All Ages

Community Connections – Author Feature – Lisa Bunker

November 16, 2020 | Community

I love the idea of community!

There are so many ways community has mattered to me over the years. I’d like to write briefly about three of them...

The first has to do with radio. For fourteen years I worked as the program director of a community radio station in Portland, Maine. Almost all of the shows were done by volunteers from the town the station is in. We had music shows and talk shows, and news and comedy and radio drama and more, all made by local people. Our volunteers came from every walk of life: women and men, children and adults, people with every possible point of view, and lots of folks from smaller communities within our larger community, especially immigrants from other countries. At various times we had shows partly or completely in Spanish, French, Russian, Khmer (the language of Cambodia), Vietnamese, and different languages from Africa.

Our little [radio] station, with only three paid workers, was a place where anyone who wanted to could speak their mind and be heard. Sooner or later, everything worth talking about in our town got talked about on our air. Local musicians played live on the radio. Local candidates got interviewed on our talk shows. Local issues were discussed and debated. We saw ourselves as champions of free speech and Democracy. It was also super fun…

Part of my job as program director was to train all the new recruits, so I got to meet and work with literally thousands of members of my community. That was a gift that enriched my life. I feel proud and grateful to have had the chance to work in community radio.

Another way community has mattered to me is going on right now in my life, and that’s my work as a state representative. I stopped working in radio in 2016 when I met the person who is now my wife, and moved to live with her. That same year I also sold my first book, so I was able to set up shop as a full time writer. Being a working author has been my lifelong dream, and I love it, but I did miss the community involvement from my radio days. That’s one of the reasons I decided to run for office in 2018.

Being a state rep in New Hampshire is not the same as anywhere else. Our whole state has only 1.4 million people in it, and our House of Representatives has 400 seats, so if you do the math, each of us represents only about 3,500 people. My little town of Exeter has four reps all of its own. It’s a truly local job. So, once again, I have found a way to get to know lots and lots of people in my community.

The most interesting and fun way that happened was back in 2018, when I spent the weekends of my summer and fall walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors. (Sadly, we can’t do that this year, because of the pandemic.)

I kept track, so I know that I had more than 350 conversations with people who live in my town, people from every walk of life and with every point of view… sound familiar?

Every community has a huge variety of people in it, but also a sense of wholeness. I love that once again I have a job that lets me learn more all the time about both the huge mixture, and the sense of oneness, that is the town of Exeter.

The single most important way that community has mattered to me has to with gender. About ten years ago I finally figured out that I had been getting my gender wrong my whole life. I tried so hard for so long to make being a boy and man work. I kept pushing for years and years, even though it never felt right. One reason it took me so long to figure out my gender was that for a long time I didn’t realize I had any choice. But I finally had a moment of revelation, and began the journey that has ended with, at long last, being able to live a whole, free, natural, happy life.

Gender transition is hard. It’s an enormous task, full of risks. That’s where community comes in again, because I would not have made it without the help of the community I found. Officially I supposed they’re called the LGBTQ+ community, but I just think of them as the Rainbow Humans, my people. The very first friends I reached out to for help were Rainbow Humans, and they immediately offered me emotional support, long patient listening, acceptance, and love.

I began to make new friends and to move into new community spaces, and everywhere I found this same generosity of spirit.

If I hadn’t finally figured out that I needed to change my lived gender, I feel sure I would have self-destructed in some way, and I couldn’t have survived the process without the Rainbow Humans, so it’s fair to say that community saved my life.

That’s a big part of what my story Zenobia July is about. Zen is much younger than I was when I went through transition, but the truth that runs underneath our stories is the same.

That truth is that there is tremendous strength in community, especially when the members of that community are treated by some other folks as less than human.

The community of Rainbow Humans saves Zen’s life too. I wanted to show that in a book, because it has mattered so much to me.

The thread that unites all three of these ways of looking at community is the thread of human connection.

That’s what community is: thousands and thousands of human connections, built into a giant beautiful web that holds and carries us all.

Community matters, in our communications and politics, but most of all in how we see and hear each other, care for and support each other, know and love each other. Community heals the world.

Lisa B, NEW BOOK JOY Guest Author

About the Author

Lisa Bunker

has written stories all her life.

Before setting up shop as a full-time author she had a 30-year career in non-commercial broadcasting, most recently as Program Director of the community radio station in Portland, Maine.

She now lives in Exeter, New Hampshire with her wife, a child psychologist and author in her own right. Between them they have three grown children.

In 2018 Lisa was elected to represent her town in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

When not writing or representing she plays piano, practices yoga, plays chess, and studies languages.

You can read more about her, her books, and her community contributions on her website


What authors help YOU & your family connect with your community?

Let’s get a conversation started in the comments below!

Readings & Resources

Below you’ll find books and activities that are appropriate for various ages around the concept of “Community Connections.”


Family Book Club – Community Connections: Pre-K & Kindergarten

Family Book Club – Community Connections: First & Second Grade

Family Book Club – Community Connections: Third, Fourth & Fifth Grade

Family Book Club – Community Connections: Middle School

Family Book Club – Community Connections: High School

Don’t miss out on NEW BOOK JOY!