December 14 Writer Birthdays

1503 – Nostradamus, French author, astrologist, and alleged seer, credited with foreseeing many world events (possibly born on Dec. 21; accounts vary).

1546 – Tycho Brahe, Danish astronomer, author, poet, autobiographer, and alchemist who was known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical observations; he has been described as “the first competent mind in modern astronomy to feel ardently the passion for exact empirical facts.”

1640 – Aphra Behn (pen name Astrea), British playwright, poet, novelist, and writer; as one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, she broke cultural barriers and served as a literary role model for generations of women authors. She is remembered in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Before Behn began writing plays, King Charles II employed her as a spy in Antwerp.

1777 – Juan N. Gallego, Spanish poet, priest, and interpreter.

1813 – Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé (also known as Jamgön Kongtrül the Great), renowned Tibetan Buddhist scholar, poet, artist, and physician; one of the most prominent Tibetan Buddhists of the 19th century, he composed more than 90 volumes of writing, including his magnum opus, The Treasury of Knowledge.

1844 – Nakajima Utako, Japanese writer, poet, and founder of the prominent Haginoya (“House of Bush Clover”) poetry school; she wrote in the Japanese waka and tanka forms and is associated with Keien court poetry

1853 – Salvador Díaz Mirón, influential Mexican poet who is considered a precursor of modernismo; his early verse, written in a passionate, romantic style, was influenced by Lord Byron and Victor Hugo; his later verse was more classical in mode.

1888 – Yong Sathiankoset (also known by his title, Phya Anuman Rajadhon), Thai author, linguist, artist, anthropologist, folklorist, and ethnographer whose work explored the culture of Thailand and set the foundations for cultural awareness among young Thai scholars.

1895 – Paul Éluard, French poet who helped found the surrealist movement.

1908 – Mária Szepes, Hungarian screenwriter, writer, poet, journalist, children’s author, science-fiction author, and actress; she sometimes wrote under the pseudonyms Mária Papir or Mária Orsi.

1910 – Upendranath Sharma “Ashk”, Indian novelist, short-story writer, and playwright who began his literary career writing in Urdu but later switched to Hindi.

1916 – Shirley Jackson, highly influential, award-winning U.S. mystery and horror writer of novels, memoirs, and short stories; she is best known for her short story, “The Lottery.”

1917 – Tove Ditlevsen, Danish poet, essayist, novelist, short-story writer, and memoirist who at the time of her death was one of the most widely read Danish authors.

1920 – Rosemary Sutcliff, English novelist, children’s writer, and screenwriter who was best known for her children’s books, especially historical fiction and retellings of myths and legends.

1929 – Charles W. Ryan, U.S. technical writer and nonfiction book author.

1938 – Leonardo Boff, Brazilian priest, theologian, and writer.

1940 – Carolyn Marie Rodgers, U.S. African-American poet, playwright, short-story author, and founder of one of the country’s oldest and largest Black presses; a founder of the Black Arts movement.

1943 – Merlie M. Alunan, award-winning Filipina poet, nonfiction writer, anthology editor, and educator.

1943 – Nancy Thayer, prolific U.S. author whose novels include Summer House, Beachcombers, and Three Women At The Water’s Edge.

1945 – Stanley Crouch, U.S. poet, music and cultural critic, syndicated columnist, novelist, and biographer, perhaps best known for his jazz criticism and his novel, Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome.

1948 – Stephen Adei, Ghanaian writer, economist, professor, and entrepreneur.

1948 – Boudewijn Maria Ignatius Büch, Dutch poet, author, and television personality.

1951 – Amy Hempel, PEN/Faulkner-nominated U.S. short-story writer, journalist, and professor.

1966 – Lucrecia Martel, acclaimed Argentinian screenwriter and film director.

1966 – Sarah Zettel, U.S. science-fiction, fantasy, and mystery author.

1968 – Kelley Armstrong, bestselling Canadian author of fantasy, mystery, romance, and crime novels.

1968 – Rachel Cohn, American author of bestselling children’s, young-adult, and adult fiction; her work includes three books with dual narrators, in which she wrote the female point of view herself and had coauthor David Levithan write the male point of view.

1984 – Prerna Lal, Fiji-born U.S. author and immigration attorney who founded DreamActivist, an online advocacy network, and is a frequent writer on immigration, racial justice, sexual orientation, and the ways in which those forces intersect.

JMU Orchestra Concert

My son’s recent orchestra concert has been posted on the music department’s YouTube page. This is the James Madison University Chamber Orchestra, performing on December 5. The students performed Bologne’s Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Haydn’s Symphony No. 82 in C Major, and selections from Handel’s Water Music. It was a great concert. The musicians did a terrific job!

My son is playing second chair in the first violin section, and is one of the soloists on the Handel piece. Enjoy!

December 13 Writer Birthdays

1720 – Carlo Gozzi, Italian playwright, poet, memoirist, and champion of Commedia dell’arte.

1797 – Christian Johann Heinrich Heine, German journalist, essayist, and literary critic who was also one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century; some of his early lyric poetry was set to music by such composers as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert.

1832 – Matsudaira Teru (or Princess Teru), Japanese writer, poet, and aristocrat who was the leader of 600 women and children involved in the siege of Aizuwakamatsu Castle (Tsuruga Castle); she was also skilled in waka poetry and calligraphy.

1835 – Pathani Samanta (real name Mahamahopadhyaya Chandrasekhara Singha Harichandana Mahapatra Samanta), Indian astronomer, writer, and scholar who measured the distance from the Earth to the Sun with a bamboo pipe and many other traditional instruments; he compiled his observations, research, and calculations into the book Siddhanta Darpana, with verses written in Sanskrit.

1871 – Emily Carr, Canadian artist and writer who was heavily inspired by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast; her autobiography is still considered the finest example of Canadian autobiographical literature.

1879 – Belle da Costa Greene (born Belle Marion Greener), U.S. librarian best known for managing and developing the personal library of J.P. Morgan; afterfter Morgan’s death in 1913, she continued as librarian for his son, and in 1924 was named the first director of the Pierpont Morgan Library. Greene was African-American but spent her career passing for White. (Her birthdate is sometimes listed as November 26.)

1890 – Mary Francis Butts (also known as Mary Rodker), British modernist writer whose work found recognition in literary magazines such as The Bookman and The Little Review, as well as from fellow modernists including T. S. Eliot.

1890 – Dulcie Deamer, New Zealand-born Australian-based writer, poet, playwright, journalist, and novelist.

1890 – Marc Connelly, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. playwright who was a key member of the Algonquin Round Table.

1895 – Lucía Sánchez Saornil, Spanish poet, writer, journalist, trade unionist, feminist, and anarchist; she is best known as one of the founders of Mujeres Libres.

1902 – Yevgeny Petrov (Евгений Петров), pen name of Yevgeny Petrovich Katayev (Евгений Петрович Катаев), a popular Soviet author and war correspondent; he is best known for satirical novels written with his coauthor Ilya Ilf.

1903 – Shibram Chakraborty (শিবরাম চক্রবর্তী), popular Bengali writer, poet, playwright, humorist, novelist, nonfiction author, and revolutionary whose humorous stories are noted for their unique use of puns, alliteration, and irony.

1906 – Laurens Jan van der Post, prolific South African Afrikaner book author, journalist, educator, philosopher, explorer, and conservationist who was also a farmer, war hero, political adviser to British heads of government, close friend of Britain’s Prince Charles, and godfather of Prince William.

1907 – Teodor Bujnicki, Polish poet, satirist, writer, journalist, editor, and literary critic.

1911 – Mom Luang Boonlua Debyasuvarn née Kunchon (pen name Boonlua), award-winning Thai writer, novelist, literary critic, educator, translator, and government official; she is considered one of Thailand’s most important educators during a crucial phase of the country’s modernization.

1911 – Kenneth Patchen, award-winning U.S. poet and novelist who experimented with different forms of writing and incorporated painting, drawing, and jazz music into his works.

1912 – Andrés Sabella, Chilean writer, cartoonist, journalist, and poet.

1915 – Ross McDonald, pen name of U.S.-Canadian crime-fiction writer Kenneth Millar, known for his Lew Archer series.

1916 – Leonard Weisgard, U.S. writer and illustrator whose work on Margaret Wise Brown’s picture book The Little Island won him the 1948 Caldecott Medal.

1922 – Karel Destovnik, Slovenian poet, translator, linguist, and resistance fighter who wrote under the pen name Kajuh; he was killed in 1944 when his Partisan unit was attacked by a German patrol, and declared a People’s Hero of Yugoslavia in 1953. He is considered a key Slovene poet of World War II, and an important symbol of the Slovene Partisan movement.

1924 – Beatriz Guido, Argentine writer, screenwriter, and novelist.

1925 – John Ehle, U.S. novelist, playwright, and nonfiction writer best known for fiction set in the Appalachian Mountains; he has been described as “the father of Appalachian literature.”

1926 – Rita Tornborg, award-winning Swedish novelist and short-story writer who was born in South Africa and grew up in Poland.

1927 – James Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet who was known for the clarity and power of his terse, imagistic, free verse; he and his son, poet Franz Wright, are the only parent/child pair to have won Pulitzer Prizes in the same category.

1928 – Loula Anagnostaki, Greek writer and playwright who was the sister of poet Manolis Anagnostakis.

1929 – Kyi Kyi Tin-Myint (known by her pen name Kyi Aye) Burmese poet, novelist, and short-story writer whose work has been highly influential in her own country, though it is largely unknown in the West.

1930 – Nathan Zach, award-winning German-born Israeli writer, poet, editor, literary scholar, translator, songwriter, and university teacher who is widely regarded as one of the preeminent poets in Israel’s history.

1931 – Ida Vos, Dutch writer, poet, and children’s author; much of her work describes her experiences as a Jewish girl during World War II, including her time spent in hiding from the Nazis.

1935 – Adélia Luzia Prado Freitas, award-winning Brazilian poet, prose writer, and translator whose work is a seeming paradox of a deep and spiritual Catholicism, combined with the physical and the carnal.

1935 – Türkan Saylan, Turkish medical doctor, writer, teacher, and social activist; she was famous for fighting leprosy and for founding a charitable foundation.

1944 – Mahmoud Tounsi, Tunisian author, poet, short-story writer, painter, and politician. His short-story collection Espace, published in 1973, paved the way for the avant-garde movement in Tunisia.

1946 – Kim Chae-won, South Korean author best known for the dreamlike quality of her prose.

1949 – R.A MacAvoy, U.S. fantasy author whose books draw on Celtic and Zen themes.

1951 – Anne-Marie Alonzo, award-winning Egyptian-born wright, poet, novelist, critic, magazine founder, and publisher; as a teenager, she was in a car accident that left her a paraplegic.

1951 – Jiro Asada (pen name for Kojiro Iwato), award-winning Japanese author who wrote picaresque novels, historical novels, novels set in China, and short stories.

1952 – Jean Rouaud, French author who won the Prix Goncourt for the novel Fields of Glory (Les Champs d’honneur.)

1954 – Emma Bull, influential U.S. science-fiction and fantasy author; her novel War for the Oaks is a pioneering work in urban fantasy.

1954 – Tamora Pierce, popular and prolific award-winning U.S. author of young-adult fantasy fiction; she says she first started writing to escape the drama of her parents’ divorce, writing fan fiction based on her favorite stories until she decided to write her stories about strong female characters, because she noticed a lack of them in the books she read when she was young.

1959 – Todd Stanley Purdum, U.S. writer, reporter, editor, and political correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine.

1962 – Ilkka Remes (real name Petri Pykälä), popular, award-winning Finnish author of thrillers and young-adult literature; he says he uses a pseudonym because he does not want to be considered only a thriller writer, and wants to be able to write in other genres in the future.

1991 – Brianna “Bri” Lee, Australian writer, editor, lawyer, and women’s rights activist who is best known for her memoir Eggshell Skull, which describes her experience as a complainant in the Australian court system for sexual abuse as a child.

O, Tannenbook

Yesterday I posted a Christmas tree I helped make a few years ago out of crocheted pieces. Today I’m showing off one I made out of books. I’d seen book trees for years and had always wanted to make one.

A few years ago, I decided to do it, to add a themed tree to the Bookcrossing holiday party I was hosting.

This was harder to make than I expected. But I was pleased with the results, and with the little bookish snowman I also assembled to add to the display. I was surprised to find that the hardest part was getting all the books back on their proper shelves afterward. Next time, I’ll keep better track of where they all came from.

December 12 Writer Birthdays

1742 – Anna Seward, English Romantic poet who is often called the Swan of Lichfield; she also wrote novels and a biography.

1746 – José de la Cruz (more popularly known as Huseng Sisiw), key Filipino writer during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines; he is known as “Hari ng makatang Tagalog” (King of Tagalog poetry).

1821 – Gustave Flaubert, influential French author of literary realism best known for the classic novel Madame Bovary.

1897 – Lillian Smith, U.S. writer and social critic who was most remembered for her bestselling novel Strange Fruit.

1903 – Enid Balint (or Enid Flora Balint-Edmonds), British psychoanalyst and welfare worker who wrote extensively on psychoanalysis and patient-centered medicine.

1905 – Mulk Raj Anand, Indian writer who wrote in English about the lives of the poorer castes in traditional Indian society; a pioneer of Indo-Anglian fiction, he was one of the first Indian-based writers in English to gain an international readership.

1912 – Thorbjørn Egner, Norwegian writer, children’s author, screenwriter, playwright, composer, artist, and translator who is best known for his work for children.

1912 – Bilquis Sheikh, Pakistani author, autobiographer, and Christian missionary who made a high-profile conversion from Islam to Christianity after a series of visions and prophetic dreams; her autobiography was a bestselling book.

1914 – Patrick O’Brian, English novelist, famous for writing his series of books about the sea, set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars.

1920 – Elena Garro, Mexican screenwriter, journalist, playwright, short-story writer, and novelist, commonly affiliated with the Magical Realism movement (though she rejected that affiliation). She was married to poet Octavio Paz.

1925 – Ahmad Shamlou (also known by his pen name, A. Bamdad), Iranian poet, writer, journalist, playwright, screenwriter, children’s author, editor, translator, literary critic, linguist, and lexicographer; arguably the most influential poet of modern Iran, he was known for poetry that is complex, but with simple, everyday imagery familiar to his Iranian audience.

1929 – John Osborne, English playwright, screenwriter, and actor who is known for his scathing prose and intense criticism of established social and political norms ; his most famous work is the play Look Back in Anger.

1946 – Josepha Sherman, American author, folklorist, and anthologist, known for her own fantasy novels as well as her work within the Star Trek universe.

1950 – Donato Francisco Ndongo-Bidyogo Makina, Equatorial Guinean and Spanish writer, journalist, and politician who is a prominent member of the Hispanic African movement.

1952 – Helen Dunmore, award-winning British poet, novelist, and children’s writer.

1954 – Tuija Lehtinen, Finnish novelist, children’s writer, screenwriter, and journalist, best known for her work on the animated series The Dibidogs, based on canine characters created by children.

1957 – Robert Lepage, award-winning Canadian playwright, actor, and director.

1962 – Leila Salikha Chudori, award-winning Indonesian journalist, short-story writer, and screenwriter whose first stories were published when she was only 12.

1967 – Sokhna Benga (Mbengue), Senegalese novelist and poet who writes in French.

1969 – Madeleine Wickham (born Madeleine Townley), English author of “chick lit” who is best known for work written under the pen name Sophie Kinsella.

1977 – Nadia Hashimi, U.S. pediatrician, children’s book author, and bestselling novelist; in 2018, she became the first Afghan-American woman to run for Congress but was defeated in her run as the Democratic candidate from Maryland’s 6th congressional district.

O, Tannenbomb

The Del Ray Yarn Bombers’ award-winning yarn Christmas tree.

I’m starting to get into the holiday mood, so I’m thinking about Christmas trees. We pulled ours down from the attic and hope to set it up tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m remembering some past trees.

This was one I helped created a few years back, with the Del Ray Yarn Bombers group that I used to belong to. We each crocheted one or more squares, and put them all together over a frame. Of course, I don’t actually know how to crochet. I managed to make a square, but it was the lamest piece of yarn work you have ever seen. It’s on the opposite side, so it doesn’t show up it in this photo. Believe me, that’s a good thing.

The tree won first place that year in the Mount Vernon Ave Holiday Tree contest.

Strangely, I received notification from Facebook years later saying that the photo I’d posted — the very same one you see here — had been removed from my page because it violated community standards. I couldn’t find out what standards it supposedly violated, but I reposted the shot, and it has since remained up.

Someone theorized that the word Bombers, as in “Yarn Bombers,” got my tree nixed for violent content. Of course, that makes absolutely no sense, which might very well mean that it’s true. Someone else suggested it violated Facebook’s standards because it’s an ugly tree. I strongly disagree! I think it’s kind of cute and wacky, like a Doctor Seuss tree.

December 11 Writer Birthdays

1725 – George Mason, Colonial American and U.S. planter, politician, statesman, writer, and delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, one of three delegates who refused to sign the Constitution (because it still lacked a bill of rights). His writings, including substantial portions of the Fairfax Resolves of 1774 and his Objections to this Constitution of Government, have greatly influenced American political thought; he is called the Father of the U.S. Bill of Rights, which was based on his Virginia Declaration of Rights.

1756 – Anton Tomaž Linhart, Slovene playwright and historian who is considered the father of Slovene historiography.

1810 – Alfred de Musset, French dramatist, poet, and novelist.

1849 – Ellen Karolina Sofia Key, Swedish feminist writer on many subjects in the fields of family life, ethics, and education, who was an important figure in the Modern Breakthrough movement and an early advocate of a child-centered approach to education and parenting.

1863 – Annie Jump Cannon, award-winning U.S. astronomer, physicist, educator, and women’s suffrage activist who developed a system of classifying stars that is still in use today; she manually classified more stars in a lifetime than anyone else, with a total of about 350,000 stars — as well as discovering 300 variable stars, five novas, and one spectroscopic binary — and recorded her work in extensive catalogs. In 1929, the National League of Women Voters listed her as one of the twelve greatest living American women.

1882 – Subramanya Bharathi, Indian poet, journalist, independence activist, and social reformer who wrote in the Tamil language; he was a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry and is considered one of the greatest Tamil literary figures of all time.

1892 – Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, U.S. writer of books for pseudonymous children’s mystery series including “Nancy Drew” and the “Hardy Boys.”

1904 – Marjorie Henderson Buell (née Marjorie Lyman Henderson), U.S. cartoonist who worked under the pen name Marge and was best known as the creator of Little Lulu.

1906 – Birago Diop, Senegalese veterinarian, diplomat, poet, and storyteller whose writing is credited with popularizing African folktales.

1911 – Nahguib Mahfouz, Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian author, known for “works rich in nuance – now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous,” who has formed “an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind.”

1916 – Elena Garro, Mexican screenwriter, journalist, playwright, short-story writer, and novelist who was commonly affiliated with the Magical Realism movement (though she rejected that affiliation). She was married to poet Octavio Paz.

1918 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Prize-winning Russian novelist, short-story writer, and dissident lauded for “the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature.”

1922 – Grace Paley, U.S. short-story author, poet, professor, and political activist; her Collected Stories compilation was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Her stories hone in on the everyday conflicts and heartbreaks of city life, and were heavily informed by her childhood in the Bronx.

1927 – Khadija Mastoor, acclaimed Pakistani short-story writer and novelist whose novel Aangan is widely considered a masterpiece of Urdu literature and has been made into a television drama; her sister Hajra Masroor was also a short-story writer, and her brother Khalid Ahmad was a poet, playwright and newspaper columnist.

1931 – Rajneesh (born Chandra Mohan), influential Indian writer, autobiographer, guru, speaker, mystic, and social critic who was the leader of the controversial Rajneesh movement, which emphasized meditation, mindfulness, love, celebration, courage, creativity, and humor—all of which he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition, and socialization. Because of his advocacy for sexual openness, he was sometimes called, “the sex guru.”

1931 – Jerome Rothenberg, U.S. poet, translator, and anthologist, noted for his work in ethnopoetics and performance poetry.

1931 – Suncana Škrinjaric, Croatian writer, poet, journalist, screenwriter, and children’s writer; two of her works were adapted for animated films: The Elm-Chanted Forest and The Magician’s Hat.

1932 – Keith Waldrop, National Book Award-winning U.S. poet, translator, and scholar.

1934 – Manuel Oreste Rodríguez López, Spanish Galician poet, writer, journalist, and translator who is remembered for his contributions to Galician literature.

1936 – Ingvar Moe, Norwegian poet, novelist, short-story writer, textbook writer, translator, children’s writer, and young-adult writer.

1937 – Jim Harrison, U.S. author of poetry, fiction, reviews, and essays about the outdoors; his novella Legends of the Fall was adapted into a movie.

1939 – Thomas McGuane, U.S. author of novels, screenplays, and short stories, known especially for his writing about fishing.

1943 – Pilar Molina Llorente, award-winning Spanish novelist, children’s author, and translator.

1944 – Cornelia Hilda Kühn, award-winning South African Afrikaans writer who is known under the pen-name Corlia Fourie; she writes drama, children’s books, short stories, and novels.

1944 – Ernesto Degumbis Lariosa (also known as Nyor Erning), award-winning Filipino Visayan writer, poet, short-story writer, and columnist.

1945 – Pauline Gedge, New Zealand-born Canadian novelist best known for her bestselling historical fiction trilogies; she also writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

1945 – Roland Bruce Harvey, Australian author and children’s writer and illustrator who has been praised for his “witty, slapstick style” and “characteristic humorous and detailed illustrations.”

1946 – Walter de Camp (born Kari Lempinen), Finnish writer, author, and journalist who wrote about partying, restaurants, and celebrities for the Finnish City magazine.

1946 – Diana Palmer, pen name of U.S. romance and science-fiction novelist Susan Kyle, who has also published under Diana Blayne, Katy Currie, and her own name.

1954 – Marie Kessels (born Nederweert), award-winning Dutch poet and prose writer.

1954 – Sheree-Lee Olson, award-winning Canadian writer, poet, novelist, essayist, journalist, and newspaper editor who has been called, “one of the new bright lights in Canadian literature.”

1955 – Luis Enrique Sam Colop (or Sam-Colop), Guatemalan Mayan linguist, lawyer, poet, writer, translator, newspaper columnist, promoter of the K’iche’ language, and social activist who was a leader in the Mayan cultural renaissance and a champion of the K’iche’ Mayan language.

1964 – Liêm Hoang-Ngoc, Vietnamese-born French economist, author, professor, and politician.

1964 – Helene Uri, Swedish-born Norwegian linguist, novelist, philologist, and children’s writer.

1964 – Ayelet Waldman, Israeli-U.S. lawyer, novelist, and essayist known for her self-revelatory essays, and also for her fiction and nonfiction about the changing expectations of motherhood, including the demands of children, partners, career, and society.

1970 – Wendy Guerra, Cuban poet, novelist, and actress who has been called, “a kind of diva of contemporary Cuban literature.”

1972 – Rao Xueman, bestselling Chinese novelist and short-story writer who is best known for her teenage romance literature.

1980 – Adi Keissar, Israeli poet, writer, and activist; she founded the cultural group Ars Poetica.


December 10 Writer Birthdays

1538 – Giovanni Battista Guarini, Italian writer, poet, playwright, and diplomat.

1741 – Agatha (“Aagje”) Deken, Dutch poet, novelist, and letter writer.

1783 – Maria Bibiana Benitez, Puerto Rican’s first known female poet and one of its first playwrights.

1802 – Mahmud al-Alusi (full name Abū al-Thanā’ Shihāb ad-Dīn Sayyid Maḥmūd ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Ḥusaynī al-Ālūsī al-Baghdādī ), Arab Islamic scholar and author best known for writing Ruh al-Ma`ani, a tafsir (exegesis) of the Qur’an.

1815 – Ada Lovelace (full name Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace), English mathematician and writer who was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron, yet is known chiefly for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine; she was the first to recognize that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and she published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. Her notes are considered so important to the history of early computers that she is often called the world’s first computer programmer.

1830 – Emily Dickinson, beloved and prolific U.S. poet who is regarded as one of the most important and most original American poets. Her work — most of which was not discovered until after her death — challenged the traditional definitions of poetry to free it from conventional restraints, using a distinctively elliptical language for expressing what was possible but not yet realized.

1843 – Isabella Fyvie Mayo, Scottish poet, novelist, autobiographer, suffragist, and social reformer who wrote under the pen name, Edward Garrett; she has been described as an “ethical anarchist, pacifist, anti-imperialist and anti-racist campaigner.”

1875 – Saralabala Sarkar, Indian Bengali essayist, poet, short-story writer, memoirist, political activist, and professor who was married at the age of 12 and widowed at 23.

1878 – Bertha Southey Brammall, Australian poet, novelist, short-story author, children’s writer, and radio program writer who is widely considered to be Tasmania’s leading poet and novelist.

1879 – Vittorio Osvaldo Tommasini (better known by his pen name Farfa), Italian futurist poet and painter.

1880 – Sir Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy (popularly known as Sir C.R. Reddy), Indian writer, poet, author, philosopher, educator, essayist, economist, literary critic, and political theorist who was a champion of the non-Brahmin movement; he wrote his works in both Teluga and English.

1891 – Nelly Sachs, Nobel Prize-winning Jewish German poet and playwright who escaped to Sweden to avoid being sent to a forced-labor camp; in her work, she gave voice to the suffering of the Jewish people under the Nazi regime.

1893 – Mirzadeh Eshghi, pen name for Iranian poet, playwright, political writer, journalist, and theater director Sayed Mohammad Reza Kordestani.

1902 – Dulce María Loynaz Muñoz, award-winning Cuban writer, poet, novelist, and lawyer who was known for the sobriety of her lyric expression, her exquisite handling of language, and her masterly use of Castilian language

1903 – William Charles Franklyn Plomer, South African modernist novelist, poet, librettist, composer, and literary editor who wrote a series of librettos for composer Benjamin Britten; some of his poetry was published under the pseudonym Robert Pagan.

1907 – Rumer Godden, prolific, award-winning English poet and author of fiction and nonfiction books; much of her work deals with her experiences in colonial India.

1920 – Tsai Ding Hsin, Taiwanese calligraphy master, artist, and poet of classical Chinese poetry.

1920 – Clarice Lispector, Brazilian novelist and short-story writer who is known for her innovative work, including Near to the Wild Heart and The Hour of the Star; she is often described as the most important Jewish writer since Franz Kafka. Her sister Elisa Lispector is also an acclaimed writer.

1924 – Nabi Khazri (real name Nabi Alekber oghlu Babayev), award-winning Azerbaijani poet, playwright, publicist, translator, and screenwriter.

1925 – Carolyn Kizer, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet of the American Northwest.

1928 – Alicia Yáñez Cossío, award-winning Ecuadorian poet, novelist, and journalist who is one of the leading figures in Ecuadorian and Latin American literature.

1928 – Milan Rúfus, Slovak writer, poet, essayist, children’s author, translator, linguist, and academic who is the Slovak poet most translated into other languages.

1930 – Khyal Amrohvi (born Syed Ali Mehdi Naqvi and also known as Khayal Amrohi), renowned Pakistani poet and educator who also wrote books on literature and philosophy.

1933 – Philip Craig, U.S. author known for his Martha’s Vineyard mysteries.

1951 – Maria Rita Kehl, Brazilian writer, poet, journalist, psychoanalyst, essayist, and literary critic.

1956 – Øystein Hauge, Norwegian writer, poet, and civil servant.

1956 – Jacquelyn Mitchard, U.S. journalist and bestselling author of adult and young-adult books; her novel The Deep End of the Ocean was named one of the ten most influential books of the past 25 years.

1958 – Warwick Hugh Anderson, Australian poet, author, historian, professor, and medical doctor.

1958 – Cornelia Funke, U.S.-based German author of children’s and young-adult fiction, best known for her “Inkheart” trilogy.

1960 – Kenneth Branagh, Northern Irish actor, director, screenwriter, and autobiographer, best known for his Shakespeare adaptations and his role as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in the Harry Potter films; he was nominated for an Oscar for his Hamlet screenplay.

1984 – Helen Oyeyemi, award-winning British novelist who was included in Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists list.

Throwback Thursday: Pope in the Tree

Pope (and Saint) John XXIII

My genealogical research has turned up something interesting in my family tree. All my life I’ve heard family rumors that I’m related to a Pope (no, not a direct descendant) but I never knew for sure. And I had no details about which Pope or how I might be related, if it was true at all. This week, I figured it out. Pope John XXIII – the one who called the Vatican 2 conference that reformed the Roman Catholic Church — is a relative, however distant, on my mother’s side.

He was born in 1881 as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, one of 13 children in a family of poor sharecroppers in the Lombardy region of Italy. He was Pope from 1958 until his death in 1963. He has been recognized by the Wallenberg Foundation for saving the lives of many Jews during World War II. And he played a key role talking both sides down during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Pope John XXIII has been canonized as a saint, and is today affectionately known as “the Good Pope.”

If my calculations are correct, he was the second cousin of the wife of my great great granduncle. I’m not religious, but I think this is pretty cool!

December 9 Writer Birthdays

1608 – John Milton, English epic poet, intellectual, and pamphleteer who penned Paradise Lost, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest works of English literature; he was also an ardent advocate for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

1617 – Richard Lovelace, English “cavalier poet” who fought on behalf of the king during the English Civil War; his best known works are “To Althea, from Prison,” and “To Lucasta, Going to the Warres.”

1848 – Joel Chandler Harris, U.S. journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist; collector and re-teller of the African-American folktales that became known as the Uncle Remus stories.

1858 – Nisthananda Bajracharya, Nepalese author who marked a turning point in Nepal Bhasa literature by breaking away from the classical style and writing prose in colloquial language; he was one of the leaders of the Nepal Bhasa renaissance, and a pioneer of printing with moveable type in Nepal.

1864 – João Carlos de Medeiros Pardal Mallet, Brazilian journalist, novelist, and short-story writer.

1867 – Gregorios Xenopoulos, Turkish-born Greek novelist, journalist, magazine editor, and playwright whose trademark signature translated to “yours faithfully, Phaedon,” which he used in letters ostensibly addressed to his magazine.

1880 – Begum Rokeya, Indian Bengali feminist writer, science-fiction author, essayist, educator, and social reformer who was a pioneer of women’s liberation in South Asia and who established the first school aimed primarily at Bengali Muslim girls in Kolkata; in 2004, she ranked 6th in BBC’s poll of the Greatest Bengali of all time.

1890 – Laura Salverson, award-winning Canadian author whose works reflected her Icelandic heritage.

1895 – Isidora Dolores Ibárruri Gómez, Spanish politician, communist activist, orator, writer, and autobiographer who was commonly known as la Pasionaria (the Passionflower); she is remembered for coining the famous slogan ¡No Pasarán! (“They shall not pass!”) during the 1936 Battle for Madrid.

1896 – Tomás Blanco, Puerto Rican writer, historian, and physician, best known for his essays analyzing Puerto Rican culture; his work focused on political and social issues, but he also wrote novels, short stories, and poetry.

1899 – Jean de Brunhoff, French author of children’s books, best known for creating Babar the Elephant.

1899 – Leonie Fuller, U.S. poet, writer, editor, and professor who was U.S. Poet Laureate and had connections to many of the leading intellectuals of her day; anthropologist Margaret Mead was her college roommate; friends included writer Gertrude Stein, literary critic Edmund Wilson, and another Poet Laureate, Louise Bogan.

1901 – Lauro Adolfo De Bosis, Italian poet, writer, translator, aviator, and anti-fascist.

1905 – Dalton Trumbo, Oscar-winning U.S. screenwriter of Roman Holiday, Exodus, Spartacus, and many other films; he was blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

1906 – Grace Hopper, U.S. computer scientist, computer language developer, technical writer, and author.

1915 – Eloise Jarvis McGraw, three-time Newbery Honor-winning U.S. author of novels for children and young adults.

1916 – Wolfgang Hildesheimer, German artist, author, playwright, and Mozart biographer who worked as a translator and clerk at the Nuremberg Trials.

1917 – Jolan Chang, Chinese-Canadian sexologist and Taoist philosopher who wrote the luminary classics on Eastern sexuality, The Tao of Love and Sex, which interprets ancient Taoist sexual teachings into a modern model of sexuality; British author Lawrence Durrell wrote about Chang in his 1980 book A Smile in the Mind’s Eye.

1926 – Václav Jaroslav Karel Pinkava, award-winning Czech-British poet, novelist, science-fiction author, composer, painter, mathematician, translator, and psychologist who also wrote under many pen names, including Jan Křesadlo, Jake Rolands, J.K. Klement, Juraj Hron, Ferdinand Lucovický z Lucovic a na Suchým dole, and Kamil Troud.

1928 – Joan Blos, U.S. writer and children’s literacy advocate whose historical novel A Gathering of Days won a National Book Award and the Newbery Medal.

1929 – Raghuvir Sahay, award-winning Indian Hindi poet, short-story writer, editor, essayist, literary critic, translator, and journalist.

1930 – Buck Henry, U.S. humorous actor and screenwriter; he worked on The Graduate, Catch 22, Get Smart, Saturday Night Live, and more.

1930 – Edoardo Sanguineti, Italian poet, critic, and playwright.

1931 – Ladislav Smoljak, Czech screenwriter, humorist, journalist, educator, director, and actor, humorist, educator, director and scriptwriter.

1934 – Mahmoud Moshref Azad Tehrani (pen name M. Azad), Iranian poet and young-adult author.

1936 – A.B. Yehoshua, Israeli novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and playwright whom the New York Times has called the “Israeli Faulkner.”

1937 – Mary Downing Hahn, U.S. author of young-adult mysteries.

1941 – Mehmet Ali Birand, Turkish journalist, writer, and political commentator.

1942 – Joe McGinniss, U.S. author of nonfiction, novels, and true-crime stories.

1943 – Joanne Trollope, British writer of romantic and historical fiction who also wrote under the pen name Caroline Harvey.

1948 – Gioconda Belli, Nicaraguan author, poet, journalist, activist, and diarist.

1949- Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Bolivian sociologist, historian, oral history expert, and subaltern theorist whose work draws upon anarchist theory as well as Quechua and Aymara cosmologies; she is also an activist who works directly with indigenous movements. Some of her best known works include Oppressed But Not Defeated: Peasant Struggles Among the Aymara and Quechua in Bolivia, 1900–1980, and Ch’ixinakax Utxiwa: A Reflection on the Practices and Discourses of Decolonization.

1956 – Ann Hood, U.S. novelist, short-story writer, and author of books for middle-grade readers and young adults.

1969 – Ayse Arman, Turkish journalist, columnist, and author who is best known for her interviews.

1970 – Anna Gavalda, bestselling, award-winning French novelist, screenwriter, writer, translator, journalist, and children’s writer.

1975 – Tishani Doshi, Indian poet, journalist, and dancer.