“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
–Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist
Oscar Wilde, an Irish playwright, poet, and novelist, became one of London’s most popular playwrights during his time with plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest.
Wilde spoke highly of aestheticism and made attempts at several forms of literature including publishing a book poetry, lecturing on the new “English Renaissance in Art” in the United States and Canada, and became a journalist when he returned to London. Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day, known for his wit and flamboyant dress.
While The Importance of Being Earnest was still running in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for criminal libel. The Marquess was the father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The trial revealed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with men. After two more trials, Wilde was convicted and imprisoned for two years. After he was released, Wilde left to France and began his final work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, a long poem commemorating the harsh realities of prison life.
“The fact that I’m me and no one else is one of my greatest assets.”
– Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir
Masterful literary fiction writer Haruki Murakami is responsible for world-renowned books such as Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Kafka on the Shore, and IQ84. Born and raised in Japan, Murakami is fairly private and removed from academic literary circles, pursuing his love of writing and creating jazz music unencumbered by the opinions of anyone but his wife (who he considers his first real reader) and family.
“Everything in the world was in precarious balance, pure risk, and those who didn’t agree to take the risk wasted away in a corner, without getting to know life.”
— Elena Ferrante, The Story of a New Name
A prolific Italian writer, the pseudonymous author structures her books around the female experience in relationships and life. Some of Ferrante’s books that amassed her impressive following include My Brilliant Friend, The Days of Abandonment, and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.
Ferrante, despite her cult-like success and her fans’ respect of her desire to keep her identity private, was recently in the news for being doxxed by a male Italian journalist. Ferrante’s exposure has been widely criticized, and the general consensus is that this treatment of Ferrante was unnecessary and unfair. It’s unknown if Ferrante will keep writing novels, since she has previously released a statement that she would cease to do so if her identity was ever discovered, but that doesn’t take away from the incredible voice and narratives that she has already given readers.
“Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle and hurling it into the sea. Some bottles drown, some come safe to land, where the notes are read and then possibly cherished, or else misinterpreted, or else understood all too well by those who hate the message. You never know who your readers might be.”
– Margaret Atwood, “Why We Must Defend Writers“
Margaret Atwood is a poet, writer, essayist, literary critic, screenwriter, scientific innovator and inventor, public speaker, and editor from Canada. Atwood has an extensive history of winning awards, including winning the Booker Prize 5 times and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Literature, among many others. Some of Atwood’s more famous works include Oryx and Crake, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Cat’s Eye. Atwood is also an feminist and environmental activist and is a noted humanist, earning the official title by the American Humanist Society.
“Life is too short to be lived badly.”
— Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
Author and illustrator of the Persepolis Series, Embroideries, The Sigh, and others, Marjane Satrapi is a famous Iranian-French graphic novelist who’s work covers topics from coming-of-age stories to feminism to revolutions. Satrapi was born in Iran and spent most of your young life here before moving to France, where she still lives today.
“If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.”
—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a nonfiction essayist, a novelist, poet, playwright, and a short story writer. Born in Nigeria, Adichie studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half before coming to America to study communication and political science (from Drexel University and Eastern Connecticut State University); she later received her master’s degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University.
Some of her more well-known works include Americanah, The Thing Around Your Neck, Half of a Yellow Sun, Purple Hibiscus, and We Should All Be Feminists. Adichie has hosted TED talks and had her work featured in The New Yorker, Granta, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She’s also racked up many awards and honors, including winning the New York Times Notable Book, People and Black Issues Book Review’s Best Book of the Year, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction.
“Without community, there is no liberation… but community must not mean a shedding of out differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”
– Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
Audre Lorde was a Black feminist, poet, writer, lesbian and civil rights activist. Lorde was a born and raised New Yorker who dedicated her life and her art to calling out racism, homophobia, and sexism. Lorde is known for expressing herself with passion and boldness, taking any topic or oppressive groups head-on. Her book Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches was published in 1984 and deals with themes of oppression, identity, love, racism, homophobia, and sexism.
“We are each other’s harvest: we are each other’s business: we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”
– Gwendolyn Brooks, “Paul Robeson,” The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks