tv Deborah Wiles Kent State CSPAN August 24, 2020 1:00am-1:56am EDT
do appearances with you to have these conversations again this is not anything we would have imagined toward the end of last year but we are adaptable and we will take some calls that many of you are watching could not have gotten here tonight but you can join us virtually. you should treat this as if you are in the bookstore. you buy books. please do that it would be great if they were debbie's books you don't just buy one but you buy a lot. i imagine that you need no introduction but what is great if you look at her body of work to see very the two strong teams of social justice
and defining america and who gets to define america she's done this in picture books and she did it in the intersection of the trilogy and got so much acclaim for that now she has done it again with kent state. it is a remarkable book one of the best things i worked on as an editor in 25 years. it is a masterpiece and the book that defies categorization and is with the sixties trilogy traditionally they like to write novels in a straightforward way that what
she has done is to push the limits of what a book can do so rather than accepting that genre and conforming her story she will invent her own way to tell the story that she invented the documentary novel together the look at the sixties and the choices made and then with kent state she wanted to tell the story just so she has a form that fits it perfectly. and it is wonderful to talk to you about this extraordinary book but i will start with the
obvious question we didn't anticipate to be in these virtual events the other big strand of where we are right now is the culture protest and everything happening and think about kent state they saw everything from trump tear gassing people so he could hold up the bible it is eerie how it is come all the way around. but the scary part but also the inspiring part. what has it been like?
you spent years researching and interrogating in your mind and then this is the world we are in what goes through your mind? >> that's a good first question first i'm going to turn off the line that causes feedback. can you hear it? first of all it is unbelievable we cannot plan this that came out not only during the pandemic but at the same time with the same source of issues we were looking at
and all the protest going online and the national guard killing four students and wounding nine more and they were exercising first amendment rights so what is so inspiring those that are doing the same thing that are protesting and having voices heard with the ability to chart their own course and then have the right to do that. has been scary to watch the national guard called out again them even more militarized now. >> it just to look at that scenario kent state says we
have to talk about this so it doesn't happen again and here we are again. grateful the book is there and the responses tremendous those that pick it up from word-of-mouth and then say just like today the echoes today i have been very humbled because the response in the middle of the pandemic has been overwhelming. and i can say thank you to scholastic for being such a risk taker with me i knew
trilogy books are a big risk but one thing leading to another and consistently to say yes, yes, yes even to the new book we work on now. >> it's good to talk to you. it's good to see you. the last time i saw you was january. [laughter] >> now it is july. any book that comes out at conferences and festivals we are in the interesting atmosphere right now and to tell our stories specter that
answer the question? >> it does. and what bookstores are promoting. what is fascinating to me is there is the question of relevance those who want to read books that are relevant and in which i love because it shows the people are trying to figure things out but now they are reading for engagement and it's one where people are engaging. >> i witnessed some people to talk to you before the book came out so there is a two-tier response you are getting very intense responses
and also those that had no idea about kent state. can you talk about what people have been sharing with you? >> i have always known about kent state because i was 16 it was three days before my 17th birthday when the national guard opened fire. i was in charleston south carolina my dad was stationed at the air force base they he was flying to vietnam and bodies were coming home. the protest were growing. and then that day the national guard was called and it was all we could talk about.
almost the age of the kids that were killed. to 19 -year-old ten to 20 -year-olds. and the entire country responded to this. we did this at the beginning of the pandemic and we side happening after the murder of george floyd and the whole country did that with amazing energy. and one of the reasons just with the sixties trilogy i want young people especially
here is the myriad of threads is not just about people and places and dates that all the stuff that happens that makes them mosaic. we are living to this amazing time right now so i come across people who never heard what happened at can't state. really cracks is this nonfiction? did you make it up? know. it really happened. it's almost shocking because it's part of my life. >> i have never forgotten and i always wanted to write about it but i always pushed it away because it was horrific and the last book of the sixties
trilogy i kept running into can't stay i created a pinterest boarding cap putting things over there. and eventually think i called you and we had a conversation that said there's no way i can't write about can't state now because i talked about it. kids wouldn't know what it once. and even adults would say but it had gone away. it is so fundamental to our freedoms and our democracy. so how do i write this book?
it was one of the best editorial conversations i think i have had with an author. having no idea what the answer would be and then basically came to a really good answer. so what were you were debating and what led you to tell it this way. >> the writing is excruciating but the fun part is you dream about it and imagine it and they have this moment i can't do it. it's too hard but i had a vast amount of material and to say this is it and actually it was the answer from kent state.
remember it differently. so how do you tell a story that has so many different opinions? and then they said you should have killed more. that they were outside agitators. and that that was the most important thing when they were standing guard off-campus in the administration couldn't agree. where do you land and tell the story cracks we both read recently and then to say in the book with those disembodied voices.
those that are arguing and talking and agreeing. and they all give american history at the same time. and then we both stopped and then you came up with the idea of collective memory and said that is a collection of stories. and that's when it began. >> but it was that phrase collective memory. >> i still don't know if it
was first person plural that would be distinctive voices. and those things that i understand. [laughter] but what i did know is that it would be the camera from above watching one - - watching. >> and that is the sum of the parts. every character was named but also the book two boys kissing and i loved it so much i remember reading that out loud
but i cannot talk in their voice and some of them called the victims but they were just as much. and then to put my voice into their story. and then to take all the research that i did three trips to can't state and then going to the mountains of letters and photographs and articles and information and i can have a conversation from those conversations and walking the campus there is a
observance and on may 4th and it stays with me. and then they held onto the very last minute but that virtual celebration was great. >> and that informs us storytelling. >> going into it so i am curious what surprised you the most when you are doing your research? or is it something that didn't hit you as hard in the
abstract but in front of you you thought it was much more? >> i didn't understand because when i heard about it as a 16 -year-old kid it was so shocking in that moment. talking with young people for them to tell their own stories the context of the story is told i didn't understand what it was about and then telling the american public and then to go from there so that was a surprise. that there were two pieces of research that just laid me.
that said these kids have destroyed our town. you should have killed more of them. i remember standing up in the archive room and the librarian was at the other end and just saw me stand up and said are you okay? i said no. and then to understand the national guard, a lot of them ways 19 they did not want to be there. they were scared and also didn't understand the role of the black united students and they were told to stay away from the campus with the soldier standing there with a gun that they did believe they were loaded.
those things were just shocking to me. so writing always helps me to understand the story and gives me more of an understanding so i can go on it changes me and certainly this book did. >> at this point we are at the mark you may have questions put them in the q&a. we are happy to answer. so which of the voices was the hardest to write?
>> that's an interesting question. they were all hard but they all came together. it was to separate them out so i could write it down because it came very quickly but i never trusted the next time. but separating out those voices to the white student and the black student and for them to argue with so many letters to the editor but it
was hard because the national guard does not come forward. of course you wouldn't because you don't want to be seen as i am the one who did this. but there were some oral histories one broke my heart and was a student at kent state i think sandy knows who it is and like the black united students to didn't have as much but i had to do the arc for all of us but in particular for black americans and marginalized people in this country to look at what
is happening today. i didn't want to be out of that time. but to draw the line to show it is a continuum. so i want that voice to give us that overview. >> so one of the questions why is did you come up with the voices separately? or did you establish a relationship to one another? >> what i like to do is
characterization. dialogue is your power tool that characterizes or provides information and moves the story forward i was trying to make sure what happens and this conversation because the days were delineated i knew what had happened. now i have to go back and revise and fix it. and then i got to look at it and shape it from there. but the conversation and that i allow them to have, i love dinnertable conversation.
but it is that characterization. >> another question which i never would have asked you if the book had just come out a week ago but which is about the choice we get to me fourth and then decided to shift the narrative so can you talk about the decision to make that shift? >> and who agitated who and i
wanted that to be a part of the narrative. and actually so many people thought it was saturday night but it was sunday night. so we only heard the audiobook and that's true you don't see that but it is stunning and we should get to that. but i may force the back and forth drops away. and that's because i deliberately made the choice to get those voices off the page because i want you as the
reader to be there on may 4th with this person and that person. the crowd is shouting the national guard people are yelling and screaming there is a call to fire. and you try to help them and it is chaos. because honestly look at the back and forth they are angry but it is pretty ordered. back and forth. and then to have a different typeface. these are the same people.
>> and then just do a fantastic job. >> it looks totally different. >> a number of questions are about stage readings. >> that was on my mind but then i understood that is what we had it can be read as a solo book but also lends itself to readers theater and the classroom with those six voices with the six kids in a classroom to read tha that.
scholastic ideo. was committed to make it real and luckily for us before the pandemic hit so it could be a very intense experience. talk about how it was adapted. >> and then i heard snippets and i was so knocked over. i cried. every character has their own voice actor they were around one big table with the microphones and the laptops and acting out the parts.
to say this is what we will do and made it happen. they all came together so i understand they did it in one day and it is magnificent. talk about putting you right there in that moment. with that coming to the realization. that's why wanted to write can't state. we scream and argue and don't listen to one another. >> and it's really hard to hate someone when you know their story.
so it felt vital. and then you hold the dramatic rates but if you're a member of quail wage books secret society. but then you can see these events which is a nice segue to remind you even though not physically in a bookstore it is a bookstore event. please support the bookstore at quail ridge even if you have the book i strongly encourage you to get the audio. it is a different experience.
that will astonish you as well. >> each of them complements the other and it is hard to find books that do that for me. for this i would need both. thank you christina and all of you doing your work with the audiobook it is amazing and i am honored. >> so having studied this with the public response to use the differences to the current
demonstration has technology changed? >> it's really hard to put a book like this out into the world and not be political especially at a time like this. of course we see the same thing but to say i don't care about you but only me and i do what i want and mine is more important than anyone else that's not good either. i also don't like the phrase we're all in this together because are all in this in a different way. they are all different circumstances is not fair but we are all one country but it would be very nice to think to
put the common good of the people are by the people and for the people and they should listen to one another and make change what is good for the people which could have helped in 1970 as well. >> and talk about the roger stone thing, you know you are in trouble when you are nostalgic for her richard nixon. [laughter] or ronald reagan. [laughter] it is sad commentary. >> is not to say you are wrong if you vote for a republican i'm not trying to stay on - - say that at all i'm just trying to say, this is something i work on to say it to a way that is true that i
am there is so much emotion that shuffles around being clear and to articulate and to think critically writing the book for young people want them to think critically and register to vote and the ways they think not just because someone told you that you have investigated and you are curious and you want to know. so it's important to remember that as americans we are all in this together in the same
country but we all have a different experience. >> if anybody has questions please put them in the q&a. what is the youngest audience you presented the book to? this is the first explicit why a book you have written did it feel different to be concerned what a ten or 11 -year-old could process or to put on the level of a 14 or 15 -year-old? >> i a new each book of the countdown sonny is 12 and in
the end the molly is 14. each deals with progressively older material. and the material is just a little older. but it's a whole new ballgame that back to that conversation away it was written coming to the national guard, it was just they are i put it there. i think there are two f bombs and expletives and i was being assured that this is okay but part of me wanted it out of
there but then looking at how each of those students died and how visceral that is i said no. so uncomfortable with where we ended up that the entry into why a was exciting but how do i do this but just write the story and trust your editor and it will come together. and it did. is it eight star reviews? >> i didn't know there were that many. [laughter] everybody said when do they have more than five? [laughter] that's okay. >> a writer we're both familiar with ask the obvious
question of what's next? >> i can't stand that. [laughter] you are bating me. we both know what's next so i will tell and i just started talking about this and it's been a year since i submitted the proposal and said i'd like to write a book about the lost cause of the conspiracy and the rise of white supremacy. everybody said what is the lost cause? [laughter] everybody knows today because of what we're going through right now politically and socially and culturally and northern aggression and it was
companion i think it will be an interesting audiobook as well it will be something that is a conversation there is a lot of material to pull together we will talk. [laughter] >> we are closing in i will ask my questions with the encouragement just in case you missed it they both love lincoln on the bardot if you have not read it they are
right here for you to order it from but i ways and by asking book recommendations is there anything you have read lately what you recommend the audience go out to read? >> i am listening and anxious to listen to that and under magnolia going up in the south and deliverance that i fell in love with but all of those
were important to me lately. >> i will be shopping at quail ridge after this. it is so wonderful to see you and to talk about kent state i want to think quail ridge for setting this up we are the first why a and we will not be there last thank you for coming and being a part of the conversation i hope you get to read or listen to the book soon it will definitely change the way you see the world thank you to my friends for showing up in thank you for taking the time to do this i
as you describe with a black and brown prefix fewer operational voting machines and poor workers so lines will stretch for hours where basically in white communities you get in and get out and what we know from working-class communitie communities, demographic leave black voters most often are brown voters most often are what we don't have is a combination of time and money