Ep. 238 Fairest by Meredith Talusan — The Stacks Book Club (Anthony Christian Ocampo) – Transcript

Today professor and author Anthony Christian Ocampo returns to unpack the memoir Fairest by Meredith Talusan. The book is about Talusan’s childhood in the Philippines, immigration to the US, experiences at Harvard, and eventual transition. Traci and Anthony discuss the subjective nature of beauty, and what it means to have an author reckon with their past in a memoir. They differ considerably on their opinions of the book, and lean into a conversation about critique, representation, and responsibility.

Be sure to listen all the way to end of the episode to find out what our November book club pick will be!


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Traci Thomas 0:08
Welcome to The Stacks a podcast about books and the people who read them. I’m your host Traci Thomas and today is the Stacks book club day. We are joined again by Anthony Christian Ocampo, professor and author of the new book Brown and Gay in LA. He’s back to help me dig into the memoir Fairest by Meredith Talusan. The book explores the intersections of gender identity, race, immigration and sexuality, along with the author’s experience of albinism and coming out as trans in the early 2000s. On this episode, you’re going to hear Anthony and I share our very different experiences reading the story, and we engage in some lively debate and criticism over representation the responsibility of the memoirist and even what it’s like to disagree on a text with someone whose opinion you really respect. There are definitely spoilers in this episode. Be sure to listen to the end of today’s episode to find out what our November book club pick will be. Quick reminder, everything we talked about on each episode of the show can be found in the link in the show notes. If you love The Stacks and want more of it, head to patreon.com/the stacks and join the stacks pack. The Stacks is an independent podcast which means I rely on listeners like you to make the show possible every single week. In addition to knowing you’re supporting a book podcast that you love, you also earn perks like our monthly virtual book club, bonus episodes, and access to our extremely lively and informative discord, plus discounts on merch and a bunch of other things. So if you’d like to be a part of this wonderful bookish community head to patreon.com/thestacks, and of course, a quick moment to thank our newest members, Audra van, Briana, Jasmine Hoff, Christa Hill House, Casey and Caroline Bishop. Thank you all so so much, and thank you to the entire tacks pack. All right, now it’s time for my conversation with Anthony Christian Ocampo on the book, Fairest by Meredith Talusan.

Alright everybody, I’m so excited I’m joined today by author, professor, sociologist, friend of the pod Anthony Ocampo. Anthony welcome back to The Stacks! I’m so happy you’re here. It’s book club day. We’re talking about Fairest by Meredith Talusan. It’s a memoir. We will spoil the book. Meredith was born in the Philippines with albinism. And Meredith was also born a boy. As the book says, a precocious boy, which we will get into. Eventually, we follow Meredith to America as a teenager, to going to Harvard as a smart person, and to transitioning to become a woman. So it’s sort of this journey of Meredith’s life. We have plenty of time to get into it. So we always start here. Anthony, what did you think of the book?

Anthony Ocampo 2:09
So I have to give some context for how I came into this book. So as a kid, as a teenager, I have memories of going to bookstores, and literally combing through the stacks to find any book that had any mention of the word, Philippine or Filipino. And it was so rare that I didn’t even find one book that had more than like, a paragraph. And so to to pick up Ferris I, my reaction to it is I didn’t know what I’ve been missing, if you will, because there was so much of its memoir, she’s, she’s Filipino. She’s an immigrant, but a lot of the intricacies whether it’s like family dynamics, or the words they use or the style of parenting, all that stuff was so familiar in a way that I feel like I’ve never really come across in other books before, at least not in the exact same way as this one. So I actually sped through the book really fast because it was I was like inhaling it.

Traci Thomas 4:29
And you’ve read it more than once. I read it once when it first came out. And then I read it again, for today. But I pay like special attention to the first the book is broken up into three sections. One’s about childhood, one’s about Harvard, yours and one’s about just like young adult relationships. And I read it again by closely closely read the first two sections. Okay, great. Here’s what I thought. I’m not Filipino. So don’t hate me. I didn’t love the book. I was very mixed on this book. I had a lot of issues with the race and beauty stuff. I felt very uncomfortable reading a lot of that stuff. I felt like it was really steeped in a form of white supremacy that made me feel very picky. And I thought that it was like, so here’s the thing I know about Meredith, before reading this book from people that I respect that Meredith is very smart. Meredith is a great writer merits very interesting, all these things about Meredith. And I met Meredith and I spoke to Meredith for like, five minutes at an event, lovely human had a great time talking to her. I think part of my issue with the book is because the book only goes up through early adulthood. There’s no reckoning with a lot of the things that I think Meredith has since reckoned with about race, beauty and gender, I didn’t feel like a lot of those conversations were being had. And so I felt like some of the toxic stuff about white supremacy, and beauty are sort of just said and left in the book. And it really, it was like, very, it was an uncomfortable read for me, because I was getting like very frustrated. I think Barrett is a fantastic writer. Like I really, I thought that the writing was good, but like the content of the writing really fucked me up. So that’s sort of my like, general opinion. And we’ll get into a lot more stuff about the book and like a lot more detailed stuff. But I’m, like, nervous to have this conversation today. Because I really didn’t like a book that much.

Anthony Ocampo 6:31
Oh, no, I think it’s okay. I mean, I think in the last episode, you talked about how you think people should talk about books they don’t necessarily like and, and that’s an important conversation as well. And I think that, you know, it’s an interesting question, because I would ask, I’ve never asked me to do this myself, but I’m wondering, like, who’s the audience for this book? Right. And, and I think that would somewhat like shape how, like the reception of it. To your point? I, I think that there was a lot of moments where beauty standards and colorism emerged, like whether it’s beauty centers in the Philippines, whether it’s, you know, beauty standards when it comes to the gay community at Harvard, in particular, the you know, Meritus, one friend who’s who’s black, and she talks about how the aesthetic of this person is not necessarily in line with the aesthetics of, of like, white gaze and such.

Traci Thomas 7:28
I feel like we’re gonna get caught up between GAYS and GAZE, because I think we’re gonna talk about the white gays and the white gaze. So yeah.

Anthony Ocampo 7:42
That said, what I have to give it up to in terms of, you know, a touching on these topics is that we’re the way Meredith have rendered how colorism and whiteness is, is shapes, the everyday lives of Filipinos, even those that don’t even come to the United States. The way it was rendered was so honest. And so I think like, it was not necessarily painting the best picture of how Filipinos in the Philippines understand like dark skinned versus light skinned. But I can totally see how when it came to how it landed, it’s, it can be uncomfortable. And I think also as, as a gay person that’s meandered in white gay spaces. The just like, because she passed as white. And as a gay white guy. I felt like she was able to render how incredibly fucked up that world of white gay folks is when it comes to everything from race class, body standards. So that’s the part that I think that’s how I read it. When I was reading.

Traci Thomas 8:59
Okay, I want to come back to the passing part. I want to just touch on the what you were saying about the Philippines, and also talking about about books. So I do believe that we should be able to have like honest, open discourse about things we don’t like and do like, especially when it comes to books. People know this about me. I think part of the reason that I’m nervous to have this conversation is because I’m not Filipino. I’m not gay, I can’t pass for white, I am not trans. Like there’s all these things that are part of who Meredith is that just aren’t who I am. And so like, I’m constantly being like, Is this my privilege? Is this my bias, whatever. So that’s what makes me nervous talking about this book, because I feel like so out of my depth in a lot of ways. So I can only speak to how it made me feel on like my understanding of these things through reading and life. So I just want to kind of say that not as a disclaimer, but just to let you know why I’m like about this, but I’m still gonna talk about about it a little bit. As far as like the rendering of like white beauty standards and all of that stuff. I think that that was in the book, like for sure. I think that Meredith talks about, you know how White people and how cis people etcetera are negotiating beauty and beauty, capitalism in a lot of ways. But I don’t feel like Meredith, the writer reckoned with that in the book, I feel like Meredith, the writer said, This is how it is. And I took advantage of that. And it worked great for me. Like, I kept getting the sense of like pride about Meredith, its proximity to whiteness, or Meredith’s proximity to beauty or honestly, Meredith’s perceived proximity to those things, right? Like, there’s all these parts from it. It’s like, I’m beautiful. I’m so beautiful. And I’m, like, go off great, but like, how that’s her perception of herself, or that this person is ugly, or that this person is this? Like, it’s so hard to have a conversation about this sort of stuff? Because it’s like, how can I say whether or not you are or or not, or your your friend is or is not beautiful? Like it’s also based on you know, whatever beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I think like, there’s these parts where Meredith talks about, you know, wanting to be brown in the Philippines, but also loving being white in the Philippines, right? Like, there’s all these parts where it’s like, I’d like to be brown, because I’d like to fit in, but also, like, look at me, I’m beautiful. I’m white. And I don’t know, like, that’s the stuff that really was, like, difficult for me to reckon with. And then on the flip side, or like, I guess, moving on towards like, passing. That was really hard for me, because Meredith kept saying people, and she really meant white people, because every time she encountered a person of color, they were like, listen, bitch, you’re not white. Like, I know, you’re like, every time she encountered a person of color, they said, I know you’re not white. And so I think it’s really interesting that for her in the book, every time she said people, she met white people, and she didn’t say white people. And that was really confusing to me, too. Because we know that people knew that she was not white. Like so many people who weren’t hot white, were like you’re not white. So that also I really, really did not like that. Because I was like, stop making them the center. Why are these white people the center of your story? Why aren’t you calling them white people?

Anthony Ocampo 12:16
Yeah, I and this is where I think the insight into having like, spent some time in the Philippines or grew up in Philippine culture kind of can inform that. But before I get to that, I wanted to touch on something that you said you said reckoning, right? And so I think with the word reckoning, that highlights how, when it comes to memoir, there’s the character of like the author’s a character in the, quote, unquote, present moment of the story they’re writing about. And then at times, there’s a character that’s the writer at the desk, reflecting on that experience. And so I guess what I’m wondering with you is if, if the book had been written in the way it was, but there was some sort of like, fast forward to the way she’s reckoned with, with whiteness, or, or in colonial standards of beauty or anti blackness, would the book have landed differently?

Traci Thomas 13:19
I think so I do. I do because I, because I don’t hold it against Meredith, the 15 year old or the 22 year old, for believing these things about about herself in the world around her. Because I know that 20 years ago, I had a really fucked I believed a lot of really fucked up things, because I didn’t know better and it had been conditioned in me. And I think that like part of the job of a memoirist is to say, this is what I remember. And this is why it’s relevant now. Do you know what I mean? And I feel like that piece was missing. And, and I know that Meredith is now like, I think at the end of the book, they say, like, I’ve been a woman now longer than I then I was not one, you know, or like, I don’t remember the exact phraseology around that. But like that means that there’s been a whole lifetime of growth since where you left us that like if I didn’t feel was reflected in the book, or maybe not even growth, just change observations, etc. that I didn’t feel like was reflected in the book, which was frustrating to me because it sort of felt like what they were saying was therefore then what they still believed.

Anthony Ocampo 14:26
Ah, okay, so this is where it this is interesting that we’re having this convo because I was reading the book as the whole time I read it, even though I’m not trans, I am gay, queer. I was reading it as, quote unquote, insider, like as someone that has seen the Philippines has understood the way whiteness is just revered in that place. America is so incredibly revered, particularly in the context of schools. And, and obviously school plays a very big role in Meredith’s life and witness what the grandmother did in terms of like double downing on valorizing whiteness, like, it was very accurate. And I know you’re not disputing that it’s it wasn’t accurate, but I think like the part that grabbed me and maybe it was during the time that I read it because I read the book in 2021, I have an arc for it. And I just was watching Social Media and just seeing people speak. And it was like the, like peak performance, like performing racial consciousness performing, like how left you are or how politically engaged you are. And so, juxtaposed to what was happening in the world at that time, I actually found it very, how do I put this? So as a gay person as a Filipino, I think that I’ve been conditioned to be to airbrush or to put my best foot forward and really, really lock the unbecoming sides of my personhood in the closet for no one to see it’s like, and same thing with like my family. And so I guess, reading merit book merits book as a whole and our willingness to engage with difficult childhoods or parents that weren’t present. And then, of course, like the racial politics of the Philippines, which are like the colors in the Philippines, which is horrible. To some extent, I think it gave us a window into who she was. But to your point about the reckoning? I, I guess I didn’t, I wasn’t looking for that necessarily. And maybe it’s because when I’ve seen Meredith, it’s, it’s clear to me that she’s worked it out. At the same time. I, I think like, here’s the difference between me and Meredith that I think, yield some of this maybe the discomfort here. As a queer person as a Filipino that grew up in the US, I and I grew up in a predominantly POC schools and neighborhood. I have as Tressie McMillan cotton put it like, white people do not swim in my imagination, I have never been embedded or have had the chance to be embedded in white social circles, whether I was at a PWI or probably white space or not. And so I guess in some ways, I was looking at her infiltration in the very like, Oh, she’s kind of like an anthropologist, like, except she isn’t studying the dominant group. But, but I think that’s I always asked myself, like, when I was reading, I was like, I wonder if this person’s like, friends were like, Who are these sitting with the cafeteria? The sense I get is that you know, I went to school very much like Mariscos at Stanford, but I like literally didn’t hang out with any white people the whole four years and so my socialization and rethink the way my consciousness about Reese develop was, I guess I have it, but I’ve never had the chance to get to where Meredith was when she was at Harvard. Like, when it comes to relationship to white people.

Traci Thomas 18:11
Yeah, I mean, I agree with you that it’s sort of like me, I mean, you didn’t use this word but I’m gonna use it maybe like refreshing to see someone so openly speak about some like unbecoming parts of themselves, even if it is themself 30 years ago. I, I guess my thing is like, why am I reading this book then? Right, like, because you know, Meredith and I don’t I met I met them. Well, I met her one time. Why am I reading your book? If your book is telling, telling me anti or pro white sentiments like, I don’t know, I just I sort of felt like why am I here. And it’s funny that you bring up Tressie McMillan Cottom because someone in the stacks pack crystal shout out to the stacks pack. She mentioned in our Discord that she was didn’t, another black woman did not care for the book very much. And was like, as soon as I finished I went and I picked up the first essay in Thick, which is all about beauty standards, and like whiteness and beauty. And so I read that today before before talking to you- Tressie’s essay. And I think that for me, and like Tressie is just so much smarter than I’ll ever be. So please forgive me just read the essay, everyone. But for me, I think that it’s the idea, that idea of beauty, which Tressie kind of says is like it’s something that’s supposed to be attainable, but also something that you’re born with, because that makes it something that not everybody can have but that everybody can have and so therefore it means that people who have beauty like have something worthy of having because if anyone can get it then it’s not worth having. And that part I think is like really what stuck out to me about this book is that it felt like Meredith was saying at once. Not only was I born beautiful, but also I became beautiful. And so like, hahaha, everyone else, like, you’re you will never be this thing. And I don’t know that that’s what Meredith believes. But that’s how I read the way that Meredith was so focused on beauty. And like everyone’s beauty other people’s beauty like she she hooks up with a guy is like, I would never normally hook up with that guy. He’s not beautiful enough for me, or like Lenore is not as pretty as I am, I’m more beautiful than her or my grandma, you know, like, and I understand that that’s like being reinforced to her in different ways. But this like obsession with beauty, and thinking about beauty as like being this like, not real thing. It just sort of felt like then this book is sort of like this not real thing, because there’s no reflection from the author, like guidance from the author. I don’t know if that made any sense. But like, I think that a lot of my frustration stems from like, I want my memoirists to have a point of view a little bit about their life. And I feel like, I feel like she definitely did. But I feel like I could have used a little more, a little more guidance on where do you want me to be on you, Meredith? Right now I’m kind of out on you. But like, I feel like you could help me get in on you if you gave me a little something, something to work with here.

Anthony Ocampo 21:28
Hmmm. Okay, so now this is a like, this is a very new conversation with me with respect to the book. And it’s actually really highlighting for me how much like, I’m thinking back about my experience of reading the book. And I’m wondering to what extent and actually something very similar happened. Like this sort of like, Rorschach test?

Traci Thomas 21:55
Yeah. Rorschach test. Yeah, ink on the paper,

Anthony Ocampo 21:59
Right? This conversation that we’re having reminded me about the very bifurcated reaction to the Atlantic piece My Family’s Slave? Okay, so there’s this essay that was published in The Atlantic by the late Alex, he’s Filipino, but he basically talks about how, like, in the Philippines, this is particular. It’s not a caste system. But there’s very much like a socio economic hierarchy in which, if you’re born into a certain class, ie like the domestic work, it’s very, very difficult to maneuver around that. And it’s very, very honest about the all sorts of exploitation and the exploitation and the abuse that, frankly, like domestic workers face and hear Alex was talking about, specifically, his family when he was a kid, the domestic worker that helped raise them. That was what he was he was referring to. And I remember, like, there’s this bifurcated reaction of like, a lot of Filipino audiences were like, Oh, my gosh, like, we have been so absent from the public sphere. And we have a story about us. That’s complicated and nuanced on the front of the Atlantic. I don’t know if I can truly convey like, what is the impact of living in this country when there is absolutely zero representation of your group? Like, it’s, in some ways, it’s making me see how like that. And this happens whenever there’s new representation, like, what’s our role? Is our role to sort of like, keep the momentum going? Or do we apply criticism at the risk of like, right, not getting another chance. So anyway, I Yeah. But anyway, the bifurcated reaction was like, some people just hated it. And some people were really like, they loved it. And I I’m like, reminded of that in our conversation here.

Traci Thomas 24:01
Yeah. And like, I should be fair, I did not hate this book. I just think that this book brought up a lot of things that I did not like, which is like, I think that the book is valuable. And I think the book is well written. And I think it’s like a good book, you know, sort of, as objectively as one can be about a book, like the writing is good. It’s good storytelling, the pacing, all of that is great. So I’m guess what I’m saying is like, it’s not a bad book. I just didn’t like it. Like, I don’t think that it helped me. It didn’t. Because here’s the thing that it didn’t do. For me. It didn’t make me feel like I understood Filipino culture more, because I think and I do want to talk about this a little bit is that I think that Meredith, at least young Meredith, Meredith Meredith, in this book, had a little bit of like obsession with being an outsider, for various reasons. And I think like maybe like a, like a badge of honor about being an observer being an outsider. You know, some people are like in the thick of things and some people are on the outside and I think Meredith is very proud of having Been on the outside at least at that part of their life. And so I did not feel like I understood Filipino culture anymore. I felt like I understood this one life. Oh my god. And also and I also do think that like, I don’t know, I’ve heard it said before, I don’t know if it’s true. I grew up in the Bay Area, lots of Filipino people that Filipinos are the blacks of, of Asia of Asians. Have you heard that?

Anthony Ocampo 25:22
I have, but that’s not what you would get from this memoir.

Traci Thomas 25:24
I know, well, like some of some of this book like The grandma. I was like, Yes, that’s a black grandma. I feel her vibe. She loves her grandson. She’s, she’s proud that her grandson is beautiful. She loves her grandson. She’s even okay with her grandson being gay. Being trans, it’s a little difficult. So it’s a little bit of a bridge too far for all granny. But like even grandma saying, I loved you past tense. I didn’t read it. As Meredith read it. Meredith read it as the grandma being like, I used to love you. And I read it as like, I loved that little boy, who’s no longer here. I didn’t read it as I don’t love you anymore. I just read it as like, I loved you. Hmm, like this thing. So part of the reason that I don’t feel like I learned a lot about Filipino culture is because I don’t feel like Meredith firmly placed herself in her family or her culture. I feel like she was always like, a little detached and observing what was going on. And maybe that’s because that’s how she felt because she was an albino. And in a brown community, like I get that 1,000%. But then again, at Harvard, it’s like, oh, I’m on the outside looking in. And so I didn’t feel like I really was like, let inside Harvard, like, because Meredith was our narrator. And Meredith was always on the outside looking in. And I think that maybe that was like, a tactic and a choice, certainly. But it didn’t. It wasn’t like when I’ve read books about people are places where I’m like, Oh, I’m getting such a sense of this community, or this culture, or this family. Like, I didn’t have that reaction at all.

Anthony Ocampo 26:56
Hmm. What’s hilarious is that when this book was going to be what we were reading, my first thought was like, Oh my gosh, Tracy is going to learn about the Philippines. And she’s gonna have some sense of like, interpersonal dynamics, like the familial dynamics, intergenerational dynamics. This is where I think I have a blog, or this is where I think the the insider reader, there’s a little bit of a disadvantage because I can connect the dots. So like, as I was reading this, and, you know, it’s reminding me of when I read books about like other countries, and I’m kind of like, lost unless the writer goes really, really insane, like, draws out the smells, the sights, everything. And as you’re speaking, I’m realizing that there was there’s a lot about the social relationships, but not a lot about the scene. So for example, the idea of, of marriage going from province to Manila, like that is like a crystal clear crystallized narrative in the Philippines the idea of her showing up at his TV studios, I know exactly the street where like Philippine television gets made and then this idea of like, parents not raising their kids it’s it’s it’s allocated the the responsibility is given to so delegated to some other relative that was a very distinctly Filipino thing, the transnational families. So oddly enough, I actually thought like, when you read this, you’d be like, Oh, wow, I have like, I kind of know a little bit more about the Philippines.

Traci Thomas 28:35
So funny. I think also, because I have trained myself and told myself often is like, no one story can tell me about any place. So I think I also like fight. A lot of that when I’m reading is like, like, because I hate when people are like, Oh, I read Sula. I know what it’s like to be black. I’m like, What the fuck are you saying? Like, that’s a crazy sentence. So I think I also personally just like push against that of like, okay, I’ve read this book by a Filipino author, like, Meredith has not ever let you know what I mean. So I think like, I’m always consciously like trying to push against that. I definitely think like, I learned things, but I didn’t feel like this book was like, a great example. It didn’t. It didn’t feel like that to me about Philippine culture or about gay culture, like about any of the circles in which Meredith, you know, many any of merits, commodity Venn diagram circles, I didn’t feel like I was like, Oh, now I understand gay men at Harvard better. Like, I don’t I didn’t feel that way at all. Let’s take a quick break, and we’ll be right back. Okay, you had more to say go ahead. I cut you off.

Anthony Ocampo 29:42
Yeah. The funny thing is, not only did I think you’d read part one where it would resonate, because you would like, see the Philippines in a particular way. But also I thought Part Two about the harbor years would resonate because you you’re someone who went from California to an elite university, and so I thought there would be something there. that you can recognize.

Traci Thomas 30:02
Do you know what I think it is? Maybe part of it is that I don’t think that I relate to Meredith because so much of Meredith’s identity, even though we both share a love of theater and the arts, I find myself to be an idol. I mean, this like, not in a judgmental way, but just in a in like, in an observation, I find myself to be a person who is very much not an outsider, I always want to be on the inside, I always want to know the hot Goss, I always want to be at a table full of people, I never want to be an outsider looking in which I think is actually like a fatal flaw of mine. Because I oftentimes jump into things and I don’t observe, but that like detached view of her life, I think that was really hard for me to connect with just because that’s not how I am, like, Yes, I went from California to New York, I went from while I was living in a big city went from a big city to a bigger city, but I went from a predominantly white institution to a predominately white institution, like a lot of those things are similar love of theater, or put on shows in college, all of that stuff. But my experience was, like, just so different. And like, I was just so in the thick of everything that like the feeling of being like left out, whether I was or not, I certainly wasn’t involved in everything in college, but like, I’ve created my own community, and very much like, had a place that I felt like I fit in. And so I think that like, I don’t know, I don’t know what it I don’t know what it was about the way the book was written. But I just felt like Meredith was like, holding us back. And I didn’t love I didn’t love that feeling. I much prefer to be put me in it Put me in coach, tell me everything.

Anthony Ocampo 31:34
There’s a scene, there’s a scene in the early part of the second part where it’s about, like literally the first days that that marriage at Harvard, and all of the cultural collisions, all the class collisions, everything from like the way people carry themselves and the way people spoke. So here’s the thing, too, I think kind of this is where maybe my how this resonated me may have created blocks and how I see things but I actually really loved this chapter. Because when I went to Stanford from LA, I hated it I hated like, I didn’t understand, like the why the way white folks interacted like white aesthetic for cool like it was it’s been as foreign As Meredith portrayed it as someone that’s an immigrant or someone that’s like from a particular class background, arriving at Harvard, it’s a different story. And it’s a different school. But the feeling I thought, totally resonated with me, the only difference is I think she eventually gained entree into the spaces and she gained entree into white spaces. And I did the I did not at all, in fact, I, I found myself finding my home for in predominantly like black and Latino, social circles as an undergrad, because that’s the that’s what felt most familiar in some ways. Like I like this is where I think we have difference in biography. There’s not any point in my life where I’ve ever wanted or aspired to become white in my life, so I’m an IT as you can see from this, that aspiration to be American or to be white was very much.

Traci Thomas 33:17
Right, so central. I think another thing that’s a difference between my college experience and both yours and Maris is that I went to New York City. Yeah. And that’s not a place that suffers from not being around different kinds of people, while New York is still very segregated and racist and fucked up. It was easy for me to get from NYU to wherever I needed to go to experience whatever I needed to experience in a way that you’re not getting that in Palo Alto, like I I’m familiar with Stanford, you’re not getting it there. I’m familiar with Boston. I’m familiar with Harvard, specifically in Cambridge. You’re not getting that there. And so it definitely is like a more isolating feeling than I had because also NYU doesn’t have really have a campus. So like my dorm was, you know, just in I had a dorm in Chinatown one year, like, you’re just not getting that at any not even Columbia, like Columbia has its own little enclave up there. So I feel like I think part of my college experience was really different because I was like, just in New York City, going to theater with my friends. But back to your point. I want to talk about passing I want to make sure we talked about this. So the first thing I want to say for people who discovered the word passing in 2020. A lot of you are using it wrong. Okay? So I just want to really quickly lay it out passing is not that you are light skinned, or look light skinned, and therefore you’re passing no passing has an intent behind it. You have to want to pass as something else. You can’t you it’s not that you’re mistaken. It’s not like Oh, someone mistook me for being white. I’m passing No, you’re not passing. That’s another person’s accident. Passing is the choice in this case where Meredith would say when people say, Oh, where are you from, and she would say, California and pretend to be a white girl or a white boy, passing is a choice to be something else. So like, I think they use it the same like in gay communities passing for straight, where you make the concerted effort to be like, I’m not going to talk in a certain way or dress in a certain way, or talk about my partner in a certain way or use certain language so that people think that I’m straight, that is passing a person being like, Oh, that’s a straight guy. That’s not passing. That’s someone just mislabeling someone. So I just want to be really clear that passing has to have intent from the person. It’s not enough. Or, or if someone mistakes you and like you don’t correct them or whatever. That can be a form of passing. But that’s a little bit more like maybe you just don’t have the time today. I just want to be really clear on what passing isn’t isn’t because I’ve heard people be like, Oh, she’s white passing. I’m like, No, she’s just she just looks white. Like, she’s not white passing. She’ll tell you she’s Mexican all day. She just looks away. Like, like, that’s different.

Anthony Ocampo 36:02
It’s a an Have you read Allison Hobbs book on passing? There’s like- Alison Hobbs a black woman has, she has a story and she writes about the historical phenomenon of passing, it’s really good. Obviously, there’s, like, a lot of different renderings of passing as it plays out here, with respect to like black white relations and how it wasn’t choice. But it’s very much one choice that was informed by like, what the constraints do with of one’s life and opportunity. So it’s, uh, yeah, I guess with passing it’s passing is really contingent on how the other people see you. And I think, in some ways that’s, that was interesting is that, like, the white folks at Harvard couldn’t tell because they’re so not accustomed to or don’t have practice to thinking through the lens of race. And that’s why her her one friend, who’s Black was able to see it, like, from a mile away.

Traci Thomas 36:57
I mean, when I met Meredith, it was before I knew anything about the book, and I knew that Meredith was not a white person. Like, it was actually jarring for me to read the book. And I hear her keeping like, oh, yeah, everyone thinks I’m white. I’m like they do. What’s wrong with white people? Why do they think you’re white? What can they What am I seeing like that? You’re that they’re not seeing? You know, I don’t know.

Anthony Ocampo 37:19
And this is where I think some of the interviews that I’ve heard of Marathe might inform this, because there is I mean, she’s talking about this work, when it comes to performing or adhering to certain prescribed rules of how certain gender loads how certain race looks. She’s in recent years, tried to I don’t wanna speak for her, but like she’s, in recent years tried to pull back from that tendency to, I guess, perfectly manufacturer, like some image. But I guess, here’s the thing that makes me think like, to what extent is this writer obligated to prove it if that is the reality that they were existing with weight?

Traci Thomas 38:00
Oh, no, I’m not saying that that’s not how people perceived her. I’m just saying what’s wrong with white people that they can’t tell like that so many black people just pass for white who just like, looked black and had like, kinky hair, and like, all of these things. And then white people were like, Yeah, that’s a white person. It’s like, you guys made up all this ratio, and then you can’t even fucking prove your own shit. I’m not saying that Meredith was lying about it. I’m just saying like white people. What is going on? You guys have a whole system based on being able to prove this thing and then you can’t even do it.

Anthony Ocampo 38:32
Yeah, you know, when it comes to passing. What’s funny is that when I read the early chapter about the Filipino actor, that’s albino Redford white. I remember it. I like literally remember when I was a kid seeing this person on like Philippine TV and like, describing him as the white guy or the American like he’s American, but for some reason, he’s in the Philippines. That’s weird. And so I didn’t actually know that this person was, was Filipino, but albino in similar ways. And this is going to point to my own ignorance about the way blackness works in different parts of the country. I remember having a classmate in high school where he was creo. And he would very much identify as black but all sorts of people would try to I guess from Louisiana to all sorts of people would try to tell him like, like, basically give him the litmus test and I’m talking not black people. I’m talking about like, Ron black students, both white and students of color, they’re not blacks. And so it’s, I wasn’t equipped with the, I guess, the racial schema to to really see that, like someone that looks like that actor is not actually white, but has a condition that makes their skin light.

Traci Thomas 39:46
Right. Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. I just looked up the actor. I didn’t. I didn’t I didn’t know I was not familiar with his work. I can’t speak for every person who is has albinism or whatever, but like For me, for Meredith, I did not for a second before I knew anything about Meredith, I did not for a second think that that was a white person. But I think also, I feel like I spend a lot of my time as a black American, trying to be like, That’s a black person about light skinned black people. Like it’s one of my, it might not be a flattering pastime, but it’s something that I do. Like, I become obsessed with light skinned people being like that person. They’ve got some black in them, which is one of my favorite phrases. Like I just got in trouble. I was on someone else’s bachelor podcast, and I said that a girl was black because she was fucking wack. And she was and then this woman sent me like some or sent a message being like, just because someone has a distant black relative doesn’t make them black. And I’m like, lady, have you heard about race in America? That’s a great point, you should take it to, I don’t know, 1750 and talk to those people. Like I didn’t make the rules. That was the rules. So I don’t know, I think I’m like, because I think because I maybe because I was familiar with the idea of passing from a young age because my family is Creole. And that’s like a big thing. And like, my dad was dark, very dark skin. But he was like sort of obsessed with this idea of passing to I think that maybe I’m like obsessed with trying to uncover people who are very close proximity to whiteness, but like, aren’t quite. And I don’t think that the rules are good. Like, I don’t think it should be that way necessarily. I just, I’m familiar with the rules of the game. And I like to uncover any people that are potentially passing or just look white. But I just found it interesting to this point, which I said before, it’s less that people thought that Meredith was white, and more that every time Meredith said people, she met white people, like I wished that she had explored the fact that like, every time she was around a person of color, her cover was blown, you know, because like the thing is, Meredith was passing for white, like very, very much. So like when someone would ask about her life, she wouldn’t leave out the part about being from the Philippines. And she would only kind of wield that information, and bits and spurts to certain people like even the boyfriend. Rafe. He didn’t know for a long time. And so I think that like, less the fact that people didn’t know and more the fact that Meredith was like, proud of that, or was using that in some way for like, access and privilege that again, was like, I would have loved some reflection on that. Like, what does that do to you? What does that do to Meredith to like, be constantly feeling like she has to be pretend to be white, in order to have access or to have like, an easy life? Like, I’d love to know. i That’s a question I would have loved answered in the book.

Anthony Ocampo 42:48
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And I think, see, like, I didn’t read it that way. Like, I read it as like, this is how I was. And maybe it’s like, the disadvantage that exists is that I’ve interacted with this person, right. And I’ve interacted with this person, specifically, actually in POS like wares of color spaces. So the first time I read was at the keema, Jones, had this week long workshop in Savannah, Georgia, and Meredith was one of the the speakers or the the mentors. And so I’m wondering, and you don’t necessarily have that IRL reference point. And so the book is more it exists, it stands alone in a way that it never actually has for me.

Traci Thomas 43:35
Right, right. Right. Right. Yeah, I think that the like, like I said, at the beginning, I know a lot of writers who know Meredith, and like Meredith, and speak very highly of her. And so as I was reading this book, even that little bit, I was like, Okay, there’s gotta be more to this person, because the person who is in this book is not friends, with the people that I’ve heard that she’s friends with, you know what I mean? Like, I’m just like, I can’t bridge that gap. And she didn’t bridge it for me. And so that’s, I think, why wanted like the reckoning or the reflection, because it’s sort of just read as, like, Asian girl wants to be white. And I’m like, That can’t be that can’t be all that this person is. And that I mean, I’m obviously saying that sort of tongue in cheek and very Trumpian like very much simplifying this entire book into like, a kind of offhanded comment, but it did read like that a little bit.

Anthony Ocampo 44:27
The thing is, like, and this is why it’s good to have book discussions because like everything you’re saying, as much as I am like, a hardcore sociologist, I have a literate a master’s in literature. So I’m used to like trying to anticipate like how folks will read this, right. i This is so out of left field for me like the the response you have, and I’m like, really? Yeah. And so I’m wondering like, and I really do think that it is As shaped by how, like, again, literally from like, it wasn’t until I was like in, like age 20, when I finally picked up a piece of paper that right described someone that was even like that was that was like, I considered like I had a sense of we will. So I imagine that that what that means is like any morsel you get, you’re gonna be like, you’re gonna hold on to it for dear life.

Traci Thomas 45:28
So, but I also think because of your insider status, and like, because you are Filipino, and like that, that a lot of this is your experience, you’re able to read it in a more discerning way than I am. Yeah. So I think that like, it doesn’t probably read the same for you, because you understand like nuances and complexities that I don’t and I think that like, while I never want to ask any author or person of color, or queer person or anything to like, hold my hand. I do think that like when it comes to memoir, and you’re writing from about a person that you were 20 plus years ago, my expectation is that there is some reflection reckoning response to what you did who you were, that I just felt like, because also, it wasn’t just like about these things. There were so many people in the book that like wronged Meredith or like, hurt Meredith in different ways that I did not feel like she owned up to a lot of the ways that she hurt other people, including like her friend Leonora, like, I felt like that was sort of glossed over. It was like, I went him. I really liked him. I told him, I loved him, I was hotter than her or whatever. And then we were still friends. And then she sent me a letter and was like, I don’t want to be your friend anymore. That really hurt me. And I never talked to her again. And there was no like, I can’t believe that I was operating from this place where I felt like, you know, like, there was no reflection on that. And like, there was no reflection on the mom. And like, how how the mom like, it sounds like the mom was struggling with some things. And like not that that’s Meredith its job. But also, like, you sort of left us hanging on the mom. Like what happened to the Mom, what happened to the dad, like, I just felt like I wanted I just needed more of Meredith 2020 to help me make sense of Meredith 9094. Because a lot I have to assume has changed between 94 and 2020. For Meredith,

Anthony Ocampo 47:22
I mean, that’s hope that things have changed for anyone that Yes.

Traci Thomas 47:29
I’m still eating Dunkaroos but I love them more than I do now.

Anthony Ocampo 47:33
Oh my god, thank you, Danny for I was probably went out home alone because my parents worked and like pretending to be a figure skater in my living room secretly because

Traci Thomas 47:41
We had a similar life. Obviously, we were figure skating.

Anthony Ocampo 47:46
But I read that story that you mentioned about her being wrong, like doing her friend dirty. Like I read that completely the opposite way. I actually was glad I did. I did. So that story for folks that are read it because we said there’s going to be spoilers. Meredith had a crush on BFF a dude. And she had another friend lindora I think the friend’s name was Richard, Richard Meredith had a really good friend and Richard basically, they were like, you know, Three’s Company like the three amigos whatever. And then at some point, at some point, and this is where I was, I wonder how you’re gonna react to what I say, at some point. lindora and Richard gets together and they confess or they confide in Merritt that they’re together. And Meredith is fuming about it. Like is angry. I thought the fact that she even wrote the story was an illustration of her like willing to throw throw herself under under the bus or, like really put herself up for critique. And the way I read in a couple of ways, because as a as a gay person, who has been obsessed with making sure that I’m perfect so I can survive the fact that someone was willing to write about again another like unbecoming moment when they were really, they kind of were locked up, you know, like, that was like the she was gonna write a letter trying to break them up or something, but it was really, she was jealous and fucked up. Here’s the thing that gives me a little bit of empathy for that situation. I am a gay person. I think I read in the world is Asian I think most people think I’m Filipino, but I also so in a similar way that like I didn’t have access to the experience of seeing my life or history rendered in text or in movies. Another thing that I lacked access to as a GI person, especially when they came out in my early 20s and grew During the AIDS crisis was that while all of my friends straight friends were experiencing like love and emotion, and like holding hands first crushes first everything first kisses at age like 12 1314. I was with like, because of homophobia, I didn’t have access to that experience until literally 10 years later. And I went through an entire high school and college experience witnessing other people play like experience, things I wasn’t allowed to experience. And let’s just say that the, the rage that comes from that I didn’t even know I had, I think would come out in very comparable situations like what Marilyn described about being jealous of a friend who’s straight being with like, I can relate to that feeling of just like, really uncontrollable rage and jealousy. Because as a as a queer person that was the now or didn’t even know what I was like. There was that has been bottled up for like 10 years. And so it makes sense to me, like very clearly why that rage happened when people don’t have access to experience of desirability. And then here’s her best friend that seems to have it quite easily. It’s misplaced, like anger, but it’s it’s real anger, nonetheless,

Traci Thomas 51:26
I agree with everything you’re saying. And I wish that Meredith had put some of that in the book. Like that’s the part that I’m missing is like, a little bit of like, the reflection or context was also like, at that point in the book, Meredith is in a long term relationship with a person that loves her very, very much and takes very good care of her and treats her very well until she decides that, you know, she’s no longer comfortable keeping a certain part of herself, like this woman part of herself. And that’s where there’s like this fracture in the relationship is that Rafe doesn’t want that. But like leading up to that he’s very, you know, loving and kind and sympathetic. And it sounds like as far as the book goes, Meredith doesn’t have like, ill will toward him, you know, I just wanted more of like, a reflection on what was going on. Like, that’s really my biggest complaint about the book because like, I wanted, I wanted more. Like, I didn’t need a book that was all just memories, I needed a book that helped me to understand why this life like is this story is like, worthy of telling and like Why tell it now? And why write about these things? And why are these things important to who you are. And he just didn’t feel like like that was there. I have to do a slight shift, because literally, we’ve talked for almost an hour and we like barely have talked about Meredith’s transitioning, which I think is like sort of something that we should address on this book. Because when we talk about this book, because I think that that’s like a big part of the book that Meredith eventually goes on to to come out as transgender. They she goes to Thailand to have gender reassignment surgery. This is like in like 99 2000, I believe, or maybe slightly slightly after that. One of the things I found really interesting, and I’m so and this, again, is something that I would have loved more clarification from Meredith. In 2000, or 2002, or whenever she transitioned, it wasn’t a thing that people were doing in the same ways as publicly as people are doing now. It wasn’t something that was like in the zeitgeist in the same way. We talked about transgender people, as a country and as a community, in a lot of very disparaging and harmful and horrible ways. The way that Meredith talks about her own experience with gender, to me, felt so different than how we’re talking about it now that it was actually like, kind of confusing for me as a reader, like talking about, you know, wanting to become a woman so that Richard would like her. And like, like, those kinds of things, which is like, how I imagine that anti trans people talk about trans people. Do you know what I’m saying? Does that make sense?

Anthony Ocampo 54:05
And again, this is where I think we’re like seeing it. And so opposite ways.

Traci Thomas 54:09
I go ahead, because I feel like I really got this part wrong. And like, I, I don’t know, I just, again, I just need I think I just needed Meredith to hold my hand more. I’m maybe I’m like, sort of not that smart of a reader when it comes to this book. And I needed more. But I yeah, like, and like talking about, like, imagining being a lady and like, she wanted to be like the perfect wife for rape and like all of this stuff that I felt like sort of not how we talk about gender and sexuality and like, all of that stuff now.

Anthony Ocampo 54:42
Yeah, you know, in some ways, and maybe, again, this is why I think I’ve the advantage of having heard her talk a little bit about it, but in a sense, like with trans people, often the first question they get has to do with transition. And so what does it mean for a trans person to write a book were trapped that transition is the center like very Be very uncensored, I think there’s something to that. Because like, in a lot of ways, as much as I write about queer topics I have my are Filipino, whatever. I have my days where I almost resent that I can’t just write something without people expecting me to write about my identities. When in fact, there’s a lot of arenas in my life where I’m not saying like, my race and sexuality don’t matter in those contexts, but they’re not necessarily the frames through which I’m like, existing. So, right. The other part about the trends, this is a story about a transfer. This is where again, like, I think, when I read this book, I was also like inhaling memoir from other folks. And I don’t want to I don’t want to specify who or what ethnicity, but I read, you know, some like, Asian American Memoirs of Filipino members and I, a lot of them when I was reading them, I felt like they were to clean, like, they just put the bow on their life story, everything made. I hate that too. And I didn’t, I didn’t like that. So here, I in some ways I saw Meredith’s book as like the antithesis to that. But again, I did have the luxury of having met her and knowing so like, I was very much anchored in knowing what her politics were when it came to like, race issues in the year 20, whatever, 2018 2019. And I can see how it lands different if you don’t meet this person. But I, I didn’t want to, like ask like, this is, I think what we’re, so I’ve listened to a lot of pretty much every episode of the stacks. And there’s some episodes where the book club, there’s a lot of agreement between you and the guests. But I also Yeah, I also want to talk about what it means for people to critique and disagree about minoritized writers because I feel like in this moment, we don’t allow for critique or nuance, there’s just so much needing to, like, I don’t know if social media contributes to this, but like, in some ways, like critique is an illustration of like, love of, yeah. And so I wanted to, I wanted to ask you, if I could put them back on you like, how does it feel to engage with a text where you’re, it’s like total opposite? Like your reaction to the book is the total opposite?

Traci Thomas 57:25
Opposite from you, you mean? Yes. Well, so I agree. I think critique is like, the one of the highest forms of love, I mean, that Bell Hooks might want to punch me in the face for that mean, she recipes. But I do think that there’s an element of like love and care that goes into critique. And, as you know, I’m a big proponent of talking openly and honestly about how books make us feel whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent, which to me is the worst thing you can say about a book is that you’re indifferent about it. I have had other books that I have not liked that my guests liked. But what makes me uncomfortable about this book is that, as I mentioned before, I don’t share a lot of identities with Meredith, like, we’ve had a very different life experiences in a lot of ways and come from different communities and are perceived in the world differently. And so I recognize that, like, I’m probably missing a lot of things or like being unfair, being harsh and ways that like, maybe I should be less harsh and more fair, I don’t know. So that gives me anxiety, and it makes me stressed out. And also like, I do think that we should be able to criticize works by people of color, in the same spirit, but maybe not the same way that we critique works by straight white sis men, like I don’t think I think that it makes the art better. I do. I think that like having debate and having, you know, coming from a place of like, liking a thing, you know, like, I’m not trying to come from a place of like, fuck, Meredith because I again, I think that the book is really well written and beautiful. I just wanted more of Meredith in 2020. And like to help make sense of the thing. But like, I think we’ve got to critique these things. Like I think it’s so important for the work. I think it’s so important for books. I think it’s so important for readers. I think it’s important for me personally, like just it helps me to think and understand better. So while I feel uncomfortable having to have this conversation that’s recorded onto a microphone that people will be able to listen to and a year or two or five or eight or whatever, hopefully God willing. I think that it’s still like worthy and important. Please direct all your hate mail to Anthony that’s Anthony.

Anthony Ocampo 59:50
No and I read critique similarly, but there’s one caveat I have. I think that when there is an abundance of, of data points of representation, critique and land in a way that it doesn’t hinder like, the opportunities, because there’s already sort of an abundance of representation. And I’m not simplifying here. But again, like coming from the point of view as like a group that has just been invisible, like my entire life. And finally, like, I’m like 41. So like, this is like this moment when Filipino Texans are seeing the mainstream big five publishers like that shit floors, me, I think that there’s a little bit of a fear whenever I hear critique, as much as I think critics important, I have a little bit of fear whenever critique is something that’s Filipino related gets critique, because I think like, oh, shit, like, we’re never gonna get a chance, again, we’re gonna have to wait another 1020 years because this this critique, while done in the spirit of love, can be weaponized by a larger industry, like white folks. And so it’s a it’s a little bit of a conundrum. What at the end of the day, merits look, I really, I, I hear everything you’re saying. And I completely, like I can see it completely from where you’re coming from. Now. But with Barrett’s book, I, you know, compared to other Filipino memoirs, and books, I, I thought it was the most real, and in that sense, that’s why I liked it. Because I felt like, when I read other Filipino members, I was like, you’re kind of painting yourself in too good of a light. When I know for a fact, I’ve been in those spaces. And I’m like, so the violation of like the almost like airbrushing The truth was a bigger sin than the lack of a reckoning in this book.

Traci Thomas 1:01:46
Right. And I do want to say like, just because I didn’t like this book, doesn’t mean that I don’t think that people should, shouldn’t read it. Like, obviously, you know, this about me and listeners know this about me, like, I critique all things, in the same spirit of nothing is perfect. And I just think that like, I do think that when there’s like this whole thing, where people like, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, and like, we’re never gonna get another chance. And all of the stuff that I just think is like a scarcity mentality, and it’s something that I feel in my heart, but it’s also something that I push back against, because I think that like, like one of my bosses, who is a monster sometimes would say, feelings aren’t facts, and like, maybe they’re not facts, but they matter. But I guess my point is, like, I feel the scarcity mentality. Like, I feel worried when I critique things. It’s like, no one’s gonna get another chance and whatever. But at the same time, I’m a black woman talking about these things. And so no one’s listening to me anyways, like, the truth of the matter is, I also am not gonna get another chance. Do you know what I mean? Like, and not to say that that’s okay, or not okay. But the point is sort of, like, if we aren’t doing this work with our own stuff. Like, we’re, it’s a disservice to the people who do show up in these spaces. Like, because I’ve because I felt so uncomfortable in certain parts of this book. And like, because it felt difficult for me to read, like, if I ignored that, I feel like I would be ignoring parts of our people in my audience, who showed up to read this book with us and maybe had similar feelings. And it would like, you know, invalidate those feelings. And I think like, it’s okay, to not agree and to, and to talk openly about these things. Without feeling like it’s our it’s on us to make this happen, like, publishing needs to do better. Like, that’s not my problem. They still need to publish Filipino books, like you can’t blame me, like, we can’t know. And I can’t be No, not that you are. But I’m saying like, we can’t be responsible. Like, we still went out and bought the book. So we did our part to support the book. So if you know, right, wider audiences want to try to blame, like a black woman said she didn’t like this part. Like, that’s not on me. That’s white supremacy like that. I can’t be responsible to that, like I feel. But I do also feel responsible to the people that I asked to read the book that like, I want to talk openly about the things that made me feel uncomfortable, because if I felt that I have to imagine other people did too. And what I found interesting, because we’re recording this after we announced the book, which usually I oftentimes record before we ever announced the book, so I don’t ever get listener feedback before we record. I’ve gotten a really huge mixed response about this book. A lot of people have talked about how they’re, they’re really excited to this episode, because they don’t feel comfortable talking about it, or they don’t know how to talk about it, or they want to talk about certain things. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t get to today. So I do feel like this book is provocative and like some of the best ways whether you liked it or didn’t like it. I think it brought up a lot of things which the best literature does that. You know, like to your point, the tidy stuff. I hate that too. I don’t like when books are tidy and clean. And and I would much prefer to read a book like this that way. is messy and made me feel mad and upset and irritated and excited and all of these things then have a book that I’m like that was nice by so if publishing wants to be like we’re never going to write publish another Filipino book because Tracy didn’t like Fairest, please send me a huge check because I’m obviously a very important consultant for you and I’d love to be paid, but also fuck you publishing like, don’t you know, like, Don’t weaponize is like, that’s bullshit too. We have to go because we’re like literally out of time by so many minutes. However, I do want to say one things we didn’t get to this. The cover and the title, we always do the cover and the title. Do you have this white cover with the lashes? Okay, so there’s like the rainbow cover that has black eyes like a black eye close with eyelashes. And then there’s I think that’s what that is. Right? Yeah. And then there’s the white cover that has a blue kind of two purple pink ombre eyelash. Any thoughts about the cover and or the title?

Anthony Ocampo 1:06:02
Ah, you know, I saw the colors as the trans flag colors. So-

Traci Thomas 1:06:08
Yeah, but it’s different colors on the cover of the colorful book. There’s yellow and orange and stuff too. Right?

Anthony Ocampo 1:06:14
It’s like rain. There’s the paperback which is like rainbow Yeah, and then yeah, hardback the art, which is white with an eyelash that’s goes from like light blue to pink in the same way the trends like does Yeah. Fairest i i think it was a double or whatever. It has multiple meanings. fair skinned fit, like equality Fairest, how people. Fair is that spelled differently?

Traci Thomas 1:06:47
I think that is spelled differently. But whatever. Asking the wrong person.

Anthony Ocampo 1:06:48
So but a Fairest Yeah, I liked it. It was a play on like, fair skin and like thinking about like, fair opportunity.

Traci Thomas 1:07:01
Yeah, and I think I was thinking about it as fair skinned and fair as and beautiful. Like, who’s the fairest of them all. And then in the last sentence of the book, which I loved this was probably my favorite part of the book is where merit says, I know, I now know there’s no such thing as the single best life the single Fairest life. And I was like, oh, that’s like, is it fair? Did things like that’s how I read that? Like, is it fair? Did things work out? Like equitably or whatever. So I really liked that twist. I love when the title shows up in the book like that. One of my favorite things. I hate that we have to rush away for like, we could talk about this for another three hours. But, Anthony, thank you so much for putting up with me talking openly about a book that I had some issues with that you loved because I think that it’s really hard to do. And I’m glad that you were willing to be here with me today.

Anthony Ocampo 1:07:50
Yeah, thank you for having me. I’m glad that we got to have a really complicated conversation.

Traci Thomas 1:07:56
Yeah, me too. Uh, stay tuned everyone else to find out our book for November. And everyone we will see you in the Stacks.

All right, y’all. That does it for us today. Thank you so much for listening. And thank you again to Anthony Ocampo, for returning to the show and for digging into this book in a really challenging and exciting way. And now for the reveal of our November book club pick. It is prison by any other name the harmful consequences of popular reforms. The book is CO written by journalists Maya Schwerner, and Victoria Law. We will be discussing this book on November 30. Tune in next week to find out who our guest will be. If you love the show and want inside access to it head to patreon.com/thestacks to join the stocks pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to the stacks wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you’re listening through Apple podcasts or Spotify, be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from the stacks. Follow us on social media at the stacks pod on Instagram and at the stocks pod underscore on Twitter and check out our website the stocks podcast.com This episode of the Stacks was edited by Cristian Duenas with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. Our graphic designers Robin MacWrite and our theme music is from Tagirijus The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas.

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