The People on Our Postage Stamps: A Reading List

Flannery O’Connor is going to be on a stamp! I’m going to actually mail those postcards I bought years ago. In my enthusiasm, I learned there have been almost 800 different folks on the U.S. stamp—authors, like O’Connor, but also blues singers, inventors, athletes and politicians. After much deliberation, I chose to feature five stamped individuals: an inventor, an entertainer, an activist, a journalist and a short story mastermind. Don’t worry, I linked to their stamps.

1. Buckminster Fuller: “Dymaxion Man.” (Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, June 2008)

Buckminster Fuller wrote rambling manifestos and dreamed of cookie-cutter bathrooms and cars that flew. This inventor’s stamp is as strange and wonderful as his failed, fanciful inventions.

2. Selena: “Dreaming of Her.” (Pamela Colloff, Texas Monthly, April 2010)

She was a folk hero with a voice of gold, murdered in the prime of her life. Selena ruled the Tejano music scene, inspiring millions of people and shattering records. With the help of her family, friends, mentors and collaborators, Texas Monthly compiled an oral history of Selena’s rise to fame in her honor. (Stamp: 2011)

3. Dorothea Dix: “The Life, Death, and Possible Resurrection of the Asylum.” (Harry Cheadle, VICE, April 2015)

Dorothea Dix was one of the first advocates for mental heathcare reform. As early as 1841, she objected to the mistreatment of the mentally ill in asylums and prisons. Can Dix’s dream of the asylum as oasis come to fruition in the 21st century? (Stamp: 1983)

4. Ethel L. Payne: “Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press.” (James McGrath Morris, PopMatters, February 2015)

For Ethel Payne, journalism was love at first sight, and the Chicago Defender reciprocated. PopMatters presents an excerpt from a new biography of Ethel Payne, one of the finest female journalists of color of the 20th century. (Stamp: 2002)

5. Flannery O’Connor: “Both/And: Finding Grace in Flannery O’Connor.” (Molly McArdle, BK Mag, May 2015)

This essay by Molly McArdle made me grab for my own journal and start writing. McArdle reflects on her middle school Catholic confirmation, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and Flannery O’Connor’s understanding of grace, fear and pain as seen in her remarkable prayer journal.