November Author Birthdays

This year, we're honoring the classic literature of our favorite authors. What better way to do that than by celebrating each of their birthdays? Every month on the Prestwick House Blog, you'll find free literary resources — including crossword puzzles, posters, lesson plans, eBooks, How to Teach resource guides, and more — to commemorate the dates of birth for our famous authors. Share the never-to-be-forgotten works of iconic writers with your students and make use of these resources in your classroom this (and every) November.

November 1, 1954

H.G. Bissinger

Critically acclaimed journalist and nonfiction author H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger was born on November 1, 1954 in New York City. He began his journalism career as the sports and opinion editor at the University of Pennsylvania's student newspaper. After graduating, he worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for his story on corruption in the local court system. Bissinger then moved to Odessa, Texas, where he explored the role high school football plays in rural America and wrote Friday Night Lights. He has since written multiple nonfiction books, worked as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and served as a columnist for The Daily Beast and The New York Times. Bissinger and his wife divide their time between Philadelphia and the Pacific Northwest.

November 7, 1913

Albert Camus

Albert Camus was born November 7, 1913, in Algeria, which was under French control at the time. Camus's father died in combat during World War I, so Camus had to be raised by his partially deaf mother and domineering grandmother. In school, Camus took an interest in philosophy, literature, and politics.

Camus moved to France when he was 25. During World War II, when Nazi Germany occupied France, he joined the resistance movement. He wrote newspaper columns during and after the war, but Camus is best known for his absurdist literature, including The Stranger, in which he explores morality, despair, and salvation. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. Camus died in a car accident on January 4, 1960.

November 8, 1847

Bram Stoker

Born Abraham Stoker on November 8, 1847, in Ireland, Bram Stoker was bedridden with an unknown illness as a young child. He made a full recovery and was even named University Athlete at Trinity College. After graduating, Stoker worked in the Irish Civil Service for ten years. During this time, he also wrote theater criticism. He wrote glowing reviews of Henry Irving, and the actor, in turn, befriended Stoker and hired him as a manager. In 1875, Stoker published his first horror story. His continued to publish well-received novels, but did not gain lasting acclaim until his 1897 masterpiece, Dracula. In total, Stoker wrote 19 novels. He died in London, England, on April 20, 1912, after suffering multiple strokes.

November 10, 1933

James Houston

James Houston was born in San Francisco, California, on November 10, 1933. He attended San Jose State University where he met his future wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki, whose family had immigrated to the US from Japan. He co-authored his wife's memoir Farewell to Manzanar, about her experiences in an internment camp. Houston also independently wrote several novels and nonfiction works. His first novel, Between Battles, was inspired by his time serving in the Air Force on a NATO air station in Britain. Most of Houston's books, however, are about Hawaii, where his father was stationed in the Navy, and his native California. Houston died from complications of cancer in 2009.

November 11, 1922

Kurt Vonnegut

Known for his satirical post-modern novels, Kurt Vonnegut was born on November 11, 1922, in Indianapolis. Growing up during the Great Depression, Vonnegut saw his parents struggle with addiction and mental illness; he credited his family's cook and housekeeper for raising him and teaching him compassion.

Vonnegut began his writing career early, contributing to his high school and, later, university student newspapers. During World War II, Vonnegut served in the US Army. He was captured by the Germans after the Battle of the Bulge and held in a POW camp in Dresden when it was firebombed by Allied forces. Vonnegut incorporated these traumatic experiences into his metafictional novel Slaughterhouse-Five. Though he sometimes struggled with writer's block, Vonnegut developed a unique writing style and published numerous short stories and essays, seven plays, and fourteen novels. On April 11, 2007, Vonnegut died from brain injuries caused by a fall in his home.

November 13, 1850

Robert Louis Stevenson

A world traveler, Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850, in Edinburgh, Scotland. As a young man, he studied law, though it was during his summer vacations in France, where he associated with young artists, that he realized his true passion for writing. Stevenson wrote about his travels. In France, he met his wife, an American with two children from a previous marriage. Their honeymoon in an abandoned mining camp in California inspired a novel and several adventure stories.

In the 1880s, Stevenson was bedridden due to hemorrhaging lungs likely caused by tuberculosis. During this time of ill health, he wrote his most popular works, Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In 1888, Stevenson and his family set out to sail the South Pacific, visiting Hawaii before settling in the Samoan Islands. Stevenson died suddenly of a stroke at the age of 45.

November 16, 1930

Chinua Achebe

Known as the "father of modern African literature," Chinua Achebe was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe on November 16, 1930. He grew up in the Igbo town of Ogidi, Nigeria. He learned English in a school funded by the British colonial administration and later studied English and literature at Nigeria's first university. In 1958, Achebe published his first novel, Things Fall Apart, about the cultural clash between native African culture, Western missionaries, and colonial government. Things Fall Apart received international critical acclaim, and Achebe went on to write four other novels, children's books, poetry, and nonfiction. His writing often draws from Igbo culture and oral tradition.

In 1990, Achebe suffered spinal injuries from a car accident and became paralyzed from the waist down. He moved to the United States, where he continued writing and worked as a professor at Bard College and Brown University. On March 21, 2013, Achebe died from an unspecified illness. He was buried in Ogidi.

November 18, 1939

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Canada. She spent much of her childhood in the remote bush country in northern Canada, where her father, an entomologist, conducted research. A precocious child, Atwood began writing at age five. She later committed to a literary career and obtained a master's degree in English Literature. Atwood's first published work was a collection of poetry, though she is best known for her novels, which often examine women's position in society. The Handmaid's Tale, arguably Atwood's most popular novel, has been adapted into a film, an opera, and a television series. Atwood has received many literary awards and has been granted sixteen honorary degrees. She currently lives in Toronto with her long-term significant other and fellow writer Graeme Gibson.

November 22, 1969

Marjane Satrapi

Born November 22, 1969 in Iran, Marjane Satrapi was the only child of secular, Westernized parents. Her childhood was shaped by the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the Islamic theocracy the revolutionaries subsequently established. Satrapi attended the Lycée Français, the French high school in Tehran, until her parents, fearing that their outspoken daughter would draw the attention of Iranian authorities, sent her to school in Austria. When the family friend she was staying with in Austria sent her to a convent, Satrapi rebelled. She began using drugs and wound up homeless; after being hospitalized for pneumonia, she returned to Iran.

Satrapi struggled to adjust to restrictive religion of Iran and went to a number of illegal parties while she attended college in Tehran. She obtained a master's degree in visual communication and, following a short-lived marriage, moved to France. In Paris, Satrapi met graphic novelists and was inspired to create her own graphic novel, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, about her growing up in Iran. Later, she wrote another graphic novel, Chicken with Plums, and has written and directed films, including adaptations of her books. Satrapi lives in Paris, France, with her Swedish husband.

November 23, 1980

Ishmael Beah

At the age of twelve, Ishmael Beah was forced to become a soldier after rebels fighting in the Sierra Leone Civil War attacked his hometown, Mogbwemo. Separated from his family, he wandered the country with other boys until he encountered a splinter group of Sierra Leonean soldiers who brainwashed and drugged him and trained him to kill. He fought for almost three years until he was rescued by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Beah was eventually rehabilitated and moved to New York City, where he lived with his foster mother and received an education.

Beah has become an advocate for children affected by war and has spoken on multiple UN panels about the plight of child soldiers. In 2007, he published A Long Way Gone, an account of his traumatic experiences. That same year, he was appointed UNICEF's first Advocate for Children Affected by War, and he founded the Ishmael Beah foundation to help child victims of war reintegrate into society and have access to education. Beah continues to advocate for children in war torn regions.

November 26, 1972

James Dashner

Born in Austell, Georgia, on November 26, 1972, James Dashner moved to Duluth, Georgia, with his family when he was two years old. He attended college at Brigham Young University in Utah and earned a master's degree in accounting. He initially worked in finance before pursuing writing full time. Dashner has published four fantasy and science fiction series for young teenagers. The Maze Runner is his most well-known book, having spent 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List for Children's Series and been adapted to film. Dashner lives in Utah with his wife and four children.

November 29, 1898

C.S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland, on November 29, 1898. As a child, Lewis and his brother created an imaginary land with "dressed animals" and an intricate history. Lewis retained this imaginative world-building into adulthood, as is evidenced by his Chronicles of Narnia series, which explores a kingdom with magical creatures and talking animals. The conflicts in Narnia are also inspired by Lewis's Christian beliefs. Raised a Protestant, Lewis began to question the existence of God as a young adult; however, deep theological conversations with friends, including J. R. R. Tolkien, caused Lewis to believe in God and then convert to Christianity. Lewis became a Christian apologist, publishing dozens of books in which he explained and defended Christian beliefs. C. S. Lewis died of kidney failure on November 22, 1963.

November 30, 1835

Mark Twain

One of America's most iconic authors, Samuel Clemens, better known by his penname Mark Twain, was born in a small Missouri village. When he was four years old, Clemens and his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a town on the Mississippi River. The steamboats, tradesmen, slaves, and violence of Hannibal inspired fictional towns in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

When Clemens was eleven, his father died, and he left school and worked as a printer's apprentice for the local newspaper. As a young adult, Twain wrote articles for different papers before becoming a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi. The outbreak of the Civil War, however, ended Clemens's riverboat career, so he traveled to Nevada and California. Twain became a popular author with the publication of the short story "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog." Known for his witticisms and social commentary, Twain wrote short stories, essays, nonfiction pieces, plays, and novels that continue to be taught as American classics.

Twain had been born shortly after the passing of Halley's Comet and said it would be "the greatest disappointment" if he didn't go out with it. He was not disappointed, however, and died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, one day after the comet's closest approach to Earth.