Fairmont Copley Plaza
April 21, 2024 at 6:00 PM


Sunday, April 28, 2019
Boston Park Plaza

The Associates of the Boston Public Library celebrated the 34th annual Literary Lights dinner on Sunday, April 21, 2024, at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. THANK YOU to everyone who joined us to honor outstanding writers from the Northeast and to celebrate their contributions to literature, while raising vital funds to support the preservation of the Boston Public Library's Special Collections

Dinner Co-Chairs

Thomas N. O’Brien, Honorary Chair

Christy Cashman, Co-Chair
Lisa Pierpont, Co-Chair

William Martin, Chair, Author Nominating Committee


GBH Executive Arts Editor and Host of The Culture Show


The 2024 Literary Lights invitation is based on this 1909 photograph "Cornus Florida, Flowering Dogwood"
by Edwin Hale Lincoln from the Boston Public Library's Photography Special Collections

2024 Literary Lights Honorees

Stacy Schiff

Stacy Schiff, Keynote Speaker

Stacy Schiff is an esteemed biographer and essayist, widely recognized for her meticulously researched and elegantly written works that bring historical figures and events to life. Stacy developed an early interest in history and storytelling, which would later become the hallmark of her literary career. Stacy’s educational background laid a strong foundation for her future endeavors. She is a graduate of Williams College, from which she holds an honorary doctorate. Following her graduation, Stacy embarked on a career in publishing, initially working as an editor at Viking Penguin in New York. This experience in the publishing industry provided her with invaluable insights into the world of literature and honed her skills as a writer.

She made her foray into writing in 1994 with her first book, Saint-Exupéry: A Biography, about the life of legendary flyer and the author of The Little Prince. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, this critically acclaimed debut marked the beginning of her illustrious career as a biographer. Her work often focuses on unearthing the untold stories of influential women in history, providing a fresh perspective and depth to their lives and achievements. Stacy’s subsequent works, including Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) (1999), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and Cleopatra: A Life (2010), a number one bestseller translated into over 30 languages, further solidified her reputation as a master biographer. Her third book, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005) won, among other honors, the George Washington Book Prize. In April, Apple will stream an eight-part series based on the book, in which Michael Douglas stars as Benjamin Franklin.

Known for her compelling narrative style and impeccable research, Stacy has a unique ability to render historical figures and their worlds with vivid detail and nuance. This is evident through her latest biography, The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams (2022). It appeared on most 2022 round-ups of the best books of the year, including President Obama's list of the top ten books of the year.

Aside from her books, Stacy’s essays and articles have appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker and The New York Times. Her contributions to literature and history have made her one of the most respected biographers of her generation, with her works serving as a bridge connecting readers to the rich tapestry of the past.

Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel is a cartoonist, author, and graphic novelist, widely celebrated for her influential work in comics and her contributions to LGBTQ+ representation in the arts. Alison grew up in a family deeply involved in the arts, which influenced her early interest in drawing and storytelling. Alison’s career took off with the creation of the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which began in 1983. This long-running series was groundbreaking, not just for its overtly lesbian themes but for its incisive social commentary, humor, and humanization of a then-marginalized community. The comic strip was syndicated for over two decades and gained a cult following, earning Alison critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base.

Alison’s 2006 graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, catapulted her into the literary mainstream. This poignant and deeply personal work explores her relationship with her father, her coming out, and her family's hidden complexities. Fun Home was a critical and commercial success, winning several awards, including an Eisner Award, and was later adapted into a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Alison’s follow-up memoir, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama (2012), further explored familial themes.

Alison’s impact on culture extends beyond her publications. The "Bechdel Test," originating from a 1985 "Dykes to Watch Out For" strip, has become a popular measure to assess the representation of women in film and other media. Her work continues to be influential in discussions about gender, sexuality, and the intersection of personal and political narratives in the arts. Alison’s commitment to authenticity in her storytelling and her contributions to the visibility of LGBTQ+ narratives have established her as a pivotal figure in contemporary literature and queer culture.

Alison Bechdel

William Landay

William Landay

Presented by Stephen McCauley

William Landay is an acclaimed author, renowned for his compelling works in the crime and legal thriller genres. Born in Boston, William’s early life was influenced by the historical backdrop of New England, which played a significant role in shaping his narrative style and thematic preferences. William’s educational journey reflects his deep-rooted interest in law and literature. In 1985, he earned a BA from Yale, where he nurtured his love for writing and storytelling. Subsequently, William pursued a legal career, earning his JD from Boston College Law School. His legal education and experience as an Assistant DA in Middlesex County provided him with a profound understanding of the criminal justice system, a cornerstone of his literary works.

Transitioning from law to literature, William entered the literary world in 2003 with Mission Flats, which won the Dagger Award for best debut crime novel and showcased his ability to weave intricate plots with legal insights. William cemented his reputation as a master of the legal thriller with his subsequent works, including The Strangler (2007) and Defending Jacob (2012), which received widespread acclaim, becoming a New York Times bestseller later adapted into a television series. All That Is Mine I Carry With Me (2023) is his current latest best selling novel. 

William’s writing is characterized by its rich, evocative prose, deep character development, and meticulously plotted narratives that often delve into moral complexities. His books have not only garnered critical acclaim but have also resonated with a broad audience, establishing him as a significant figure in contemporary American crime and legal fiction.

William continues to live in Boston, drawing inspiration for his gripping stories from the city’s landscapes and legal milieu.

Dan Shaughnessy

Presented by Bill Littlefield

Dan Shaughnessy is a prominent sports journalist and author, renowned for his incisive commentary and deep insight into the world of sports, particularly in the Boston area. Dan grew up with a passion for sports, a theme that would dominate his professional life. Dan began his academic journey at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. His time at Holy Cross not only honed his writing skills but deepened his understanding and appreciation of sports. Shortly after graduation, Dan embarked on a career in journalism, quickly establishing himself as a talented and insightful sports writer. In the early 1980s, his professional journey led him to The Boston Globe, where he solidified his skills in sports journalism. At the Globe, Dan covered a wide range of sports, with a particular focus on baseball and the Boston Red Sox. His coverage of major sporting events and his ability to delve into the human stories behind the sports figures have endeared him to a wide readership.

Dan is also known for his contributions as an author. His books, which often explore the highs and lows of Boston sports, have been widely read and acclaimed. Among his most notable works is The Curse of the Bambino, a phrase he popularized, detailing the Red Sox long championship drought, supposedly stemming from their sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. His most recent book, Wish It Lasted Forever (2021), takes readers inside the legendary Larry Bird-led Celtics, capturing their camaraderie as they dominated the NBA.

Known for his sharp wit and deep knowledge of sports history, Shaughnessy's columns and books offer more than just game analysis; they provide a window into the cultural and emotional aspects of sports. His influential work has earned him numerous accolades, including being voted one of America's top ten sports columnists by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Dan continues to be a prominent voice in sports journalism, bringing his unique perspective to readers across the nation.

Dan Shaughnessy

Kevin Young

Kevin Young

Presented by Tracy K. Smith

Kevin Young is a distinguished poet, writer, and curator whose work resonates with cultural history, African American identity, and the power of music. Kevin’s upbringing in the Midwest, along with the influence of the South and the African diaspora, profoundly shaped his artistic voice. Kevin’s academic journey reflects his deep engagement with literature and history. In 1992, he graduated from Harvard, where he studied under noted poets such as Seamus Heaney and Lucie Brock-Broido. His collegiate years were formative, solidifying his dedication to poetry. Kevin further honed his craft by obtaining a Master of Fine Arts from Brown University, where he was influenced by its diverse poetic traditions and vibrant creative community.

Kevin’s literary career is marked by a prolific output and significant accolades. In 1995, he published his first collection of poems, Most Way Home, which was selected for the National Poetry Series and won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award. This debut set the tone for his subsequent works, which often explore personal narratives, social commentary, and historical reflection. Among his many collections are Jelly Roll: A Blues (2003), which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (2012), a genre-defying work of cultural criticism that won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. Kevin’s poetry is characterized by its lyrical quality, emotional depth, and exploration of African American history and culture.

Apart from his literary accomplishments, Kevin has had a notable career as a curator and editor. He is the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. He has also served as the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York and was appointed poetry editor of The New Yorker in 2017. Kevin’s contributions to literature and culture have established him as a vital voice in contemporary poetry and beyond.

SPONSORSHIP: Literary Lights sponsors enable the Associates to expand their support of the BPL and its work to care for the Library’s historic, literary, and artistic treasures. To learn about sponsoring Literary Lights, please click here to discover the added benefits for each sponsorship level.  If you are interested in exploring custom opportunities, please contact Laura Russo, Director of Development and External Affairs, at or (617) 536-3886.

TICKETS: If you prefer not to purchase tickets online, please complete this RSVP card and mail it, along with your payment, to Associates of the Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. 

DONOR ADVISED-FUNDS (DAFs): Currently, DAF’s cannot be used when personal benefits are provided to the donor. Individual tickets should be purchased through another funding source. If you do not attend the event, your sponsorship may be funded through your DAF. Please consult your DAF manager, tax advisor, and/or legal counsel for definitive guidance on this matter. 

PROCEEDS: In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of these outstanding writers, proceeds from Literary Lights support the David McCullough Conservation Fund, William O. Taylor Art Preservation Fund, Associates Endowment Fund, and Associates of the Boston Public Library's operations.

HEALTH AND SAFTEY: To celebrate safely, the Associates will follow public health recommendations at the time of the event. If applicable, any guidance will be communicated to guests in April. If you are feeling unwell or aware of any coronavirus symptoms, please refrain from attending.

Past Literary Lights

The Associates has been celebrating talented authors for over three decades at Literary Lights and a companion event, Literary Lights for Children. Below is a list of the accomplished authors that we have honored over the years.