LitBirthdays June 3 – 9, 2012

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June is

African-American Music Appreciation


Audio Book


June 3

Rumer (Sarah Joyce) b. 1979 – U.K. singer/songwriter

Read about Rumer here and here

“The constant performing that I’ve had to do – it’s not easy. It’s a kind of extraction’ – she pauses, making sure I’m taking this in – ‘of your spirit, of your soul. This is why artists don’t cope.’

Rumer’s intensity in person is at odds with the languid, late-night mood of her album. It is written in a distinctly contemplative vein, filled with songs of subtlety and depth that, at their best – Slow, Aretha, Am I Forgiven? – unleash great swells of emotion that sound spookily like some long-lost Dusty Springfield recordings.

[from “Rumer: ‘I like to go into the depths’ – U.K. Telegraph, June 19, 2011]

Watch Rumer’s “Aretha” music video


Born June 3

Pedro Mir (b. 1913) – Dominican poet

(Irwin) Allen Ginsberg (b. 1926) – U.S. poet

June 4

Jacques Roumain b. 1907 – Haitian poet, novelist – Masters of the Dew (1944) Jacques_Roumain

Read about Jacques Roumain here and here

Read a synopsis of Masters of the Dew here

Masters of the Dew is concerned with the story of Manuel Jan – Josef, a Haitian peasant who has been absent from his native village for 15 years working in the canefields of Cuba, who returns home to find the life he knew radically altered by two devastating changes. First is a serious drought the effects of which are compounded by years of poor agricultural practices which have led to serious erosion of the fields and the drying-up of the streams which watered the area. Second is the splintering of the village into two antithetical factions as the consequence of a blood-feud which occurred shortly after Manuel had left the village. [more]

When the Tom-Tom Beats…

Your heart trembles in the shadows, like a face

reflected in troubled water.

The old mirage rises from the pit of the night

You sense the sweet sorcery of the past:

A river carries you far away from the banks,

Carries you toward the ancestral landscape.

Listen to those voices singing the sadness of love

And in the mountain, hear that tome-tom

panting like the breast of a young black girl.

Your soul is this image in the whispering water where

your fathers bent their dark faces.

Its hidden movements blend you with the waves

And the white that made you a mulatto is this bit

of foam cast up, like spit, upon the shore.

Sales Nègres / Dirty Negroes

Eh bien voilà ; / Here we are
nous autres / the outsiders
les nègres / the Negroes
les niggers / the niggers
les sales nègres / the dirty Negroes
nous n’acceptons plus / We no longer accept
c’est simple / that it’s that simple
fini / final
d’être en Afrique / to be in Africa
en Amérique / in America
vos nègres / you Negroes
vos niggers / you niggers
vos sales nègres / you dirty Negroes
nous n’acceptons plus / We no longer accept
ça vous étonne
de dire : oui missié / yes, Massa
en cirant vos bottes / while shining your boots
oui mon pé / yes, father
aux missionnaires blancs / to the white missionaries
ou maître / or master
en récoltant pour vous / while harvesting
la canne à sucre / your sugarcane
le café / your coffee
le coton / your cotton
l’arachide / your peanuts
en Afrique / in Africa
en Amérique / in America
en bons nègres [more]

Born June 4

Margrit Schriber (b. 1939) – Swiss novelist – The Ugliest Woman in the World / Die hässlichste Frau der Welt (2009)

Jin Au-Yeung (b. 1982) – Chinese Rapper


June 5

Born June 5

Elena Piscopia (b. 1646) – Italian mathematician, philosopher, first woman to receive a doctoral degree

Pu Songling (b. 1640) – Chinese short story writer – Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio

Federico Garcia Lorca (b. 1898) – Spanish poet – “Song of First Desire”


June 6

Born June 6

Vlado Georgiev (b. 1977) – Serbian singer/songwriter

Isaiah Berlin (b. 1909) – U.K. philosopher, essayist – “The Hedgehog and the Fox”

Alexander (or Aleksandr) (Sergeyevich) Pushkin (b. 1799) – Russian poet, playwright


June 7

Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich (Karen Louise Erdrich) b. 1954 – U.S. Native American (Chippewa) novelist, poet, children’s books author

Read about Louise Erdrich here and here

Read the Paris Review profile of Louise Erdrich
Every August, when tick season has subsided, Erdrich and her sister Heid spend a week in a former monastery here to attend the Little Shell Powwow and to conduct a writing workshop at the Turtle Mountain Community College. It helps that Erdrich does the exercises, too —- reading out the results in her mellifluous, often mischievous voice. In tidy fulfillment of an assignment entitled “very short fiction,” she wrote, “You went out for the afternoon and came back with your dress on inside out.”

My father is my biggest literary influence. Recently I’ve been looking through his letters. He was in the National Guard when I was a child and whenever he left, he would write to me. He wrote letters to me all through college, and we still correspond. His letters, and my mother’s, are one of my life’s treasures.

What are they about?

Mushroom hunting. Roman Stoics. American Indian Movement politics. Longfellow. Stamp collecting. Apples. He and my mother have an orchard. He used to talk about how close together meadowlarks sit on fence posts—every seventh fence post. Now, of course, they are rare. When I went off to college, he wrote about the family, but in highly inflated terms, so that whatever my sisters and brothers were doing seemed outrageously funny or tragic. If my mother bought something it would be a cumbersome, dramatic addition to the household, but of course unnecessary. If the dog got into the neighbor’s garbage it would be a saga of canine effort and exertion—and if the police caught the dog it would be a case of grand injustice.

*  *  *  *

We are wired to have a period of language opportunity. It is harder to learn languages after the age of eight or ten. In addition, Ojibwe is one of the most difficult languages to learn because its verbs take on an unusual ­array of forms. There’s no masculine or feminine designation to the nouns, but instead they’re qualified as animate or inanimate. The verb form changes ­according to its status as animate or inanimate as well as in regard to ­human relationships. The verbs go on and on. Often when I’m trying to speak Ojibwe my brain freezes. But my daughter is learning to speak it, and that has given me new resolve. Of course, English is a very powerful language, a colonizer’s language and a gift to a writer. English has destroyed and sucked up the languages of other cultures—its cruelty is its vitality. Ojibwe is taught in colleges, increasingly in immersion programs, but when my grandfather went to government boarding school he wasn’t allowed to speak Ojibwe.


Born June 7

Gwendolyn Brooks (b. 1917) – U.S. poet

Nikki Giovanni (b. 1943) – U.S. poet 

Orhan Pamuk (b. 1952) – Turkish novelist, 2006 Literature Nobel Prize winner – The Black Book


June 8

Born June 8

Karin Alvtegen (b. 1965) – Swedish novelist, crime fiction – Missing / Saknad (2000)

Tim Berners-Lee (b. 1955) – U.K. computer scientist – Weaving the Web: The Past, Present and Future of the World Wide Web by its Inventor (co-author Mark Fischetti, 1999) 

Sara Paretsky (b. 1947) – U.S. novelist, detective fiction – Ghost Country (1998)


June 9

Born June 9

André Juillard (b. 1948) – French comic book author

George Axelrod (b. 1922) – U.S. playwright, screenwriter – The Seven Year Itch

Cole Porter (b. 1891) – U.S. songwriter, composer of musicals – Kiss Me Kate


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