12 Authors Who Passed Away in 2023

collage of 12 authors who died in 2023

I always feel the need to preface these retrospectives with a note reminding you that this is not intended to be a comprehensive list or an attempt to highlight the “most important” writers who passed in 2023 while consciously excluding others. This is simply an opportunity to pay homage to 12 of the dozens (hundreds) of writers and authors who died in 2023 and celebrate the work they’ve left behind. I encourage you to add a remembrance in the comments section to celebrate writers who meant something to you who passed this year.

Ian FalconerIan Falconer, 63
Born: August 25, 1959, Ridgefield, CT
Died: March 7, 2023, Norwalk, CT

“Only five books tonight, Mommy,” she says.
“No, Olivia, just one.”
“How about four?”
“Oh, all right, three. But that’s it!”

Before winning the hearts of children and adults with his renowned Oliva series of children’s books, starring an audacious young pig, Ian Falconer was a set and costume designer for theater and opera. He continued to do theater design as he wrote and illustrated 13 books featuring his heroine, beginning with Olivia in 2000 (named a Caldecott Honor Book) and issuing what would be the final book in the series, Olivia The Spy in 2017. Falconer also wrote and illustrated another children’s picture book, Two Dogs, in 2022, collected numerous awards for his work, and illustrated various magazine covers, including 30 for The New Yorker.

authors who died in 2023: Ama Ata AidooAma Ata Aidoo, 81
Born: March 23, 1942, Abeadzi Kyiakor
Died: May 31, 2023, Accra, Ghana

For us Africans, literature must serve a purpose: to expose, embarrass, and fight corruption and authoritarianism. It is understandable why the African artist is utilitarian.

Ama Ata Aidoo’s remarkable life had her studying around the world — including in her native Ghana and the US — serving in multiple government and educational posts, and writing prodigiously. She holds the distinction of being the first published female African dramatist — her play The Dilemma of a Ghost was published in 1965. In addition to writing plays (The Dilemma of a Ghost, Anowa), she published novels (Our Sister Killjoy, Changes: A Love Story, the latter earning a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best book in 1992), poems (her poetry collection, Someone Talking to Sometime, won the Nelson Mandela Prize for Poetry in 1987), short stories (No Sweetness Here), and children’s books (The Eagle and the Chickens and Other Stories). Known as a champion of feminism, Africa, and education, Aidoo also edited an anthology in 2006, titled African Love Stories.

Milan KunderaMilan Kundera, 94
Born: April 1, 1929, Brno, Czechoslovakia
Died: July 11, 2023, Paris, France

Anyone whose goal is “something higher” must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.

Best known for his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera lived in exile from his native Czechoslovakia in France, becoming a French citizen in 1981 and considering himself a French writer. Kundera first joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in 1947, though was expelled three years later (he was reinstated and expelled again a few years after that), and while Kundera didn’t consider his works to be political commentary, he did explore elements of totalitarianism in much of it. The Unbearable Lightness of Being was published in 1984, was made into a film in 1988, and is reprinted in at least two dozen languages. His other works include The Joke (1967), Life Is Elsewhere (1973), The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979), Ignorance (2000), and The Festival of Insignificance (2014).

authors who died in 2023: Carol Higgins ClarkCarol Higgins Clark, 66
Born: July 28, 1956, New York, NY
Died: June 12, 2023, Los Angeles, CA

A writer is always observant, of course… You can take the kernel of something — part of it — and use it in a book.

Daughter of suspense writer Mary Higgins Clark (who passed in 2020), Carol Higgins Clark followed in her mother’s literary footsteps, bringing a sense of humor to her mystery novels that mostly followed the investigative exploits of PI Regan Reilly. Clark initially sought to be an actress, and has acting credits to her name, but as she began helping her mother early in her budding career, it provided the younger author with valuable lessons and the bug to create her own universe in books. Carol continued to work with her mother, even acting in a number of made-for-TV productions of her work, and collaborated on books with Mary that introduced characters from each other’s novels into the mix. The 20 books in the Regan Reilly series mostly bear snappy one-word titles, including Decked, Snagged, Hitched, Wrecked, and Knocked, which was the last in the series, published in 2015.

Naomi ReplanskyNaomi Replansky, 104
Born: May 23, 1918, New York, NY
Died: January 7, 2023, New York, NY

I learned the speech of birds; now every tree
Screams out to me a baleful prophecy.

Raised in the Bronx, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, Naomi Replansky’s poetry endures, like a weed through concrete. Writing, in rhyme, about decidedly un-poetic topics like manual labor, poverty, racism, and the Holocaust, Replansky’s poetry made its park on other poets, and indeed a reading audience, though she never gained wide notoriety for her work. She rarely published, in part because she was a perfectionist, but her published body of work includes four titles: Ring Song (1952), Twenty-One Poems, Old and New (1988), The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934-1994 (1994), Collected Poems (2012). Working jobs in her lifetime such as lathe operator, ocean-liner stewardess, and medical editor, Replansky also served as a translator from German and Yiddish to English, including works by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Bertolt Brecht.

authors who died in 2023: James Reston, Jr.James Reston, Jr., 82
Born: March 8, 1941, New York NY
Died: July 19, 2023, Chevy Chase, MD

Americans have always been able to handle austerity and even adversity. Prosperity is what is doing us in.

James Reston, Jr. was born into a prolific family of writers — his father was an editor at The New York Times, his mother, a journalist and publisher — and he, himself, was rather prolific, penning three novels, 19 nonfiction books, and four plays over 50 years, not to mention the numerous articles and TV and radio pieces he wrote. His writing covered topics that include the Vietnam War, the Jonestown Massacre, civil rights, the September 11 attacks, and notably, the impeachment of Richard Nixon. His research on the latter topic resulted in Reston being an advisor to David Frost, who in 1977 secured exclusive rights to interview Richard Nixon. Reston prepared a 96-page memo for Frost, who conducted close to 30 hours of interviews with the ex-president and ultimately elicited an apology. In addition to an array of published books, Reston’s articles appeared in a variety of publications, including National Geographic, The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Omni, Playboy, Vanity Fair, and Time.

Louise MeriwetherLouise Meriwether, 100
Born: May 8, 1923, Haverstraw, NY
Died: October 10, 2023, New York, NY

I always knew I would turn a corner and run into this day, but I ain’t prepared for it nohow.

A creative writing teacher, literary critic, and journalist — in addition to being a writer — Louise Meriwether wrote about the black experience in America and focused on writing about black history for younger children because, as she described it, “the deliberate omission of Blacks from American history has been damaging to the children of both races.” Before her acclaimed and semi-autobiographical first novel, Daddy Was a Number Runner, was published in 1970, Meriwether had been working as a reporter for the Los Angeles Sentinel and had her article, “Black Man, Do You Love Me?” appear as the cover story for Essence magazine’s inaugural issue. Her novels for younger children include The Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls (1971), The Heart Man: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (1972), Don’t Ride the Bus on Monday: The Rosa Parks Story (1973), Francie’s Harlem (1988), Fragments of the Ark (1994), and Shadow Dancing (2000). Meriwether also published short stories, and among her accolades are lifetime achievement awards from the Black Writers Alliance (2001), American Book Awards (2016), and the Center for Black Literature (2018).

authors who died in 2023: Charles SimacCharles Simic, 84
Born: May 9, 1938, Belgrade, Serbia
Died: January 9, 2023, Dover, NH

Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is merely the bemused spectator.

Born in Serbia, Charles Simic’s family was displaced by WWII, ultimately bringing him to the US in 1954. He became a US citizen in 1971 and was named poet laureate of the United States in 2007 — a special feat for a man who didn’t even speak English until he was 15. In addition to being a prolific poet, Simic was a translator (of poetry), wrote essays and other nonfiction work, was a poetry editor, and served as a poetry judge in 2007’s Griffin Poetry Prize. Simic graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School in suburban Chicago — the same school Ernest Hemingway attended — where his love of reading flourished. Simic’s published output is impressive, with over three dozen poetry collections to his name, including 1967’s What the Grass Says, 2022’s No Land In Sight, and 1990’s The World Doesn’t End, which earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (he was a Pulitzer finalist on two other occasions). He also won a MacArthur Fellowship and a Frost Medal (among other awards) and saw 15 of his poetry translations and 10 nonfiction titles published in a career that spanned over 50 years.

authors who died in 2023: Cormac mcCarthyCormac McCarthy, 89
Born: July 20, 1933, Providence, RI
Died: June 13, 2023, Santa Fe, NM

You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil that can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it.

Heralded as one of America’s greatest novelists, Cormac McCarthy shunned the spotlight — indeed he was something of a recluse who rarely gave interviews and whose characters, as The New York Times put it, “were outsiders, like him.” Discovering a love of reading while serving in the Air Force, McCarthy published his first book, The Orchard Keeper in 1965. (As an aside, he was born Charles Joseph McCarthy, Jr. and changed his name to Cormac to serve his literary ambitions, not wanting to be confused with ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s dummy Charlie McCarthy, popular in the 1950s.) McCarthy wrote 12 novels between 1965–2022, as well as two plays and various screenplays and short stories. His 1985 novel, Blood Meridian, is considered by many to be his magnum opus, but it was 2006’s The Road — a post-apocalyptic tale that includes passages that were verbatim conversations he had with his son as the two traveled the country years prior — that earned McCarthy a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Road is just one of McCarthy’s works that was adapted to film, as was 2005’s No Country For Old Men, which won the Academy Award for best picture in 2008.

authors who died in 2023: Julie GarwoodJulie Garwood, 78
Born: December 26, 1944, Kansas City, MO
Died: June 8, 2023, Leawood, KS

If you begin to give away parts of yourself, eventually you’ll give it all. And once you’ve lost yourself, haven’t you lost everything?

Julie Garwood was 40 when her first book,Gentle Warrior, was published in 1985, and in the ensuing 38 years, she just about averaged a book a year, publishing a slew of historical and suspense romances in addition to a couple of novels for young adults. Garwood’s relatively late start at writing coincidentally mirrors her late start as a reader. As the story goes, she missed a great deal of school when she was six due to complications from a tonsillectomy, resulting in her not learning to read along with her classmates. Ultimately, it was a math teacher, Sister Elizabeth, who taught her the joys of reading when she was 11, starting with Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, when double-majoring in nursing and history, it was another professor who encouraged her to pursue writing after being impressed with her essays. Garwood’s first crop of novels were mostly historical romances, setting her adventures in the recent past, and then, starting with 2000’s Heartbreaker, Garwood turned to contemporary settings tinged with a element of suspense. In her career, Garwood saw 40 million copies of her books printed in 32 languages.

authors who died in 2023: Henri LopesHenri Lopes, 86
Born: September 12, 1937, Léopoldville, Belgian Congo
Died: November 2, 2023, Suresnes, France

Whoever speaks one of our languages can understand them all, and I could easily have followed the songs of these nubile maidens. But a song always sounds better if we don’t understand the words.

In 1972, before he began serving under President Denis Sassou Nguesso in the Republic of the Congo, Henri Lopes had won the Grand Literary Prize of Black Africa in 1972 for his collection of short stories, titled Tribaliques. Lopes served in numerous government positions — starting in 1969 as Minister of National Education. Despite constitutional term limits, Sassou Nguesso has held power since 1979, save for a five-year period in the ’90s, and Lopes has served as prime minister (1973–75) and later as Congo’s ambassador to France, a position he held from 1998–2015. For many, his complicity with what’s been labeled a left-wing Marxist-Leninist regime undermines his legacy as a writer who, among other things, pilloried the abuses of African leaders in his published work. His work has received a good amount of praise and awards, with 1982’s satirical novel The Laughing Cry (Le Pleurer-rire) and his final work, 2015’s Le Méridional listed as highlights.

authors who died in 2023: Louise GluckLouise Glück, 80
Born: April 22, 1943, New York, NY
Died: October 13, 2023, Cambridge, MA

We have a disturbing cultural appetite for novelty, and it seems to me wrong each new laureate should dislodge the ideas of his or her predecessor, especially when they’re still unfolding.

Poet Laureate of the US from 2003-2004, Louise Glück’s list of notable awards is almost as long as her bibliography. Her Nobel Prize for Literature in 2020 made her the first American-born poet to win the award since T.S. Eliot did it in 1948, and Glück earned a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1993 for The Wild Iris (she was a finalist in 2002 for The Seven Ages). Words used to describe her poetry include confessional, sparse, precise, dark, clear, beautiful, and diverse as much of her work focused on suffering, loss, and renewal. Glück served on the faculties of Williams College, Yale, and Stanford, and among the accolades and awards she collected for her work are the Bollingen Prize, National Humanities Medal, and National Book Award. In addition to more than a dozen poetry collections, Glück also published two essay collections and a book, 2022’s Marigold and Rose: A Fiction.

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  1. Keeping these great authors in my thoughts and prayers. All those who expressed and gave a lot of pleasure and solace provoked thoughts through their works of art. Take a bow to each and every one of them.

  2. Just excellently worthwhile for still living authors. Now I have to read Cormac McCarthy. Thanks
    Maybe some day ….


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