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April 25, 2021
Boston Park Plaza

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Sunday, April 28, 2019
Boston Park Plaza

PLEASE NOTE: Literary Lights has been postponed until April 25, 2021 due to the pandemic.

The Associates is delighted to invite you to the 32nd annual Literary Lights dinner on Sunday, April 25, 20201 at the Boston Park Plaza. This black tie optional event is our opportunity 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.

2021 Literary Lights Honorees


Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Featured Speaker

In conversation with Geraldine Brooks

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored or co-authored twenty-four books and created twenty-one documentary films, including: Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Faces of America, Black in Latin America, Black America since MLK: And Still I Rise, Africa’s Great Civilizations, and Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series on PBS. The six-part PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, which he wrote, executive produced, and hosted, earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Program, as well as the Peabody Award, Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and an NAACP Image Award. Gates’ latest project is the history series, Reconstruction: America after the Civil War, and the related books, Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow, with Tonya Bolden, and Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow.

Having written for such leading publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Time, Gates serves as chairman of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine he co-founded in 2008, and chair of the Creative Board of FUSION TV. He also oversees the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field.

The recipient of fifty-five honorary degrees and numerous prizes, Gates was a member of the first class awarded MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grants,” and in 1998, he became the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. He has been named to Time’s 25 Most Influential Americans list, and Ebony’s Power 100 and Power 150 lists. Gates has directed the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research—now the Hutchins Center—since arriving at Harvard in 1991. In 2017, the Organization of American States named Gates a Goodwill Ambassador for the Rights of People of African Descent in the Americas.

Gates earned his B.A. in English Language and Literature, summa cum laude, from Yale University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Joseph Kanon

Presented by Joseph Finder

Joseph Kanon is best known for his gripping spy thrillers set in the period following World War II. The internationally bestselling author has written nine novels, which have been published in twenty-four languages: Los Alamos, which won the Edgar Award for best first novel; The Prodigal Spy; The Good German, which was made into a film starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett;  Alibi, which earned Kanon the Hammett Award of the International Association of Crime Writers; Stardust; Istanbul Passage; Leaving Berlin; and Defectors. His most recent novel, The Accomplice, was published in 2019.

Kanon published his first short stories as an undergraduate at Harvard University, and also attended Trinity University in Cambridge, England. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a book publishing executive, serving as editor in chief, CEO, and president of Houghton Mifflin and E. P. Dutton. He is also a recipient of the Spirit of Anne Frank Human "Writes" Award for his writings on the aftermath of the Holocaust. Kanon lives in New York City with his wife, literary agent Robin Straus. They have two sons.

Joseph Kanon

Sy Montgomery

Ibram X. Kendi

Presented by 

Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News correspondent. Kendi is the author of many books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and three #1 New York Times bestsellers, How to Be an Antiracist; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky.



Sy Montgomery

Presented by Charles J. Innis

Researching articles, films, and her twenty-eight books for adults and children, nationally acclaimed naturalist and author Sy Montgomery has been chased by an angry silverback gorilla in Rwanda, hunted by a tiger in India, and swum with piranhas, electric eels and pink dolphins in the Amazon. Her work has taken her from the cloud forest of Papua New Guinea (for a book on tree kangaroos) to the Altai Mountains of the Gobi (for another on snow leopards.) For the National Book Award Finalist The Soul of an Octopus, she befriended the cephalopods at the New England Aquarium, and scuba dived and snorkeled with wild octopuses in Mexico and French Polynesia. She also drew on her scuba skills for cage diving with great white sharks. In 2018, she published How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals, which reflects on the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals who have profoundly affected her.

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Montgomery grew up in Westfield, New Jersey and attended Syracuse University. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, the writer Howard Mansfield, their border collie Thurber, and a flock of free-range laying hens.


Sy Montgomery
Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is an award-winning investigative journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, as well as two other books: The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream; and Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping. He started contributing to The New Yorker in 2006 and has written articles about chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, the hunt for the drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the tragic personal history of mass shooter Amy Bishop, and the role that the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma played in the opioid crisis. He received the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing in 2014, and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016. President Obama selected Say Nothing as one of his favorite books of the year. It also received the Orwell Prize for Political Writing in 2019; was named one of the top ten books of 2019 by both the New York Times Book Review and the Washington Post; and was one of Literary Hub’s “20 Best Nonfiction Books of the Decade." His work has also appeared in Slate, the New York Review of Books, and The New York Times Magazine.

Keefe grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts and attended Columbia College. He received master's degrees from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, and a JD from Yale Law School. He lives in New York.


Meg Wolitzer

Presented by Andre Dubus III

Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven novels for adults including: The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman for middle-grade readers, and the young adult novel, Belzhar. Three films have been based on her work: This Is My Life, scripted and directed by Nora Ephron; the 2006 made-for-television movie, Surrender, Dorothy; and the 2017 drama The Wife, starring Glenn Close. In 2017, she published the bestselling novel, The Female Persuasion.

Wolitzer studied creative writing at Smith College and graduated from Brown University, where she sold her first novel as a senior. A faculty member of the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton, Wolitzer was also a guest artist in the Atelier program at Princeton University in September 2013. She lives in New York City with her husband, science writer Richard Panek.

Meg Wolitzer


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 the Associates of the Boston Public Library's operations.

If you would like to receive a mailed invitation or for information about sponsorship opportunities, please contact the Associates office at Hello@AssociatesBPL.org or (617) 536-3886.

Past Literary Lights


The Associates has been celebrating talented authors for the past 31 years 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 last three decades.