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 M.B.A. After graduating she began writing crime fiction. Paretsky is most famous for her series of 21 novels featuring female Chicago detective V.I. Warshawski. The series started with Indemnity Only (1982). The latest, as of this writing, is Shell Game (2019). 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 she 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 Courtenay Wright, a retired physics professor, in 1976.

She was raised in a Jewish family and 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.”

Paretsky in 2009; photo by Mark Coggins under CC 2.0.

Freedom From Religion Foundation