LitBirthdays March 25 – 31, 2012

March is

Women’s History


March 25

Gloria Steinem Gloria Steinem (b. 1934) – U.S. feminist, author

Read about Gloria Steinem here and here

Gloria Steinem was born on March 25, 1934, in Toledo, Ohio, to Ruth and Leo Steinem. Her father, an itinerant antique dealer, spent winters selling his wares from a house trailer, usually with his family in tow; as a result, Gloria did not spend a full year in school until she was twelve years old. In the summers, Leo owned and operated a beach resort at Clark Lake, Michigan, where little Gloria apprenticed herself to the nightclub entertainers and learned to tap-dance.

…Hoping for a career as a writer, she moved to New York City in 1960, a time when women were expected to be Gal Fridays and gossip columnists, not serious journalists. She managed to cobble a modest living from odd scraps of assignments—working with Harvey Kurtzman, creator of Mad magazine, on his new project, Help!, a journal of political satire, and contributing short articles to Glamour, Ladies’ Home Journal, and other women’s magazines. She also did unsigned pieces for Esquire, which eventually published her first by-lined piece, a story about the then-new contraceptive pill. A year later, in 1963, Steinem herself made headlines when she got an assignment from Show magazine for which she took a job as a Bunny at the Playboy Club and wrote an exposé of the unglamorous working conditions of the club’s glorified waitresses—sex objects in rabbit ears and cotton tails.

In 1969, she began what would become a second career as a spokesperson for the women’s movement. Often pairing herself with one of her African-American friends—usually Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Flo Kennedy, or Margaret Sloan—Steinem talked on campuses, in community centers, union halls, and corporate boardrooms, at sit-ins and street rallies.

In 1971, she cofounded Ms.— the magazine that roared — the first feminist periodical with a national readership and the first mass-market women’s magazine with a revolutionary agenda. In the decades since, her writing has appeared in innumerable magazines, newspapers, anthologies, television commentaries, political campaigns, and film documentaries in America and internationally.

The titles of her books suggest both the evolution of her ideology and her state of mind at the time each was written. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1983) is a collection of twenty years of her most enduring, powerfully argued essays, from the Playboy Bunny story to her satirical classic, “If Men Could Menstruate”; from her probing interviews of Patricia Nixon and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to the searingly confessional “Ruth’s Song,” a tribute to her mother. Marilyn: Norma Jean (1986) is a warm, sympathetic rendering of the life of Marilyn Monroe, revisited from the perspective of feminist analysis. Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (1992) describes Steinem’s efforts to link internal and external change into a full circle of revolution, partly through a reconsideration of her childhood and the inner life that she had repressed in her lifelong effort to be “useful to people in the outside world”—first her mother, then all of womankind and every other marginalized group.

[from Jewish Women’s Archive – Gloria Steinem]

Read a reader’s review of Steinem’s essay collection Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions

If you are trying to decide whether you want to buy this book, pick it up in the book store and read Gloria’s essay on her mother’s detailed history of mental illnesses. “Write what you know” is a common adage, and it rings true here. If you want to understand what energized Gloria to take on a life of advocacy promoting women’s rights and equality, reading this essay will help you easily understand how her personal suffering has given her such robust motivation for so many years to combat the forces Gloria believes led her mother to become mentally disabled, to varying degrees, for all of Gloria’s life. Gloria starts by inquiring into the mysteries of what led her uncle and mother to shut down and completely change from the outgoing and incredibly bright people they were in their young adulthood (her uncle a brilliant electrical engineer, and her mother a math teacher who once taught college calculus) to meeker and lower functioning older adults. She notes that the family was concerned about her uncle, but not as engaged in trying to remedy her mother’s ailments.

Gloria lives with the hindsight that she did not know in her youth how to possibly help her mother better, “Assuming there to be no other alternative, I took her home and never tried again,” and “Perhaps the worst thing about suffering is that it finally hardens the hearts of those around it,” and “For many years, I was obsessed with the fear that I would end up in a house like that one in Toledo. Now, I’m obsessed instead with the things I could have done for my mother while she was alive, or the things I should have said to her. I still don’t understand why so many, many years passed before I saw my mother as a person, and before I understood that many of the forces in her life were patterns women share.”

Why does Gloria share this private and painful family history? I believe she wants to help teach other women how to tell their own stories. Each woman is best at telling her own story. But when they cannot or do not sing their own song, sometimes others sing it for them, to share their beauty.

[from reader review by “One More Option”]

Excerpt from the Preface to Outrageous Acts:
Their question really was: `Why aren’t young women more feminist than older women—as we expect them to be? I found myself explaining all over again the trends I reported seventeen years ago in “Why Young Women Are More Conservative.” It’s men who are rebellious in youth and grow more conservative with age. Women tend to be conservative in youth and grow more rebellious with age; a pattern that has been evident since abolitionist and suffragist times. This makes sense in a male-dominant society where young men rebel against their powerful fathers, and then grow more conservative as they replace them, while young women outgrow the limited power allotted to them as sex objects and child bearers, and finally replace their less powerful mothers. Furthermore, young women haven’t yet experienced the injustices of inequality in the paid labor force, the unequal burden of childrearing and work in the home, and the double standard of aging. To put it another way, if young women have a problem, it`s only that they think there`s no problem.

Born March 25

Toni Cade Bambara (b. 1939) – U.S. novelist, short story writer, essayist

Thom Loverro (b. 1954) – U.S. sportswriter, columnist

March 26

 Bob Woodward (b. 1934) – U.S. investigative journalist

Read about Bob Woodward here and here

Born March 26

Robert Frost (b. 1874) – U.S. poet

Tennessee Williams (b. 1911) – U.S. playwright, short story writer

March 27

Julia Alvarez (b. 1950) – U.S. (Dominican descent) novelist, poet – Once Upon a Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the USA (2007) Julia Alvarez

Read about Julia Alvarez here

Read about the book Once Upon a Quinceañera here

Using the framing device of a single “quince” – that of Monica Ramos, a Dominican American girl from Queens, New York –  Julia Alvarez weaves together her own bicultural coming-of-age in a Queens of decades past as a Dominican immigrant child in the 1960s. In between sharing the details of Monica’s special evening – the scheduling hiccups, the missing parents at her quickie church blessing, her not-quite Disney-fied “court,”‘ the finally radiant Monica – Alvarez traces the growing phenomenon of the American quinceañera and its hybrid history, its sociological implications, its wildly varying economics, and its rampant consumerism.

[Book Dragon blog post, February 28, 2012]

I just felt that Ms.Alvarez tried to hard to identify with these young ladies and their coming of age celebration. I felt she had to put her own story in every detail in the celebration of a quince. I’ve read books about her and how she shared her life story so this was just a rehash of previous written material. I do want to give her credit in the fact that I did learn new things about the quinceanera celebration but I do fell a lot was missing(or a lot of her personal story could have been left out). For those who have not read this book you will learn about the quince party and how it spread over the united states but just take in mind that the author puts her own narrative every chance she got.

[ reviewer “The Great”]

As a Latina who did not have a Quinceañera with an 11-year-old daughter, I wanted to get some insight into how the celebration plays out in the United States. My mother did not have the financial means to throw me a party, so I did without.

I found tedious Alvarez’s descriptions of her life in coming to the United States, and in her relationship with her parents. I have read about this in her novels and in her book of essays, so it was almost as if she just copied and pasted into this book. I do see myself through Alvarez’s eyes when she describes the divided loyalty she faces as a teen and as a woman.

[ reviewer “Seattle Attic”]

Born March 27

Budd (Seymour Wilson) Schulberg (b. 1914) – U.S. screenwriter – On the Waterfront (1954)

Ai Qing (艾青) (Jiang Haicheng) (b. 1910) – Chinese poet

Michael Aris (b. 1946) – U.K. Himalayan Buddhist scholar

Abelardo Castillo (b. 1935) – Argentine novelist, playwright, and short story writer

March 28

Lauren Weisberger Lauren Weisberger (b. 1977) – U.S. novelist, journalist – The Devil Wears Prada (2003)

Read about Lauren Weisberger here and here

Watch Lauren Weisberger talk about her writing and her public

Born March 28

Jennifer Weiner (b. 1970) – U.S. novelist – Good in Bed (2002)

Dimcho Debelianov (Димчо Дебелянов) (b. 1887) – Bulgarian poet

Maxim Gorky (Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov) (b. 1868) – Russian novelist– socialist realism genre

March 29

Born March 29

Vangelis (Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou) (Greek: Ευάγγελος Οδυσσέας Παπαθανασίου) (b. 1943) – Greek composer – Blade Runner (film score)

Andrija Maurović (b. 1901) – Croatian illustrator, comic book author

Lennart Meri (b. 1929) – Estonian history and travel writer, President of Estonia from 1992 to 2001

March 30

Born March 30

Thierry Cabot (b. 1958) – French poet

Céline Dion b. 1968 – Canadian singer

Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay (Bangla: শরদিন্দু বন্দোপাধ্যায়) (b. 1899) – Bengali novelist, screenwriter

Moses Maimonides (b. 1135) – Spanish/Egyptian Jewish philosopher – Mishneh Torah (compilation of Jewish law) (1180)

March 31

Born March 31

Octavio Paz (b. 1914) – Mexican poet, Nobel Prize in Literature (1990)

Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut (b. 1823) – U.S. Civil War diarist

René Descartes (b. 1596) – French philosopher

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