December 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) December.

December 1, 1948

Azar Nafisi

Azar Nafisi is a writer and English literature professor from Tehran, Iran. Her father Ahmad Nafisi was the mayor of Tehran from 1961 to 1963. Nafisi received her Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma before returning to Iran to teach at Tehran University in 1979, post-Iranian Revolution. While there, she had difficulty with the new ideas and procedures brought on by the Revolution. She returned to the United States 18 years later and wrote Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, in which she describes her time as a secular woman residing in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The book earned Nafisi a great deal of criticism from people who perceived her to be neoconservative; however, other critics defended Nafisi's most famous work, one calling it "[a]n intimate memoir of life under a repressive regime and a celebration of the vitality of literature."

December 3, 1857

Joseph Conrad

Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, Joseph Conrad left Poland, his home country, at the age of 16 to become a mariner. After his time at sea, he married Jessie Emmeline George, and they had two sons. Conrad had many friends who were famous writers, including H. G. Wells and John Galsworthy. Conrad's work often features faraway settings, human versus nature themes, and exposure of the violent side of humanity. His two most well-known works are Lord Jim, published in 1900, and Heart of Darkness, published in 1902. He is the author of eighteen novels and over two dozen short stories. Conrad died of a heart attack in August of 1924.

December 7, 1941

Melba Pattillo Beals

In 1956, 14-year-old Melba Pattillo (now Melba Pattillo Beals) and eight other students became the first black students to integrate the previously all-white, Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. While there, she endured threats, hostility, and attacks from students opposed to integration, including an incident in which someone threw acid in her eyes. The Governor of Arkansas closed Central, ending Beals's time at the school, and she finished her schooling in California. She earned a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, where she also met her husband, Matt Beals. Years later, she recalled her experience in her compelling memoir, Warriors Don't Cry. Currently, Beals resides in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and three children.

December 10, 1920

Reginald Rose

Born in Manhattan, Reginald Rose attended both high school and college in the city before serving in the US army between 1942 and 1946. Rose made a name for himself as a film and television writer; his résumé includes the CBS anthology program Studio One, for which he wrote Twelve Angry Men (1954). Later adapted to stage and film, Twelve Angry Men features a 12-person jury trying to come to a decision about the fate of a boy accused of stabbing his father to death. The play ensured Rose's fame. Rose died in 2002 due to heart issues.

December 16, 1775

Jane Austen

British author Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, England. Austen spent her childhood writing in bound notebooks, inspired by the world of storytelling. She had six siblings, including her sister Cassandra, to whom Austen was especially close. As adults, the two wrote letters to each other nearly every day; Cassandra destroyed some of these letters to preserve her sister's reputation, but many of them were published posthumously. Two of her most famous novels, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, were published with "A Lady" as the credited author. Austen's writing demonstrated her keen wit and her affinity for romance and drama. She died in 1817 at only 47 years old after she fell ill with what historians guess was Addison's disease.

December 20, 1954

Sandra Cisneros

Chicago-native Sandra Cisneros grew up with six brothers and sisters. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola University Chicago; at University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, she received a Master of Fine Arts degree and realized that the Latina perspective she had on life was under-reported. Since then, she has written a great deal of both fiction and poetry about the Latina experience in the United States. Her most noteworthy work, the coming-of-age novel The House on Mango Street, has sold over two million copies; it won the American Book Award in 1985 from the Before Columbus Foundation. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Cisneros a National Medal of Arts. She currently lives in central Mexico.