Every reader has his/her own favorite authors whose works have impacted their life. I am no different and below are the names of the men and women whose gift with the written word has stayed with me after discovery their talents.
Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) – This Chicago native moved to New York City where she created the play that became a crucial statement of the Civil Rights Movement. Her masterpiece, A Raisin in the Sun, continues its run to this day after making its debut in 1959. Sadly, on January 12, 1965, she died at the age of thirty-four after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Following her death, her ex-husband Robert Nemiroff (1929-1991) collected her unfinished drafts and personal papers, turning a portion of them into the book ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black‘. But did you know that her father Carl Hansberry (1895-1946) was the plaintiff in Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32 (1940), a case that challenged racially restrictive covenants? The case went all the way to the Supreme Court which ruled in his favor on a technicality, but it was not until Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948), that restrictive covenants were found to be unconstitutional.
S.E. Hinton (b. 1948) – When I first read her book ‘The Outsiders‘, I was drawn instantly to the underdog group the “Greasers” led by the Curtis family. Their rivals the “Socials” are the antagonists in the book and the social division on display there can still be seen today. The haves and the have-nots continue to exist. In 1983, Francis Ford Coppola directed an all-star cast in the film of the same name with C. Thomas Howell starring at Ponyboy Curtis. The film stayed true to the book and the final scene with Matt Dillon is moving. Although Hinton did not write a sequel, I am content with this masterpiece that captured my mind and heart.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara ( 1928-1967) – The Argentine Marxist and revolutionary is famously and infamously known for his role in the Cuba Revolution and his death in a Bolivian jungle, in October 1967. However, he was also a brilliant writer, and his books The Motorcycle Diaries‘ and ‘Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War‘ are valuable tools in understanding Latin America. Having visited Argentina and other countries in Latin America, I can attest to the fact that the words written by Guevara hold weight. The region has many nuances and sharp cultural divisions despite shared languages. His legacy is complicated and he has both admirers and detractors. But I believe that had he remained in Cuba and continued to write, we would have more critical works of literature to embrace.
William L. Shirer (1904-1993) – As a former correspondent for CBS posted in Nazi German and author of the best-selling ‘Rise and Fall of the Third Reich‘ Shirer observed Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) and his followers take over Germany and start World War II. Upon returning to America, he worked for CBS before being discharged by the network after tensions developed with management. In later years he wrote of his life and times in Europe and created books that are historical gems.