyegyeong, Korean author and queen who was the wife of Crown Prince Sado and mother of King Jeongjo; she is best known for her book, The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong, detailing her life as the ill-fated Crown Princess, her husband’s descent into madness, and the deeds for which he was eventually put to death.

1809 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate of the U.K. during Queen Victoria’s reign and still one of Britain’s most popular poets; his poems draw on a wide range of subject matter, ranging from medieval legends to classical myths and from domestic situations to nature.

1874 – Charles Hoy Fort, American journalist, writer,and researcher who specialized in “anomalous phenomena,” the use of the scientific method for finding rational explanations for phenomena that defy explanation; in his honor, the terms Fortean and Forteana are sometimes used to characterize such phenomena, with his admirers calling themselves “Forteans.” His books sold well, are still in print, and have influenced modern science-fiction authors.

1881 – Luella Parsons, American newspaper columnist, radio host, and memoirist.

1894 – Iseult Lucille Germaine Gonne, Irish poet and Bengali translator; the poet William Butler Yeats was widely known to be in love with her mother, and was rumored to be Iseult’s father and often referred to her as his darling child; nevertheless, in his fifties, he proposed to the 22-year-old Iseult, who refused his advances.

1909 – Norma Farber, National Book Award-winning American children’s author.

1911 – Constance Heaven, British romance author who won the Romantic Novel of the Year in 1976 for her title The House of Kuragin.

1916 – Richard Hofstadter, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian, professor, and nonfiction author.

1917 – Barbara Cooney, two-time Caldecott Medal-winning American writer and illustrator of more than 200 children’s books.

1926 – Janet Opal Asimov, American science columnist, science-fiction author, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst who usually wrote under the name J.O. Jeppson; she was married to author Isaac Asimov.

1926 – Elizabeth Beresford, British author of children’s books, best known for creating The Wombles.

1934 – Piers Anthony, English-American science-fiction and fantasy writer, best known for his long-running series set in the realm of Xanth.

1965 – Yuki Kajiura, Japanese poet, composer, arranger, musician, music producer, and ethnomusicologist.

1970 – M. Night Shyamalan (Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan), Indian-born American screenwriter and director, best known for The Sixth Sense and other science-fiction and supernatural thrillers.

1972 – Paolo Bacigalupi, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning American science-fiction and fantasy novelist and short-story writer; much of his work explores the effects of bioengineering and a world in which fossil fuels are no longer viable.

August 5 Writer Birthdays

1647 – Anne Le Fèvre Dacier (better known during her lifetime as Madame Dacier), French scholar, translator, linguist, commentator. and editor of the classics, including the Iliad and the Odyssey; she championed ancient literature and used her great capabilities in Latin and Greek for this purpose as well as for her own financial support, producing a series of editions and translations from which she earned her living.

1813 – Ivar Andreas Aasen, Norwegian philologist, lexicographer, playwright, and poet, best known for having assembled from dialects one of the two official written versions of the Norwegian language Nynorsk.

1844 – Elizaveta Vodovozova, influential Russian writer, educational theorist, children’s writer, memoirist, and activist for women’s rights; she was a pioneer in advocating for the use of music and games in educating children.

1850 – Guy de Maupassant, French writer who is known as one of the fathers of the modern short story; he also wrote travel books, novels, poetry, and horror.

1868 – Marie Belloc Lowndes (full name Marie Adelaide Elizabeth Rayner Lowndes, née Belloc), a prolific English novelist and screenwriter with a literary reputation for combining exciting incidents with psychological interest, and several of whose works were adapted for film, radio, and opera; her sister was author Hilaire Belloc.

1871 – Georgiana Goddard King, American art historian, writer, photographer, professor, Hispanist, and Medievalist who created the first university department of Art History that specialized in Spanish art.

1880 – Ruth Sawyer, Newbery Medal-winning American storyteller, best known as the author of Roller Skates.

1889 – Conrad Aiken, Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist and poet.

1901 – Margarita Abella Caprile, Argentine poet who was also a novelist, short-story author, travel writer, editor, and journalist.

1904 – Janina Broniewska (née Kunig), Polish writer, publicist, communist activist, editor, and teacher who wrote many stories for children and young adults.

1906 – John Marcellus Huston, American screenwriter, film director, and actor who wrote the screenplays for most of the 37 feature films he directed, many of which are considered classics.

1910 – Jacquetta Hawkes, British archeologist, public official, nature writer, playwright, poet, educator, and activist for nuclear disarmament. She was the daughter of Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, cousin of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, wife of archeologist and writer Christopher Hawkes (her first husband), and wife of novelist and playwright Jack Priestley (though she disliked his work).

1910 – J. Erik Lindegren, Swedish author, poet, translator, librettist, editor, and opera critic.

1915- Clair Blank (full name Clarissa Mabel Blank) was an American author and children’s writer, best known for the Beverly Gray mystery series.

1916 – Nalini Das, Indian Bengali writer, professor, and editor of the Bengali children’s magazine Sandesh.

1916 – Peter Viereck, Pulitzer Prize-winning American political writer, professor, and poet.

1926 – Per Wahlöö, Swedish writer and journalist who with his wife Maj Sjöwall created the detective character Martin Beck

1929 – Al Alvarez, English poet, novelist, essayist, and critic.

1934 – Wendell Berry, American writer and ecological activist, much of whose writing centers around his home state of Kentucky and the South in general.

1936 – Doris Debenjak (née Krisch), Slovene linguist, writer, lexicographer, and translator.

1947 – Élisabeth Vonarburg, award-winning French-born Canadian writer, translator, magazine editor, and science-fiction author.

1955 – Christine Harris, Australian writer of children’s and young adult books, with works of both speculative fiction and historical fiction.

1960 – David Baldacci, American lawyer and author of blockbuster thrillers; his sister Sharon Baldacci is also an author.

1970 – Xeni Jardin, American blogger, editor, digital media commentator, and tech culture journalist

August 4 Writer Birthdays

1792 – Percy Bysshe Shelley, English romantic poet who is considered one of the finest lyric and epic poets in the English language; he was married to novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who is best known as the author of Frankenstein.

1839 – Walter Horatio Pater, English essayist, literary and art critic, fiction writer, and humanist whose advocacy of “art for art’s sake” became a key doctrine of the Aestheticism movement.

1841 – William Henry Hudson, author, naturalist, and ornithologist.

1859 – Knut Hamsun, Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian novelist.

1869 – Evelyn Sharp, English writer, journalist, novelist, autobiographer, children’s writer, and a key activist for women’s suffrage who was twice imprisoned.

1904 – Witold Marian Gombrowicz, Polish novelist, short-story writer, and playwright whose works are characterized by deep psychological analysis, satire, existentialism, and anti-nationalist thought.

1912 – Virgilio Piñera, Cuban novelist, short-story writer, poet, playwright, essayist, and translator.

1913 – Robert Hayden, essayist, educator, and the first African-American U.S Poet Laureate.

1913 – Noboru Nakamura, Oscar-nominate Japanese film director and screenwriter.

1918 – Iceberg Slim, pen name for Robert Beck, a reformed pimp and American author of urban fiction.

1920 – Helen Thomas, American author and news service reporter, opinion columnist, and “Dean of the White House Press Corps.”

1922 – Anbara Salam Khalidi, Lebanese author, poet, translator, and feminist who significantly contributed to the emancipation of Arab women.

1951 – Stephen Kinzer, American author, journalist, academic, and New York Times foreign correspondent.

1960 – Keka Ferdousi, Bangladeshi television chef and writer.

1960 – Joby Warrick, multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and author; he writes for the Washington Post on the Middle East, diplomacy, and national security.

1961 – Barack Obama, 44th U.S. President and the first African-American to hold the office; he has also written several books.

1965 – Dennis Lehane, American author of popular novels.

1969 – Jojo Moyes, English journalist and romance novelist.

1977 – Yuuko Kohara, Japanese manga artist and writer.