May 19 Writer Birthdays

1771 – Rahel Antonie Friederike Varnhagen, German author, essayist, and letter writer who hosted one of the most prominent salons in Europe during the late 18th and early 19th centuries; in addition to her own writings, she is the subject of a celebrated biography, Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess, written by Hannah Arendt, who cherished Varnhagen as her “closest friend, though she ha[d] been dead for some hundred years”. The asteroid 100029 Varnhagen is named in her honor.

1812 – Lady Charlotte Guest, Welsh writer, linguist, translator, art collector, and business woman who is known as the first publisher in modern print format of The Mabinogion, which is the earliest prose literature of Britain; she was a leading figure in the study of literature and the wider Welsh Renaissance of the 19th century, and was renowned as an international industrialist, pioneering liberal educator, philanthropist and society hostess.

1886 – Bernadotte Everly Schmitt, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian and professor of European history.

1894 – Gudipati Venkata Chalam (popularly known as Chalam), Indian writer, novelist, and philosopher who was one of the most influential personalities in modern Telugu literature; most of his writings centered on women, especially the kind of difficulties women face—physical as well as psychological—in society.

1903 – Ernest Samuels, Pulitzer Prize-winning American biographer and lawyer.

1909 – T. Harry Williams, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian and Huey P. Long biographer.

1932 – Elena Poniatowska, Polish-Mexican novelist and journalist who specializes in social and political issues focused on women and the poor.

1930 – Lorraine Vivian Hansberry, African-American playwright best known for Raisin in the Sun.

1933 – Tom Feelings, American children’s author and illustrator, cartoonist, teacher, and activist who focused on the African-American experience in his work; his most famous book is The Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo.

1934 – Ruskin Bond, award-winning Indian author of British descent who writes for both children and adults.

1934 – Jim Lehrer, American journalist and novelist best known as long-time host of the PBS News Hour.

1941 – Nora Ephron, acclaimed American screenwriter, playwright, novelist, memoirist, journalist, columnist, essayist, and filmmaker; as a screenwriter and playwright, she was nominated for three Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, and a Tony Award; some of her most famous scripts were for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle; her book Heartburn was based on her marriage to Washington Post Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein; she also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation.

1966 – Jodi Picoult, bestselling award-winning American author, some of whose works have been made into films or TV movies; she also wrote for the DC Comics Wonder Woman series. Her books often center on families and relationships, but also take inspiration from current events.

1973 – Alice Roberts, British author, physician, biologist, paleontologist, physical anthropologist, archaeologist, professor, and television presenter.

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