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Local Author Spotlight
Why did you write your new book?
The stories in my Every Day with April & Mae early reader series are inspired by my three daughters and their friendships. It’s still too rare to see girls of color as protagonists in early reader books, and I love how illustrators Briana Dengoue and Gisela Bohórquez depict April and Mae as they navigate social / emotional learning and go about favorite activities — soccer, baking, reading, writing, making music, making art, playing with their pets, watching movies, camping, and more! My other new book, Book Bonding: Building Connections Through Family Reading, is a collection of essays I’ve written over the past two decades about reading with my seven children, now aged 5 – 25. I hope it will invite readers to reflect on how shared reading experiences can help parents and other caregivers build strong and lasting connections with the children in their lives.
What was the last book you enjoyed reading?
With my kids: The Infinite Questions of Dottie Bing by Molly B. Burnham (middle grade); How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps by Pamela S. Turner (nonfiction); and Impossible Moon by Breanna J. McDaniel, illustrated by Tonya Engel (picture book)
Reading on my own: My "day job" is at Modern Memoirs, Inc., a private publishing company specializing in memoirs and family histories that my husband and I bought from its founder, Kitty Axelson-Berry, in 2019. So, I read a lot of memoirs and history books! I’m currently listening to A History of France by John Julius Norwich as I prepare for a heritage trip to France with my dad, who has conducted extensive genealogical research into our family history. As for memoirs, last year I bought my mom and myself copies of Viola Davis's Finding Me: A Memoir and we called each other daily to talk about it.
What is a favorite book from when you were growing up?
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, which I wrote about in this blog post on the Modern Memoirs website.
Photo by Jason Lamb Photography
Megan's Favorite Books (with her comments)
- Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon — A wise, bighearted, compassionate read that transformed my feelings about daughterhood and motherhood.
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer — I listened to the audiobook, then bought copies for myself and for many others. Kimmerer's commentary on reciprocal relationships — between people and between people and the natural world — moves me tremendously and gives me hope.
- New and Selected Poems, Volume 1 by Mary Oliver — A mentor gave me this book when I graduated from Smith College in 1996. Since then, I’ve turned to it countless times for inspiration, pleasure, and solace.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker — This novel introduced me to Walker’s writing when I was a teenager. I quickly read everything else I could find by her and then immersed myself in the works of other African American writers, including Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Lorraine Hansberry, Richard Wright, Audre Lorde, and Jacqueline Woodson.
- A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland by John Mack Faragher — I read this fascinating, devastating book to educate myself about this part of my Franco-American family history.
What is it like to be a writer during a pandemic?
Writing was salvation, or if not salvation, a consuming distraction. I really geared up in two different genres, my usually academic fare and also op-eds / public commentary. The latter is somewhat new, but it provided an almost all-consuming way to vent about what was going on outside beyond the COVID cavern that my home became. I found new outlets – CNN, The Washington Post, Slate, The Hill and fell in love with the form, 800-1000 words. Get to the point, avoid jargon, say something that draws on expertise but has a social, legal, or political pay-off. I found myself alternating between my two genres and that also offered a way to vary the pace and keep myself fully engaged as a writer.
Why did you write your new book?
My new book, Lethal Injection and the False Promise of Humane Execution, continues my several decades long exploration of America's death penalty. It offers the first book-length examination of this nation's latest execution method of choice and the promise that this method will put people to death safely, reliably, and humanely. I wanted to illuminate the way capital punishment has been, and is, sustained by the illusory quest for a perfect execution technology. If the United States is to continue killing inmates in our name, in the name of the people, we have a duty to confront the complex meanings of state killing. I wrote my book in the hope that it would contribute to achieving that goal. It is written for a general audience and tells the story of the quirky and compelling characters who brought us lethal injection and the people who it has been used to kill.
Austin's Favorite Books (with his comments)
- The Geography of Faith: Underground Conversations on Religious, Political, and Social Change by Daniel Berrigan and Robert Coles — A wonderful book about protest and conscience.
- Exodus and Revolution by Michael Walzer — I really like Walzer's compelling analysis of the Exodus story as an inspiration for political change. [not currently available in CW MARS]
- Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer — I think the best book on America's love affair with the death penalty.
- Beloved by Toni Morrison — This book is an act of genius. I find it both deeply depressing and inspiring.
- Law's Empire by Ronald Dworkin — An intriguing and intricate account of the values of law in a free / liberal society.
Exodus and Revolution by Michael Walzer [not currently available in CW MARS]
Authors Previously Spotlighted
View our earlier Local Author Spotlights by year: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 & 2017 | Or browse more books by local authors