Literary Birthdays: Week of February 8 – 14

February 8

John Grisham (b. 1955) – U.S. novelist – The Last Juror

February 9

Alice Walker (b. 1944) – U.S. novelist – The Color Purple (1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)

See this Youtube video of Alice Walker reading Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Amy Lowell (b. 1874) – U.S. poet –


What is poetry? Is it a mosaic
Of coloured stones which curiously are wrought
Into a pattern? Rather glass that’s taught
By patient labor any hue to take
And glowing with a sumptuous splendor, make
Beauty a thing of awe; where sunbeams caught,
Transmuted fall in sheafs of rainbows fraught
With storied meaning for religion’s sake.

February 10

Ivri Lider (Hebrew:עברי לידר ) (b. 1974) – Israeli singer/songwriter – “Tamid Ahava” (Always Love)

Ivri Lider music video “Tamid Ahava” (Always Love) on Youtube:

February 11

Lydia Maria Child (b. 1802) – U.S. political rights activist (for women, slaves, and American Indians); novelist;  poet

First three verses of “Over the River and Through the Wood” (1844)

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood—
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Sergio Mendes (b. 1941) – Brazilian songwriter – “Never Gonna Let You Go”

 February 12

Abraham Lincoln (b. 1809) – U.S. president, 1861-1865 – “The Emancipation Proclamation” (1863)

Excerpt from Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation:

Whereas on the 22nd day of September, A.D. 1862, a
proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
“That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”

Charles Darwin (b. 1809) – U.K. naturalist – On the Origin of Species

Read more about Darwin in these blog posts:

Excerpt from Chapter 14 (Conclusion) of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species:

The framework of bones being the same in the hand of a man, wing of a bat, fin of the porpoise, and leg of the horse, — the same number of vertebrae forming the neck of the giraffe and of the elephant, — and innumerable other such facts, at once explain
themselves on the theory of descent with slow and slight successive modifications.

The similarity of pattern in the wing and leg of a bat, though used for such different purposes, — in the jaws and legs of a crab, — in the petals, stamens, and pistils of a flower, is likewise intelligible on the view of the gradual modification of parts or organs, which were alike in the early progenitor of each class.

On the principle of successive variations not always supervening at an early age, and being inherited at a corresponding not early period of life, we can clearly see why the embryos of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes should be so closely alike, and should be so unlike the adult forms.

February 13

Georges Simenon (b. 1903) – Belgian novelist, detective fiction – My Friend Maigret

February 14

Frederick Douglass (b.  approx. 1817) – U.S.  abolitionist, writer, editor – The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)

Excerpt from Chapter 8 of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass:

We were all ranked together at the valuation. Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine. There were horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank in the scale of being, and were
all subjected to the same narrow examination.

Silvery-headed age and sprightly youth, maids and matrons, had to undergo the same indelicate inspection. At this moment, I saw more clearly than ever the brutalizing effects of slavery upon both slave
and slaveholder.

After the valuation, then came the division. I have no language to express the high excitement and deep anxiety which were felt among us poor slaves during this time. Our fate for life was now to be decided. We had no more voice in that decision than the brutes among whom we were ranked.

A single word from the white men was enough — against all our wishes, prayers, and entreaties — to sunder forever the dearest friends, dearest kindred, and strongest ties known to human beings.

Eric Andersen (b. 1943) – U.S. folk singer/songwriter – “Thirsty Boots”

See this Youtube video of Judy Collins and Eric Andersen performing “Thirsty Boots” in 2002 at the Judy Collins Wildflower Festival.

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