Local Author Spotlight

Our community is home to a large number of outstanding authors. To celebrate them, we will offer – every two months – an introduction to a different children's or adult author who resides or works in one of the four towns in our school district and who has published a new book within the past year. The selection shall be made by a vote of our librarians. Happy reading!

See More Books by Local Authors!

May – June 2023
Nyanyika Banda


How did you decide what recipes to include in The Official Wakanda Cookbook?

My goal in developing recipes was to celebrate the foods of the African diaspora.

Do you have a special library memory or story?

The Jones Library is very special to me. It is where I got my first library card. My grandmother brought me to the library when I was in kindergarten. I remember the office and the way the light came in through the window on Amity Street. I was told to give my signature and I was so nervous because I was still figuring out how to spell my name. It is a special memory and I still have that library card.

Is there a member of this community who has been instrumental to your writing?

I was a young poet enthralled with Emily Dickinson and her story. It was my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Shumway, who introduced me to poetry.

What was the last book you enjoyed reading?

While I was on Martha's Vineyard last summer I purchased a used copy of Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. I grew up reading her books and was a young adult when the book first came out. On the island I looked forward to posing up in my beach chair and reading everyday. It was magical.

What was your favorite book growing up?

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb is a book that I read as a young adult and have turned to throughout my adult life. It's just beautifully written and tragically empathic.

New Book
by Nyanyika

Nyanyika's Favorite Books  (with her comments)

March – April 2023
Megan Dowd Lambert


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.

Recent Books by Megan  (see more of her books in our collections  |  see all of her books)

Megan's Favorite Books  (with her comments)

January – February 2023
Austin Sarat


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 Sarat - Photo

Recent Books by Austin  (see more of his books in our collections  |  see all of his books)

Austin's Favorite Books  (with his comments)

Authors Previously Spotlighted

Alan Goodman

Corinne Andrews

Edward Bruce Bynum

Robert H. Romer

Joseph J. Ellis

Patricia Romney

Martín Espada

John Clayton

Barbara Elleman

Pawan Dhingra

Martha Ackmann

Jonathan Adolph

Lawrence Douglas

Annye C. Anderson

Artemis Roehrig & Corrine Demas

Ilan Stavans

Ocean Vuong

Christopher Benfey

Micha Archer

Joanne Creighton

Bruce Watson

Aaron Becker

Charles Mann

Holly Black

Lewis Mainzer

Nicole Blum & Catherine Newman

Michael Ponsor

David Hyde Costello

William Taubman

Rich Michelson

Madeleine Blais

Cammie McGovern

View our earlier Local Author Spotlights by year: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 & 2017 | Or browse more books by local authors