Sara Paretsky

On this date in 1947, Sara Paretsky was born in Ames, Iowa. She earned her doctorate in history from the University of Chicago in 1968, later followed by an MBA. After graduating, she began writing crime fiction. Paretsky is most famous for her 15-book series featuring female Chicago detective V.I. Warshawski. The series begins with Indemnity Only (1982) and currently includes Body Work (2010). Paretsky is passionate about social justice and women’s rights, and worked as a community organizer in Chicago during the 1966 race riots. In 1986, Paretsky founded Sisters In Crime, an organization that supports female mystery writers. She was named 1987 Woman of the Year by Ms. Magazine. Her numerous other awards include the Gold Dagger from the British Crime Writers for the best novel of 2004. She married her husband, Courtenay Wright, a retired physics professor, in 1976.

“I’m at the atheist end of the agnostic spectrum,” Paretsky wrote in a blog post on her website on Sept. 26, 2009. She was raised in a Jewish family and still practices some Jewish traditions, such as Yom Kippur, but has otherwise lost her faith. Paretsky opposes religion’s intrusion into science. In her memoir, Writing in an Age of Silence (2007), she wrote about “the roadblocks put up by religion” to women’s access to birth control and abortion. Paretsky spoke on Freethought Radio on June 2, 2011, about her family’s protest of a mandatory Christian revival at her public high school. She said: “The local paper published their names and their phone number and urged people to call them and tell them to go back where they came from, which was southern Illinois for my father and Brooklyn, New York, for my mother. It is amazing to me how quickly people can be stirred to behave in really vile ways, even though they may most of the time be warm and loving and decent people.”

"I'm at the atheist end of the agnostic spectrum."

—-Sara Paretsky

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor; Photo by Brent Nicastro

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