NPR: Jessa Crispin

Luisa Valenzuela is an important, post-Boom South American avant-garde writer. Her books — Como en la Guerra (1977) and Cambio de armas (1982) among them — take on patriarchy and politics. They challenge her native country Argentina's dirty past, the corruption and murderous policies of its former dictatorship. She wins awards, meets with critical success and is invited all over the world to teach and speak.

So why is she sitting in New York, unable to think about anything other than boys?

Violence in the Balkans perhaps could be said to have opened and closed the Western 20th century — from the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian dissident to the brutal splintering, in the 1990s, of Yugoslavia, which led to ethnic cleansing and Slobodan Milosevic's trial for war crimes. In the spring of 1998, the bloodletting in Kosovo reached a point where the international community could no longer turn its head, and tensions would mount until NATO's bombing campaign was begun a year later.

In 1963, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique shook the lives of women who felt chained to a destiny of quiet domestic drudgery. It marked a sea change in the way they viewed themselves — no longer just wives and mothers, they could search for a new identity in education and the work force.