Today is my son’s birthday; he turns 20 today. It would be a bit of a stretch, but you could call him a published author. When he was 6, he entered a contest for Kids’ Letters to President Obama. He was one of the winners, and had his letter appear in the book of that name. If you ever come across the book, look for his missive on page 34. He’s the first-grader who offered to teach the President of the United States and leader of the free world how to bowl.
And now, I’ll move on to the list of writers who share his birthday.
January 16 Writer Birthdays
1634 – Dorothe Engelbretsdatter, Norwegian author, poet, hymn writer, and religious writer who was the first woman in Norway to publish books under her own name; when her hymns and poems proved to be wildly popular, she had to defend herself against allegations that a man must have written them. She became an hero to later Scandinavian women writers and was hailed as the ”Muse on the Parnassus.”
1675 – Louis de Rouvroy (Duke of Saint-Simon), French writer, memoirist, diplomat, and courtier whose enormous memoirs are a classic of French literature, giving the fullest and most lively account of the court at Versailles of Louis XIV and the Régence at the start of Louis XV’s reign.
1749 – Vittorio Alfieri, Italian Count who was a dramatist and poet; considered the founder of Italian tragedy.
1855 – Jenny Julia Eleanor Marx (sometimes called Eleanor Aveling, and known to her family as Tussy), English writer, social activist, and literary translator who was the daughter of political theorist Karl Marx.
1874 – Robert W. Service, British-Canadian poet known as the “Bard of the Yukon.”
1882 – Margaret Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. novelist, nonfiction author, children’s author, and short-story writer who often wrote about the secondary status of women and the role of religion (but when her stories appeared in Harper’s Magazine, she signed them, “An Elderly Spinster”). Her work is of interest in part for its exploration of feminist issues in a domestic context and set against an unsympathetic judicial system. Two of her novels draw on her observations as a missionary in India, exploring the world of polygamy and the pressure on women to produce male heirs. Writer Graham Greene wrote: “She has an admirable gift for very simple direct narrative…. We are always aware of a writer of fine moral discrimination and a passionate awareness of individual suffering.”
1885 – Zhou Zuoren, Chinese writer, essayist, translator, and Esperantist who advocated for literary reform, calling for a humanist literature in which “any custom or rule that goes against human instincts and nature should be rejected or rectified”; as examples, he cited children sacrificing themselves for their parents and wives being buried alive with their dead husbands. His older brother was writer Lu Xun, a leading figure in modern Chinese literature.
1888 – Osip Brik, Russian avant garde writer, screenwriter, poet, literary critic, literary historian, and lawyer; he was one of the most important members of the Russian formalist school, but he also identified himself as a Futurist.
1896 – Ruth Rose, U.S. screenwriter who worked on several well-known films in the 1930s and 1940s, most famously the original classic King Kong.
1900 – Sukumar Sen, Indian Bengali linguist, author, and literary historian of Bengali literature; he was also well versed in Pali, Prakrit, and Sanskrit.
1901 – Laura Riding, U.S. poet, critic, novelist, and essayist who lived with poet Robert Graves.
1905 – Anna Sakse, award-winning Latvian writer, editor, and translator who also wrote under the names Austra Seja, Smins, Trine Grecina, and Zane Mežaduja.
1913 – Hizgil Davidovich Avshalumov, award-winning Russian Soviet novelist, historical novelist, poet, short-story writer, children’s writer, and playwright who wrote in Russian and in languages of the Juhuri (Caucasus Jews).
1917 – Gilda Galán, popular Puerto Rican actress, poet, comedian, writer, composer, and scriptwriter.
1918 – Nel Benschop (full name Nelly Anna Benschop), bestselling Dutch poet and teacher who said of her own work, “I write meditations in rhyme.”
1918 – Stirling Silliphant, U.S. screenwriter who is best remembered for his Oscar-winning screenplay for In the Heat of the Night, and for creating television series including Perry Mason and Route 66 and blockbuster disaster movies The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure.
1920 – Wei Wei (originally known as Hong Jie), Chinese poet, prose writer, literary reporter, editor, and journalist whose works are noted for their themes of patriotism, communism, and nationalism.
1923 – Christine Brooke-Rose, British writer, poet, novelist, translator, university teacher, journalist, and literary critic who is known primarily for her later experimental novels.
1923 – Anthony Hecht, U.S. poet whose work often focused on World War II and the Holocaust.
1924 – Aleksandar Tišma, Serbian novelist, screenwriter, poet, translator, journalist, short-story writer, and literary editor whose works were concerned with themes of humanity’s search for freedom, and the suffering, violence, horror, and guilt people encounter along the way.
1928 – William Joseph Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. novelist and journalist who often wrote about a fictional Irish-American family.
1930 – Ustad Bukhari (born Syed Ahmed Shah Bukhari), prominent and progressive Pakistani poet who wrote in the Sindhi language.
1930 – Tekkatho Phone Naing (pen name of Khin Maung Tint), Burmese writer and university chancellor who was primarily known for his lovelorn novels, most of them about a man and a woman of different social station and wealth whose love affair ends in separation and sorrow; his books are considered to represent some of the best popular Burmese story writing in the postwar era.
1932 – Dian Fossey, groundbreaking U.S. zoologist who studied and wrote about gorillas in Rwanda.
1933 – Susan Sontag, controversial U.S. writer, essayist, novelist, filmmaker, activist, social critic, and literary icon who wrote extensively about photography, culture and media, war, AIDS, human rights, and leftist ideology; she has been described as “one of the most influential critics of her generation.”
1935 – Inger Christensen, Danish poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, children’s writer, and editor who is considered the foremost Danish poetic experimentalist of her generation.
1941 – Hyun Ki Young, South Korean author who specializes in the modern history of Jeju island; he was arrested and tortured for three days for writing about the Jeju Massacre of 1948, in which islanders were killed en masse by the Korean police in an attempt to exterminate communist sympathizers.
1942 – Sigrid Combüchen, Swedish novelist, writer, biographer, journalist, literary critic, and essayist.
1946 – Peter Fatomilola, prolific Nigerian playwright, actor, and poet.
1947 – Kate McMullan, prolific U.S. author of children’s picture books, nonfiction books, and young-adult books who often collaborates with her husband, illustrator Jim McMullan. She has also written joke books under the name Katy Hall, and the “Dragon Slayers’ Academy” series under the name K.H. McMullan.
1947 – Magdalen Nabb, British author, children’s writer, journalist, and potter who is best known for her Marshal Guarnaccia detective novels, set in her adopted hometown of Florence, Italy.
1948 – Ruth Reichl, U.S. food writer, editor, memoirist, and TV food-show producer.
1951 – Bibhu Padhi, Indian poet, writer, author, literary critic, and translator who writes in both English and Oriya.
1952 – Julie Anne Peters, award-winning U.S. author of young-adult fiction; many of her books feature LGBT characters .
1955 – Mary Karr, U.S. poet, essayist, and bestselling memoirist.
1957 – Stella Tillyard, English novelist, nonfiction author, and historian best known for her popular award-winning work, Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832, which was made into a BBC mini-series.
1958 – Anatoli Boukreev, Kazakhstani writer, mountaineer, and explorer who climbed 10 of the 14 “eight-thousander” peaks—those above 8,000 meters (26,247 feet)—without supplemental oxygen, including K2 and Everest; he became even more widely known for saving the lives of climbers during a 1996 Mount Everest disaster. His memoir, Above the Clouds: The Diaries of a High-Altitude Mountaineer, was published posthumously after he was killed on Annapurna in Nepal in a Christmas Day 1997 avalanche.
1958 – Marla Frazee, two-time Caldecott Honor-winning U.S. children’s book author and illustrator.
1958 – Ayşenur İslam (born Ayşenur Külahlıoğlu), Turkish writer, professor, and government cabinet minister who wrote ten books an 40 other publications.
1959 – Irina Bjørnø, Russian writer, poet, novelist, professor, and physicist who founded a health clinic and a publishing company.
1964 – Viviane Mosé, Brazilian writer, poet, philosopher, and psychologist.
1966 – Alek Popov, Bulgarian novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and scriptwriter whose best known work is his first novel, Mission London, which was made into a film.
1968 – Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning U.S. author of children’s and young-adult books.
1970 – Garth Ennis, award-winning Northern Irish comic book writer.