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!

November – December 2022
Alan Goodman

Interview

What is your favorite local place to go for inspiration, relaxation, or peace and quiet? Why?

Home! I love working from home. My office has a cherry desk, sofa, and a humongous monitor, plus a bed for Mazel, my 13-year-old labradoodle. And I have a great view of the Holyoke range.

What is it like to be a writer during a pandemic?

I am blessed to be a teacher/scientist/writer. During the pandemic I've been safe and had fewer distractions.

Joseph Graves, my coauthor, lives in North Carolina. Early in the pandemic we'd planned to visit each other regularly. When the pandemic dragged on, we got into the habit of checking in daily with zoom calls. Joe was invariably at his computer and we had little problem staying in synch.

Do you have a special library memory or story?

I live near the North Amherst library and when my daughter was young, we often went there to hunt for books. As a bonus I could scan the DVDs that lined the corridor on the way to the kid's section. That little gem of a library was intimate and welcoming and the librarians were always helpful. I'm both thrilled that it is going to become more accessible and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the older version.

Why did you write your new book?

That's huge! It is essential to antiracism to deeply understand what race is (an ideology) and is not (based in biology). My co-author and I wanted to write an accessible book that explains why human variation is real and wonderful but race has nothing to do with genes, evolution and biological variation. Rather, race is an idea with profound consequences for wealth, health and life circumstances. Racism is real. Race as biology is not.

What was your favorite book growing up?

I binged on authors. Mark Twain was probably my first binge and another was Kurt Vonnegut. Both writers are witty with sly political bends.

Do you have a website for your books which you would like to share?

The official website is: https://cup.columbia.edu/book/racism-not-race/9780231200660 (entering CUP20 gets a 20% discount). I’ve also got a lot of book information on my personal website: https://sites.hampshire.edu/agoodman/racism-not-race.

Recent Books by Alan  (see more of his books)

Alan's Favorite Books  (with his comments)

I now mostly listen to books via the library app (Libby) and Audible. Here are some (of many!) favorite non-fiction books.


September – October 2022
Corinne Andrews

Interview

What is your favorite local place to go for inspiration, relaxation, or peace and quiet? Why?

I absolutely love to go to the woods, and I go pretty much every day to walk or hike. I love the many different trails right here in Amherst and the surrounding towns.

The earth beneath my feet carries me, upholds me and speaks to me. The beautiful giant trees remind me of the relationship between my small individual self and my larger Self that is united with all. Going up steep mountains reminds me of strength, perseverance, and courage. Each plant has its own name and unique purpose here on Earth, and teaches us that we can honor both diversity and unity. The mushrooms show us networks of interconnectedness and say "hey humans – do as we do!" The winding streams and rivers show me how to be fluid, graceful, open to receive and go with the flow. Ponds seem to say, "be still, go deeper and search for more." The wind comes by and kisses me, bringing the presence of wise ones who have come before me, spirits who are waiting in the space around us, ready to inspire us and co-create. The birds tell me to spread my wings, open my perspective far and wide and dare to go higher. The bears wake me up, filling me with delight and fear. They seem to say, "Get hefty! Sway with each step you take, notice what scares you, and come into harmony with all living beings."

As I walk through the woods, I release energies, emotions, thoughts and ideas that are no longer serving me and I open myself to receive inspiration and guidance. It is daily medicine for me and what helps me to keep creating, writing, teaching, giving and loving.

Do you have a website for your books which you would like to share?

Yes, thank you for sharing: www.birthingmama.com and www.shraddhayoga.org

Corinne Andrews


New Book
by Corinne

Corinne's Favorite Books  (with her comments)

Honestly, I’ve always internally reacted to the question, “what’s your favorite ____?” Not sure why, but I don’t resonate with that question.

However there are many books that have deeply spoken to me at different times throughout my life. So instead of listing some favorites, I’ll share with you a few of the many books that are currently speaking to me and a sentence to express why:

  • Letters On Yoga by Sri Aurobindo – This book is bringing the depth and complexity of the teachings of Integral Yoga into clear and simple life applications.
  • Great Swan: Meetings with Ramakrishna by Lex Hixon – Deeply moving, passionate and devotional – makes my soul sing.
  • In Praise of the Goddess: The Devī Mahātmya and Its Meaning by Devadatta Kālī – Loving getting to know the Goddess from a more traditional and ancient sacred text viewpoint.
  • Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals by Alexis Pauline Gumbs – Really enjoying the mix of spirituality, wisdom within sea life and activism that this book offers forth.
  • Śiva Sūtra Praveśana by Paul Muller-Ortega – Supporting me in a new meditation tradition that I was initiated into last spring and deepening my love and knowledge of a specific philosophy that I’ve been involved with for a long time, but on a more surface level.
  • The Art and Practice of Spiritual Herbalism by Karen M. Rose – Blending my love of herbs, plants, nature, and spirituality into a beautiful and inspiring offering.


July – August 2022
Edward Bruce Bynum

Interview

What is it like to be a writer during a pandemic?

Well, I must confess, sometimes I've felt like that narrator in the novel The Plague by Albert Camus; where is it coming from, who's next? Refrigerators in New York City full of excess dead bodies felt like a modem painting by Hieronymus Bosch. Like everyone else I am grateful this plague is slowly ebbing.

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

No one single person, but rather a collection of writers. A gorgeous river of poets flows through our valley, not all of them at the colleges and university either. I have been fortunate enough to know and work with many, mutually learning and stealing from them. Monthly I meet with the Florence Poetry Society just to read aloud, to hear other voices, voices that awaken voices in me.

Edward Bruce Bynum

Do you have a favorite book that is set in or is about the Pioneer Valley or New England?

As an African American I found Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts by Robert Romer to be extremely interesting and even evocative. I love walking and biking the back roads and forgotten woodland trails of Amherst, Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett. Many old settlements and abandoned quarries are here but largely reabsorbed by the forests. In the past these lands were populated by European, African American and Wampanoag Native Peoples. I am moved by these sights, often sensing, in a visceral way, what life was like for those peoples of an earlier era. I sense the tissue of history I am in, and wonder what future ages will think about our own times. We are all only visiting earth for a brief time but there is a connectivity that runs through all of this that finds its way into all my work.

Why did you write your new book?

Well to be perfectly honest I have been frustrated at the cycles we go through roughly every twenty years or so about "race" and identity here in America. This occurs all the while serious science has been telling us that we are all permutations and descendants of an ancient species that emerged, had its childhood and fully developed its present cognitive and emotional dynamics and systems in Africa. This collective primordial African consciousness is actually the root consciousness of all peoples across the earth today, no exceptions to the rule! This radically inverts our dialogues and understandings of who we are and reframes our obsessions around so-called "identity politics." Strange as it may seem, as an African American, a psychologist, a poet and a student of the ancient spiritual and mystery traditions, I feel in a sense I have been writing this book from the time I was a little boy. It is only that now I have the tools to say what I have always sensed about the earth and my small place on it. Our African Unconscious: The Black Origins of Mysticism and Psychology brings together these two rivers of my work, scholarship and the flow of poetry. That's partially why they decided to issue an audio edition. I hope readers find it useful.

Do you have a website for your books which you would like to share?

Yes, there are 2 actually. The first is my own at www.obeliskfoundation.com. It has articles on health and clinical subjects as well as a listing of books in psychology and poetry. The second is my Amazon author page where all 6 psychology books and 7 titles in poetry are listed.

Recent Books by Edward  (see all his books)

Edward's Favorite Books  (with his comments)


The first 3 are about the interior of my spiritual discipline; the second 2 are around world civilization and the trajectory of human consciousness. I would be remiss if I did not mention 2 books of poetry that I return to over and over and that have had a profound influence on me: Pablo Neruda's Canto General; and Ted Hughes's Crow.


May – June 2022
Robert H. Romer

Interview

Do you have a special library memory or story?

I have had many memorable "library experiences" during the last 20 years, especially at the PVMA-Historic Deerfield library and at the Special Collections departments of Jones Library and of Frost Library at Amherst College. But my best library memories of my childhood come from a small branch library of the Cambridge libraries, within easy walking distance of our home in Cambridge. The librarians there must have been nice to me, for I often came home with an armful of books. And I was very good at returning books on time.

What was the last book you enjoyed reading?

I recently read (or rather re-read) with pleasure Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It (1976), as well as his other book, Young Men and Fire (1992), about the terrible 1949 Mann Gulch fire that took the lives of 13 young smoke jumpers. That fire was something I was very much aware of when, just two years later, I spent the summer of 1951 as a lookout on an Idaho fire tower about 200 miles to the west. But my most recent new book was David Blight’s wonderful biography of Frederick Douglass (2018).

Robert H. Romer

What was your favorite book growing up?

I first encountered Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island when my father read it to me. Then I read it again myself quite a few times when I was young. It must be well written, for even now, when I see a copy, I cannot help but pick it up and become immersed once again in the story. And, though it is not as well known as Treasure Island, there is a well-written “prequel,” A. D. Howden Smith’s Porto Bello Gold (1924) [not owned by CW MARS libraries].

Recent Books by Robert  (see all his books)

Robert's Favorite Books  (with his comments)


As a professor of physics at Amherst College, my favorite course to teach was “Electricity and Magnetism” at the junior-senior level. I was never happy with the usual books, which seemed to conceal rather than reveal the beauty and basic simplicity of the subject. Several times I began to sketch out my own book, and then my friend David Griffiths wrote the book I had been planning to write and wrote a better book than I could have written. The physics community is indebted to David for this book (and for others as well).


This pioneering work by Jim Smith, Amherst’s Town Engineer for many years, is indispensable to anyone interested in the history of our town. This is just one of Jim’s many contributions to Amherst history.

And I have to include the “Pooh books,” which my father read to me — more than once. Then I read them myself many times when I was young and, years later, read them to my own children. Favorite moments from those two books often come to mind when I’m talking with someone else who knows the stories. Pooh often contains words of wisdom for grownups. There is, for instance, a passage which I think of as a reminder that research is not finished until it is published, in which Pooh observes that “Sometimes a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

For an emotional experience, try reading the last chapter of the second book to a six-year-old son. That’s the chapter in which we learn that Christopher Robin is going away. They all say “Good-Bye,” and then Christopher Robin and Pooh walk slowly away, “Thinking of This and That,” until they come to an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest called Galleons Lap, where they talk about many serious matters. Finally Christopher Robin says, “Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.” And then Christopher Robin and Pooh go off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing. Three times, with my three sons, I have had to read that chapter to a six-year-old son and I still find it hard to remember those occasions without choking up.

As a personal note on Galleons Lap, in my family we have our own Galleons Lap, an enchanted place at the top of the forest, in Pelham woodlands that were in my family for decades, recently sold to the town of Amherst for watershed protection and officially called “Romer Woods.” We were sorry to let the land go but pleased to know its present purpose and its protection — and its continuing availability to the public for passive recreation such as walking.


March – April 2022
Joseph J. Ellis

Interview

Who are some of your favorite Pioneer Valley authors?

My two favorite poets are Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, both products of the Valley. The geography and even geology of the region strike me as the fundamental source of an iconoclastic mentality, isolated from the metropolitan presumptions of Boston and New York, freer to listen to interior voices, making isolation an inspiration.

Do you have a favorite book that is set in or is about the Pioneer Valley or New England?

My favorite New England novel is The Scarlet Letter [by Nathaniel Hawthorne].

What was the last book that you enjoyed reading?

The last book I enjoyed reading was Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth. I am doing research on the Atlantic slave trade and found that only a gifted novelist can bring to life the unspeakable horrors of the Middle Passage and the experience of enslaved Africans.

Why did you write your new book?

My newest book, The Cause: The American Revolution and Its Discontents, is the culmination of my attempt to tell the story of the American Founding. Chronologically, it comes first, but it came last for me because I didn't know what I was doing twenty years ago when the project began. In effect, I wrote the preface last. Authors do this all the time, because they don't know how the story will end until they tell it. My biographies of Adams, Jefferson, and Washington also immersed me in the primary sources of the wartime years, so half the research was already done when I started The Cause. Thus far my readers confirm that it is up to the standard of Founding Brothers. I hope they're right.

Do you have a website for your books which you would like to share?

My website is: josephellishistorian.com

Recent Books by Joseph  (see all his books)

Joseph's Favorite Books  (with his comments)


My three favorite books are: The Great Gatsby, for style; Eminent Victorians, for how to tell a life; The Armada, for how to tell a story.


January – February 2022
Patricia Romney

Interview

Do you have a special library memory?

When I was a little girl my neighborhood in the Bronx had no library. Every week a bookmobile would come and I would take out as many books as possible. I am grateful for that bookmobile and I also wish that one of the librarians, who saw me every week, had taken an interest in me and guided my reading. This never happened, likely because it was the 1950s and I was a little black girl in an all-white neighborhood. I know the librarians at the Jones Library make connections with marginalized youth and others in need.

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

For many years, I wrote with Pat Schneider in her weekly writing group for women. Her encouragement and that of the other women in the group made all the difference. I remember my last visit to Pat in the nursing home when I was still looking for a publisher. She did everything to make sure my book got published. Her mentorship meant so much and I miss her still.

Pat Romney

Do you have a favorite book that is set in or is about the Pioneer Valley or New England?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Like many other young women of my generation who wanted to be writers, I was inspired by Jo March. I also believe that somewhere in that story lay the roots of my feminism.

Why did you write your new book?

I wrote this book so that young women of color and other young activists would know about their foremothers and the work we did for social change and intersectionality in the 1970s. Much has been written about The Third World Women's Alliance, but I want young women to hear the story from the women who lived it. This book is meant to inform and inspire action for equity and justice.


New Book
by Patricia

Patricia's Favorite Books  (with her comments)



I read a lot of non-fiction and love memoir, in particular. The books I’ve listed, in different ways, have opened a path for me and mirrored back to me who I am and what I care about.

[NOTE: Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage by Pauli Murray was later reissued as Pauli Murray: The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest, and Poet.]


Authors Previously Spotlighted

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: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 & 2017 | Or browse more books by local authors