Ithaca Is Books Ambassadors

Ithaca Is Books is an initiative and programming arm of Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca’s community-owned and community-focused independent bookstore.

Ithaca Is Books grounds the bookstore’s efforts:

  • To ensure the bookstore’s inventory reflects the interests and expertise of our community members
  • To build the connection to books and reading for a broader spectrum of our neighbors
  • To strengthen Ithaca’s identity as a community that values and supports reading and books.

Starting in 2018, we began choosing six or so community leaders (authors, educators, activists, elected officials) and asking them to be Ithaca Is Books ambassadors for a year. This role includes (but is not limited to) being interviewed by interns from Ithaca College's writing program, who use a set of questions we've developed. Questions like: When is your earliest memory of books having an impact on your life? And What about Ithaca exemplifies Ithaca Is Books to you? 

Our ambassadors also share around five recommended books, which we display within a specific section meant to highlight those books for part of the year. This is one way we ensure the store's inventory reflects the interests of our community.

Below are our 2023 Ithaca Is Books Ambassadors, with links to their interviews and recommended books:

Coraline Chardonnay and Tilia Cordata

Coraline Chardonnay and Tilia Cordata are both active members of the Ithaca is Books community as the stars of Drag Story Hour at Buffalo Street Books. Coraline, a middle school educator by day, holds a deep passion for the English language and finds enjoyment in learning as much as she can about words, grammar and speech. Tilia, an agricultural researcher, finds her spark when nose-deep in a biology book, learning about all aspects of plant life.

Interview & Picks>>

Helena María Viramontes

Helena María Viramontes is a Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University, and the author of The Moths and Other Stories and two novels, Under the Feet of Jesus and Their Dogs Came With Them. Viramontes is a 2023 judge for fiction for the National Book Awards, and is at work on her third novel, a triptych titled The Cemetery Boys.

Interview & Picks>>

Kalynn Bayron

Kalynn Bayron is an author who recently moved to Ithaca from San Antonio, Texas, and she’s been pleasantly surprised by the rich literary community here. As a writer of books for children and young adults, Kalynn is passionate about fiction. Her work includes Cinderella is Dead, This Poison Heart, This Wicked Fate, and My Dear Henry: A Jeckyll and Hyde Remix, all for young adults, as well as The Vanquishers for middle grade readers. Two more books are coming out in 2023, the YA thriller (set in Upstate New York) You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight and the middle grade sequel Secret of the Reaping.

Interview & Picks>>

Katie and Chris Holmes

Katie and Chris Holmes (& family!) are frequent customers and big supporters of Buffalo Street Books and literacy in Ithaca and beyond. Katie is an associate residency doctor for a family medicine training program. Chris is the chair of the Department of Literatures in English at Ithaca College, as well as the host of the Burned by Books podcast. He is also the Co-Director of the New Voices Festival. 

Interview & Picks>>

Sarah Hubberman Smith

Sarah Hubberman Smith loves teaching pre-k right here in her hometown of Ithaca, N.Y. While she left Ithaca for graduate school in Boston, like so many before her she was drawn back to the wonderful places and people here. Between her two young children at home and a classroom of children at school, a special place in Sarah’s heart and her everyday life is dedicated to helping children fall in love with books. She is especially committed to making sure those picture books are beautifully inclusive and high quality.

Interview & Picks>>

Previous Years' Ambassadors: