Ep. 208 A Mercy by Toni Morrison — The Stacks Book Club (Imani Perry)

Today on The Stacks Book Club we speak again with Imani Perry, author of the New York Times bestselling South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon Line to Understand the Soul of a Nation. In our discussion of Toni Morrison’s novel A Mercy, we talk destroying ourselves over heartbreak, treating people tenderly and the book’s central metaphor of the house. We also touch on the seduction of beauty, and breathlessness.
There are spoilers on this episode.

Be sure to listen to the end of today’s episode to find out what our April book club pick will be!

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

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The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Ep. 202 Even the Bachelorette Gets Insecure with Rachel Lindsay

Our guest today is Rachel Lindsay, the first Black Bachelorette and author of Miss Me with That: Hot Takes, Tidbits, and a Few Hard Truths. Rachel is also co-host of the podcast Higher Learning and a corespondent on Extra. We talk today about her experiences in Bachelor Nation, working with a ghost writer, and when she knew she was ready to write this book.

The Stacks Book Club selection for February is I Live a Life Like Yours by Jan Grue, we will discuss the book on February 23rd with Tessa Miller.

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

Connect with Rachel: Instagram | Twitter | Higher Learning
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To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Day 5 — Banned Books in The Stacks with Kiese Laymon


In light of the recent wave of book bannings taking place across The United of States, The Stacks is spending all week talking with people who are impacted by the bannings, ranging from students to educators, authors, and more, to help us think about what is at stake and what we can do.

To wrap up Banned Books in The Stacks we’ve brought back friend of the podcast Kiese Laymon to help us make sense of this entire week of programming. Kiese is the author of the banned book, Heavy, as well as Long Division and How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. We talk today about how it feels to have your work banned, what children have a right to know, and what else Kiese sees as tied to this wave of book bans.

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

Connect with Kiese: Twitter | Instagram | Website
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Support The Stacks

To support the work of The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack and get exclusive perks. Check it all out on our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Day 4 — Banned Books in The Stacks with Timya Wright and Azar Nafisi

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In light of the recent wave of book bannings taking place across The United of States, The Stacks is spending all week talking with people who are impacted by the bannings, ranging from students to educators, authors, and more, to help us think about what is at stake and what we can do.

We start today’s episode with Mississippi high school student Timya Wright. Timya shares how she feels about adults telling young people what books they can have access to and the kinds of books she wishes were taught in school. Then we’re joined by Azar Nafisi, the bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and the forthcoming Read Dangerously:The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times. We talk about Azar’s about the need to nurture freedom. We also hear about authors Rebecca Carroll, R. Eric Thomas, and R. O. Kwon’s favorite banned books.

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

Timya Wright

Azar Nafisi


Connect with Azar: Twitter | Instagram | Website
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Support The Stacks

To support the work of The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack and get exclusive perks. Check it all out on our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Day 3 — Banned Books in The Stacks with Ghazala Hashmi and Hannah Oliver Depp

In light of the recent wave of book bannings taking place across The United of States, The Stacks is spending all week talking with people who are impacted by the bannings, ranging from students to educators, authors, and more, to help us think about what is at stake and what we can do.

We continue our conversation on banned books with Virginia State Senator Ghazala Hashmi. Senator Hashmi talks about the legality of book banning as well as the efforts that the governor of her state has put in place to report teachers for “divisive” lessons . Then we talk with Hannah Oliver Depp, owner of Loyalty Bookstores, about censorship versus curation.

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

Senator Ghazala Hashmi

Photographer: Christopher Dilts / Friends of Ghazala Hashmi

Hannah Oliver Depp

Connect with Senator Hashmi: Website | Twitter | Instagram
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Support The Stacks

Athletic Greens – visit atheleticgreens.com/thestacks to get a free one-year supply of vitamin D and five free travel packs with your first purchase.
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Uncommon Goods -get 15% off your next gift, go to uncommongoods.com/thestacks.

To support the work of The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack and get exclusive perks. Check it all out on our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Day 2 — Banned Books in The Stacks with Alison Bechdel and Kelsey Reynolds

In light of the recent wave of book bannings taking place across The United of States, The Stacks is spending all week talking with people who are impacted by the bannings, ranging from students to educators, authors, and more, to help us think about what is at stake and what we can do.

On today’s episode we’re joined by Alison Bechdel author of the frequently banned graphic memoir Fun Home, and she shares why she hates having to talk about the banning of books. Then we get into a conversation about the comfort level of students with high school English teacher Kelsey Reynolds. We also hear from TV writer and actor Brandon Kyle Goodman, and actress and podcast host Becca Tobin, about their favorite banned books.

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

Alison Bechdel

Kelsey Reynolds

Connect with Alison: Website | Instagram | Twitter
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Support The Stacks

To support the work of The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack and get exclusive perks. Check it all out on our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Day 1 — Banned Books in The Stacks with Katrina Stokes and Thursday Williams

In light of the recent wave of book bannings taking place across The United of States, The Stacks is spending all week talking with people who are impacted by the bannings, ranging from students to educators, authors, and more, to help us think about what is at stake and what we can do.

On today’s episode we talk with the director of the Warren County – Vicksburg Public Library, Katrina Stokes about curating a collection and the process of banning a book in public libraries. Then we talk with Thursday Williams, an actor from the Broadway play What the Constitution Means to Me, and a current college student, about what’s at stake for young people and the things we aren’t taught in school. We also hear from authors Hanif Abdurraquib and Tessa Miller about their favorite banned books.

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

Katrina Stokes

Thursday Williams

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram | Twitter | Shop | Patreon | Goodreads | Subscribe

Support The Stacks

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

Ep. 201 The Language of Chronic Illness with Tessa Miller

Today we are joined by Tessa Miller, and author and journalist whose work focuses on chronic illness, disability, and health justice. We discuss Tessa’s debut book, What Doesn’t Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness – Lessons from a Body in Revolt and how publishing a memoir brought on a whole new level of anxiety and insecurities around being a writer and living with chronic illness. We also talk about graphic language, writing for multiple audiences, and prioritizing books by disabled and/or chronically ill authors.

The Stacks Book Club selection for February is I Live a Life Like Yours by Jan Grue, we will discuss the book on February 23rd with Tessa Miller.

LISTEN NOW

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. You can also find everything we talked about on Amazon.

Books

Everything Else

Connect with Tessa: Instagram | Twitter | Website
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Support The Stacks

Athletic Greens – visit atheleticgreens.com/thestacks to get a free one-year supply of vitamin D and five free travel packs with your first purchase.
Listen to Seizing Freedom, a podcast that illustrates the myriad ways Black people have fought for and defined their own freedom.
Libro.FM – get two audiobooks for the price of one when you go to Libro.FM and use the code THESTACKS at checkout.

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. If you prefer to support the show with a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.

The Stacks Book Club – January 2022

Today marks the start of a brand new year, and around these parts that means new reading goals, new book releases, new podcast episodes, and of course a whole new year of book club picks! We’re starting 2022 with a classic novel that has all the drama and excitement you could need to start the new year right.

Our January book club pick is Passing by Nella Larsen, the 1929 classic about two childhood friends, Clare and Irene, who after a period of estrangement are reunited. The only hitch is that while they’re both light skinned Black women, one has been passing as a white woman for her entire adult life. The book is full of dramatic tension, questions about race, class and sexuality, and examines the freedoms of being who you are versus being someone else.

We will be discussing Passing by Nella Larsen on Wednesday, January 26th. You can find out who our guest will be for that discussion by listening to the podcast on January 5th. If you’d like even more discussion around the book consider joining The Stacks Pack on Patreon and participating in The Stacks’ monthly virtual book club.

Order your copy of our January book on Bookshop.org or Amazon. Or listen to it as an audiobook with Libro.FM.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed. For more information click here.

My 10 Favorite Reads of 2021

I love rankings and lists and getting to share mine with all of you is an honor, and a little stress inducing. So here it is, my top ten reads of 2021. No, they weren’t all published in 2021, but they were all great books! You can of course find more detailed reviews of each of these books on The Stacks Instagram page, and I was lucky enough to have many of these authors on the podcast this year, so please check out those conversations.

Before I get to my top ten I always like to share my reading stats with you all, since I do keep (very intense) track of everything I read. If you want to track your reading in the most intense way possible, join The Stacks Pack on patreon and get the reading tracker as one of many perks!

I read a total of 118 books. Which was considerably more than my 72 book goal.

  • 77 were by authors of color (65%)
  • 73 were by women and/or non binary authors (62%)
  • 48 were by women/femme authors of color (41%)
  • 72 were published in 2021 (61%)
  • 86 were acquired and read in 2021 (73%)
  • 80 were nonfiction books (68%)
  • 14 received a five star rating (12%)
  • 3 received a one star rating (3%)
  • My average star rating was 3.3 stars

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib (2021)

An essay collection centering Black performance and the ways Black people perform and are consumed. This book has so much range and depth it can not be explained in any meaningful way be me, except to say it was incredibly good and earth shaking, and that I will never think about Blackness, my own and others’, the same way again. Abdurraqib winds his own life into the more literal aspects of performance which creates a reading experience that is extremely rich and emotional. This book is magnificent.

The Stacks Book Club discussion of A Little Devil in America can be found here, and an interview on the book with Hanif Abdurraquib can be found here.


Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom by Derecka Purnell (2021)

I was a little weary about police and prison abolition before I picked up this book. Yes, I know that the legal system is corrupt and broken, but I didn’t grasp what abolition could open up for America. Purnell expertly shares her own journey and encourages her reader to question more, use common sense more, trust more, and ultimately lean into the possibility of a world without police and prison. I left this book with so much hope. I know we can do better in a world without police.

You can hear Derecka Purnell on The Stacks Episode 179 and Episode 183.


Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (2021)

This is a comedy of manners that is tied up in the world of Reese, a trans woman and her ex Ames, a detransitioned man, and the woman he is now dating, Katrina. Katrina and Ames end up pregnant, and the book jumps off from there. It is a book about parenting, motherhood, community, language, and family. The writing is top notch, and the humor and wit add so much to this book. This is one of those books that if handled by a less skilled author would fall flat and seem trite. Not the case with Peters’ prose that oscillate between cooly detached and fiery sharp. I left this book with plenty to think about and a character, Reese, I won’t soon forget.


Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (2021)

Whenever people ask me what kind of book I like, I struggle to articulate something that is investigative journalism meets true crime meets conspiracy meets narrative nonfiction meets major national/global implications meets corruption meets intimate details…or something like that. Well this book, Empire of Pain, is exactly that. It is the story of The Sackler Family, the family behind Purdue Pharma and the drug Oxycontin. The book isn’t just about the brothers who ushered Purdue Pharma into prominence and the fallout of the drug that eventually led to the opioid epidemic, but also about the way the family came to power and the way the art world played into all of that. I loved the book because aside from laying out how The Sacklers achieved their wealth, it is also a story about the failures of The United States to regulate a corrupt and dangerous industry. It is about one family and also so much bigger than that. It is a hold on to your pants kind of book and I loved every page.

You can hear Patrick Radden Keefe on The Stacks on Episode 164.


How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith (2021)

This is a history book like no other. Clint Smith traveled across America taking in physical locations that are a part of the story of slavery in America. He visited sites like Angola Prison, Wall Street, and The Whitney Plantation. He spoke with tour guides, historians, and visitors at each of the places he traveled to. He then wrote a book about American slavery that is not just the history of the thing, but rather how we understand the history of the thing. It is a masterful twist, it is a reckoning with the past and a way to engage with a history that has become confrontational. Not because of what happened, but because of how we talk and teach about it. I was also struck by Smith’s writing, he is a poet, and his ability to turn history into resonant prose is a gift in and of itself.

You can hear Clint Smith on Episode 168 of The Stacks.


Long Division by Kiese Laymon (2013)

I would never claim to be a lover a sci-fi or speculative fiction, however when it is done well, I am here for it. This book, Long Division, is done so well. Its no surprise, Laymon is easily one of my favorite writers, and he has found a way to craft a humorous, coming of age, time travel novel that centers a cast of characters I fell in love with. The kids in this book are funny and smelly and mean and tender and all the things you hope for the young people you love most. I was instantly taken by this book. A joyful ride.

You can hear Kiese Laymon on Episodes 118, 122, and 185 of The Stacks. As well as on this Patreon exclusive bonus episode of The Stacks: Unabridged.


Passing by Nella Larsen (1929)

This super short novel from 1929 took my breath away. Its the story of two old friends, Clare and Irene, who have lost touch when Clare begins passing as white. The book is propulsive and has some incredible scenes. I couldn’t put it down, and at just over a 120 pages you really don’t have to. I loved what Larsen had to say about race and color and danger and freedom. I loved the way this book does not let up. I loved that even though everyone told me it was good, it was better than I could’ve imagined.


Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke (2021)

I’m not sure I could’ve prepared myself for how beautiful and emotional loneliness could be. Seek You did something to me on a deep emotional level. There was something about the way Radtke pulled from different corners of American life and loneliness to create this book that made it feel all encompassing, at once vast and intimate. She talks about sitcoms and psychology studies and her own experiences and pulls it all together beautifully. This book shocked me and made me weep. It also made me feel less alone in a year that I will remember mostly for the isolation and the return to community.

I can’t talk about this book and not talk about the fact that it is a graphic novel and the art is just gorgeous. The way Radtke uses color as part of the narrative. I’m new to graphic books in 2021, and I’ve been so impressed by how much the art adds to the text, and how ignorant I’ve been to the power of graphic storytelling.

You can hear Kristen Radtke discuss this book on Episode 194 of The Stacks.


Seven Days in June by Tia Williams (2021)

Not me going from a graphic novel to a romance novel in my top 10. I see now that 2021 has changed me. I loved this book so much. It was my feel good read of the year. It’s a love story between Eva and Shane, two authors who had a brief summer romance in high school (you know, seven days in June) and are reconnected as adults. Eva has a daughter (who is a great character) and a deadline and a lot of pressure, and Shane is a star author and a bit of recluse in the world of publishing. What I appreciated most about the book was that I was rooting for both of the love interests. So often in romance books I’m only interested in one character (if that). I loved that this book was set in the world of publishing but centered Black authors. It was a breath of fresh air and a joy to read. Also, Tia Williams invented a Black book award ceremony that now I’m dying to have be a real thing. Please, publishing gods make this happen (and let me host).


Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977)

Wow. This book is the genre bending novel of my dreams, it is a coming of age story, an adventure story, and a family drama, a mystery, and a romance. Song of Solomon is not defined by any one label, but it is instead, a story populated by incredible characters and memorable scenes. Toni Morrison is a genius, and this book proves why. There has been so much written and said about this novel by people considerably smarter than me, so I will just say, this is a must read book. Do not be sacred, do not hesitate, Toni Morrison will take care of you.

You can head The Stacks Book Club conversation about this book on Episode 191 with Dawnie Walton.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.