Woo hoo! I booked a reservation to see the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Tickets for this art gallery must be booked in advance, and only a limited number are available. The ticket office says reservations are available online 90 days ahead of time. I have been checking every day for months. They were not available 90 days ahead of when I will be there in June. In fact, openings for that week (and the rest of the month) just appeared on the site yesterday, with less than four weeks to spare before my trip. But I saw that tickets had opened today for June, pounced, and made my reservation!

This is one of the world’s most revered art museums, housed inside the former Villa Borghese Pinciana and featuring paintings and sculptures by Raphael, Bernini, Caravaggio, and more. I did not visit there the last time I was in Rome, and it was on my must-see list for this visit. So I am psyched.

An 18th-century frescoed ceiling in the entry hall of the Borghese Gallery, by artist Mariano Rossi.

May 16 Writer Birthdays

1718 – Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Italian writer, essayist, mathematician, theologian, philosopher, philanthropist, and humanitarian who was the first woman to write a mathematics handbook and the first woman appointed as a mathematics professor at a university. She wrote the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus, and also wrote extensively on the marriage between intellectual pursuit and mystical contemplation. The composer Maria Teresa Agnesi Pinottini was her sister.

1788 – Friedrich Rückert, German poet, writer, translator, and professor of Oriental languages.

1803 – Constantina Carolina Amalia “Amelie” von Strussenfelt, Swedish writer, poet, novelist, educator, painter, and women’s rights activist whose sister was the writer Ulrika von Strussenfelt.

1819 – Johann Voldemar Jannsen, Estonian journalist and poet who wrote the words of the patriotic song “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm” (“My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy”), which later became the national anthem of Estonia; As the leader of the choral society that organized the first nationwide Song Festival in Tartu in 1869, he played a crucial role in the Estonian National Awakening. His daughter was the poet Lydia Koidula.

1827 – Hedevig Rosing, Danish-born Norwegian author, educator, school founder, and suffragist who specialized in teaching deaf and mute students; she was the first woman to teach in Copenhagen’s public schools.

1884 – Eric P. Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning U.S. children’s author, journalist, and academic.

1885 – Aage Berntsen, Danish poet, writer, painter, doctor, and Olympic fencer.

1886 – Douglas Southall Freeman, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. historian, author, newspaper editor, radio commentator, and biographer of Robert E. Lee and George Washington.

1887 – Jakob van Hoddis (pen name of Hans Davidsohn; van Hoddis is an anagram of his surname), influential German Jewish poet whose most famous poem, “Weltende” (“End of the World”), is considered the preliminary Expressionist poem which inspired other poets to write in a similarly grotesque style; he is also seen as perhaps the only German predecessor of Surrealism (which did not exist as a movement in Germany). When the Nazis came into power, mental illness prevented him from being accepted as an immigrant when the rest of his family fled Germany; in 1942, he was transported to the Sobibór extermination camp with about 500 other patients and staff of the sanitorium where he was living. None survived.

1888 – Berthe-Sultana Bénichou-Aboulker, Algerian poet and playwright who wrote in French; her play La Kahena, reine berbière was the first work published by a Jewish woman in Algeria.

1890 – Gertrude Chandler Warner, U.S. author of children’s books; best known as the first author of the beloved Boxcar Children series. The books were criticized for encouraging child rebellion by depicting children with little parental supervision; her response was that children liked them for that very reason.

1893 – Ronald de Carvalho, Brazilian poet, writer, politician, and diplomat.

1898 – Desanka Maksimovic, Serbian poet, writer, professor, children’s author, and translator.

1901 – Lars Kornelius Edvard Berg, Norwegian novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and teacher who was influenced by ideas from Freud’s writings on psychoanalysis; his work was controversial for its candid treatment of sexual issues.

1905 – H.E. Bates, English novelist, journalist, essayist, and short-story writer.

1906 – Arturo Uslar Pietri, Venezuelan writer, poet, playwright, journalist, biographer, historian, literary critic, lawyer, politician, and diplomat.

1906 – Margret Rey, German and U.S. co-author and illustrator (with her husband H.A. Rey) of the Curious George children’s books.

1910 – Olga Berggolts, Russian poet and radio broadcaster

1910 – Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, U.S. educator, Transcendentalist writer, and translator who opened the first English-language kindergarten in the U.S.

1912 – Studs Terkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author, historian, and broadcaster who is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans.

1917 – Juan Rulfo (full name Juan Nepomuceno Carlos Pérez Rulfo Vizcaíno), Mexican novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and photographer, who is considered one of Latin America’s most esteemed novelists and short-story writers; he strongly influenced author Gabriel García Márquez.

1922 – Bi Pu (Zhou Sunshan), Chinese novelist, essayist, translator, newspaper editor, short-story writer, and broadcaster.

1929 – Adrienne Rich, National Book Award-winning U.S. poet, essayist, and feminist who has been called “one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century.”

1933 – Saifuddin Bohra, Pakistani author and political activist.

1934 – Robert Dallek, U.S. professor, historian, and biographer who specializes in American presidents.

1934 – Yusufali Kechery, Indian poet, film lyricist, film producer, and director who is considered one of the modern era’s leading writers of Malayalam poetry.

1934 – Leela Nambudiripad (pen name Sumangala), popular Indian writer and children’s author who writes in Malayalam.

1936 – Shirley Bear, Canadian Tobique First Nation author, artist, poet, herbalist, and activist for the rights of indigenous women; she is an original member of the Wabanaki language group of New Brunswick.

1938 – Monique Laederach, award-winning Swiss writer, poet, novelist, playwright, translator, and literary critic.

1944 – Ahmet Emin Atasoy, Bulgarian-born Turkish poet, author, teacher, and interpreter.

1946 – Laila Stien, Norwegian novelist, poet, children’s author, and translator.

1950 – Bruce Coville, prolific, award-winning U.S. author of children’s and young-adult novels.

1953 – Mitra Phukan, Indian author, children’s writer, biographer, short-story writer, columnist, reviewer, translator, and classical musician; she writes in English.

1953 – Fa Poonvoralak, award-winning Thai novelist, short-story writer, essayist, poet, and filmmaker.

1953 – Jónína Leósdóttir, Icelandic novelist, journalist, biographer, playwright, children’s author, and politician. She is married to the former Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who was the first openly lesbian head of government in modern history; they were one of the first same-sex couples in Iceland to get married, and until 2015, Jónína was the only modern person to have been the same-sex spouse of a sitting head of government.

1954 – Rajiva Wijesinha, Sri Lankan writer and professor who writes in English and is distinguished for his political analysis as well as his creative and critical work.

1960 – Dele Momodu (born Ayòbámidélé Àbáyòmí Ojútelégàn Àjàní Momodu), award-winning Nigerian journalist, writer, columnist, publisher, and motivational speaker.

1963 – Tiziano Scarpa, award-winning Italian novelist, playwright, comics writer, and poet.

1981 – Ánna Báttler (pen name of Ánna Vasílievna Levashóva), Russian poet, writer, actress, and philanthropist; her book Wild Russian Mother (Дикая русская мать) had to be re-edited after the original manuscript was banned by authorities for its descriptions of the public attitude toward children and education, the moral decay of Russian society, and the corruption of state officials.

52 Ancestors, Week 20: Bearded

It’s Week 20 of 2023, and of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project. The challenge was created by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow, who provides a different prompt each week for exploring family history. I thought last week’s theme, Bald, was difficult. This week’s is harder. The theme is Bearded.

Ira Tinklepaugh, despite having a cool name and a cool beard, was related to me only marriage, as the great-great grandfather of the wife of my first cousin twice-removed! He and his beard lived to the age of 96.

It’s harder because beards just do not run in my family. Thousands of people populate my family tree. Only a handful of those have beards, and almost all of them are my husband’s relatives, not mine. My own ancestors are all Italian. And until relatively recently, beards were just not a major part of Italian culture. I can’t find even a single bearded man who is a direct ancestor, though I have turned up a few more distantly related ones.

I’ve decided to spotlight one of those distant relations. He is related through my mother’s maternal line, but only by marriage, which is why you’ll see that he does not have an Italian name. And he was born in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, in 1819, long before any of my Italian ancestors emigrated to the U.S.

Meet the great-great-grandfather of the wife of my first cousin twice removed. Got that? I did say distant. I’ve chosen him because he’s got the biggest beard of anyone else I can find, but also because he has an amazing name: Ira Tinklepaugh.

Yes, I said Ira Tinklepaugh. (I really like typing that.) Ira Tinklepaugh, on my mother’s side of the family, was born in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, in 1819. Ira Tinklepaugh was the son of a similarly amazingly named father, Hontice Tinklepaugh. But I have no photos of Hontice Tinklepaugh and no idea if he also wore a beard, like his son Ira Tinklepaugh. I still like typing that.

Ira Tinklepaugh. Ira Tinklepaugh. Ira Tinklepaugh….

May 15 Writer Birthdays

1689 – Mary Wortley Montagu (née Pierrepont), English poet, travel writer, letter writer, playwright, explorer, and aristocrat who is remembered for her works written during her travels to the Ottoman Empire; her writings address and challenge her society’s attitudes toward women’s intellectual growth. She is also known for introducing and advocating for smallpox inoculation in Britain after her return from Turkey.

1820 – Grímur Thomsen, Icelandic poet, writer, essayist, translator, and editor who is considered one of Iceland’s most important Romantic writers.

1833 – Sofie Podlipská (née Rottová), Czech writer of historical novels, juvenile works, and feminist literature.

1837 – Vanchinbalyn Injinash, Mongolian poet, novelist, short-story writer, and historian whose work is characterized by civic sentiments and strong social criticism.

1856 – L. Frank Baum, U.S. children’s author who created the classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels.

1857 – Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming. Scottish astronomer and writer who helped develop a common designation system for stars and cataloged thousands of stars and other astronomical phenomena; among several career achievements that advanced astronomy, Fleming is noted for her discovery of the Horsehead Nebula in 1888. Most of her career was spent in the U.S.

1869 – Concha Espina (full name María de la Concepción Jesusa Basilisa Rodríguez-Espina y García-Tagle), Spanish novelist, writer, and journalist who was nominated for a Nobel prize in Literature 25 times.

1886 – Douglas Southall Freeman, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. historian, author, newspaper editor, and biographer who won Pulitzers for his four-volume biography of Robert E. Lee and his seven-volume biography of George Washington.

1890 – Katherine Ann Porter, Pulitzer Prize-winning and National Book Award-winning U.S. novelist, essayist, short-story writer, and political activist.

1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov, Ukrainian-born Russian writer and playwright, best known for his novel The Master and Margarita.

1891 – David Vogel, Ukrainian-born Jewish-Austrian poet, novelist, and diarist.

1900 – Fily Dabo Sissoko, Malian author, poet, and influential political leader who was a key writer of the Negritude Movement.

1903 – Luz Elisa Borja Martínez, Ecuadorian writer, poet, pianist, painter, composer, and sculptor.

1903 – Maria Reiche (full name Maria Reiche Grosse-Neumann), German-born Peruvian mathematician, archaeologist, author, and technical translator who became known as the “Lady of the Lines” for her work on the Nazca Lines, a group of geoglyphs made in the soil of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru; she made the documentation, preservation, and public dissemination of knowledge about the Nazca Lines her life’s work.

1904 – Clifton “Kip” Fadiman, U.S. intellectual, author, editor, and broadcaster.

1904 – Annada Shankar Ray, Indian Bengali and Odia poet, essayist, and travel writer who wrote several poems criticizing the Partition of India; his best known work is Pathe Prabaase, a diary of his European travels.

1907 – Ursula Kuczynski (also known as Ruth Werner, Ursula Beurton, and Ursula Hamburger), German author, autobiographer, Communist activist, resistance fighter, and spy who published a series of books related to her spy work, including her bestselling autobiography, Sonjas Rapport (Sonya’s Report).

1907 – Chote Praepan (pen name Jacob) Thai writer and journalist whose most famous work is Phu Chana Sip Thit (The Man Who Gained Victory in Ten Directions).

1911 – Max Frisch, Swiss playwright, and novelist known for his ironic works.

1912 – Margaret Diesendorf (née Máté), Austrian-born Australian poet, editor, linguist, translator, and educator.

1912 – Margarita Madrigal, Costa Rican writer, children’s author, and linguist who wrote books in seven different languages.

1915 – Hilda Bernstein, British-born South African author, artist, and activist against apartheid and for women’s rights.

1922 – Jakucho Setouchi, award-winning Japanese novelist, activist, and Buddhist nun; she is noted for first-person narrative biographical novels.

1922 – Kala Keerthi Regi Siriwardena, Sri Lankan academic, journalist, poet, writer, playwright, and screenwriter.

1926 – Peter Shaffer and Anthony Joshua Shaffer, identical-twin English playwrights.

1927 – Assia Wevill, German-born poet and writer who escaped the Nazis to emigrate to Palestine and then the U.K., where she had a relationship with the English poet Ted Hughes; she killed herself and their four-year-old daughter Shura using a gas oven, similar to the suicide of Hughes’s first wife Sylvia Plath, six years earlier.

1930 – Grace Emily Ogot (née Akinyi), Kenyan author, nurse, journalist, politician, and diplomat.

1931 – Norma Fox Mazer, U.S. author and teacher who won a Newbery Honor and was nominated for the National Book Award.

1931 – Nechama Tec (born Nechama Bawnik), award-winning Polish-born writer, historian, sociologist, professor, and Holocaust survivor.

1933 – Santanu Kumar Acharya, Indian Odia novelist, children’s writer, and lecturer.

1934 – John Keegan, British military historian and writer.

1936 – Ruth Almog, Israeli novelist, journalist, and children’s writer

1936 – Paul Zindel, U.S. playwright and young-adult author best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, which was adapted into a film starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

1949 – Alice Major, Canadian poet, writer, and essayist who served as poet laureate of Edmonton, Alberta and founded the Edmonton Poetry Festival.

1949 – Lalsangzuali Sailo, Indian author, gospel singer, music composer, and social worker.

1951 – David Almond, British author of children’s and young-adult novels.

1957 – Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award-winning U.K.-based U.S. crime writer.

1962 – Gro Dahle, Norwegian writer, poet, playwright, children’s author, novelist, and librettist.

1962 – Julie Otsuka, Japanese-U.S. author known for her historical fiction; she has been a winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and a finalist for the National Book Award.

1864 – Isabella Grinevskaya (pen name of Beyle Berta Friedberg), award-winning Russian writer, poet, playwright, translator, and novelist who frequented Jewish literary circles in Saint Petersburg; in her books, she depict the lives of the Jewish middle class, especially of enlightened Jewish young girls; Tolstoy praised her work.

1967 – Laura Hillenbrand, bestselling U.S. author of nonfiction books and magazine articles, best known for her book Seabiscuit, about the racehorse that became an unlikely champion.

1968 – Lene Rachel Andersen, Danish author, publisher, economist, futurist, and philosopher who writes in both Danish and English.

1969 – Lauren Myracle, U.S. author of young-adult fiction.

1970 – Judith Hermann, German novelist and short-story writer who is a leading figure of the Fräuleinwunder (“girl wonder”) literary movement of women writers.

1975 – S. Hareesh, award-winning Indian Malayalam novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and translator who is considered one of the major writers in the Malayalam language; his controversial debut novel, Meesha, was challenged because of its discussion of the caste system.

Running Behind

I am so far behind on this blog! We were away for several days, staying in a cabin on the Shenandoah River while moving our son out of his dorm room to return home for the summer. Internet access was slow and spotty, but I can’t blame the internet entirely. Mostly we were just too busy moving stuff and trying to find a way to store what could be stored and to bring home what needed to come home. The time I did spend on the computer, I mostly spent working on my book.

The place where we stayed was a lovely cabin in a beautiful setting, with a lot of songbirds and rabbits around. I have photos. But I have not downloaded anything from my phone. More later.

In the meantime, we are home now, and I am trying to catch up.

May 14 Writer Birthdays

1553 – Margaret of Valois, French princess of the Valois dynasty who became queen consort of Navarre and later of France and was a well-known writer and woman of letters; she was the first woman known to have written and published her memoirs. The daughter of King Henry II of France and Catherine de’Medici, she was also the sister of kings Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III.

1607 – Alberte-Barbe d’Ernécourt (Madame de Saint-Baslemont), French writer and soldier who was a heroine of the Thirty Years’ War.

1851 – Anna Laurens Dawes, U.S. author, biographer, suffragist, and trustee of Smith College who served on the board of the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1892-94 and the St. Louis Exposition of 1902-04 and was the daughter of a U.S. Senator. Her written works covered topics including U.S. history, government, and sociology.

1876 – Luis Llorens Torres, Puerto Rican poet, playwright, lawyer, and politician.

1899 – Charlotte Auerbach, German author, professor, geneticist, zoologist, and biologist who was one of the founders of the science of mutagenesis.

1900 – Hal Borland, U.S. author, editorial writer, and journalist who wrote about the nature.

1908 – Agnes Betty Jeffrey, Australian author and nurse who wrote about her World War II nursing experiences in the book White Coolies.

1921 – Fernanda Villeli, Mexican writer, screenwriter, actress, and activist who was one of her country’s major writers of telenovelas.

1929 – George Selden (real name George Thompson), U.S. children’s author who won a Newbery Honor for his novel, The Cricket in Times Square; he sometimes used pen name Terry Andrews.

1935 – June Beer, Afro-Nicaraguan poet, writer, and artist who gained international acclaim for her works depicting African and feminist themes.

1937 – Zehra Nigah, award-winning Pakistani Urdu poet and screenwriter who was one of only two female Pakistani poets to gain prominence in the 1950s when the field was dominated by men.

1939 – Colette Nys-Mazure, award-winning Belgian author, poet, essayist, children’s writer, playwright, and professor who writes in French.

1944 – George Lucas, wildly popular and influential U.S. film writer, director, and producer, best known for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.

1946 – Sarah Hogg (Viscountess Hailsham), English economist, journalist, and life peer

1952 – Kathleen Ann Goonan, U.S. science-fiction novelist and short-story writer whose work was often set in New Orleans. Her writing is sometimes considered cyberpunk and often incorporates biotechnology, and jazz music; she was also an essayist, professor, literary critic, Campbell Award winner, and Nebula Award nominee.

1952 – Robert L. Zemeckis, U.S. screenwriter, director, and producer known for special-effects films.

1958 – Anna Höglund, Swedish author and artist, considered to be one of Sweden’s best illustrators.

1959 – Robert Greene, bestselling U.S. nonfiction author and speaker who writes about power, strategy, and seduction.

1965 – Eoin Colfer, (pronounced “Owen”) Irish author best known for the Artemis Fowl series of young-adult books, though he also writes for adults.

1971 – Sofia Carmina Coppola, Oscar-winning U.S. film director, and screenwriter; ex-wife of film director Spike Jonze, daughter of film director Francis Ford Coppola, niece of actress Talia Shire, and cousin of actor Nicolas Cage.

1974 – Jana Žitňanská, Slovak writer, journalist, and member of the European Parliament.

May 13 Writer Birthdays

1611 – Jacques Moisant de Brieux, French poet, writer, and historian.

1786 – Anna Ehrenström (née Gråberg), Swedish poet and writer who has been called the first female poet of Gotland, Sweden’s largest island.

1795 – Pavel Jozef Šafárik, Slovak poet, linguist, writer, science writer, literary historian, educator, publicist, journalist, and translator.

1809 – Giuseppe Giusti, Italian poet, writer, and satirist who is best known for his witty satires about public figures and for his light, playful verses.

1840 – Alphonse Daudet, French novelist of the naturalist movement.

1845 – Emily Matilda Manning (pen name Australie), Australian writer, journalist, poet, and essayist.

1869 – H. Isabel Graham, Canadian poet whose work was often religious or patriotic in theme, and which sometimes incorporated the vocabulary, spelling, and other features of her parents’ native Scottish dialect.

1885 – Hideo Nagata, Japanese Modernist poet, novelist, and playwright.

1901 – Murilo Monteiro Mendes, Brazilian Modernist poet who is considered a forerunner of the Surrealist movement in Brazil.

1904 – Gilberto Owen Estrada, Mexican writer, poet, journalist, translator, and diplomat.

1905 – Roestam Effendi, Indonesian writer, playwright, and poet who was also a member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands; in his written work, he was known for experimenting with the Malay language.

1907 – Daphne du Maurier (Lady Browning), English author and playwright whose stories have been described as “moody and resonant,” with overtones of the paranormal; much of her work was set in Cornwall. Her book Rebecca won the U.S. National Book Award, and has never gone out of print.

1914 – Shareef Kunjahi, Pakistani writer, poet, translator, literary critic, and linguist.

1916 – Sachidananda Routray, award-winning Indian Odia poet, novelist, and short-story writer; he was popularly known as Sachi Routray.

1916 – N.V. Krishna Warrier, prolific, award-winning Indian poet, journalist, scholar, academic, and political thinker whose works spanned the genres of poetry, drama, travelogue, translation, children’s literature, and science.

1927 – Clive Barnes, British-born theater and dance critic.

1929 – Rigoberto López Pérez, Nicaraguan poet, journalist, and composer who was declared a national hero for his assassination of dictator Anastasio Somoza García.

1935 – Manuel José Leonardo Arce Leal, award-winning Guatemalan poet and dramatist who was considered one of the most relevant national writers of the second half of the 20th century.

1935 – Taku Miki (pen name for Tomita Miki), Japanese poet, novelist, translator, and literary critic.

1936 – Jemal Karchkhadze, award-winning Georgian novelist, short-story writer, poet, playwright, and essayist.

1937 – Roger Zelazny, U.S. poet and author of science-fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. He often portrayed characters from myth, set in the modern or future world, with tension between the ancient and the contemporary, and the surreal and the familiar; his style was also influenced by that of wisecracking hardboiled detective stories.

1938 – Norma Klein, U.S. author of popular young-adult novels, middle-grade books, and picture books; her work often deals with controversial subjects such as racism, homosexuality, teen sexuality, adoption, and death, leading to many of her books being challenged for exclusion in school libraries.

1938 – Francine Pascal, U.S. author of young-adult novels, best known as creator of the Sweet Valley High series.

1940 – Bruce Chatwin, English novelist, journalist, and travel writer, best known for his book, In Patagonia; he is ranked among The Times‘s list of “50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945.”

1940 – Rachel Holmes Ingalls, British-based U.S. author of short-stories, novellas, and novels.

1940 – Mircea Sandu, Romanian poet, writer, biographer, editor, translator, and essayist who is best remembered for his two volumes of interviews with King Michael I of Romania, which offers the most complete insight available into the King’s political and personal way of thinking.

1944 – Armistead Maupin, U.S. writer known for his series of novels set in San Francisco, Tales of the City.

1945 – Rajko Petrov Nogo, Serbian poet, children’s writer, literary critic, university teacher, and politician.

1946 – Anne Lee Tzu Pheng, award-winning Singaporean writer and poet.

1947 – Charles Baxter, U.S. author, essayist, and poet.

1947 – Stephen R. Donaldson, U.S. science-fiction and fantasy writer best known for his ten-novel series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

1947 – Alexander Keyssar, U.S. author, professor, and historian whose work explores historical problems that have contemporary policy implications.

1948 – Natasha Lako, Albanian writer, poet, politician, translator, screenwriter, and journalist.

1950 – Manning Marable, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. professor, historian, author, and Malcom X biographer.

1957 – Koji Suzuki, Japanese author whose Ring books were adapted into a manga series and a feature film; he has also written books about fatherhood.

1960 – Jen Bryant, U.S. poet, novelist, biographer, and children’s author.

1964 – Stephen Colbert, U.S. comedian, television personality, and author.

1967 – Masha Gessen, National Book Award-winning Russian and U.S. journalist, author, and translator.

May 12 Writer Birthdays

1089 – Mahsati Ganjavi, eminent Persian poet who is remembered for her quatrains and for her association with both Omar Khayyam; her name Mahsati is a compound of two Persian words “Mah/Maah” (Moon) and “Sati” (Lady).

1665 – Albertus Seba, Dutch writer, ornithologist, pharmacist, zoologist, and pharmacologist who accumulated one of the largest cabinets of curiosities in the Netherlands during his time; his early work on taxonomy and natural history influenced Linnaeus.

1812 – Edward Lear, English author and illustrator, best known today for his nonsense poetry and his children’s books.

1820 – Florence Nightingale, English social reformer, statistician, and the founder of modern nursing who came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War and became an icon of Victorian culture. She was also a prodigious and versatile writer, especially on topics dealing with spreading medical knowledge and written in simple English; she was also a pioneer in data visualization with the use of infographics.

1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti (born Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti), pre-Raphaelite English poet, translator, illustrator, and painter; the renowned poet Christina Rossetti was his sister.

1835 – José María Cordovez Moure, Colombian writer and historian

1841 – Ricardo Rossel Sirot, Peruvian author, poet, politician, scholar, and entrepreneur who was the founder of the Club Literario de Lima.

1843 – Margaret Veley, English writer, poet, and novelist.

1868 – Ricardo Jaimes Freyre, Peruvian-born Bolivian poet whose Symbolist-influenced verse, which frequently took advantage of free-verse forms, was important in the development of Latin American modernism.

1869 – Albert Engström, Swedish writer, poet, historian, illustrator, comics artist, songwriter, painter, cartoonist, and journalist.

1875 – Minnie Louise Haskins, British poet and academic in the field of sociology, best known for being quoted by King George VI in his Royal Christmas Message of 1939.

1885 – Saneatsu Mushanokōji, Japanese artist, novelist, screenwriter, photographer, writer, poet, playwright, painter, and philosopher.

1892 – Ramanlal Vasantlal Desai, Indian Gujarati novelist and essayist who is considered a key figure in Gujarati literature.

1907 – Leslie Charteris (born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin), Singapore-born Chinese-English author of screenplays and adventure fiction; his character Simon Templar, “The Saint,” has appeared not only in Charteris’s books, but also in books by other authors as well as in television shows, movies, and radio plays.

1916 – Albert L. Murray, U.S. African-American author and essayist who incorporated a blues aesthetic into his novels.

1919 – Wu Wenjun, Chinese writer, historian, mathematician, and editor of the ten-volume Grand Series of Chinese Mathematics, covering the time from antiquity to late part of the Qin dynasty.

1921 – Farley Mowat, award-winning Canadian author, children’s writer, and environmentalist who wrote about the Canadian north; he has been praised for his poetic language, vivid descriptions, and advocacy for environmental causes, but has also been ridiculed for inaccuracies in his books.

1924 – Claribel Alegria, Nicaraguan poet, novelist, and documentary filmmaker.

1925 – John Simon (born Ivan Simmon), acerbic Yugoslavian culture critic who wrote literature, film, and art reviews for New York Magazine; his book Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Films recommended only 15 of the 245 films discussed.

1930 – Mazisi Kunene, South African poet best known for his poem “Emperor Shaka the Great”; he was part of the anti-apartheid movement and became the Poet Laureate of both South African and Africa, as well as being the author of Anthem of the Decades: A Zulu Epic.

1933 – Andrey Andreyevich Voznesensky, Soviet Russian poet and writer whom poet Robert Lowell called, “one of the greatest living poets in any language”; as part of the new wave of Russian intellectuals called the “Children of the ’60s,” he was counted among the most daring writers of the Soviet era, and was once threatened with expulsion by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

1934 – Elechi Amadi, Nigerian novelist and playwright who wrote about African village life, customs, beliefs, and religious practices prior to contact with the Western world.

1937 – George Carlin, U.S. comedic author, social critic, stand-up comedian, actor, and television personality who was called, “the dean of counterculture comedians”; his “seven dirty words” routine has become a classic, but he was caused controversy because of his use of language that was considered by many to be obscene.

1937 – Misha Defonseca (born Monique de Wael), Belgian-born author of a fictitious Holocaust memoir titled Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, first published in 1997 and at that time professed to be a true memoir.

1938 – Andrei Amalrik, Russian writer, historian, journalist, dissident, human rights activist, and opinion journalist.

1939 – Rosellen Brown, award-winning U.S. novelist, short-story writer, poet, and essayist; the film Before and After was adapted from her novel of the same name.

1942 – Vittal Rao K., Indian Tamil short-story writer, novelist, and essayist.

1945 – Tormod Haugen, Norwegian children’s writer, author, translator, and linguist.

1946 – L. Neil Smith, U.S. science-fiction author and libertarian political activist; he also wrote in the “Star Wars” universe.

1947 – Penelope Shuttle, British poet, writer, playwright, and novelist.

1949 – Hans Leyendecker, German writer and author who is one of Germany’s best-known investigative journalists.

1949 – Paul Starr, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. professor and nonfiction author.

1955 – Blue Balliett, U.S. author and teacher who is best known for her award-winning, groundbreaking children’s novel, Chasing Vermeer; she was born Elizabeth Balliett, but her family started calling her Blue when she was still a baby.

1961 – Jennifer Armstrong, U.S. author of children’s adventure novels, historical fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, and nonfiction; she has also edited an anthology.

1964 – Lijia Zhang, Chinese writer, journalist, and public speaker who describes herself as a communicator between China and the world.

Postcards from the World: Finnish Treetops

I received a lovely card last week from a Postcrosser in Finland. Postcrossing is an international postcard group with more than 800,000 members worldwide. I have been a member for many years, and I love sending and receiving postcards and learning about other Postcrossers around the world.

The sender of this card, for example, is Marju, the mother of two sons and an infant daughter. She is engaged to be married in July. She loves reading, and wrote on her card that she was thrilled to correspond with a Sweet Valley High author. I was a writer for the book series in the 1990s, and it’s always fun to hear from someone who was a big fan of my books.

And, of course, the image on the card is beautiful.

May 11 Writer Birthdays

1645 – William Scott (2nd Baronet of Thirlestane), Scottish lawyer, lyricist, and neo-Latin poet.

1763 – János Batsányi, Hungarian poet, writer, translator, editor, and literary critic.

1771 – José Mamerto Gómez Hermosilla, Spanish writer, journalist, and literary critic.

1817 – Isabella Letitia Woulfe, British writer known for a popular and acclaimed debut novel, Guy Vernon, which included gypsies, scandals, and two cases of bigamy; she died before she could complete a second book.

1828 – Eleanor Anne Ormerod, pioneering English entomologist, writer, and autobiographer; based on her studies in agriculture, she became one of the first to define the field of agricultural entomology, publishing an influential series of articles on useful insects and pests in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and the Agricultural Gazette along with annual reports from 1877 to 1900 and two books. Virginia Woolf wrote a story, “Miss Ormerod” that was based on her life.

1888 – Elisabeth Erdmann-Macke (nee Gerhardt), German memoir writer whose work focused on her marriage to the expressionist painter August Macke.

1889 – Burhan Felek, Turkish journalist, columnist, sportsperson, writer, teacher, and lawyer.

1894 – Ōmi Komaki, Japanese writer, translator, and university teacher.

1897 – Shuddhananda Bharati, award-winning Indian writer, composer, poet, essayist, novelist, autobiographer, playwright, librettist, translator, yogi, and philosopher whose teachings are focused mainly on the search for God in Self, through the Sama Yoga practice he created. He wrote more than 250 published works in five different languages: Tamil, English, French, Hindi, and Telugu. “Shuddhananda” is a title he adopted; it means “pure bliss.”

1901 – Rose Ausländer, German Jewish poet who spent part of World War II in the Czernowitz ghetto; she wrote in English and German and eventually became an American citizen.

1902 – Enrique Labrador Ruiz, award-winning Cuban journalist, novelist, essayist, short-story writer, and poet.

1904 – Gladys May Casely-Hayford (pen name Aquah Laluah), Gold Coast-born Sierra Leonean writer and teacher; she is credited as the first author to write in the Krio language. She celebrated her blackness in poems such as “Rejoice” and “Nativity”; writers of the Harlem Renaissance in the U.S. cited her work as an influence.

1905 – Ida Gerhardt, award-winning Dutch writer, classicist, translator, and Post-Symbolist poet whose poems are characterized by a special focus on nature and landscape; she also received recognition for her careful translation of the Psalms.

1905 – Mikhail Sholokhov, Nobel Prize-winning Russian Soviet writer, screenwriter, poet, politician, journalist, and novelist; he is known for writing about the lives of Cossacks during the Russian Revolution, the civil war and the period of collectivization, primarily in his most famous novel, And Quiet Flows the Don.

1908 – Kim Kirim (born Kim In-son), North Korean poet, literary critic, journalist, essayist, teacher, and university lecturer who wrote mostly intellectualist and imagist poetry. In 1946 he fled Soviet-occupied North Korea for the South, but during the Korean War he was kidnapped and returned to North Korea.

1909 – Aneirin Talfan Davies, Welsh poet, literary critic, broadcaster, translator, and publisher; he was also known by the bardic name of Aneurin ap Talfan. Religious themes characterize much of his writing.

1916 – Camilo José Cela, Nobel Prize-winning Spanish novelist, renowned for “rich and intensive prose, which with restrained compassion forms a challenging vision of man’s vulnerability.”

1918 – Sheila Burnford, British-Canadian novelist who was best known for her book The Incredible Journey, which was not originally intended as a children’s book, but was later adapted into the popular animated Disney move, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.

1918 – Richard Feynman, U.S. theoretical physicist, lecturer, and semi-autobiographical writer.

1920 – Fatma Nezihe Araz, bestselling Turkish author, poet, playwright, biographer, screenwriter, and journalist.

1925 – Rubem Fonseca, Brazilian novelist, short-story writer, journalist, and scriptwriter.

1926 – Mark Sergeev, prolific Ukrainian-born Russian poet and children’s writer.

1927 – Gene Savoy, U.S. explorer and author who is especially associated with discoveries in Peru.

1927 – Zilpha Keatley Snyder, three-time Newbery Honor-winning U.S. children’s author.

1928 – Mo Yun-tuan (pen name Luo Fu, or Luòfū), Taiwanese writer, poet, essayist, and translator; in 2001 he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

1929 – Gane Todorovski, award-winning Macedonian writer, poet, translator, author, editor, essayist, historian, professor, screenwriter, journalist, and literary critic

1930 – Kamau Brathwaite (born Lawson Edward Brathwaite), Barbadian poet, historian, and essayist.

1934 – Ofelia Giudicissi Curci, Italian poet, writer, and archeologist; her archeological work focused on Calabria, in southern Italy.

1934 – Wakako Hironaka, Japanese writer, translator, and politician; she served four terms in the Japanese House of Councillors.

1936 – Olga Xirinacs Díaz, award-winning Spanish writer, poet, playwright, pianist, essayist, translator, short-story writer, university teacher, and children’s author who usually writes in Catalan and whose work is influenced by the writing of Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust.

1938 – Aline Pettersson, Mexican novelist and poet whose work deals with themes of loneliness, heartbreak, isolation, and the passage of time that razes all.

1939 – Yves-Emmanuel Dogbé, Togolese novelist, essayist, poet, philosopher, educator, and sociologist who holds a prominent position among French-speaking Togolese writers and was regarded in his lifetime as Togo’s greatest living writer.

1939 – Samih al-Qasim al Kaissy, Jordanian-born Israeli Palestinian poet, writer, journalist, author, and newspaper editor whose work is well known throughout the Arab-speaking world.

1942 – Clive Algar, South African novelist and short-story writer.

1942 – Rachel Billington, British author of fiction and nonfiction books for both adults and children; she is also a screenwriter, journalist, and columnist.

1947 – Latif Nazemi, award-winning Afghani-born Persian poet, author, literary critic, and university teacher who now lives in exile in Germany.

1949 – Peter Sís, award-winning Czech-born U.S. children’s author and illustrator, filmmaker, and editorial cartoonist.

1952 – Mike Lupica, U.S. sports columnist, children’s author, and mystery writer whose stories tend to revolve around sports.

1952 – Reza de Wet, award-winning South African dramatist who is considered one of South Africa’s greatest playwrights; in addition to chipping away at the societal mores of Apartheid and racism, her stories masterfully weave Biblical myths, tribal and Afrikaner folktales, magical realism, and stream-of-consciousness storytelling in a poignant and original way, to completely reinvent the psychological-thriller format.

1953 – David Garrow, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. historian, author, and biographer.

1955 – Fang Fang (pen name of Wang Fang), award-winning Chinese novelist and poet.

1962 – Mirela Ivanova, Bulgarian poet, essayist, literary critic, theater critic, translator, and literary historian who is one of the most famous modern Bulgarian poets.

1962 – Joko Pinurbo, award-winning Indonesian poet, editor, and university teacher whose poetry is a mixture of narrative, irony, and self-reflection.

1965 – Marie Koizumi, Japanese novelist, manga writer, and screenwriter.

1965 – Dante Lam, Hong Kong Chinese screenwriter, film director, and actor.

1979 – Mohammad Tolouei, Iranian poet, writer, screenwriter, playwright, translator, and novelist.