June 20 Writer Birthdays

1743 – Anna Laetitia Barbauld, British poet, essayist, children’s book writer, and abolitionist; her work “Eighteen Hundred and Eleven,” a virulent attack in heroic couplets on the folly of continuing the war against France, predicted Britain’s decline and the United States’ eventual emergence as a superpower, and was widely criticized as unpatriotic; the outcry caused her to retreat from the public and to stop writing for publication.

1786 – Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, French poet, novelist, actor, and opera singer who is considered one of the founders of French romantic poetry; her melancholy poems are admired for their grace and profound emotion, and her novella Sarah was considered an important contribution to the genre of slave stories in France; she was friends with the novelist Honoré de Balzac, who said she was the inspiration for the title character of La Cousine Bette.

1858 – Charles Chestnutt, African-American author best known for his works exploring racial identity in the South.

1897 – Charlemae Hill Rollins, American librarian, educator, and biographer who worked to end the stereotyped portrayal of blacks in children’s literature.

1905 – Lillian Hellman, American playwright and screenwriter best known for The Children’s Hour and The Little Foxes, as well as for her Communist sympathies and political activism.

1910 – Josephine Johnson, American novelist, poet, short-story writer, and essayist who was the youngest Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner ever, when she won at age 24 for her first novel, Now in November.

1911 – Sufia Kamal, Bangladeshi writer, poet, and political activist who took part in the Bengali nationalist movement of the 1950s and was the first woman to be given a state funeral in Bangladesh.

1912 – Anthony Buckeridge, English author, playwright, and teacher, best known for his children’s books.

1914 – Zelda Schneurson Mishkovsky, award-winning Ukrainian-born Israeli poet whose work speaks of death and darkness but also of renewal and transcendence, and also includes imagery from Jewish mysticism and other traditions.

1917 – Helena Rasiowa, Polish mathematician and author who worked in the foundations of mathematics and algebraic logic.

1920 – Amos Tutuolal, Nigerian novelist best known for The Palm Wine Drinkard and for his original, highly imaginative and energetic style that uses English as it is spoken in West Africa.

1927 – Simin Behbahani, prominent Iranian poet, lyricist, and activist; she was known as the Lioness of Iran.

1936 – Enn Vetemaa, Estonian novelist, playwright, lyricist, and poet.

1950 – Daisy Zamora, Nicaraguan writer and poet who is one of the key figures in contemporary Latin American poetry; her work is known for its uncompromising voice and wide-ranging subject matter that dwells on the details of daily life while encompassing human rights, politics, revolution, feminist issues, art, history and culture.

1951 – Paul Muldoon, Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish poet, professor, children’s book author, critic, and librettist whose poetry is known for his difficult, allusive style, casual use of obscure or archaic words, and understated wit; he has been called “the most significant English-language poet born since the second world war,” and “a talent off the map.”

1952 – Vikram Seth, award-winning Indian novelist, poet, and children’s writer.

1953 – Robert Crais, American author of detective fiction and television screenplays who has been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.

1955 – E. Lynn Harris, American author and memoirist best known for his novels featuring closeted gay African-American men.

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