What a difference a few decades make!

When I was a child I was told I was good at science and asked if I wanted to be a nurse. I responded that if I decided I wanted to take care of sick people, I would rather be a doctor. When my own son was little (he’s 18 now) I overheard someone asking him if he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up. He replied, “I can’t be a doctor. Only girls can be doctors!”

I hadn’t realized until then that every doctor he’d met at that point was a woman. Of course I told him he could be anything he wanted.

When the current state of the world gets too depressing, I try to remember the progress that we have made, thanks to recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others like her who fought for a world in which children could grow up to be whatever they wanted, regardless of sex. We are not there yet, but because of their work, we are a lot closer than we were.

September 26 Writer Birthdays

1820 – Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Indian Bengali writer, philosopher, academic educator, translator, printer, publisher, entrepreneur, reformer, and philanthropist; his efforts to modernize Bengali prose resulted in a more rational and simplified Bengali alphabet.

1872 – Max Ehrmann, American poet most known for his 1927 work “Desiderata.”

1888 – T.S. Eliot, Nobel Prize-winning American-born British poet whose best known works are The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land; the Broadway musical Cats was based on his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

1906 – Zhang Tianyi, left-wing Chinese short-story writer, novelist, and children’s book author, known for his satiric wit.

1934 – Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, Japanese-American author, journalist, and sociologist, best known for Farewell to Manzanar, an autobiographical book written with her husband James D. Houston; the book details her experiences during her family’s internment, beginning when she was seven years old, at Manzanar, a camp where innocent Japanese-Americans were sent against their will during World War II.

1938 – Raoul Cauvin, Belgian comic strip author, best known for a series, in French, about the American Civil War.

1949 – Jane Smiley, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author of bestselling novels.

1962 – Mark Haddon, English novelist, poet, and children’s book author, best known for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Photo Friday: Reading Raccoon

Recently I posted about our new motion-activated camera that takes photos of wildlife in our backyard. We’ve been getting foxes and raccoons every night, and sometimes during the day as well. Last week’s Photo Friday featured a fox exploring the yard. The raccoons demanded equal time, so this week’s photo shows a raccoon that stopped by between 1:30 and 2:00 am a few night ago to investigate our Bird Library. Perhaps it planned to check out a book. A few minutes later, the camera caught Rocky and another raccoon walking together back into the trees.

The raccoon that climbed up to our library-themed bird feeder showed little interest in the bird seed that filled the librarian’s desk. Rocky probably smelled the residue of suet on the suet cage hanging on the side of the library. Disappointingly for the racoon, the cage was empty that night.

September 25 Writer Birthdays

1860 – Charles Edward Russell, Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, editor, columnist, and activist.

1881 – Lu Xun (魯迅), pen name for Zhou Shuren, leading Chinese poet, novelist, editor, literary critic, translator, and short-story writer.

1897 – William Faulkner, American writer of Southern literature, Nobel Laureate, and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize “for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel.” His best known novel is The Sound and the Fury; it’s one of his many books set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi.

1923 – Robert Laxalt, Basque-American writer whose novels focused on the Basque experience in Nevada and the American West.

1929 – Barbara Walters, American broadcast journalist and author.

1930 – Shel Silverstein, American poet, lyricist, playwright, and bestselling author and illustrator of children’s books; he wrote the song “A Boy Named Sue,” which Johnny Cash made a hit, as well as several classic books for children, including The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends.

1935 – Maj Sjöwall, Swedish author and translator, best known for her crime fiction.

1947 – Jim Murphy, Newbery Honor-winning American author of children’s books about history.

1952 – Gloria Jean Watkins (better known by her pen name, Bell Hooks), American author, feminist, and social activist.

1955 – Luanne Rice, bestselling American author whose fiction tends to deal with nature, the sea, love, and family relationships.

1956 – Miroslav Volf, Croatian theologian, author, and professor.

1960 – Kristin Hannah, bestselling American novelist.

1960 – Andrzej Stasiuk, Polish novelist, essayist, travel writer, and critic.

1963 – Andrea Davis Pinkney, American editor and children’s book author who won the Coretta Scott King award; her books aim to cultivate pride in African-American culture and achievements.

1964 – Ruth Ohi, Canadian author and illustrator of children’s picture books.

1964- Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Spanish author who has written for adults and teens; he is considered one of Spain’s most successful contemporary novelists.

Black and White

I was shocked by something I read on a liberal-leaning Facebook page, something that made me wonder why the person who posted it is on that site in the first place. First, an African-American man posted to ask what Black Americans did to make White Americans hate them so much. Here is the answer one person gave:

“My honest thoughts are: Refusal to assimilate. Although we all came from different parts of the world, for the most part European Americans have same culture and habits. Asian folks, their foods are very different, expectations to work and succeed higher, but overall similar. However Black Americans still speak in a very tribal way, and that is not a slur. In homes in Africa everyone speaks at same time and loudest person who can outlast others gets the point. Expectations for success are lower. I have never heard a white Mother on TV saying her son didn’t deserve jail for stealing clothes/shoes “because how else is he supposed to get them? ” I have heard that on TV in Detroit. The baby Daddy situation that exist and creates a Matriarchal society, challenges our beliefs about families. Being fair Baby Daddies come in all races, but the matriarchal society is something that I personally believe is challenging to some white men. The war on women’s rights to manage their own bodies is another example. Basically many blacks are different and proud of it. They wear kinte cloth from a country they’ve never been too, call each other King and Queen …etc. If you ever see a white person in cloth from their heritage land, it’s a holiday or they are going to an event….I.e. dance recital at the Greek Center, not wearing those clothes to the grocery store. So you can see what I mean by “proud of it”. European Americans are instead taught from birth that living in America, is great and we are lucky. Assimilation happened years ago. Consider that many stopped speaking their native tongue and insisted their children didn’t learn them – as they wanted them to be Americans above all.”

My initial response was knee-jerk and rather angry, so I edited it on Facebook to tone it down and try to educate rather than criticize. This was off-the-cuff, so it’s not as well organized as it would be if I were writing this as an essay. Here is what I responded:

“Thank you for your honesty, but I am confused by some of what you said. They speak in a tribal way? What does that mean? Their ancestors spoke their own languages in Africa, languages they were forced to give up. Now most speak English. How is that tribal? European countries do not all have the same cultural habits, any more than African countries do. I have heard many whites say they don’t deserve to be punished for a crime; just because you have never heard it does not mean it does not happen. In fact, most criminals of all races share that view. I don’t know if speaking loudly at home is the norm in Africa, as you say, but my southern European culture is similar to that; not all European cultures are alike. And why does anyone else care how people speak to each other in their own homes anyway? Also, why shouldn’t people wear clothing that expresses their heritage in public, whatever their race? What makes a white background the default that everyone should conform to? I am white, too, but your talk about assimilation suggests that European culture is somehow the correct one, and everyone else should be expected to adopt it. Most African-Americans have ancestors who were in this country long before my ancestors; why should my culture take precedence over theirs? And don’t get me started on the comment about “baby daddies.” That is a racist stereotype. People who really believe that should take the time to read the facts about racism in America and stop blaming the victims of it.”

Was I out of line? Does anyone else find her comments offensive? It’s bothering me that I don’t see more rebuttals to her statement.

September 24 Writer Birthdays

1717 – Horace Walpole, English author, art historian, and politician who is now best known for his Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto and for and his 8-volume Letters, which are of significant social and political interest.

1856 – Pratap Narayan Mishra, Indian Hindi essayist who is famous for exhorting all Indians to chant and believe in “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan.”

1896 – F. Scott Fitzgerald, influential American author of Jazz Age novels, essays, screenplays, and short stories who was a member of the Lost Generation of writers and is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

1900 – Alexander Davidovich Meiselman, Russian writer, poet, essayist, translator, and orientalist who specialized in Asian theater studies.

1910 – Cao Yu, Chinese playwright and screenwriter who is considered China’s most important playwright of the 20th century.

1912 – Robert Lewis Taylor, Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, biographer, and journalist.

1934 – John Brunner, Hugo Award-winning British science-fiction author.

1934 – Yasutaka Tsutsui, Japanese novelist, science-fiction author, screenwriter, playwright, and actor.

1940 – Rogelio Lunasco Ordoñez (also known as Ka Roger), award-winning Filipino fiction writer, poet, activist, journalist, and educator.

1941 – Gaby Vallejo Canedo, Bolivian writer, novelist, and children’s author.

1943 – Dina Porat, Argentine-born Israeli writer, historian, and professor.

1945 – Larisa Alexeyevna Rubalskaya, Russian writer, poet, lyricist, and translator,

1950 – John Kessel, American literary critic, playwright, and author of science-fiction and fantasy novels and short stories.

1962 – Kristín Ómarsdóttir, Icelandic author, poet, playwright, and visual artist.

1969 – Zainab Salbi, Iraqi book author, activist for women’s rights, television host, and founder of Women for Women International.

1985 – Eleanor Catton, Man Booker Prize-winning New Zealand novelist and screenwriter.

September 23 Writer Birthdays

480 BC – Euripides, Greek playwright who was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens; his theatrical innovations that have profoundly influenced drama down to modern times include representation of traditional, mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

1863 – Mary Church Terrell, writer, journalist, educator, politician, suffragist, and civil-rights activist who was one of the first African-American women to earn a college degree and who was the first African-American woman in the United States to serve on the school board of a major city (Washington, D.C.); As a writer, she sometimes used the pen name Euphemia Kirk.

1865 – Emmuska Orczy (Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála ‘Emmuska’ Orczy de Orci), Hungarian-born British novelist, artist, and playwright who is best known for her series of novels featuring The Scarlet Pimpernel.

1901 – Jaroslav Seifert, Nobel Prize-winning Czech writer, poet, and journalist known for his innovative poetry; he was a key figure of the Czechoslovakian artistic avant-garde.

1907 – Anne Desclos, French journalist, translator, editor, and controversial novelist who wrote under the pseudonyms Dominique Aury and Pauline Réage; her explicit sadomasochistic novel, Histoire d’O (Story of O) was an enormous commercial success.

1908 – Ramdhari Singh (known by his pen name Dinkar), Indian Hindi poet, writer, essayist, politician, translator, journalist, literary critic, and academic who is considered one of the most important modern Hindi poets.

1919 – Madhav Prasad Ghimire, Nepali poet and scholar who was honored as the Rashtrakavi (National Poet) of Nepal.

1930 – Çelik Gülersoy, Turkish writer, art historian, poet, lawyer, and historical preservationist who published books about historic sites in Istanbul.

1949 – Floella Benjamin, Trinidan-born British author, memoirist, children’s writer, politician, businesswoman, university chancellor, actress, television presenter, and baroness.

1949 – Jerry B. Jenkins, American author of biographies, young-adult novels, romances, mysteries, science fiction, religious writing, and self-help books; he is best known as co-author, with Tim LaHaye, of the “Left Behind” series.

1950 – Bruce Brooks, American author of young-adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction.

1956 – Peter David, prolific American author of comic books, screenplays, and science-fiction novels, especially known for his work in the Star Trek universe; he jokingly describes his occupation as “Writer of Stuff.”

1957 – Zsófia Bán, Brazilian writer, literary historian, essayist, and art and literature critic.

1959 – Frank Cottrell Boyce, British screenwriter and novelist, best known for his children’s fiction.

1959 – Jennie Shortridge, bestselling American novelist, magazine writer, and musician.

1967 – Justine Larbalestier, Australian writer of young adult fiction, including her best known novel, Liar.

1972 – Ana Marie Cox, American journalist, political blogger, and novelist

1976 – Wesley Chu, bestselling Taiwan-born American science-fiction author.

1976 – Shion Miura, award-winning Japanese novelist and nonfiction writer; much of her work has been adapted for films and television.

1982 – Joshua Foer, award-winning American journalist and science writer, best known for his book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.

1982 – Han Han, Chinese screenwriter, novelist, blogger, musician, music producer, film director, and race car driver.

We Voted!

I voted today, and I brought along my 18-year-old, too, so he could vote in his first real election. (He did vote in the Democratic primary last spring.)

Jon Morgan was supposed to have been on a college campus this fall, so he’d applied for an absentee ballot. But the university sent students home for a month, so he was able to turn in his blank absentee ballot and vote in person instead.

Early voting in Virginia is easy. You go to the registrar (or other polling place; look up the locations and schedule in your locality) and vote just like you would on Election Day. You don’t need to declare a reason to vote early anymore; anyone who is registered to vote is eligible, and your vote counts just as it would if you’d voted in November.

September 22 Writer Birthdays

1837 – Lady Anne Blunt (full name, Anne Isabella Noel Blunt, 15th Baroness Wentworth, née King-Noel), English-born writer, explorer, artist, and vastly influential horse breeder who was the was the daughter of William King, 1st Earl of Lovelace, and Augusta Ada Byron, the world’s first computer programmer, the granddaughter of the poet Lord Byron, and the wife of the poet Wilfrid Blunt; she travelled extensively in Arabia and the Middle East, buying Arabian horses, and wrote several books about her travels. She was also a gifted violinist who owned a violin made by Stradivarius.

1847 – Alice Meynell, English writer, editor, critic, and suffragist who is remembered chiefly for her poetry.

1872 – Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, American novelist, poet, and children’s writer who was a frequent contributor to The Ladies’ Home Journal.

1907 – Maurice Blanchot, French writer, philosopher, journalist, and literary theorist whose work had a strong influence on post-structuralist philosophy.

1908 – Esphyr Slobodkina, Russian-born American children’s author and illustrator, best known for her classic picture book Caps For Sale.

1910 – György Faludy, Hungarian poet, writer, and translator.

1912 – Hàn Mặc Tử (pen name for Francis Nguyễn Trọng Trí), Vietnamese poet who was the most celebrated Vietnamese Catholic literary figure during the colonial era.

1914 – Alys Faiz, London-born Pakistani poet, writer, journalist, human rights activist, social worker, and teacher.

1922 – Hussein-Ali Montazer, prolific Iranian author, Shia Islamic theologian, democracy advocate, women’s rights activist, politician, philosopher, and human rights proponent; he was one of the leaders of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and was widely known as the most knowledgeable senior Islamic scholar in Iran

1924 – Rosamunde Pilcher, bestselling, award-winning British author of romance novels, mainstream fiction, and short stories; she also published under the pen name Jane Fraser.

1926 – Fereydoon Moshiri, prominent Persian poet who wrote poems in both modern and classic styles.

1931 – Ashokamitran (real name Jagadisa Thyagarajan), award-winning Tamil Indian novelist, playwright, and literary critic who is considered one of the finest writers in contemporary Tamil literature, with his novels and short stories characterized by subtle satire and an engrossing portrayal of people who thrive in life despite hardships.

1931 – Fay Weldon, award-winning English author, essayist, and playwright.

1947 – Jo Beverley, English-Canadian writer of contemporary and historical romance novels, known for painstaking research and use of historical detail.

1954 – Rene O. Villanueva, Filipino playwright, screenwriter, and children’s author whose works “were typified by a sense of an authentic recognition of the Filipino child’s realities, unclouded by sentimentalism” and distinguished by his ear for the language as it was spoken by ordinary people.

1971 – Elizabeth Bear, multiple Hugo Award-winning American author of speculative fiction who has published novels, short stories, and poetry.

1979 – Roberto Saviano, Italian screenwriter, essayist, and journalist who uses literature and investigative reporting to explore the topic of organized crime.

September 20 Writer Birthdays

1878 – Upton Sinclair, Pulitzer Prize-winning muckraking novelist, nonfiction author, politician, and journalist.

1884 – William Maxwell Evarts Perkins (better known as Maxwell Perkins), well-known book editor whose authors included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe.

1899 – Leo Strauss, German-born Jewish-American political philosopher and professor.

1922 – Edie Kerouac-Parker, American memoirist who wrote about being married to author Jack Kerouac and who was the basis for several fictional characters in his books.

1928 – Donald Hall, poet, playwright, essayist, broadcaster, professor, and children’s book writer who was U.S. Poet Laureate.

1928 – Carlos Alberto de Lacerda, Mozambique-born poet, artist, professor, and broadcaster who lived and worked in Portugal, the U.K., and the U.S.

1947 – Jude Deveraux, American author of bestselling historical and contemporary romance novels.

1948 – George R.R. Martin, wildly popular American fantasy novelist, Emmy-winning screenwriter, and television producer, best known for his “Song of Ice & Fire” books and the Game of Thrones HBO series based on them.

1951 – A.A. Attanasio, American science fiction and fantasy author.

1954 – Judith Thompson, award-winning Canadian playwright whose plays confront the horror and violence of modern society.

1963 – Joseph Victor O’Connor, Irish novelist, short-story writer, and journalist; his sister is singer Sinead O’Connor, and his wife is novelist and screenwriter Anne-Marie Casey.

1977 – Chris Mooney, bestselling American author and journalist who writes about the relationship between science and politics and currently writes for the Washington Post; he is best known for his bestselling book, The Republican War on Science. (Not to be confused with Chris Mooney, the bestselling author of thrillers.)