Motherhood and the Internet Trolls

The Washington Post ran a column by Monica Hesse this week, The Unreasonable Expectations of Motherhood in America Today — and its Consequences. In it, Hesse talks about the falling birth rate in the United States and all the institutional reasons why she and other U.S. women feel forced to put off parenthood or forgo it altogether: the high cost of daycare; the lack of paid maternity leave; the absence of postnatal support for mothers of newborns; the restricted access to abortion; and the vilification of mothers who take advantage of the measly social programs our country does offer.

Most people who responded with comments about the article were women who agreed wholeheartedly with the observations and conclusions. A few men also expressed support. Predictably, most men who responded were less supportive. One man said that his mother raised two kids as a single mom; if she did it, then why are all these women today complaining? Others told the writer if she doesn’t like the U.S., she should leave. Shouldn’t we want to make this country more livable for everyone, rather than telling the people whose needs aren’t being met that they should go elsewhere?

I suspect a lot of the critics didn’t bother to read the article. If they had, I don’t see how they could dispute it. Everything in it is true. Many European countries offer mandatory paid maternity leave. The United States does not. They offer free child care. The United States does not. The author talked about choosing at one point not to have children because the average daycare cost in her area was $24,000 a year, and she was making about $40,000 and paying $30,000 in rent. Clearly that is not sustainable. Do her critics think she is lying about those numbers? Or do they have access to some special brand of mathematics that make this possible?

For this author, there was a happy ending. Eventually her financial situation improved, and she is now looking forward to the birth of her baby. But how many other women will never be in that position — or will be there, and wonder how the heck they are going to make it work? This country needs to take the needs of mothers and children more seriously.

June 19 Writer Birthdays

1623 – Blaise Pascal, French child prodigy who grew up to be a writer, mathematician, physicist, inventor, and Catholic theologian; he made important contributions to the study of fluids, clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum, and wrote in defense of the scientific method.

1782 – Hugues Felicité Robert de Lamennais, French priest, writer, theologian, philosopher, politician, and political theorist who was considered one of the most influential intellectuals of Restoration France and a forerunner of liberal and social Catholicism.

1861 – Jose Rizal, Filipino journalist, fiction author, poet, and revolutionary who heralded as a national hero after his execution.

1900 – Laura Z. Hobson, American author best known for Gentleman’s Agreement, a novel that explored antisemitism in the United States.

1909 – Osamu Dazai (太宰 治) one of the foremost fiction writers of 20th-century Japan.

1909 – Henryka Wanda Lazowertówna (also called Henryka Lazowert), Polish lyric poet who is considered one of the eminent Polish writers of Jewish descent, best known for her poem, The Little Smuggler (written in the Warsaw ghetto and published posthumously) about a child struggling to keep his family alive in the ghetto by smuggling provisions from the “Aryan” side at the risk of his own life. Her work, while deeply personal and of great emotional intensity, also touched on social concerns and had patriotic overtones. Lazowertówna died in 1942 in the Treblinka extermination camp.

1918 – Mary TallMountain, Alaska-born American writer, poet, and storyteller of mixed Scotch-Irish and Koyukon Indian ancestry; her works deal with the interplay of Christianity with indigenous beliefs and the difficulties of her own life.

1919 – Malika al-Fassi, Moroccan writer, journalist, novelist, playwright, and nationalist; she was the only woman to sign the independence treaty of Morocco in 1944. She also wrote under the pseudonyms El Fatate and Bahitate El Hadira.

1919 – Pauline Kael, American author and New Yorker magazine film critic.

1920 – Eliana Navarro Barahona, award-winning Chilean poet and librarian whose works were being published from the time she was 14 year old.

1921 – Patricia Wrightson, award-winning Australian author, children’s writer, and film editor who is best remembered for her works of magic realism; she was also one of the first Australian authors to write children’s books drawing on Australian Aboriginal mythology.

1923 – Ruth Bondy, award-winning Czech-Israeli journalist and translator who was a Holocaust survivor.

1924 – Paco Ignacio Taibo I, Mexican writer, journalist, and restaurateur.

1939 – Yuri Timofeyevich Galanskov, Russian poet, historian, human rights activist, and dissident; who was incarcerated for his political activities and died in a labor camp.

1942 – Merata Mita, New Zealand Māori screenwriter and film director who was a key figure in Māori filmmaking; she is best known for her documentaries Patu!, about violent clashes between anti-apartheid protesters and police during the 1981 South African rugby tours in New Zealand, and Bastion Point: Day 507, about the eviction of the Ngāti Whātua people from their traditional lands.

1945 – Françoise Chandernagor, French novelist, biographer, and playwright; some of her books have been adapted for television.

1945 – Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Prize-winning Burmese political leader, writer, and human rights activist.

1945 – Tobias Wolff, American novelist and memoirist.

1947 – Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize-winning British Indian author who sparked worldwide controversy with his magic realist novel The Satanic Verses.

1947 – John Ralston Saul, Canadian novelist and essayist; president of the writer’s association PEN International.

1948 – Carmen Rodríguez, Chilean-Canadian author, poet, educator, and political social activist; she was also a founding member of Aquelarre Magazine; she was born in Chile but fled to Canada as a political refugee after the Chilean Coup of 1973.

1949 – Marilyn Kaye, prolific American author, children’s writer, science-fiction writer, and children’s literature scholar.

1952 – Angie Sage, English author, children’s writer, and illustrator; she is best known as the author of the Septimus Heap series and the Araminta Spook series (known as Araminta Spookie in the U.S.)

1958 – Seno Gumira Ajidarma, award-winning American-born Indonesian author of short stories, essays, and movie scripts; he is also known as a journalist, photographer, and lecturer.

1960 – Myriam Cyr, Canadian actress and writer whose best known written work is the nonfiction book Letters of a Portuguese Nun: Uncovering the Mystery Behind a 17th Century Forbidden Love.

1960 – Marga Gomez, American-born Puerto Rican and Cuban-American comedian, playwright, and humorist.

1970 – Gerður Kristný, Icelandic poet; she has also written short stories, novels, and children’s books.

1973 – Baby Halder (or Haldar), Indian author of an acclaimed autobiography Aalo Aandhari (A Life Less Ordinary), which describes her harsh life growing up as a domestic worker; she became interested in writing after a professor she was working for noticed her fascination with books when she was dusting his bookshelves and encouraged her to read.

Friday Five: Heights

Apparently the Friday Five this weeks is called Heights because of a film that’s out with that name. I haven’t seen it and have no idea what it’s about. As much as I miss seeing movies in their natural habitat, I have no plans to be in a theater anytime soon with crowds of unmasked people who may or may not be vaccinated. So I’m going to assume these questions were inspired in some way by the film, and then I’m going to forget about that and just answer the questions.

What’s the best non-animated movie musical you’ve seen in the past several years?
The best? Well, I haven’t seen that many musicals in recent years. The Greatest Showman is probably the most recent, but I thought it was terrible. I mean, the music was great, but the film rewrote history to turn a man who exploited marginalized people to make himself rich into a man who was the champion of the oppressed. No, thank you. So I’ll reach back a little farther into my memory and say that the best is Bohemian Rhapsody, about Freddie Mercury and Queen. Rami Malek’s performance was uncannily real.

How are you most likely to pass the time during a lengthy blackout?

This wasn’t taken during a blackout; it was just last night, when the weather was great and my family and I hung out on the patio around the fire pit.

It depends. If there’s enough light, I might read a book. If there’s not enough light, I could still read with a flashlight, or I could read a book on my e-reader, if it’s charged. If my laptop is charged, I can use it to write or to stream a television show.

If it’s winter, I’ll build a fire in the fireplace and maybe toast some marshmallows with my son. If it’s not raining or snowing I might build a fire in the fire pit on the patio and bring out those marshmallows.

When were you last in a swimming pool?
I honestly do not remember. It’s been years, probably due at least in part to my aversion to seeing myself in a bathing suit. I just bought one that is better suited to actual human women than the bathing suits available in most stores (which are better suited to Barbie dolls), so maybe that will change. Or maybe not.

What do you remember fondly about the neighborhood where you grew up?
Neighborhood singular? I grew up in a lot of neighborhoods in various parts of the country, so I’m not sure how to answer this one. Several of them had woods, which I loved:

In Scituate, Massachusetts, the woods were a little ways down the street. I was too young to explore on my own, but I remember walking with my dad on cool, breezy fall days, gazing up at the yellow and red treetops against a clear blue sky, with the smell of wood smoke in the air.

One of our homes in Fairfax County, Virginia, had woods across the street, with a creek that I used to take water samples from to examine under a microscope, and where I could find wintergreen berries that squeaked in my teeth. My friend Caroline and I were about 10 when we found a tree house that some older boys had abandoned when they went off to college. We fixed it up and made it our own. Being nerds, mostly what we did up there was read books — Island of the Blue Dolphins, the Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Wrinkle in Time.

When we lived in Roanoke, Virginia, the woods began just behind our backyard and continued down the hillside. My sister’s boyfriend planted marijuana back there; apparently we had the right conditions for it. My parents never knew. I was too much the goody-two-shoes even to know what to do with it, let alone to want to.

What language did you study in school, and what’s something you remember how to say?
I took Spanish for two or three years in high school, and a couple more in college. I got As, but that doesn’t mean I can say much of anything at this point. I remember a few simple sentences (¿Cómo se llama usted?) But mostly I just remember vocabulary. I can point to things and name them, but that’s about it.

It must be easier to retain those language lessons today. For one thing, I live now in a multicultural area; there’s a section of town only a few minutes away where the street signs and shop signs are in Spanish, and we have a large Spanish-speaking population. That was not true in southwestern Virginia, where I went to high school. Also, today it’s easy to find Spanish-language programming on television and even on the radio, and Spanish-language books in libraries and bookstores.

June 18 Writer Birthdays

1812 – Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov, Russian novelist and travel writer whose greatest work is Oblomov, a satire on Old World Russia.

1827 – Alexander Balloch Grosart, British author and editor.

1838 – Auberon Herbert, English writer, theorist, and philosopher.

1877 – Abraham Yahuda, Jewish Palestinian writer, linguist, and teacher who translated and interpreted many ancient Arabic documents, including works of pre-Islamic poetry and medieval Judeo-Arabic texts. His book The Accuracy of the Bible sparked a significant amount of international discussion.

1886 – Tsuruko Haraguchi, Japanese psychologist and translator who was the first Japanese woman to receive a Doctor of Philosophy.

1896 – Philip Barry, American dramatist who wrote the play The Philadelphia Story, which was adapted into the movie starring Katharine Hepburn.

1913 – Sylvia Porter, American writer, columnist, economist, and financial expert who wrote a wildly popular financial advice column; she was considered a leading force in making it possible for women to enter the field of business and financial journalism.

1919 – Shmuel Safrai, Polish-born Israeli writer, historian, and professor of Jewish history.

1923 – Elizabeth Weber (pen-name of Elizabeth Marais, née Elizabeth Olivier), South African writer and translator.

1937 – Gail Godwin, bestselling American novelist, short-story writer, nonfiction author, and librettist; many of her books are realistic fiction novels that follow a character’s psychological and intellectual development, often based on themes taken from Godwin’s own life. Three of her books were finalists for the National Book Award.

1941 – Úrsula Heinze, German and Spanish writer, poet, children’s author, short-story writer, translator, and broadcaster.

1946 – Russell Ash, British author of art, humor, and reference titles such as “The Top 10 of Everything” series.

1946 – Lidia Jorge, Portuguese novelist of the Post Revolution Generation.

1949 – Chris Van Allsburg, American author and illustrator of children’s books; he is a two-time Caldecott Medal winner for The Polar Express and Jumanji.

1951 – Vivian Vande Velde, award-winning American author of children’s and young-adult fiction.

1957 – Richard Powers, National Book Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-finalist American novelist of literary fiction dealing with science and technology.

1961 – Angela Johnson, American poet and children’s book author; her stories explore the African-American experience.

1963 – Lidia Yuknavitch, American writer, teacher, and editor who is the author of the memoir The Chronology of Water and the novels The Small Backs of Children and Dora: A Headcase.

1964 – Ogunbayo Ayanlola Ohu (known as Bayo Ohu), Nigerian journalist and editor who was shot and killed at his home in Lagos in 2009; at the time the killing was deemed part of a robbery, but it is now believed to have been related to his job covering Nigerian politics.

1967 – Kim Dae-seung, South Korean screenwriter and film director.

Throwback Thursday: Sailor Suit

This Sunday is Father’s Day, so for Throwback Thursday, here’s a photo of my own father, from Easter 1943, when he had just turned four years old. Before the end of that year, his own father would be called up to fight in World War II. This one always surprises me a bit, in the way that family photos so often do, because when I look at it I can see my sister Karen in his face. That seems strange because she really does look a lot more like our mom, as I do. But something about his face makes me think of her.

I love this photo of my dad at age four, wearing his little sailor suit and that big smile on his face. I can’t figure out where this was taken. It is clearly not my grandparents’ house; the porch is wrong. I’ll have to ask him if he recognizes it.

Happy Father’s Day!

June 17 Writer Birthdays

1797 – Alexandre Vinet, Swiss literary critic and theologian who advocated for religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

1808 – Everhardus Johannes Potgieter, Dutch writer, travel author, poet, and founder of a literary magazine, where he wrote under the initials W.Dg.

1808 – Henrik Arnold Thaulow Wergeland, Norwegian poet, prolific playwright, historian, and linguist; he is often described as a leading pioneer in the development of a distinctly Norwegian literary heritage.

1867 – Henry Lawson, Australian poet and short-story writer.

1868 – Kazi Dawa Samdup, Indian writer, linguist, and translator who one of the first translators of important works of Tibetan Buddhism into the English language and who played a significant role in relations between British India and Tibet.

1871 – James Weldon Johnson, African-American author, poet, educator, civil-rights activist, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and NAACP leader.

1875 – Charles Moravia, Haitian poet, playwright, teacher, and diplomat.

1880 – Carl Van Vechten, American music and dance critic, novelist, and nonfiction writer; portrait photographer for some of the best-known writers, musicians, and intellectuals of his day; he was also a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and literary executor for Gertrude Stein.

1900 – Renata Viganò, Italian writer and World War II resistance fighter; much of her writing featured fictionalized accounts of her experiences as a partisan, especially her best known work, the neo-realist novel L’Agnese va a morire.

1911 – James Cameron, British journalist, author, broadcaster, and autobiographer who was a leading figure in post-WWII journalism.

1911 – Thomas Allen Munro Curnow, New Zealand poet and journalist.

1914 – John Hersey, Chinese-born American journalist whose first novel, A Bell for Adano, won the Pulitzer Prize.

1921 – Mi. Pa. Somu, (full name Mi. Pa. Somasundaram), Indian Tamil journalist, poet, writer, and musicologist.

1922 – Lyuba Ognenova-Marinova, pioneering Bulgarian archaeologist, science writer, researcher, and professor; she was the first underwater archaeologist in the country and headed the investigations of the ancient Thracian city of Nesebar.

1922 – Lili Zografou, Greek journalist, novelist, playwright, essayist, and political activist.

1925 – Luce d’Eramo, Italian writer and literary critic who is best known for her autobiographical novel Deviazione, which recounts her experiences in Germany during World War II.

1934 – Futa Helu, Tongan philosopher, historian, and educator.

1935 – Nina Federova Averina, prolific, award-winning Russian and Australian writer, bibliographer, journalist, historian, and poet.

1943 – Chantal Mouffe, Belgian writer, political scientist, philosopher, university teacher, and feminist.

1944 – Zhanna Bichevskaya, award-winning Russian writer, poet, composer, singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

1947 – Linda Chavez, American author, commentator, columnist, and talk-show host.

1949 – Celia Rees, English author of young-adult fiction; her novels include Witch Child, Sorceress, and Pirates!; they span genres including historical fiction, gothic fiction, thrillers, and fantasy.

1952 – Marie-Louise Gay, Canadian children’s book writer and illustrator.

1954 – Kerry Greenwood, Australian author and solicitor who has written many plays and books, notably a string of historical detective novels centered on the character of Phryne Fisher.

1955 – Alan Taylor, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian, author, and professor who specializes in early U.S. history.

1968 – Deanna Raybourn, American author of historical fiction and historical mysteries; her books include the Lady Julia Grey series.

1969 – Yoshiki Nakamura, Japanese manga artist and writer; she is best known for her series Skip Beat!

1971 – Herve Yamguen, Cameroonian writer, playwright, painter, sculptor, and teacher who often writes about art.


Yesterday was a day filled with boring but necessary administrative tasks. You know the kind: the forms to fill out, the appointments to make, the schedules to shift, the approvals to get. The stuff that has to be done, but is are either so dull or so annoying that you resent having to spend time on it. The stuff that feels like a waste of time, even when you know it isn’t. Tuesday was like that.

Months earlier, I’d made an appointment for my son to apply for a new passport. My own had been easy; I could do it by mail. But he was under 16 when he got his last passport, which meant he was required to turn in the forms and show his identification in person. It was harder the last time. When he was under 16, both parents had to show up with him for the appointment. This time, now that he’s legally (mostly) an adult, I could bring him without my husband being present too.

We had to apply at a post office in Bailey’s Crossroads. Alexandria would have been easier, but there were no available appointments here. Still, not a big deal. Bailey’s Crossroads isn’t far. But first we had to have a passport photo taken. I went online ahead of time and realized there was nowhere to have one taken directly on my route to the passport post office. So we would have to detour a bit to go to Walgreens in the other direction. That seemed easy enough; it’s only a few minutes from here. Unfortunately, my son sleeps like a college student — meaning LATE. And it was so hard to get him out of bed that by the time he was ready to leave, we were seriously in danger of being late to our 12:30 appointment.

We drove first to Walgreen’s and ran in to get his photo taken — only to find that the machine was broken. The nearby CVS had not shown up on the list of drugstores that take passport photos, but it was close by, and I thought I’d seen a “Passport Photos Here” sign inside, so we took a chance and tried it. And yes, my memory was correct. We got the photo taken, jumped back in the car, and headed to Bailey’s Crossroads, afraid we would be late for our appointment.

As it turned out, we arrived at 12:25 — later than the 15-minutes-ahead-of-time that was recommended, but still before our 12:30 appointment. The 15 minutes turned out to be for filling out the form, and ours was already filled out, so the rest should have been quick and easy. It wasn’t.

There was a desk marked “Passports” with an employee behind it. When we told him we had a 12:30 appointment, he seemed surprised, but he looked it up, discovered that we really did, and said he wasn’t the Passport Guy, but that he would get him for us. He disappeared into the back room. And we waited. And waited. He did not reappear, and Passport Guy remained in the back. After 45 minutes of sitting there, I waited in line for one of the cashiers, and told him we’d been waiting for the person who could take our passport application. He apologized and said he’d get him, and then he too disappeared into the back, leaving no visible employees (and a line of customers).

We waited some more. And finally, another guy came out from the back, stationed himself at one of the cashier windows, and called out “12:30 passport appointment!” We bypassed the line of waiting people, turned in the form, showed him my son’s student I.D., paid the fees, and finally were finished.

My teenager wanted to stop for takeout lunch. It was 2 pm by now, neither of us had eaten, and (besides sleeping) one of the most remarkable talents of teenage boys is their ability to eat. But first we had another errand. The car had failed an inspection two weeks earlier. The repairs had been made, but now it had to be re-inspected before we could get our window sticker. The inspection place was near a restaurant that is a favorite of my son’s, so I told him we’d go there after the car was taken care of.

We arrived at the inspection station, hoping it wouldn’t be crowded, since it was the middle of the month. Unfortunately, it did appear to be crowded. But when I talked to the mechanic, he showed me where to park the car and said that I was next in line and it would be 20 to 25 minutes. After 45 minutes, I went to find him, and couldn’t. Apparently he’d told me we were next and then went on break without telling anyone else. The other mechanics assured me I was next, and we went to the waiting room to sit it out.

This time, it really didn’t take that long, the car passed, and we got our inspection sticker, so we’re good for another year. And then we went for pizza, feeling that we’d deserved every bite.

June 16 Writer Birthdays

1723 – Adam Smith, Scottish economist, author, and philosopher who is considered the Father of Economics; he is best known for his work The Wealth of Nations.

1880 – Alice Ann Bailey, English writer of books on theosophical and spiritual subjects who was one of the first writers to use the term New Age; she described much of her work as having been telepathically dictated to her by a Master of Wisdom, initially referred to only as “the Tibetan.”

1896 – Murray Leinster, pen name of William Fitzgerald Jenkins, prolific American author of science-fiction and alternate history who wrote novels, short stories, television and film scripts, and radio plays.

1917 – Katharine Graham, American publisher who oversaw The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal, and whose memoir Personal History won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography; she was the first 20th century female publisher of a major American newspaper.

1920 – Isabelle Holland, Swiss-born author of fiction for children and adults.

1924 – Idries Shah (also known as Idris Shah, né Sayed Idries el-Hashimi and by the pen name Arkon Daraul), prolific Indian-born author, publisher, and teacher in the Sufi tradition who wrote on topics including psychology, spirituality, magic, travel, and culture studies; he was considered a leading thinker of the 20th century.

1932 – Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, award-winning Filipino poet, editor, author, critic, dramatist, editor, and teacher who is one of the Philippines’ most respected writers.

1937 – Erich Segal, American author and screenwriter best known for the book Love Story and the movie based on it.

1938 – Joyce Carol Oates, National Book Award-winning American novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and nonfiction author.

1946 – Femi Osofisan (born Babafemi Adeyemi Osofisan), Nigerian author, academic, and literary critic noted for his critique of societal problems and his use of African traditional performances and surrealism in his work; a frequent theme in his novels is the conflict between good and evil.

1963 – Deb Caletti, American author of young-adult fiction who was a National Book Award finalist for her book Honey, Baby, Sweetheart.

1966 – Yulia Latynina, Russian writer, journalist, science-fiction and fantasy novelist, crime author, television presenter, columnist, and radio personality.

Progress Report

A few days ago I drove up to Maryland to meet my friend Lawrence, my collaborator on the book I’m writing, which is meant to be the first of a series of science fiction novels for teens. The book is set in the same universe as a long list of books and stories he has already published.

He lives in Pennsylvania but was coming down to meet with several of us, separately. I arrived around 11 that morning, thinking we’d spend two or three hours discussing the book. It ended up being more than five!

Gradually, the characters are coming into focus for me. We discussed them and the plot in great detail, Lawrence answered some questions I had about the universe, and he tried not to express too much dismay over my slow working speed.

I have about a third of the first draft finished, though some of it is pretty rough. But I have been spending a lot of time lately researching various elements of the universe in Lawrence’s other books, rather than progressing on this manuscript. Of course, that’s important, too. But I do need to pick up the pace on the writing, and get this draft finished.

June 15 Writer Birthdays

1727 – Justine Favart, influential French writer, playwright, opera singer, ballet dancer, and actor who was a bold reformer in theater scripts and costumes.

1763 – Marie-Adélaïde Hadot (née Richard) was an early 19th-century French novelist and playwright; she wrote under the pen name Barthélemy-Hadot.

1763 – Kobayashi Issawas, Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest who is regarded as one of Japan’s four haiku masters (The Great Four); he is better known by his pen name Issa, which means Cup of Tea.

1835 – Adah Isaacs Menken, American poet, essayist, and painter who was also the highest-earning actress of her time.

1844 – Charlotte Despard (née French), Anglo-Irish suffragist, socialist, women’s rights advocate, pacifist, Sinn Féin activist, and novelist.

1856 – Edward Channing, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian who is best known for his six-volume History of the United States.

1884 – Isabelle Sandy, French poet, writer, and radio presenter, best known for her regionalism.

1888 – Ramón López Velarde, Mexican poet, writer, and journalist whose work was a reaction against modernism; he was considered Mexico’s national poet.

1898 – Galina Dyuragina, Russian author, diarist, and child psychologist; she is best known for her diaries, which were published under the pen name Alexandra or Alya Rakhmanova and which describe her childhood, studies, and marriage under the Russian revolution, and her life as a refugee in Vienna.

1902 – Erik Erikson, Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning German-born American psychologist, author, and professor, known for his theory on the psychological development of human beings; he is most famous for coining the phrase, “identity crisis.”

1911 – Wilbert Awdry, English cleric and children’s author who was the creator of Thomas the Tank Engine.

1927 – Ibn-e-Insha (pen name for Sher Muhammad Khan), influential Pakistani Urdu poet, humorist, travel writer, children’s author, and newspaper columnist.

1931 – Ellen Einan, Norwegian author, poet, and illustrator.

1932 – Gene Roberts, Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, editor, author, and professor.

1933 – Sarojini Shankar Vaidya, Indian Marathi writer who specialized in the society and culture of India’s Maharashtra state in the 19th and 20th century; her work includes criticism, personal essays, short stories, biographies, and autobiography.

1937 – Lola Lemire Tostevin, Canadian writer, poet, translator, literary critic, novelist, and linguist who is one of Canada’s leading feminist writers and a key figure in Canadian literary analysis; she writes mostly in English, but has also published work in her native French.

1939 – José Gil, Mozambique-born Portuguese author, essayist, philosopher, and professor best known for his book Portugal, Today: Fear of Existing (Portugal, Hoje: O Medo de Existir, Lisboa: Relógio d’Água), which describes what is to be Portuguese and how Portuguese people perceive themselves, other people, and the world. In 2004 he was named one of the 25 Great Thinkers of the contemporary world.

1939 – Brian Jacques, English author and short-story writer, best known for his “Redwall” series of children’s fiction; his last name is pronounced “Jakes.”

1939 – Gadul Singh Lama (popularly known as Sanu Lama), award-winning Indian novelist, short-story writer, travel writer, poet, and translator of Nepali literature.

1941 – Gabriel Careaga Medina, Mexican writer, essayist, sociologist, and professor whose fields of interest were politics and society in Mexico.

1945 – Miriam Defensor Santiago, Filipina journalist, politician, and lawyer.

1945 – Naseer Turabi, Pakistani poet, lyricist, columnist, and educator.

1947 – Adrian Guelke, South African political scientist, author, and professor who specializes in the comparative study of ethnic conflict, particularly the cases of Northern Ireland, his native South Africa, and Kashmir. He currently teaches in Belfast, where he survived an assassination attempt in 1991 when political enemies in the South African government tried to have him killed by falsely reporting him to be an IRA member; he was saved when the gun jammed.

1953 – Ana Castillo, American Chicana novelist, poet, editor, short-story writer, essayist, playwright, and translator who is considered one of the leading voices of the Chicana experience; she is known for her experimental style and passionate sociopolitical commentary.

1956 – Taiwo Odukoya, Nigerian pastor and book author.

1964 – Bunjuro Nakayama, Japanese novelist and manga author.