Throwback Thursday: Veteran’s Day Tribute

I guess I’ve mentioned that I’ve been doing a lot of genealogy research, and have added so much to my family tree. So for Throwback Thursday, and for Veteran’s Day, I’m posting a photo of my grandfather’s army unit in World War II. I have posted this photo before, but it’s worth another look. My grandfather, Bartholomew Petrini, Sr., was drafted despite being 35 years old and the sole support of a wife and two small children.

My grandfather is in the front row, kneeling at far left and looking uncannily like my father.

November 11 Writer Birthdays

1821 – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Russian novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and journalist best known for his later novels, including Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamozov; his literary works explore human psychology in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmospheres of 19th-century Russia, with a variety of philosophical and religious themes.

1846 – Anna Katharine Green, U.S. novelist who was one of the country’s first writers of detective fiction; because of her well-plotted, legally accurate stories, she has been called “the mother of the detective novel.”

1888 – Abul Kalam Azad, Saudi Arabian-born Indian scholar, writer, politician, and journalist who was a senior leader of the Indian Independence movement; after independence, he became the first Minister of Education in the Indian government. His birthday is celebrated across India as “National Education Day.”

1896 – Shirley Graham DuBois (born Lola Shirley Graham), award-winning African-American U.S. author, playwright, composer, educator, and activist for African-American causes. She married author and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois. In 1932 she composed the opera Tom-Tom: An Epic of Music and the Negro which premiered in Cleveland, Ohio and featured an all-Black cast and orchestra, it was structured in three acts; Act One took place in an indigenous African tribe, Act Two portraying an American Slave plantation, and the final act was set in 1920s Harlem. The music features elements of blues and spirituals, as well as jazz with elements of opera. The score of this opera was considered lost, until it was rediscovered in 2001 at Harvard University.

1896 – Kostas Karyotakis, influential Greek poet, writer, translator, and civil servant whose poetry includes traces of expressionism and surrealism; he belongs to the Lost Generation literary movement.

1910 – Frida Stewart Knight (born Frideswide Frances Emma Stewart), English author, biographer, nonfiction writer, and communist activist; in 1940 she was arrested in France by the Gestapo and sent to a German internment camp, but escaped with the help of the French Resistance.

1914 – Howard Fast, U.S. novelist, screenwriter, poet, playwright, short-story writer, biographer, autobiographer, and nonfiction author who also wrote under the pen names E.V. Cunningham, Walter Ericson, and Behn Boruch.

1915 – Anna Jacobson Schwartz, U.S. economist and author who worked at the National Bureau of Economic Research and as a writer for The New York Times; economist Paul Krugman has called her “one of the world’s greatest monetary scholars.”

1919 – Kalle Päätalo, One of the most popular Finnish authors of the 20th century; his autobiographical series is 26 books long.

1922 – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., U.S. novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and nonfiction author known for his darkly satirical novels, including Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five.

1928 – Carlos Fuentes, award-winning Mexican novelist, short-story writer, playwright, screenwriter, and essayist who is one of the most admired and influential in the Spanish-speaking world.

1933 – Claude Rolley, French archaeologist, writer, and professor who wrote about the art and archaeology of Greece and Gaule.

1933 – Miriam Tlali, South African novelist who was the first black woman in South Africa to publish a novel; she was also one of the first to write about Soweto, although most of her writing was originally banned by the South African apartheid regime.

1937 – Alicia Ostriker, U.S. poet and scholar who writes Jewish feminist poetry and has been called “America’s most fiercely honest poet”; she was also one of the first women poets in the U.S. to write and publish poems discussing the topic of motherhood.

1942 – Ali Babachahi, prolific Iranian poet, writer, literary critic, and Persian lexicographer who is one of Iran’s most prominent postmodern writers and poets.

1942 – Diane Wolkstein, U.S. children’s author who was New York City’s official storyteller.

1944 – Nanda Hangkhim, award-winning Nepalese poet and short-story writer.

1947 – Trevor Ferguson, bestselling Canadian literary writer, crime novelist, and playwright who has written under the pen name John Farrow; The Vancouver Sun called his detective novel City of Ice the book the best ever produced in Canada in genre fiction.

1948 – Marit Christensen, Norwegian journalist, author, and television presenter who has been called “Moskva-Marit” because of her time spent as a broadcast news correspondent in Moscow.

1948 – Vincent Schiavelli, U.S. writer, journalist, food writer, and cookbook author; he was also considered one of the best character actors in Hollywood.

1950 – Mircea Dinescu, Romanian poet, journalist, and editor.

1950 – Abel Prieto, Cuban politician and published fiction writer who serves as Cuba’s Minister of Culture.

1950 – Susana Sivestre, award-winning Argentine novelist, screenwriter, and short-story writer whose work has been praised for its “fluid, clean, graceful prose,” and its “intelligent, complex and playful structure.”

1952 – Shamim Azad, award-winning Bangladeshi-born British poet, storyteller, essayist, short-story writer, folklorist, and writer.

1952 – Judith Ariana Fitzgerald, Canadian poet, journalist, and biographer who wrote more than twenty books of poetry, as well as biographies of musician Sarah McLachlan and writer Marshall McLuhan.

1952 – Kama Sywor Kamanda, award-winning Congolese poet, playwright, novelist, nonfiction writer, and storyteller

1954 – Mary Gaitskill, U.S. author of novels, short stories, and essays whose fiction is typically about female characters dealing with inner conflicts; her subject matter matter-of-factly includes controversial subjects such as prostitution, addiction, and sado-masochism.

1958 – Kathy Lette, Australian-British author of bestselling books and humor; she has also been a newspaper columnist and a television writer.

1959 – Kazumi Yumoto, award-winning Japanese screenwriter, novelist, and children’s author; several of her books have been adapted for film.

1968 – Douglas Rogers, Zimbabwean travel writer and memoirist.

1968 – Kim Young-ha, South Korean novelist and screenwriter noted for his skill in rendering 1990s urban sensibilities.

1980 – Inés Gallo de Urioste (better known by her pseudonym Lola or Lolita Copacabana), Argentine writer, book author, novelist, blogger, translator, publisher, and editor.

1981 – Tânia Teresa Tomé, award-winning Mozambican author, poet, lyrist, economist, public speaker, and television personality.

1982 – Anne Pätzke, German author, illustrator, and children’s writer who has also created art for board games and video tutorials for comic artists.

November 10 Writer Birthdays

1483 – Martin Luther, German priest and theological scholar whose writings sparked the Protestant Reformation.

1577 – Jacob Cats, Dutch poet, humorist, autobiographer, and politician; in his time, he was enormously popular in his own country, where he is still referred to as Father Cats.

1730 – Oliver Goldsmith, Irish novelist and playwright, best known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield and his comedic drama She Stoops To Conquer.

1759 – Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, German poet, philosopher, historian, lyricist, and playwright.

1835 – Amalia Domingo Soler, Spanish writer, poet, novelist, essayist, editor, short-story writer, and feminist who also wrote an autobiography, Memorias de una mujer (Memories of a Woman); her writings are characterized by a poetic and delicate style. She is also remembered for her involvement in the Spanish spiritist movement, and founded and edited a spiritualist weekly, La Luz del Porvenir, characterized by its radical views and feminist orientation.

1838 – Mkirtich Achemian, Turkish-born ethnic Armenian poet and translator; he was a poet of the romantic school, but kept traces of classicism in his work.

1861 – Amy Judith Levy, British essayist, poet, and novelist best remembered as the first Jewish woman at Cambridge University; her feminist positions; her friendships with others living what later came to be called a “New Woman” life, some of whom were lesbians; and her relationships with both women and men in literary and politically activist circles in London during the 1880s.

1828 – Wang Tao, Chinese scholar, writer, columnist, fiction author, newspaper publisher, politician, translator, author, journalist, and Bible translator.

1870 – Andrés Mata, Venezuelan poet, writer, and journalist of the modernist movement.

1871 – Winston Churchill (not THAT Winston Churchill, though the two actually did know each other), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist, and artist who was one of the bestselling authors of the early 20th century; he was also elected to the state legislature of New Hampshire and ran unsuccessfully for governor.

1879 – Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, U.S. poet who is considered the father of modern singing poetry.

1879 – Andrea Evangelina Rodríguez Perozo, Dominican writer and poet who was the first woman medical school graduate in the Dominican Republic; she published poetry and nonfiction, and also wrote a novel but destroyed the manuscript in a fit of anger.

1884 – Zofia Nałkowska, Polish poet, prose writer, dramatist, journalist, essayist, diarist, and politician.

1893 – John P. Marquand, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author of spy stories, satirical fiction, and more serious novels that often explored the confining nature of life in America’s upper class and among those who aspired to join it.

1894 – Lisa Tetzner, German-born writer, poet, and children’s author who was best known for her work with fairy tales; she fled to Switzerland to escape the Nazis, but the Swiss censored her work, fearing it could antagonize the German government.

1899 – Greta Knutson, Swedish modernist artist, writer, poet, translator, short-story writer, painter, essayist, linguist, and art critic.

1899 – Kate Seredy, Hungarian-born writer and illustrator of children’s books who won the Newbery Medal once, the Newbery Honor twice, the Caldecott Honor once, and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. Most of her books were written in English, which was not her first language.

1901 – José Gorostiza Alcalá, Mexican poet, educator, and diplomat.

1910 – Bhashyam Iyengar (pen name Sandilyan or Chandilyan), Indian Tamil author who wrote historical romance and adventure novels.

1910 – Kothamangalam Subbu (born S.M. Subramanian), Indian poet, lyricist, author, actor, and film director who wrote the cult classic Tamil novel Thillana Mohanambal, which was adapted into a popular movie; he also wrote several novels using the pen name of Kalaimani, and penned Gandhi Mahan Kathai, which told of the life of Mahatma Gandhi in folklore form.

1913 – Karl Shapiro, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet and national Poet Laureate who was also a novelist, editor, and professor; his early work, praised as “fresh and young and rash and live,” was traditional in form but with a modern sensibility that viewed such topics as automobiles, house flies, and drug stores as worthy of a poet’s attention, while his later work experimented with more open forms and with social criticism.

1918 – Marita Elisabeth Lindquist (née Gustafson), prolific, award-winning Finnish children’s author, songwriter, poet, editor, and translator.

1919 – J. Clifford Ashby (generally known as Cliff Ashby), British poet and novelist.

1929 – W.E.B. Griffin, pen name of William Edward Butterworth III, U.S. author of military and crime fiction.

1931 – Evan Lloyd Jones, Australian poet, professor, and literary critic.

1933 – James D. Houston, award-winning U.S. novelist, poet, editor, and professor; one of his best known books is Farewell to Manzanar, coauthored with his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, about her family’s forced internment at a camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, when she was a child; he also wrote Snow Mountain Passage, about the Donner Party.

1935 – Marilyn Duckworth, award-winning New Zealand novelist, poet, screenwriter, radio writer, and short-story writer.

1937 – Nikola Gigov, award-winning Bulgarian poet and writer.

1938 – Jiří Gruša, Czech writer, poet, novelist, politician, diplomat, translator, playwright, and children’s writer. He came under the scrutiny of the communist regime of then Czechoslovakia in 1969 because of his writings, and was banned from publishing, but arrested in 1974 for the crime of “initiating disorder” after distributing nineteen copies of his first novel, Dotazník (The Questionnaire) and voicing his intention to have it published in Switzerland; after worldwide protest, he was released after two months.

1944 – Mark E. Neely Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author, professor, Civil War historian, and Lincoln biographer.1944 – Sir Tim Rice, award-winning British lyricist and author, best known for Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and other musicals; some of his most famous works are his collaborations with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

1954 – Joy Goswami, Indian poet who is widely considered as one of the most important Bengali poets of his generation.

1954 – Marlene van Niekerk, award-winning South African author, poet, and academic who is best known for her satirical novel Triomf.

1958 – Maria Galina, award-winning Soviet and Russian writer, novelist, poet, translator, columnist, literary critic, and marine biologist; some of her work was published under the name Maxim Golitsyn.

1960 – Neil Gaiman, prolific English-born author of award-winning science fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, children’s books, short stories, TV scripts, and films; some of his more popular works include the comic book series “The Sandman” and novels Stardust, Good Omens, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. He has won many awards, including the Newbery Medal and multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards.

1963 – Natalie Jane Prior, award-winning Australian author of children’s books, including picture books, fantasy, and crime fiction.

1966 – Aka Morchiladze (გიორგი ახვლედიანი), bestselling Georgian Republic author, columnist, soap writer, journalist, sports journalist, short-story writer, literary historian, and essayist.

1969 – Khalaf Ali Alkhalaf, Syrian-born Swedish poet and writer.

1971 – Holly Black (née Riggenbach), bestselling and award-winning U.S. fantasy novelist, poet, editor, young-adult novelist, children’s author, short-story writer, screenwriter, and video game writer.

1988 – Godspower Oboido, Nigerian poet and cultural activist who founded the Nigerian Council for Cultural Diplomacy and Research.

NaNo Novel Progress

I’m more than a week into National Novel Writing month, so it’s about time for an update. I’m a NaNo Rebel this year, meaning I’m not following the usual NaNoWriMo protocol of beginning with a brand new novel project at the beginning of the month and planning to write 50,000 words on it during the month of November.

Instead, I’m forging ahead with the book manuscript I was already working on, a young-adult science-fiction novel set on one of the moons of Jupiter. My goal is to have the manuscript first draft finished at the end of the month. I already had a substantial amount of it written, but I’m only counting new writing this month toward my 50,000 words.

So far, I’m doing pretty well. Writing 50,000 words in a 30-day month requires a daily average of a little more than 1,600 words written per day. Following that average, NaNo would suggest than writers aim to be at a cumulative 13,336 words by the end of the day on November 8 (last night). I closed out last night with 18,858 words so far. So I’m actually a little ahead of the game, which is unusual for me. I tend to do well in the more flexible Camp NaNo events, but struggle to get close to 50,000 during November.

Part of my word count so far was made up of a detailed outline. I had originally started this manuscript with a very sketchy outline, and finally felt I had enough of a plot planned out (and written) to make a much more comprehensive outline. It’s already helping. If I sit down to write and aren’t sure what to do, I pull out the outline and pick a scene that’s described but not yet written.

I hope to be at 20,000 words by tomorrow.

November 9 Writer Birthdays

1721 – Mark Akenside, English poet and physician; renowned poet Alexander Pope called him, “no ordinary writer.”

1731 – Benjamin Banneker, African-American U.S. author, almanac editor, mathematician, inventor, and astronomer who was the son of an ex-slave and a former indentured servant; he corresponded with Thomas Jefferson.

1732 – Jeanne Julie Éléonore de Lespinasse, French writer, artist, and prominent salon holder who is best known today for her letters, which offer compelling accounts of two tragic love affairs.

1745 – William Hayley, English author, poet, essayist, and biographer; he is most remembered as the best friend and biographer of poet William Cowper.

1818 – Ivan Turgenev, Russian realist writer, poet, playwright, translator, novelist, short-story writer, and popularizer of Russian literature in the West; his first major publication, a short-story collection entitled A Sportsman’s Sketches, is regarded as a milestone of Russian realism, and his novel Fathers and Sons is considered one of the major works of 19th-century fiction.

1832 – Émile Gaboriau, French mystery writer and journalist who was a pioneer of modern detective fiction.

1854 – Maud Howe Elliott, U.S. writer who was the daughter of Julia Ward Howe (social activist, poet, and author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic); Maud won a Pulitzer Prize for a biography of her mother.

1871- Florence Sabin, pioneering U.S. medical researcher, doctor, and professor who was the first woman to hold a full professorship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the first woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the first woman to head a department at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, and the first female president of the American Association of Anatomists; her work to produce a three-dimensional model of a newborn baby’s brain stem became the focus of her textbook, An Atlas of the Medulla and Midbrain; other areas in which she focused her research and writing included the lymphatic system, the immune system, blood vessels and cells, tuberculosis, and public health.

1877 – Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistani poet, writer, children’s author, philosopher, and politician who was a leader in the Pakistan Movement; he wrote in Urdu, Persian, and English and was named the National Poet of Pakistan.

1880 – Yordan Yovkov, Bulgarian writer, teacher, poet, playwright, and editor.

1885 – Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov, influential poet and playwright who was a central part of the Russian Futurist movement.

1903 – Josefina Pla, Spanish-born Paraguayan poet and author who was also known for her artwork and her human-rights activism.

1909 – Kay Thompson, U.S. author, composer, musician, actress, and singer who is best known as creator of the Eloise children’s books.

1911 – Diná Silveira de Queirós, award-winning Brazilian writer, biographer, journalist, children’s author, short-story writer, and novelist who was only the second woman elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

1914 – Hedy Lamarr, Austrian and U.S. actress, autobiographer, and inventor; at age 18, already a movie and stage star in Austria, she met and married a wealthy arms dealer who she eventually learned had ties to Hitler. He kept her a virtual prisoner in his castle until she managed to sneak out and escape the country. In the U.S., she became a major movie star, but she desperately wanted to help the war effort against the Nazis, and recruited composer George Antheil to help her develop a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes that could defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. The principles of her work were later incorporated into Bluetooth and GPS technology. She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

1918 – Su Beng (born Lin Chao-hui), Taiwanese writer, historian, dissident, historian, and political activist of the Taiwan independence movement; she was also known as Shih Chao-hui.

1920 – Shafiq-ur-Rahman, influential Pakistani writer, short-story author, humorist, and physician who is considered a key figure in Urdu literature.

1922 – Maja Boškovic-Stulli, Croatian slavicist and folklorist, literary historian, writer, publisher, and academic, noted for her extensive research into Croatian oral literature.

1923 – James Schuyler, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet of the New York School.

1928 – Jyotish Jagannath Jani, Indian Gujarati novelist, poet, editor, literary critic, and short-story writer.

1928 – Lojze Kovacic, award-winning Slovene and Swiss writer and children’s author whose novel Prišleki (The Newcomers) is considered one of the most important Slovene novels of the 20th century; many of his novels are autobiographical.

1928 – Anne Sexton, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet who was known for her highly personal confessional verse.

1929 – Imre Kertész, Nobel Prize-winning Hungarian author whose writing is said to uphold “the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history”; he is best known for his semi-autobiographical accounts of the Holocaust.

1933 – Villanueva Cosse, award-winning Uruguayan author, actor, writer, playwright, translator, and theater director who is now based in Argentina.

1934 – Lois Ehlert, Caldecott Medal-winning U.S. children’s author and illustrator.

1934 – Ronald Harwood, Oscar-winning South African novelist, playwright, screenwriter, writer, actor, and film producer.

1934 – Shulamit Lapid, award-winning Israeli novelist, playwright, short-story writer, mystery writer, and children’s writer; her best known book Valley of Strength tells the story of the first immigrants to the modern land of Israel. She is also the creator of the character Lizzy Badihi, a journalist-turned-detective in Lapid’s thriller novels who is described as “tottering in her oversized shoes and wearing oversized earrings” as she investigates crimes.

1934 – Carl Sagan, U.S. astronomer, astrophysicist, science writer, television personality, and science-fiction novelist who helped popularize scientific topics.

1935 – Antonio Porta (pen name of Leo Paolazzi), Italian writer, poet, editor, translator, literary critic, children’s writer, and science-fiction author who was one of the founders of the Italian literary movement Gruppo 63.

1937 – Roger Joseph McGough, British poet, children’s author, playwright, and broadcaster.

1942 – Karin Kiwus, German poet, writer, editor, author, and university teacher.

1944 – Torquato Pereira de Araújo Neto, Brazilian journalist, poet, and songwriter who is perhaps best known as a lyricist for the Tropicália counterculture movement.

1946 – Marina Sarah Warner, English novelist, short-story writer, historian, mythographer, and professor; she is known for her many nonfiction books relating to feminism and myth.

1947 – Dermot Healy, award-winning Irish novelist, playwright, poet, screenwriter, and short story writer; though he is not widely known outside of his country, in Ireland he is considered by many to be Ireland’s finest living novelist and has been called the “Celtic Hemingway.”

1947 – Oh Jung-Hee, award-winning South Korean writer and children’s author, some of whose work is non-imagistic and centered on family life as something like a trap for women.

1949 – Manilal Haridas Patel, award-winning Indian Gujarati poet, essayist, novelist, and literary critic who has made significant contributions to Gujarati literature.

1955 – Janet Fitch, U.S. author and professor who is best known for her novel White Oleander.

1957 – Bryan Gruley, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, nonfiction author, and novelist who is well known for his coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks and for his award-winning mystery novels.

1957 – Gorg Mallia, Maltese author, cartoonist, children’s book writer and illustrator, communications specialist, and professor.

1958 – C.J. Box, bestselling U.S. short-story writer and author of 18 novels, including Stone Cold and Shots Fired, both part of his Joe Pickett series.

1959 – Deborah Ascher Barnstone, Australian author, historian, architect, architectural historian, and professor.

1960 – Taoufik Ben Brik, Tunisian author and journalist who has been a prominent critic of the former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and of censorship in the Middle East.

1960 – So Hajin (pen name of Seo Deoksun), award-winning South Korean novelist and short-story writer; her work explores feminine desire and challenges the patriarchal nature of Korean society and its customs.

1960 – Michael Robotham, bestselling Australian author of crime fiction who began his career as a ghost writer.

1961 – Jackie Kay, Scottish poet and novelist who is the national Poet Laureate of Scotland and the chancellor of the University of Salford.

1965 – Bjarni Bjarnason, award-winning Icelandic poet, novelist, and playwright; one critic said of his books, “Time is an important element in all his novels; their imagery is influenced by ancient myths and invested with a fairy tale atmosphere while simultaneously referring to modern phenomena.”

1965 – Park Jeong-dae, South Korean writer and poet who is a member of the International Radical Poetry group and the April 19 Generation; according to one critic: “Absurdities in life, frightful experiences, and situations that defy logic and empathy—these things have compelled the poet to dream of a distant, alternative realm where possibilities of endless love still exist.”

1972 – Lars “Lasse” Erik Oliver Lindroth, Iranian-born Swedish comedian, writer, and actor who became famous as a comedian, using the stage name Ali Hussein; he went on to write books and to play parts in films and television programs.

1978 – Matt Gibson, Canadian writer, world traveler, photographer, blogger, and social anthropologist.

1987 – Kristin Fridtun, Norwegian writer, author and former Olympic ski jumper.

1988 – Tahereh Mafi, U.S. novelist, science-fiction writer, and young-adult fiction writer whose parents emigrated from Iran; some of her best known work is dystopian.

Book Review: Kindred

Why Does a Harry Potter Group Read Kindred?

I recently led a book discussion of Octavia Butler’s time-travel novel, Kindred. This was not my regular book club or the Anti-Racist Book Club, though the novel could fit well into the reading list of either group. It was my Harry Potter group.

When I sat down ahead of time to come up with some opening remarks and discussion questions, I asked myself why a group dedicated to all things Harry Potter would choose this particular not-very-Harry book to read. I hadn’t chosen it, but I realized there are many good reasons.

Of course, we believe that reading any well-written, thoughtful fantasy gives us a better understanding of the genre and of our world. But why specifically Kindred? This is a book about Dana, a young African-American woman in 1976 Los Angeles who is married to Kevin, a White man; they have just moved into their first house. While unpacking, she suddenly feels dizzy; then she finds herself, with no explanation, outdoors in a wooded area, where a little White boy is drowning in a creek while his mother panics. Dana jumps into the water, pulls him out, and performs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until she gets him breathing again. The boy’s father shows up and holds a gun to her head. And then she’s back in her new house in California, with piles of books on the floor around her, her husband freaking out about how she disappeared and then reappeared a few seconds later on the other side of the room, with her clothes wet and muddy.

This begins a strange and disturbing episode in Dana’s life. She learns that she is somehow tied to an accident-prone boy, Rufus, who is the son of a plantation owner in 18th-century Maryland. Each time she starts to feel dizzy, it’s because Rufus’s life is in danger, and she is called to the past to rescue him. She is Rufus’s protector, and they both believe he will die if at any time she is called to his side and simply refuses to act. So she has considerable power over him. At the same time, as a White boy and the heir to his father’s property, including the slaves, Rufus — even as a small child — also has power over her. In the eyes of the people on the plantation, White and Black, she is a slave, unless she can show paperwork that proves she is a free Black. The book’s graphic depiction of slavery and its nuanced, fully rounded characters make this one of the most realistic novels about slavery you will ever read.

Surprisingly, Kindred and the Harry Potter series share some common elements. Both feature time travel by magical means, a concern with family and ancestry, themes of prejudice and oppression, and a struggle against evil. Both main characters are orphans grew up living with an aunt and uncle who don’t understand them or care to, and who are abruptly removed from what they thought of as everyday life and immersed in a world they did not think was possible.

The tones of the two literary works are completely different. Both books contain magic, but the world Harry enters is decidedly more magical – and to him, preferable to the Muggle reality of Privet Drive. The magical world that lurks around the edges of his ordinary reality has frightening, life-threatening elements, but it is a world he embraces, feels at home in, and will risk his life to save.

Dana’s situation in Kindred is in some ways the complete opposite. The 19th century world she finds herself in is, on the whole, horrifying, especially for a Black woman. And while she arrives there and leaves again via unexplained magical means, there is no magic in the life of the plantation. That’s not to say that everything is bad. Dana forms relationships she cherishes on the Weylin plantation and learns that she can be stronger than she ever thought possible. But the good moments are too sparse to make up for even a fraction of the risks, humiliation, fear, horror, and life-threatening injuries she suffers there. While she, like Harry, is willing to risk her life, it’s not for the same thing. He risks his life to save his new world. She risks hers for her own future and the continuation of her family line, not to save the Weylins’ world and economic system.
The villains in Kindred – mostly Rufus Weylin and his father Tom – are more multidimensional than Harry’s nemesis Voldemort. The whole book is. That’s not a criticism of Harry Potter; it’s just a different kind of book with a different tone, audience, and purpose.

Some Discussion Questions, and My Thoughts on Them

Rufus is a slave owner, a rapist, and a control freak who engages in casual cruelty and shocking acts of vengeance when he doesn’t get his way. Yet he is also capable of love and kindness — on his own terms — and both Dana and the Weylin slaves hate him at the same time that they sometimes feel some affection for him. Discuss the complicated relationship between Rufus and Dana. And between Rufus and others he victimizes.

Dana’s relationship with Rufus is a complex one. He is her ancestor, and somehow that gives him the power to unknowingly call her to him out of 1976 when his life is in danger. When he’s a small child, she appears in time to save him from drowning. When he sets his room on fire a few years later to get back at his father, he loses control of the fire and she arrives to put it out. When he falls from a tree and breaks his leg, she and Kevin are there to help him. Rufus known he will die if she just shows up but simply refuses to save his life. So he needs her. But he is White and she is Black, so at the same time that he is in her power, she is in his.

Dana is horrified by much of what Rufus says and does. She remarks on his aptitude for vengeance from the time he is a child. She surprises him by standing up to him when he addresses her in a disrespectful way. And by telling him where she’s really from. She still thinks of herself as his equal, but he is White, a boy, and a Weylin, so he has power over her.

She also feels sorry for him because of the cruel way his father treats him. Tom Weylin knows she can read, and he agrees to let her read to Rufus while his broken leg heals, while Kevin is employed as Rufus’s tutor. Weylin has become convinced that Rufus is not very smart, and wants him to learn as much as he can to give him a competitive edge when he is in charge of the plantation.

As he grows older, Rufus gains more real power and becomes more dangerous. Despite the fact that he knows his life depends on Dana, his anger and entitlement sometimes push him to punish her in ways that could alienate her forever and result in her refusing to save his life the next time she has the chance. He knows this, but he can’t always put aside his sense of superiority. He is used to having Black people defer to him, not challenge him. When, in a fit of anger, he sends her to work in the fields, he knows the overseer will treat her abominably.

When Kevin is trapped in this time period, somewhere up North, Rufus promises to mail a letter to him, and tells Dana that he did. When Dana learns that he lied, she runs away, but is captured, dragged back to the plantation, and beaten.

After Alice’s death, Rufus turns to Dana for sex. She has acted all along as his surrogate mother, sister, teacher, and friend. Now he wants a sexual relationship. Alice, of course, is Dana’s ancestor. And there is a striking resemblance between them. That resemblance is not lost on Rufus. When he tries to rape her, Alice’s baby Hagar has already been born, so Dana no longer needs Rufus alive. She stabs him, and Nigel burns down the house to make it look like he died in the fire.

One of the most disturbing — and disturbed — characters in the book is Rufus’s mother, Margaret Weylin. Why is she the way she is?

Tom Weylin came from a lower-class family, but gained control of the plantation when he married his first wife. Hannah, who owned the plantation herself, was genteel, educated, and popular among the slaves. After her death, Tom married Margaret, an uneducated social climber like Tom. Rufus is their child. While Tom treats Rufus cruelly, Margaret’s love is downright stifling. She is bored, petty, and self-centered. She hates Dana because she has a crush on Kevin and Kevin has the gall to love a Black woman instead of responding to her advances. She also hates Dana because she resents the fact that a Black woman is better educated than she is, and that her son Rufus prefers Dana’s company to her own.

Mostly, Dana thinks, Margaret is grief-stricken and rather unhinged since her other children died as babies; she has never been the same sense. In addition, she is just plain bored. The slaves do all the work, her husband and son ignore her, and she doesn’t know what to do with herself. Perhaps Rufus have had a chance to grow up to be a better man than his father if he had been Hannah’s son instead of Margaret’s, and if Hannah had lived to raise him? Her influence could have made a real difference in his character.

Dana says that Rufus’s father, Tom Weylin, “wasn’t a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper.” Do you agree?

We can easily see Tom Weylin as evil. He owns slaves, he beats them mercilessly when he thinks they deserve it, he rapes them, and he has no compunction about selling off a woman’s children so she will never see them again. He also behaves cruelly toward his son; when Rufus is just a child and breaks his leg, Tom is more concerned about how much a doctor will cost him than about his son’s injury and pain.

Despite his disturbing cruelty, he does have a rather bizarre sense of honor. In particular, he believes in keeping his word – and forcing his son to do the same. He intervenes when Rufus hides the letters that he told Dana he would mail to Kevin for her when Kevin is stuck in 18th century New England. It’s not that Weylin believes it’s a good idea to let her write to her husband. He does not. But he cannot condone Rufus promising to mail the letters and then telling Dana he has done it when he never intended to keep his word. Tom actually seems to feel sorry for Dana in this case. But he doesn’t care that she has no way of contacting the only person who can really help her; he only cares that his son broke a promise.

Another place we see Tom Weylin’s twisted sense of honor is in his relations with Kevin. When he thinks Kevin owns Dana, he is fine with Kevin’s supposed plan to take her down South and sell her where he can get a better price. But he strongly disapproves of Kevin promising her that he’ll free her down South while all the while he is secretly planning to sell her off instead. (Of course, that’s all a fiction, because they are passing themselves off as owner and slave, because they can’t let anyone know they are husband and wife.) Weylin’s opinion of Kevin drastically changes when he thinks Kevin is a man who will promise a slave one thing, yet do another.

In fact, if I had to name another piece of literature that Tom Weylin would feel at home in, it’s not Harry Potter. It’s Game of Thrones. Westeros is a society with a sense of honor that’s similar to Tom’s, a concept of honor that can condone murder and rape, but that considers breaking a promise to be an unforgiveable offense. Remember the story of the Rat King, who was punished by the gods not for committing murder, but for breaking the contract of hospitality with a guest. And Jamie is branded a man without honor for killing a king after promising to protect him – even though everyone knew the king he killed was prone to torturing and killing his subjects on a whim. The killing isn’t what bothered people (if that was it, then Robert Baratheon would have been reviled for it, too, yet he was celebrated for it). The problem was that he made a vow and broken it, the only really unforgiveable sin in Westeros. This is the same kind of logic that motivates Tom Weylin to contact Kevin when he learns that his son promised to but did not. He didn’t do it because it was the right thing to do. He did it because he felt his son’s broken promise as a stain upon the family honor.

While we’re on the topic, what else have you read that Kindred reminds you of?

Slave narratives certainly. Kindred is, in some ways, a fictionalized version of classic slave narratives. But it is also a lot more than that. The time-travel element and connection to the present put it in an entirely different category.

I could draw parallels between Kindred and other time-travel stories, such as Outlander, though Outlander is a much-romanticized version of the genre.

Some of Connie Willis’s time-travel books would be a closer match, especially The Doomsday Book, in which the time traveler goes back to the Middle Ages and the Black Death. It’s certainly a much closer fit in terms of tone, with true horrors that the traveler had read about but could not really understand without experiencing them herself. In Willis’s books, time-travel does not happen as a result of some mysterious phenomenon that is never explained. Her characters are professors and graduate students at an Oxford University of the future, where the best way to learn about history is to use the department’s time machine to travel back to the time period being studied – again, to learn what cannot be fully understood about the past by reading a book.

But the closest parallel I can come up with for Kindred is a novel that includes both the horrific, gut-wrenching scenes of a dark past and an unexpected, little-understood method of traveling to the past. The book is Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic. In it, a young girl named Hannah is annoyed at having to spend Passover with her family, especially the elderly relatives she finds tiresome, when she would much rather be having fun with her non-Jewish friends. Then she finds herself in 1942, in a town on the Polish/German border, where the Jewish population is being rounded up and transported to a death camp. In the camp, she experiences first-hand the horrors her ancestors lived through, in a way that reading about it could never bring home to her. And, like Dana, she comes to understand not only the fear and deprivation, but the moral compromises that oppression and cruelty can force upon their victims.

That shifting of right and wrong is one of the hardest things for Dana to deal with on the Weylin plantation in Maryland. She feels terrible about agreeing, for instance, to try to convince Alice not to resist Rufus’s attempts to rape her. Rufus expects her to be complicit in her friend’s rape. And while she hates it, she does what he wants.

She doesn’t do it for him, of course – despite the fact that she finds herself liking him at times, as much as she doesn’t want to. She does it because she believes it is the only way to ensure that Alice gives birth to her and Rufus’s child, Hagar, who Dana has identified as her own ancestor. Hagar’s birth is crucial for preserving her family line and ensuring her own birth, no matter what it costs Alice. Dana knows she is compromising her own principles, and she hates herself for it. But she believes it is necessary.

That is not the only time Dana does something she believes to be immoral. But it takes her some time to reach a place where she is ready to compromise her principles. On an early trip to the past, when she is attacked by a White man intent on raping and probably killing her, she thinks of gouging his eyes out, but cannot bring herself to do it. In Los Angeles afterwards, when Kevin asks her if she could kill a man if she had to, she says, “Before last night, I might not have been sure, but now, yes.” Already, she has faced the fact that her own survival in a world in which she has no power and no protection might require her to do terrible things that her 1976 self would never consider. When she murders Rufus at the end of the book, she is committing an act that present-day Dana never believed she was capable of.

She hates these compromises of her own ethics, but even more, she hates the system that she feels has forced her to make such decisions.

In Yolen’s book, the girl Hannah soon learns that her best chance of surviving a concentration camp is to do as she’s told, keep her head down, and not risk being noticed by trying to help others, even if she knows it’s the right thing to do. The first rule of The Devil’s Arithmetic the title refers to says that every time someone else is killed and you are not, you increase your chances of surviving a little longer.

It’s not only the victims of oppression who are forced to compromise their ideals in Kindred. When Kevin travels with her to the Weylin plantation, they both realize they’ll have to play the parts of owner and slave, as distasteful as it is to them both. Dana worries about what will happen if he has to stay in the 1800s, how living as part of the oppressor class in this time and place might change him. Kevin does end up stranded there, when he can’t reach Dana in time to travel back home with her. How do you think Kevin is changed by living in this society for five years? How would the story be different if Kevin were Black?

How do the different slaves on the Weylin plantation manage to survive?

Unlike a lot of literature about the antebellum South, Kindred presents the slave characters as real, complex people, not stock characters. And their attitude toward survival varies.

Luke, for example, says “Yes, sir,” a lot, but then defies the Weylins by going ahead and doing what he wants. He advises his son Nigel, “Don’t argue with white folks… Don’t tell them ‘no.’ Don’t let them see you mad. Just say ‘yes sir.’ Then go ’head and do what you want to do. Might have to take a whippin’ for it later on, but if you want it bad enough, the whippin’ won’t matter much.” He acts as an overseer in many ways, and keeps the plantation running smoothly, so he is allowed more latitude than a less productive slave might be given. But in the end, none of that matters. He is sold off anyway.

Luke’s fate brings home the fact that a slave’s behavior guarantees nothing. Weylin’s slaves are whipped or sold off for disobedience and for lack of productivity, but they are also sold off for offenses that exist only in the owner’s head (as when Rufus sells Sam South in a fit of jealous rage, because he imagines that Sam wants to be involved with Dana), or just because someone needs the money (as when all of Sarah’s children except the “defective” Carrie are sold). Tom Weylin uses Tess for sex, and then loses interest in her and passes her on to the new overseer, Jake. When he also loses interest, she is sold too. She did nothing wrong. She followed orders, did not fight their sexual advances, and even tried to make herself more valuable to them by informing on Dana. In the end, none of it mattered. Slaves can do everything right; they still have no control over their fate.

What about Sarah? Literature about life on an antebellum plantation often includes a slave we’ve come to think of as the “Mammy” character, the mother substitute to the young White and Black characters alike. She gives them treats in the kitchen, dries their tears, and loves them all as if they were her own children. The archetype was probably created by White people who were trying to come to grips with our country’s slave past by convincing themselves that slavery wasn’t so bad. Sarah comes across as a much more realistic take on this role. How is Sarah both like and unlike this traditional character?

Sarah is the cook, supposed ruler of the cook house – though everyone knows her power is limited, at best. She does her job, and she does it well. She has a genuine fondness for Rufus, though she knows better than anyone what he will turn into as he grows out of childhood and gains real power. Underneath her hardworking, compliant demeanor, Sarah seethes with rage. Rufus’s father sold her children – all of them except her mute daughter, Carrie – because his second wife, Margaret, wanted to buy more expensive dishes and other items for the house.

The cook house Sarah presides over feels at first like a safe haven to Dana, a place where the slaves can speak with each other with no fear of being overheard. Dana even uses the space to teach the boy Nigel to read, because everyone assures her that Tom Weylin and his wife never, ever come into the cook house. When Tom does walk in on their lesson, Dana is punished severely, reminding her that even in the cook house, she cannot let her guard down. For a slave in 19th century America, there are no safe places.

What is the role of Carrie in the narrative?

The slave Carrie is intelligent, but because she is mute, most people, especially White people, assume she is slow or backward (when they give any thought to her at all). Carrie can hear and understand, and often understands more than those around her. We don’t always know what she is thinking. But she can communicate only through expressions and her own unique sign language.

So, Is her disability a curse or a blessing? Because a mute child would not command a high price on the market, Weylin did not sell her when he sold off her brothers. But she’s a hard worker who clearly sees Dana as a friend.

There is another reason why Weylin allows Sarah to keep her daughter Carrie. Weylin is a shrewd slave owner who understands that family will often keep even a rebellious slave from running away or misbehaving. Carrie is a good worker, but her mother is of enormous value to Tom Weylin. Leaving her one child helps to ensure her obedience; she would not run away and leave her only remaining daughter, and she would not defy her master, knowing her daughter could be sold away as punishment. So family can be a double-edged sword for slaves on the Weylin plantation. A spouse and children can be a source of comfort but can also be turned into an instrument of oppression. After Nigel’s father Luke is sold off, Nigel could become rebellious and try to run away. The Weylins know this, and encourage his marriage to Carrie, even allowing them a real ceremony with a preacher. Once Nigel has a wife and children, they believe, he will be more tightly tethered to the plantation and accepting of their control, unlike his rebellious father.

Trace Alice’s relationship with Rufus. Why do you think Alice killed herself? Does Dana bear some of the responsibility for her death? What is the effect of her suicide on Rufus?

Alice and Rufus were best friends as children. She was a free Black girl. He was the White heir apparent of the Weylin plantation and its slaves. Even when they were children, there was a power imbalance, but as they grew up, that imbalance widened as he came into real power. Alice trusted him when they were children. When Dana arrives at the home of Alice and her mother, she says Rufus sent her, and Alice is relieved, telling her mother it was OK, that Rufus would never tell his father.

But when Alice falls in love with Isaac, a slave on a neighboring plantation, and marries him, Rufus is enraged. His sense of White male entitlement tells him that Alice is his, and nobody else’s, despite the fact that she is free and legally allowed to marry Isaac if Isaac’s master has no objection. When Rufus rapes Alice to assert his claim on her, a claim with no basis in reality, Isaac fights him. It is only Dana’s intervention that keeps Isaac from killing Rufus. And it is Dana who convinces Rufus to let the couple run, rather than alerting the slave catchers to their flight. Instead, he explains his injuries by saying a group of White strangers got him drunk and beat and robbed him.

When the two are caught a few days later, both are beaten severely. Isaac is sold South, but Rufus buys Alice himself, getting exactly what he wanted all along – control over her, though she was born free.

Eventually, Alice sees no option but to give in to Rufus’s desire for her, rather than being taken by force each time. She seems to have settled into her new life as his mistress. She hates it, but she loves her children, and she is resigned to being with Rufus, who even shows signs of loving his children by her. Then he punishes her by telling her he has sold her children, though it’s a lie. Rufus forgot the lesson his father taught him about children giving a slave a reason to stay. She had already lost her freedom, Isaac, and her self-respect. Losing her children as well leaves Alice with no reason to go on.

Discuss the novel’s theme of home and belonging.

At one point, Dana is surprised to realize that she has actually come to think of the Weylin Plantation as home. The fact is, she has not really had a home for most of her life, so it is not surprising that the plantation might fill that role. She is estranged from the aunt and uncle who raised her, who never really understood her or even tried to. So she has lost access to the home where she grew up. And she is just moving into her new house in Los Angeles when she begins time-traveling. So she doesn’t have a place in 1976 that feels like home.

Mostly, she finds it frightening how easy it is to fall into acceptance not only of living on an antebellum plantation, but of being a slave. Overhearing the children playing slave auction brings this home to her in a deeply disturbing way, though Kevin doesn’t seem to think it’s that big a deal. However much he is horrified by what he sees in the 18th century, he isn’t Black. Living in the midst of slavery will never mean to him what it means to Dana. He can remain detached in a way she never can.

November 8 Writer Birthdays

1342 – Julian (or Juliana) of Norwich, (also known as Dame Julian or Mother Julian), influential British Catholic nun, theologian, and mystic who wrote the earliest surviving English-language book to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.

1491 – Teofilo Folengo, Italian poet who also used the name Merlino Coccajo (or Cocajo); he was one of the principal Italian macaronic poets (macaronic literature uses a mixture of languages, particularly bilingual puns); his most famous work, the epic poem Baldo, blends Latin with various Italian dialects, in hexameter verse.

1710 – Sarah Fielding, British author who was responsible for the first English language novel written specifically for children (The Governess); she was the sister of novelist Henry Fielding.

1838 – Herculine Barbin, French memoirist who was an intersex person assigned female at birth and raised in a convent, but later reclassified as male by a court of law.

1847 – Bram Stoker, Irish novelist and short-story writer who wrote the Gothic horror vampire novel Dracula; in his day, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Sir Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, which Irving owned.

1869 – Zinaida Gippius, Russian poet, playwright, novelist, memoirist, short-story writer, literary critic, editor, and religious thinker who was a major figure in Russian Symbolism; after openly criticizing the tsar and denouncing the October Revolution, she emigrated to Poland, France, and then Italy, where she sometimes wrote on the topic of exile, as well as exploring mystical and covertly sexual themes.

1875 – Qiu Jin, Chinese poet, writer, revolutionary, and feminist who was also known as Xuanqing and Jianhu Nüxia (which, when translated literally into English, means “Woman Knight of Mirror Lake”); she was executed after a failed uprising against the Qing dynasty, and is considered a national heroine in China.

1897 – Dorothy Day, U.S. journalist, novelist, editor, autobiographer, nonfiction writer, social activist, and anarchist; the Catholic Church has begun exploration of naming her a saint, giving her the interim title, Servant of God.

1898 – Katharine Mary Briggs, British folklorist and writer, who wrote The Anatomy of Puck, as well as the four-volume A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language and various other books on fairies and folklore.

1900 – Margaret Mitchell, U.S. author of the Civil War classic Gone With the Wind, which won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and which was made into the Academy Award-winning film of the same name; the book and film have been criticized for their romanticized depiction of slavery.

1908 – Martha Gellhorn, U.S. novelist, journalist, and travel writer who is considered one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century; she was also the third wife of Ernest Hemingway.

1916 – Peter Weiss, German-born Swedish novelist, dramatist, film director, and painter.

1919 – Purushottam Laxman ‘Pu La’ Deshpande, noted Marathi Indian writer, humorist, orator, screenwriter, composer, professor, classical musician, and actor.

1932 – Ben Bova, six-time Hugo Award-winning U.S. science-fiction novelist, short-story writer, science writer, screenwriter, essayist, and editor.

1942 – Vijay Nahar, Indian author and historian known for his reference books on Indian history and political leaders.

1954 – Natalka Bilotserkivets, award-winning Ukrainian poet, editor, and translator.

1954 – Timothy Egan, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. nonfiction author, biographer, and journalist.

1954 – Ko Hyeong-ryeol, award-winning modern Korean poet, writer, and essayist.

1954 – Kazuo Ishiguro, Nobel Prize-winning Japanese-born British novelist who, “in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”

1955 – Che Husna Azhari, prominent Malaysian author, short-story writer, and engineer; her fiction is generally set in Kelantan, Malaysia, and her best known short stories are used as standard teaching texts in Malaysia.

1955 – Jeffrey Ford, U.S. author of fantasy, science fiction and mystery.

1961 – Chin Wan (pen name for Horace Chin Wan-kan), Chinese Hong Kong writer, professor, and advocate for Hong Kong autonomy; for his work toward Hong Kong home rule, he has been called the “godfather of localism.”

1962 – Oriza Hirata, Japanese author, playwright, film director, and academic; he is best known for his work in theater and for creating what he has coined, “contemporary colloquial theater,” or as theater critics call it, “quiet drama.”

1970 – Péter Zilahy, Hungarian, author, poet, journalist, photographer, and performer whose prose and poetry has been widely translated; he has often used photography, interactive media, and performance art in his work.

1971 – Carlos Atanes, award-winning Spanish author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, film director, and film producer.

1974 – Joshua Ferris, U.S. novelist and nonfiction author best known for his debut novel Then We Came to the End.

1976 – Karolina Ramqvist (full name Annika Karolina Virtanen Ramqvist), prominent Swedish journalist and best-selling author; her novels explore contemporary issues of sexuality, commercialization, isolation, and belonging.

1979 – Valentin Popov, Bulgarian novelist and short-story writer who writes in the genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, and mystery.

1985 – Julie Murphy, bestselling U.S. author for adults and young adults; she wrote her first novel, Side Effects May Vary, for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) while working as a librarian, and is best known for Dumplin’, which was made into a film.

1989 – Silvia Núñez del Arco Vidal, Peruvian novelist, some of whose works are erotic.

1991 – Samantha Shannon, British writer of dystopian, fantasy, and paranormal fiction.

November 7 Writer Birthdays

1414 – Jami (full name Nur ad-Din ‘Abd ar-Rahman Jami, but also known as Mawlana Nur al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman or Abd-Al-Rahman Nur-Al-Din Muhammad Dashti), prolific Iranian-born writer, poet, philosopher, music theorist, and writer of mystical Sufi literature. He is recognized for his eloquence and for his analysis of the metaphysics of mercy.

1787 – Vuk Karadžić, Serbian writer, historian, translator, anthropologist, linguist, philologist, lexicographer, Bible translator, diplomat, and collector of fairy tales; he has been called “the father of Serbian folk-literature scholarship.”

1834 – Wlodzimierz Zagórski, Polish writer, novelist, and satirist who also wrote under the pseudonyms Chochlik and Publicola (or Publikola).

1867 – Marie Salomea Skłodowska Curie, Nobel Prize-winning Polish and French physicist, chemist, and professor who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity; she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields.

1872 – Leonora Speyer, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet and violinist who is best known for her book Fiddler’s Farewell.

1878 – Lise Meitner, award-winning Austrian-Swedish physicist who was one of those responsible for the discovery of the element protactinium and nuclear fission; in 1905, she became the first woman from the University of Vienna and second in the world to earn a doctorate in physics.

1879 – Leon Trotsky, Russian writer, Marxist theorist, politician, and Bolshevik revolutionary who was one of the leaders of the Russian October Revolution; he wrote many books including The Revolution Betrayed, Their Morals and Ours, History of the Russian Revolution, and Fascism: What It Is and How to Fight It.

1886 – Mohammad-Taqi Bahar, Iranian poet, writer, essayist, politician, historian, translator, university teacher, and journalist; he has often been called Malek o-Sho’ara Bahar (“King of Poets.”)

1893 – Margaret Leech, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. historian, author, and biographer.

1897 – Emma Thomas “Ruth” Pitter, award-winning British poet and author who wrote in a traditional style with traditional meter and rhyme schemes, avoiding most of the experimentations of modern verse; writer C.S. Lewis and W.B. Yeats both praised her poetry.

1897 – Armstrong Sperry, Newbery Medal-winning U.S. children’s author and illustrator, historical-fiction writer, and biographer.

1901 – Cecília Meireles, Brazilian writer, poet, translator, journalist, novelist, and educational reformer who is a key figure in the Brazilian Modernist movement; she is considered one of the best Portuguese-language poets ever.

1908 – Zhou Yang (or Chou Yang), Chinese writer, literary critic, literary theorist, philosopher, politician, and Marxist thinker.

1913 – Albert Camus, Nobel Prize-winning Algerian-born French author, journalist, and philosopher praised “for his important literary production, with which clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times.” Though he is usually considered an existentialist, he hated the term, preferring to call himself an absurdist.

1914 – R.A. Lafferty, U.S. science-fiction and fantasy author known for his clever wordplay; he wrote novels, short stories, and autobiographical fiction.

1916 – Clementina Díaz y de Ovando, Mexican writer, researcher, and academic who specialized in New Spain’s art and architecture.

1920 – Elaine Morgan, Welsh writer, screenwriter, author, anthropologist, columnist, and feminist who wrote several books on evolutionary anthropology, especially the aquatic ape hypothesis; she has been named one of the 50 greatest Welsh men and women of all time.

1937 – Mary Daheim, U.S. author of romance and mystery novels whose books tend to be set near her home in the Pacific Northwest.

1940 – Antonio Skármeta, Chilean novelist, short-story writer, and television host.

1942 – Helen Garner, award-winning Australian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and journalist.

1942 – Tom Peters, U.S. business writer, best known for the bestselling book In Search of Excellence.

1943 – Stephen Greenblatt, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning U.S. literary critic and scholar.

1946 – Chrystos, award-winning Native American writer, poet, artist, teacher, and activist of the Menominee people, who has published books and poems that explore indigenous Americans’ civil rights, social justice, and feminism.

1949 – Aishwarya Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah, Nepalese writer, poet, and songwriter who was Queen of Nepal from 1972 to 2001.

1954 – Guy Gavriel Kay, Canadian author of historical fantasy, radio scripts, and poetry, most of whose novels take place in fictional settings that resemble real places during real historical periods; he also assisted Christopher Tolkien in editing his father J.R.R. Tolkien’s work for publication.

1956 – Anna Ogino, award-winning Japanese writer, novelist, and professor.

1956 – Zhang Wei, Chinese writer and novelist who won the Mao Dun Literature Prize, the highest national literary award, for On the Plateau, a 10-volume work that took a decade to write.

1959 – Odete Semedo, Guinea-Bissaun writer, poet, linguist, educator, and government official who writes in both Portuguese and Guinea Creole.

1960 – Linda Nagata, Nebula Award-winning U.S. author of speculative fiction, science fiction, and fantasy novels, novellas, and short stories who frequently writes in the Nanopunk genre, which features nanotechnology and the integration of advanced computing with the human brain.

1960 – Olubayi Olubayi, Kenyan writer, scientist, and academic who was Vice-Chancellor and President of the International University of East Africa in Uganda; he has written on microbiology, biotechnology, social science, and education.

1968 – Yuyi Morales, Caldecott Medal-winning Mexican author and illustrator of books for children.

1975 – Danny Lim, Malaysian writer, journalist, and photographer.

1980 – María Clara Berenbau Giuria (also known as Clarita Berenbau), Uruguayan writer, columnist, journalist, actress, and television presenter.

1987 – Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire, Ugandan writer and lawyer who co-founded the Centre for African Cultural Excellence, which curates the pan-African Writivism literary initiative.