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Here are seven author birthdays for this week.
Check out which authors are your favorites, and find out who shares your day.
In This Week’s Author Birthdays
William S. Burroughs – February 5
On this day, February 5, in 1914, William S. Burroughs was born in St. Louis, Missouri. The son of a wealthy manufacturing family, Harvard educated and having attended medical school in Vienna, he “dropped out” after being refused entry into the military. It was then he began using drugs, which became the basis of many of his literary works including Junkie and Naked Lunch.
In 1943 he befriended Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac; the three would become the most prominent figures of the countercultural movement known as the Beat Generation, which celebrated non-conformity through hedonistic activities and spontaneous creativity. He died of heart failure in 1997 at age 83.
Michael Pollan – February 6
On this day, February 6, in 1955, author and food activist Michael Pollan was born in Long Island, New York. He has authored ten books which chronicle (per his website) “the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment.” His 1998 book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, distills advice on how to eat healthy into seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
His 2006 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma was named one of the year’s five best non-fiction books by the New York Times and the Washington Post, and won the award for best food writing by The James Beard Foundation (the culinary Oscars). Today is his 69th birthday.
Charles Dickens – February 7
On this day, February 7, in 1812, Charles Dickens was born in Landport, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. What do you say about this literary giant in just a few words? His works – The Adventures of Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, to name just a few – are more than engaging stories full of memorable characters. They are also a cutting social commentary on poverty and social stratification in Victorian England.
His stories grew from his own experiences (when he was 12, his parents and youngest siblings were incarcerated in debtor’s prison; young Charles was put in the care of a family friend, who was only a little better off), which shattered the current mindset about class vice and virtue. He died in 1870 following a stroke; he was 58.
Jules Verne – February 8
On this day, February 8, in 1828, Jules Verne was born in Nantes, France. Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea… his was the imagination that influenced so many others and possibly birthed a genre. This man, who started out as a lawyer but quit to become a writer, is the second most translated author after Shakespeare.
A very prolific writer, with well over 50 novels to his credit, he was celebrated by critics and scientists alike, but in his native France, he is considered a much more serious and avant garde writer than here across the pond. He died in 1905, possibly from the effects of diabetes; he was 77.
Alice Walker – February 9
On this day, February 9, in 1944, Alice Walker was born in Putnam County, Georgia. Daughter of a father who was a sharecropper and mother who was a maid, she had to overcome not only poverty but also bigotry and racism to become a successful author, including the Pulitzer Prize winning The Color Purple. At age 8 she was accidentally blinded in her right eye which led to her being painfully shy for many years, but later she mused that the injury actually taught her to “really see people and things”.
An activist and staunch supporter of human rights throughout her life, she still blogs on and speaks out on social issues. Today, she turns 80.
Boris Pasternak – February 10
On this day, February 10, in 1890, Boris Pasternak was born in Moscow, Russia. In his native land, he was best known for his translations of plays by the likes of Goethe and Shakespeare, and for his poetry. Outside of Russia, his crowning achievement was the novel Doctor Zhivago, which followed the life of a Russian poet and physician.
Denied publication by the government due to its rejection of “socialist realism”, Doctor Zhivago was more concerned with individual characters than the progression of society. When the novel was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1958 (it had been smuggled into Milan for publication), the Soviet Communist regime was enraged, and humiliated. Pasternak died of lung cancer in 1960 at age 70.
Lydia Maria Child – February 11
On this day, February 11, in 1802, Lydia Maria Child was born in Medford, Massachusetts. Although she is now only remembered for penning the popular poem, “Over the River and Through the Woods”, she was a pretty remarkable lady. An abolitionist and an Indian rights and woman’s rights activist along with being a novelist and journalist, many of her stories took on the issues of male dominance and white supremacy, which at that time was quite shocking.
She also began publishing the Juvenile Miscellany in 1826, making it the first US monthly periodical for children. Ms. Child died in 1880 at age 78.
Other LitStack Resources
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