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tv   Book Discussion  CSPAN  January 24, 2015 9:00am-10:16am EST

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ood good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. [laughter] or it is my distinct honor and pleasure to introduce the presenters for this program. richard balance coe says he was -- blanco says he was made in cuba assembled in spain and imported to the usa. his family fled cuba after the revolution and eventuallymi settled in miami.revo as a child he possessed a strong creative spirit but also excelled in math and the sciences. .. fact, before obtaining a masters in fine art from florida international university he worked as a consulting engineer. mr. blanco released his first book of poetry in 1999 which won agnes lynch portrait prize.
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in 2005 he published directions to the beach of the day which received the beyond margins award. his 2012 -- his 2012 collection of coins titled looking for the gold was how touches on his life as a saturday man between domestic and integrated culture. when he was chose as the fifth poet of the united states for barack obama that cannot duration mr. blanche go follows in the footsteps of the great alexandra, my angelo and robert frost. he tells the story of that experience for all of us once a day and a nonzero poster name. his latest book the memoir
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explores his coming-of-age within two imaginary worlds. his parents nostalgic 1950 cuba and has imagined america, the country he saw on reruns of the brady bunch and leave it to beaver. richard blanco's personal narrative is an account of how he discovered his authentic self and ultimately a deeper understanding of what it means to be an american. ross chad is a national book award finalist for nonfiction. her cartoons have been published in many magazines, including "the new yorker," scientific america, harvard business review, redbook and mother
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jones. she is the author of series of everythineverythin g, selected, collected and held his back a cartoons of ross chad 1978 through 2006. a compilation of her a compilation of her favorite cartoons. she also ellis traded the alphabet from a to y with bonus literacy. the best selling children's book by steve martin. awards and honors include a honorary doctorates from wesleyan university art institute of boston, she is also a member of the american academy of the arts and sciences and a fellow at dartmouth college. her latest book can't we talk about something more pleasant:a
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memoir, told through four color cartoons, family photos and documents. her memoir is both comfort and comic relief. for anyone experiencing a life altering loss of elderly parents, the particulars -- in their idiosyncrasies the scenes i universal. adult children accepting a parental role, aging and unstable parents the institution dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacy and strangers to provide the most personal care. a portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can.
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can't we talk about something more pleasant? shows the full range of talent as a cartoonist and storyteller. charles blow is the new york times's visual op-ed columnist. in louisiana. columbia university law professor. patricia williams. he was only 24 when asked by the new york times to direct his graphics department. apparently the youngest department head in the paper's
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history. his elegant chart, political and social complexity jolted readers with their lucidity and sheer beauty. he ascended yet again reinventing himself. considering a new genre of journalism as the paper's visual op-ed column. inspire "fire shut up in my bones" charles blow reveals he was sexually abused at age 7 by a cousin who abused and bullied him for years to come building of fiery rage that nearly caused a college student to kill this cousin. he realized he had to stop hating his abuser and start loving himself. forgiveness was freedom. he had to let go of his past to
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step into its future. he stopped romanticizing the man he might have been and be the man that he was. fitting into other people's definitions of masculinity or constructs of such quality but by being uniquely himself. in the words of professor williams, "fire shut up in my bones" is the story that builds and overwhelms. is filled with a gathering roar like an oncoming hurricane. by up last chapter this tension explodes and drops into a quiet sea of inner peace with grace and elegance, it resists the explosion of either/or. it presents conflict central to
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demand eddie, reconfigured with possibilities, compromise, forgiveness, of each turtle in completion, of the fire unleashed at long last from our bonus. thank you. [applause] [applause] >> good afternoon. how are you doing, wonderful to be back home in miami and wonderful to be at miami dade college. i am not sure, when i started writing the little engine here
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that could who wanted to start -- was curious about poetry my first creative writing courses were in miami dade so many places at home. a few photos, the engineer can't go away for me. i can do power point somehow, no charts and graphs, don't worry. begin by saying something that guided my riding, i think it was a poet. every writer and poet in some ways writing one poem all their lives and figuratively we all have the unique central obsession and their whole body of work, every poem we attempt, an attempt to diminish an aspect of that obsession, to ask questions about that obsession, to answer them and as a new one
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is and that comes down to one word, home. and that big word in terms of family, community, place culture identity, it is no wonder in a sense, something that obsess me, as i like to say it was made in cuba and important to the united states. and left seven months from cuba to madrid and 45 days later we emigrated to the united states. and in two world-class cities. this is true that in the swiss alps to screw with me even further. that newborn photo my dream card photo, my very first in the united states. that wasn't higher power saying little ricky will be assessed when he grows up, home and all sorts of questions that brings
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into place. and it is very much like growing up between two imaginary worlds and stories in my parent's mind, the salt was sweeter there were three beaches, we have to go to every weekend. it felt like a real place. it was the brady bunch of course. this was my fantasy, to be in that grid, that civil photo. i had to -- what can you do? i wanted to redo extra from the first chapter which is called the first time in dealing which
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is thanksgiving. it captures a little bit of the psychological way the book begins with negotiation between the two world's. you will be introduced to my grandmother and another obsession of mine which is the winn-dixie. at e-book atomizes my mythic america like the forbidden grocery store of the 1970s that we would not dare go on. so we are in cahoots as part of the relationship that continues throughout the book. she chased after specialists on name brands, one of three that she frequented. and pulled the lawn chair from the trunk and a palm tree in the parking lot smoking a cigar, reading a spanish translation of a dime store western while he
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waited. sometimes we went to the little surprise. we went where the cuban bread was cheaper than anywhere else. and the patron of cuba our lady of charity. the neon virgin with a flashing a low was so lifelike that my brother would insist i make the sign of the cross. in winn-dixie instead but she refused to set foot in the place. it is too expensive anyway. complained dismissing my pleas until she spotted a winn-dixie circular mail advertising special too attempting to
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ignore. a whole roasted chicken with fancy paper hats and the banner that is not so fancy. $0.29 per pound. what this whole friar means? i translated they went down. i paid $0.34 on a special, played on her curiosity. it is a great price for a chicken, you short could save a lot of money. she agreed to. instead of tossing it out with the rest of the junk mail that came in english among these were black projects. pie wouldn't go anywhere, she perceives, to be told the american command least not alone. this included the social
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security office, any restaurant with english only menus. fancy department stores. definitely not winn-dixie. it was $0.03 cheaper than a week before and $0.24 a week after that. had haunted her. her stinginess overcame her fear of americans until finally she broke. will you go shopping with me at a winn-dixie? she had to ask. of course, i will go with you. soon i dreamed our pantry would be stocked with oreo cookies, our freezer stuffed with tv dinners, filled with hawaiian
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punch and american cheese. to drive through a winn-dixie, gigantic market letters spelling out winn-dixie, the beef people. seeming to go even in daylight. what does the beef people mean? i struggled for a translation that would make sense but none did. how can that be? she was perplexed by the fatah of people made of meat which is what my literal translation meant in spanish. why not the chicken people? she amused herself. an advertisement from the flyer, stuffed it into her purse and we might not return. god be with us, she muttered.
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she said nothing until we reached the store. take me straight hair and no talking to anyone. we don't belong here. the electric doors yawns open. i reached for her shopping cart twice but she said don't you dare with a wide open i, too afraid to speak. i could barely speak myself but not from fear, just from your of. i was finally in eaton did see. the air-conditioned air smelled as crisp and clean as lysol. each of the checkout lines was numbered with an illuminated light and cashiers where polyester uniforms instead of warped squares of linoleum -- i was finally in america. we stepped into fruits and vegetables i had never eaten or
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even heard of. brussels sprout. sausage. paper costs. . brussels sprout. squash. i tried to imagine their case from the sound of their name is. i went through every aisle taking it all in, cartoon faces on cereal boxes, frost like snow and freezing cases, flavors of jell-o i never knew existed. raspberry, black cherry soup made from charities. from potatoes. i wanted to buy and taste everything i saw. but of all the things i tried, my absolute favorite was easy cheese and there in the snack aisle i saw it. can you buy me this i said,
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grabbing the can offer shelf. what is that she asked. american case of. it is my favorite, i beg to. was? unable to understand the idea of cheese in a can but i could tell from the tone of her voice that she was in trees. look, i said, putting a damper on my finger and raking off you don't even need to put it in the refrigerator. she looked at me, my fingers, the can, my finger, the can, that get me, let me taste, she
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asked. 35 -- okay. only if you promise to eat it all. i don't want to be wasting food. let's get a fresh one. putting the can back on the shelf. taking me away. that is my grandma. apparently that is universal. apparently everybody in the universe is guilty of doing that. it transcends cultures, section well become everything you can imagine. i will step off. some of the characters, the concept of the book proverbial is all it takes is a village to raise a child. each chapter is around one 4 relationship that has somehow been amazing to me in my life sometimes for good reasons and sometimes bad reasons that part
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of my psyche. my mother of course i like to show this because that bag is a lightweight version of her 80 pound bag which is an idiom that means just in case be prepared for the worst. she had everything there from a toilet paper to nail polish to kickbacks to band-aids to mesquita repellent including in chapter 48 kissel on herpistol on her first trip to disney world because you never know who will attack us north of city limits. my mother was actually as i learned writing the book was the second logical response she left her entire family in cuba and his sense of control was she
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was dying. that sense of loss. it is this idea of the instability inside anything she could do to react to that to control everything else she could so that her life would have some sense of psychological stability. another character in malibu the first american dream you pay attention to, most of us. my older brothers six years older than me, statistically the worst year to have two boys apart so he is my superhero and archenemy, babysitter, torturous, but i am not
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innocent. one other characters might catch him follows me, very homophobic. there are any number of things. it is a source of comfort. and miami one thing to write this book is to show the miami aggro up in miami that is not the miami of today but just like it was not miami of yesteryear so how our city becomes stewards of our place and we contribute and that contributes to less. and a lot of other stores. i thought was important to live and grow up in that miami and
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this is -- the same magic of catching -- also wrote the name of my granduncle's store. easy cheese and the brady bunch and the countercurrent is a cultural coming of age. all these stories, a and that happens at the grocery store, and in that village. the customers, regulators three four times a day employees, the families that work there and little bit of misunderstanding,
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children of immigrants of 45 days, coming of age falling in love and coming to terms and maturing in your culture and that sort of journey from all the rest. last thing i will say. a sort of great american dream story, you realize this chubby kid who grew up here was a -- who wants easy cheese and nothing else in amazes me that that happened to me in my life. is a hopeful story in the sense that the american dream, things wonderful things can still
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happen and are amazing. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> okay. okay. high. i wrote a memoir called can't we talk about something more pleasant, it is about taking care of my parents at the end of their lives. they grew up in new york like me. and they lived in the same apartment in portland for 59
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years and when they were around 90, this memoir is a little bit about my taking care of them and a little bit about who they are and their relationship with one another and their relationship with me. and it sort of explains what they were like. and -- trying to move.
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sorry. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> it is not working? okay. this explains where my parents were in the stories i heard when i was growing. friends and has been killed by falling flowerpot, friend nearly blinded headaches you was too happy. he jumped and broke a bone after playing the 0. this was explained to me because my mother's brother played the jazz trumpeter and knew this guy who played the oboe. i heard him tell my mother and one day he woke up bleeding from every pore. explained playing the of lower, and killed by baseball until 13.
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sat directly on the ground and beg -- undyed. i found a bracelet with elastic on it. it was a little bit tight. she said take that off, you'll get a green. this was their orientation -- this takes place -- i will read it. we never discussed death. to you ever think about things? my father says all kind of thing this, plans at this point in
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nearly 90s, say something happened and the universal sign is crazy. am i the only person here who is sane? never mind. not like i was trying -- all three of us had our heads the dep into the sand, quite aware my parents had tough lives. you don't know what trouble is. i heard the story at the turn of the century nothing about how my paternal grandfather was an engineer in russia and his inability to speak english being able to support five kids
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and his wife working in the garden system and how bitter and the angry he was and what clothes for other people and even sadder my father's family was. his mother was one of nine children. not only that but she was the only girl and also the only one of her siblings to survive the russian cholera epidemic. in a forced her father was cut from ear to ear by bandits. i don't know what happened to her mother but buried with maternal grandfather and had one child with a caesarean section in 1912. an ordeal in fault my mother opening her up from her neck to her you know what. between one thing after another lies depression and world war ii and the holocaust in which they both lost family was amazing they were not crazier than they were. who could blame them for not wanting to talk about-? that is where the title comes from. my father would say let's
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discuss a more pleasant subject my parents referred to each other without any irony as soulmates. his cold and mine. they were born 11 days apart and growth two blocks apart and in the same fifth grade class, never dated anyone besides each other. my father said we were too for. we lived with our parents and were married. aside from world war ii and going to back him they do everything together. my mother watched my father care for him. not like they never fought but they did. don't sit sideways. you will twist your intestines but the concept of looking for something better or being happy that was for modern people a movie stars or degenerates. they were a tight little unit
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code dependent, of course we were code dependent thank god. maybe they believed if they could cut to each other and tightly for eternity nothing would ever change. this was the first time their apartment in brooklyn where i grew up what i noticed first was the level of blinds. it is not ordinary greasy stovetop that hasn't been cleaned in a week or two but more of a coating that happens when people haven't cleaned in long time. one thing my mother told me when i was growing up is you have to dust. if you don't just the dust gets into all the intricacies of the finisher and breaks apart. it was clear she stopped worrying about that but what do you do? if you pick up a sponge and start cleaning look at me. it would not be perceived as helpful. the person you are trying to help might feel insulted or embarrassed. put that down leave that alone, daddy and i are fine.
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i wasn't great as a caretaker and they were not great at being taken care of. by 2002 they were 90. it was hard not to notice every time i came to visit, the pilot newspapers and junk mail had grown larger than say themselves had grown frail the. table slowly leaking this fear of tv commercial old age totally independent like a normal adult but with silver hair. like the ads you see for ensure people of 55. moving into a part of old age that would scare your heart to talk about and not a product of culture. you extend life to 140, thinking i didn't know anybody over a hundred. something coming down the pike. was no accident that most consumer advocate to people in their 20s and 30s. i am going to need a lot of
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stuff. let's redecorate the house. one thing, they are less likely to have gone through the transformative process of cleaning out their deceased parents's stuff. once you go through that you can never look at yourself the same way. you start to look at yourself all little post-mortem. if you give more than two decades as a consumer you are probably quite the accumulation even if you are not a war. throw pillows and stupid sunflower desert flights and alarm clocks and nail clippers and a flat iron and barbells and bouncy balls and patio furniture and old books from high school and it is a typical thing when i would visit my parents. what is with this oven mitt? it is from the year 1. it is disgusting and clarity and has patches on it.
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oh my god these patches come from a scared i made 40 years ago at home point. please let me buy you a new oven mitt. don't waste your money, that one still works. i will go all little faster sell-off will little faster sell-off will skip a couple things. this is the typical conversation was a was starting to visit them a lot but they had no desire to move out of their apartment. things were starting to go downhill. how is your captain after that operation? great. like it was bought -- there is plenty of food in the house. my father never learned to drive. she was the archetypical delaney
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with the big giant car like this. i don't know if any of you know brooklyn but to cross the ocean parkway, this is a 6 lane busy road. mom, listen to me you can't drive which one i'd. you have no that perception. not a problem. and these were the things that happened later. my mother had to go to the hospital. that was senile dementia but sometimes when people have senile dementia as many of you know, as long as they aren't familiar circumstances a lot of the symptoms can be sort of you are not aware how much senility
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they have. i will read the second one. what do you think of this weather -- sweater? his clothes were in tatters. they had not gone clothes shopping in a long time and wanted to be the good daughter and buy some clothes for him. i can't wear that. why not? it is red. is it? skip this one. my mother had an aversion to doctors and hospitals. it didn't surprise me she didn't want to bring in the cavalry. doctors. they have a god complex. they tell you to do something and the next month never do that thing. some people think doctors walk on water but not me. hospitals? don't get me started. here is what i think of hospitals, that is where you go to die. the body wants to be well. i am a jewish christian scientist. [applause] >> i am sorry.
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finally. i got them into an assisted living place. my mother was constantly falling. my father was leaving the stove on. i this terrified to answer the phone because i thought this is going to be the call from the police, my parents blew up the apartment house. finally i did get into an assisted living place ten minutes from where i lived in connecticut. the first two months were fairly uneventful although sometimes i had a feeling my dad was less than enthusiastic. life is a hell hole. i knew it wasn't a hell hole but in the top of the middle of the line or bottom of the top-of-the-line place is still an institution and institutions have rules. if father doesn't like to base, this is every week, an assessment meeting with staff. my mother never called it a hell hole but she had opinions. we are not residents, we are inmates. i am sure it wasn't easy but they were adjusting.
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your father has a good in his pocket, turned out to be hard boiled. this is a typical afternoon at the place. look, dad. i bought you a cheese danish. my favorite. care to shares this with the? my mother said no. i eat my lunch unlike other people who were so busy socializing they neglected their lunch which is why some people are hungry now. i will cut it into quarters. that way if you change your mind you can use them. as i told you i am still full from lunch. i will cut it in half and the one hand but the other half way for later. so forget to eat both have sand some people won't be hungry for dinner. here is me because i am so brilliant, i don't get why you are the bosses of dad's danish ingestion. actually your mother is right. she is a brilliant woman.
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thank you, elizabeth. i always made sure their door had decor. there is of little hook on the back. this is the door at the assisted living place. flowers and things like that. no indian corn. they lived in brooklyn. people didn't decorate their door. it is very lovely. what is it called again? one has limits. dorr decor was not important part of my parents' lives. why would anybody want to do something like that to their door? is a waste of money but when in rome. i didn't want a presidents to think they were weird or entire door decor. there were two other presidents. i heard the chap from new york. here is what i used to think happened at the end. one day mrs. mcgillicuddy felt unwell and took to her bed.
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she stayed there about three four weeks growing weaker by the day. one night she developed a duck rattles and died. i am starting to understand what is painful a humiliating long lasting. my father when he was 95 his hip broke and he started to seriously decline. this is what my mother said. hospice lady started coming around. you is very nice but i told her i don't want anyone coming around here with a long sad face. i want positive thinking. a bunch of people standing around singing kumbaya.
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and then my father didn't die at 95 and my mother was alive and other two years and which many ups and downs and when she was around 97 she was in hospice twice she was very good at it. the second time she was in the hospice it went on a little longer. she started to lose her marbles all little bit. and she would tell me the strange stories and start keeping track of them, your dad died, your father died before you were born. and would live with us when we were at work. i should know. full of buckshot. there was a break in it, all the
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men were moved to the women's side, shocked the intruder with my bb gun. gave her an absolute buckshot. would like to stand and pull down his pants in front of everybody. unusual adoptions. i had heard the story. they went shopping and when i went to the grocery bag, inside the bag was a baby. i was continuing to visit her and there was not much to do besides floss. i guess it is what i do. i was not aware, i wanted to
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look at her and be with her and doing that i did a lot, i don't know if you can see. >> that is the last one. it was very surreal. her helper called me when my mother was passing and drove down as fast as i could and just sort of slipped away. when i got down there, there was official hustle and bustle that has to happen and they left me with her for 15 minutes.
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so i drew her and that was that. this is the last one. on the floor of my closet along with shoes, old photo albums, a sewing machine, tee shirts and iron, and the miscellaneous stuff. one holes my father's remains at one holds my mother's. my father's box is in a drawstring bag which i placed inside the ancient channel 13 bag he took everywhere. my mother's box is inside another bag on the air. until i find a better place for them is staying in my closet. this is another one. i wish at the end of life when things were true the done there was something to look forward to, and opium or heroin. so you became addicted, so what?
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or you could eat at ice-cream parlors for the extremely age, picture books and music, extreme careful when you had it with everything else, x-rays and boring food and kills don't do anything at all. would that be so bad? that is it. [applause] >> hold it up a little bit. we are backstage trying to figure out what the order was going to be and who was going to go first and i figured since they had slides i should go last. don't know if i kicked that appropriately. we only have about 15 minutes left in this session so i will go as fast as i can to make sure we fit everything in. the title of my memoirs this
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"fire shut up in my bones," coming of age story about growing up in north louisiana. very small town, segregated town, about a thousand people when i was born. i am always fascinated by the response to is athe book. a couple questions. i started nine years ago. when people say why now? why not then? because it really does take everything out of you just to complete it. there are points you feel you are literally going to die and that it will never fully be finished. james baldwin was once being interviewed by says mckinsey
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about finishing his first book and he said i thought i would never finish and he went away to switzerland and you know how dan baldwin talks. it was all white mountains and white faces. that is my best baldwin. and he took one typewriter and when bessie smith album and said he never allowed himself to listen to benny smith in america but fair in sweats and surrounded by white mountains he listened to bessie smith. and part of that was because he wanted to remind himself of what he must have sounded like as a child before he learned to hate himself and i thought that was incredibly public and powerful so i created a sound track. the other question people ask is why did you write the book which i find in a way and even harder
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question to answer because it is not a literary question. is a sociological question. it is the question you asked to the essayist but not the memoirists. the memoirists rights because there's a story in them that they must exhale. they write it because they need to read it. and the bird doesn't thing because it has an answer but because it has a song. in away the writing of the memoir becomes the song of the bird. i do understand what they are saying when they ask why did you write the book? they are asking about the sociological thing. is more a marketing question that literary question. however, i have learned to answer that question because it is true that the memoir for me has many sociological themes and
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those are things like family and poverty and race to a certain degree. identity and abuse so what i want to do is talk about those concepts and those constructs as they present themselves in my book and there are a couple passages i want to read. i want to read about family. and i always read this and it is at the beginning of the book. it says so much to me about the complexity of the intergenerational experience of families and how that intersect with things like poverty and love and pain and loss. let me read this piece. it is chapter 1 which is called the house with no steps. the first memory i have in the world is a of death and tears.
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that is how i would mark the beginning of my life the way people like the end of one. my family had gathered at papa joe's house because manhattan grace was slipping away. only i didn't register it that way. chris of marie's and ifor marie's and i thought was her birthday. inga out for a picture window facing the street watching the world she was leaving literally passed her by. we were in the living room when he called to us. i think she is about to go. i didn't know what that meant. i thought it was time to give her a gift. with that my family filed into her room surrounding her with love. their hearts were have the. mine was light. i thought we were about to give her something special. they knew something special was about to be taken away. see peacefully drew her last
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breath as head tilted and she fell still. no dramatic death rattle, no soliloquy, no last minute confession. like a rack pushed gently from the shore she drifted quietly from now into forever, a beautiful life, beautifully surrendered but i recorded it differently. i thought she turned to see a gift that wasn't there and something was tragically wrong in the turning. wind madam grace left the room she took the air with her. no one could breeze. they could only scream. my mother was overcome. she ran from the house and i ran behind her. she threw herself to the ground and wailing back wracking against it. i issued the hogs a way as they tried to but that her hair. i was too young to know what it meant to die but years i knew. sorrow flowed out of my mother like a dam had broken.
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it was one that she would soon rebuild taller and stronger than it had been. as a child i would never see my mother cry again. i spent most of my life be leaving my 3-year-old version of what happened that day until as an adult i recounted my memory to my mother and she set the story straight. our gathering at madame grace's bedside was not to celebrate the day she was born but to accept that it was her day to died. [applause] >> part of the reason my mom had such the strong reaction was the complex of the family. my mom had been raised by my grandmother because my grandmother and my grandfather these two people who should never have been married in the first place.
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you know the couple where they and each other up, does anybody have any control here at all? they were that couple, if they moved away teacher houston, my mom stayed up for a month or two and set i have to get out of here, she was put on a bus as she came back to the we see as the kid on a bus. this was something done before a long time ago, they put you on a bus and this is where you were going and would arrives. like mail or something. she looked to my great grandmother like she was her mother and rebelling against her own mother who was a very different quality of woman and very flamboyant and my mother is very staid. she is one of the most conservative women you ever met. she has four colors in her
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closet, white, black brown, navy blue, things that are combination of those things. there is no red or green or none of that. no eyebrow plucking. great-grandmother, my great grandmother told her to the day she went blind. you don't start something on friday that you can't finish because my great-grandmother said a woman once did that, started making a dress for a little girl, the girl died, she had to bury the girl in the dress. everything my great-grandmother's that was how my grandmother lived in a life which was the opposite of the way my grandmother lived her life. my grandmother is one of these women who had been married, she was married four times and she is not a single girl. she did not like to be without a
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man. some people can do that. not my grandmother. she mary for time of man i considered to be like a father to me because i grew up with him and her for the first three years of my life. when my grandmother got sick she got dreadfully ill. and so my grandmother would pitch in, give me that kid, you can't get out of bed. i will help you until you get older. i stayed for three years but the fourth husband was to me and amazing human being. i will read a quick description of him and then be used something about one of the other sociological points which i think is important for me as a writer which was to establish the incredible diversity of masculinity particularly as relates to african-american men because in literature and film i think it is drawn too narrowly
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and we do not see all of the fullness that people can be put together the men can be and particularly we can see the gentle person and the person who would do anything for love. fourth husband, jed, was a chain smoker with a strong back and soft eyes. it was those eyes that struck you brown, maple syrup, sweet, a hint of gray around the edges sunrise yellow with the whites, and deep enough to get lost in. bottomless like martin's pond, damp like the beginning of a good cry or the end of a good laugh. a side down into the darker hue and drew up the light, the kind that melted worry like a stick of butter for warm stove, the kind that for gave secret shame
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it before it scarred the throat on the way out. it would take a man with eyes like that to make big mama moved to the middle of nowhere and days outside. of big mama is my grandmother. .. of nowhere for anybody other than this man. she lost her third husband because she was using the condo money to buy, you know,s and shoes, and he didn't know it. he was illiterate, and he trusted her with the money, so he said you pay the note. i think she might have paid it one time so she gave him the receipt, he gave -- you know, she put it away, he put it away, but she would steal it back. every time he put it away, she would go buy clothes and give him the same receipt. and the repo guy comes and says we've got to take the -- he goes into the box where he's been
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putting the receipt, he can find one. the one she's been recycling. [laughter] my grandmother's not that kind of gal but jed completely changes her. i want to read you this quick little passage. the only remnant of big mama's past was a water-damaged, hand-tinted portrait of a man and her i didn't recognize both sugar sharp, sitting on a bench in front of a painted backdrop. he was sitting up tall and strong, she was laughing, legs crossed, her head resting delicately on her shoulder. there was a power in his pose, but there was more in hers a feminine power, the kind that lights a room and buckles a knee, the kind that makes men do things they know they shouldn't; sneak in through open windows lie to loved ones give more than they have. i often stared at that picture trying to connect that woman -- then young radiant dangerously alluring -- with the woman that
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i knew now as big mama, but i couldn't do it. she was different now. jed had made her different because he was more powerful than she was. he drew his power from a different source. not from hollowness but from wholeness. it was a grand, simple kind of power. it came from the knowing and accepting and loving of self that made the knowing and accepting and loving of everything else possible. it didn't crush but accommodated. he hadn't taken away big mama's power, but given her a peaceful place to harness and transform it to calm down and grow up, to move out of the woman she had been and into the woman she could be. she was like a river always running, never still, wanting to be somewhere other than where it was that had finally reached the ocean vast and deep and exactly where it was always meant to be.
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and i -- [applause] thank you. i particularly love this, the idea of thinking about masculinity as an ocean because i think that we as a culture dramas clipty dangerously, precariously narrow and basically weed boys out and make them feel like they are constantly failing because we have defined it as a peak to which we must ascend, a side of a mountain we must scale rather than as the ocean deep in some places shallow in some places and roiling in some places and placid in some places and that all of that is part of what it means to be a man. and basically, by removing that we rob these boys of a basic part of humanity. and so they believe that they
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are constantly failing to be what we have done to them as boys. it is almost like we, you know, the person who writes the note of a song so high that only a few people are ever meant to reach the note and so one is ever meant to hold it? that is what we have done. and that is what we must undo. another kind of one of the sociological themes of the book is poverty, and it's really about what rural poverty looks like. we constantly in our kind of political discourse talk about poverty only as urban poverty. we talk about it only as people who do not work and, therefore it is an effort deficiency is. you are poor because you did not try hard enough. but that is not the way that i experienced poverty. it was not urban and everyone worked and some people worked more than one job.
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and the poverty that i understood had nothing to do with lack of effort. it's just that they did not make enough to lift themselves out of poverty. so i'm going to read this quickly. at the house with no steps i had not sensed our shortness of money, but now it was all too apparent. we hadn't been well off before, but now we would truly struggle. most of blacks in town lived in some gradation of poverty, some barely eking out an existence some whose existence could hardly be called living. poor as job's turkey my mother called it. they were the kind of folks who dud hard jobs and odd -- did hard jobs and odd jobs. any work they could find to keep the lights on and children fed. they were women whose hands stayed damp from being dipped in
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buckets and dried on aprons. they were men who worked in boots with steel toes the kind that didn't take shining, the kind that leaned over and told stories when you took them off. they were people whose bodies melted every night in a hot bath but stiffened by sunrise, so much so that it took pills to get them out of bed without pain. yet they seemed to me content in what they knew life to be; sharing old stories deep laughs and sweet tea. as the old folks had imported to me early on, grandeur never witnessed could not be coveted. [applause] another thing that was a big theme of the book that a lot of
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reviewers have focused on is the abuse piece of it. i was, i'm a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and i don't think we fully understand what sexual abuse is in america because we have one concept of what it is. we have the catholic priest/jerry sandusky grown-up, you know to catch a predator concept of what sexual abuse is. it is a stranger. it is always an adult. it is always towards an older kid. it is penetrative. that is not what sexual abuse is in america and we have to dispel ourselves of that mythology. very often it is a friend of the family or someone who is in the family. it is not a stranger. very often it is happening in your
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>> these children are under the years old. and of that cohort the number one age is 4 years old. we have to change our concept of what abuse looks like because we are looking for something under what is happening right under our faces in our own homes or on the play date or when someone goes to sleep over. and it is not always
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penetrative, it is a lot of touching fondling. all of that leaves the same scar because it is emotional, it is a spiritual scar. we have to change the way we think about abuse. this is, this is something i write, this is one paragraph i write about the experience of right after the abuse. i don't know how to describe the sound of a world crashing. maybe there is no sound. just a great emptiness, an enveloping sorrow, a creeping nothingness that coils itself around you like a stiff wire. i wanted to cry but couldn't. i wanted to scream but couldn' i was dead now, and dead boys forget how to cry.
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part of that damage is not even the abuse itself, but it is what society puts onto the abused child. they abuse children over again. and a lot of times it is done by the people who care the people who are outraged by it. because if you dig deep enough into the outrage, a lot of it is laced in misogyny and patriarchy and homophobia. because what society tells the kid is that you are dead because you arer revocably ruined. --er revocably ruined, that you have been spoiled that you have been destroyed, that your manhood has been taken. and that is, that is not real, and it is not true. it has a lot of very negative connotations in it. what is true is that there has been a betrayal of trust there
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has been an exploitation of a power differential there has been an invasion of your zone of intimacy and sovereignty of your most intimate self. those things you can recover from. the suffocation of society that tells you that you are forever broken and beyond repair is much hard orer to recover from -- harder to recover from. and i know we're running out of time, so i'm just going to read this one last piece which is about learning to love yourself and having the courage to confess to yourself and to the world that you are strong and resilient and deserving of the
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life. concealment makes the soul a swamp. confession is how you drain it. daring to step into one's self is the bravest, strangest most natural, most terrifying thing a person can do. because when you cease to wrap yourself in artifice, you are naked. and when you are naked, you are vulnerable. but vulnerability is the leading edge of truth. being willing to sacrifice a false life is the only way to live a true one. thank you very much. [applause]
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>> you're watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors. booktv, television for serious readers. >> this weekend on booktv, former arkansas governor mike huckabee discusses america's current political landscape. representative steve israel on his novel. julian -- [inaudible] examines lyndon johnson's great society plus books on the history of washington d.c. an inside report from north korea and much more. for a complete television schedule booktv, 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors. television for serious readers. >> the big idea of barack obama was the guy that was going to get rid of the polarization the guy that was going to change our politics the guy that was going to sort of take us out of this
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red and blue. we're as red and blue as we've ever been before. it didn't -- he wasn't able to do that. there is an argument to say circumstances didn't allow it. this is not the presidency he thought he was going to have, you know? on september 15 2008 his presidency -- what he thought he was going to do and what the presidency became, at least in the first six months two different things. and as rahm emanuel will argue saying hey, you know, this was thrust upon him, this was no time to change washington, we had to save the american economy. that's all well and good, but the great promise of barack obama was that. so that is something that i have, you know some people say i harp on it too much. but that to me, is sort of -- that was the hope and change. that was the turn the page. that was the whole idea. so on that score i think he has failed. and when i say he's not lived up to his great promise, as a
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president, as a commander in chief, as somebody who implemented, you know, the economic recovery which i think over time is going to look better and better for him, health care is a total, you know, does he ever -- does it ever get fully implemented, you know? that's something i think we, that's still an open question. i think, ultimately his legacy's going to get judged on health care more than anything else because it con assumed the presidency -- consumed the presidency. >> you can watch this and other programs online at >> coming up next on booktv ilya shapiro and david gans debate the burwell v. hobby lobby supreme court case which established the right of for-profit corporations to be exempt from a law based on the religious beliefs of its owners. this is about an hour and a half.


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