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Valerie Plame says she hopes her new book, “Blowback” portrays female CIA agents more realistically. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Valerie Plame says she hopes her new book, “Blowback” portrays female CIA agents more realistically. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

We hope you're having a wonderful Christmas Day. We're going to spend the next hour reprising some of our favorite conversations with writers from the past year. We'll also revisit out conversations with former-spy-turned-novelist Valerie Plame, novelist Salman Rushdie and writer Andre Debus.

But let's begin with Jill Lepore, a professor of history at Harvard University and a staff writer for the New Yorker, who brought us the story of a woman named Jane and her brother Benjamin. When they were young, they were called "Jenny and Benny."

They were very close. Benny once wrote: "The two eyes of a man do not more resemble, nor are capable of being upon better terms with each other, than my sister and myself."

Jenny agreed. "We had seldom any contention among us," she wrote. "All was harmony."

They loved each other dearly. They teased each other. In response to Jenny's claim that all was harmony, Benny wrote: "I think our family were always subject to being a little Miffy!"

"You introduce your reproof of my Miffy temper so politely!" she joked back. "One can't avoid wishing to have conquered it as you have."

However, their letters also reveal that Jenny spelled poorly. She never learned how to hold a pen properly. Jenny married at 15 and had 12 children, only one of whom survived her.

Her brother, however, became one of the founding fathers of the United States.

Benny's full name was Benjamin Franklin. Jenny was his sister, Jane Franklin Mecom, his most beloved sibling, yet someone he never once mentions in his own memoirs.

If Ben Franklin was the legendary revolutionary "every man," historian Jill Lepore writes, then Jane was "everyone else." She tells Jane's little-known life story in "Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin," and when we spoke to her in October she began by reading a passage from the earliest surviving letter that Jane Franklin ever wrote. It's from 1758, when Franklin was 45 years old.

This segment aired on December 25, 2013.


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