Ep. 261 All at Once with Clint Smith – Transcript

Today we welcome author Clint Smith to The Stacks to talk about his new poetry collection Above Ground, a tribute to Black fatherhood. We discuss how he handled the pressure to follow up the bestselling and award-winning How the Word is Passed. We also get into how parenting has animated all facets of life, and how competition has facilitated Clint’s relationship to literature.

The Stacks Book Club selection for April is Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay. We will discuss the book on April 26th with Clint Smith.


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Traci Thomas 0:00
Hey everybody. Before we get into today’s episode, I just wanted to say that this week marks five years of The Stacks. And I honestly cannot believe that this little idea I had to talk about books with some of my friends who love books has turned into the Stacks as we know it now. So for everyone who’s listened to the show, for everyone who’s told a friend, join the stacks pack on Patreon, given us a rating or review, or even listened to it and hated me so much, you turned it off, I just want to say a huge, huge, huge thank you. And I’m really excited. There’s some fun things coming from me for the rest of the year to celebrate the five year anniversary. So please stay tuned for that. And I won’t talk too much because I’ll probably start crying. But again, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone. And if you haven’t yet, go join the Stacks pack on Patreon so we can continue to have the show week after week after week for the next at least five years. Thank you.

Welcome to The Stacks, a podcast about books and the people who read them. I’m your host Traci Thomas, and today we’re speaking with best selling author and poet Clint Smith. Clint is also a friend of the podcast and he is back in The Stacks for more literary goodness after his first appearance in 2021. Clint is here to talk about his latest book a poetry collection called Above Ground. It was just released last week, and it is a powerful and wise rumination on the complex experience of fatherhood. Amid the tumult of our modern world. Clint is an Atlantic staff writer who wrote the award winning and critically acclaimed how the word has passed a reckoning with the history of slavery across America, and his incredible debut poetry collection Counting Descent. Today we talk about the pressure to follow up how the word is passed. We talk a little bit about soccer, and of course the many many books that have shaped Clints life. Our book club selection for April is Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay. We will discuss that poetry collection on April 26th with Clint Smith. Quick reminder, everything we talked about on each episode of the stacks can be found in the link in the show notes. Listen, if you love this and you want more of it, please join us over on Patreon. That’s our exclusive community. For supporters of the show. You can join for just $5 a month and you get all sorts of things like our very active discord community bonus episodes and our monthly meetups to discuss our book club picks. Also, you get to know that your $5 are going to make the stacks possible. I’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up later this year. And with your support, it’s going to be possible so please head to patreon.com/the stacks and join us now. A quick shout out to some of our newest members of the Stax pack. Katherine boost. Eileen McGraw, Rachel Michelle Maxwell and Jamil Hill. Thank you all so much. And thank you to the entire stacks pack. I could not make this show without you. All right now it is time for my conversation with Clint Smith.

All right, everybody. I am so excited. I get to welcome back a friend of the podcast, Clint Smith, you all must remember he was on the show in June, I believe of 2021 for his last book, which was how the word is passed. And now he’s back for his new book, which just came out at the end of March. It is called above ground. It is poems. Clint, welcome back to the snacks. So good to be here. My favorite podcast, my favorite guest? Well, I can’t go on record, one of my top tier. Okay welcome back. How have you been?

Clint Smith 3:36
Things have been good. It’s been a wild couple years, I think it’s difficult to overstate the extent to which my life has changed since the since how the word has passed has came out. And it’s it’s been wild.

Traci Thomas 3:51
in what ways?

Clint Smith 3:54
You know, I could have never dreamed that the book would get the response that it has so many incredible writers write so many incredible books all the time that for one reason or another never reached the audience they deserve. And so I feel just immensely lucky that the book continues to find new readers. It just kind of keeps going. It’s got like a long tail. Like, you know, I’m always, you know, getting messages from people who’ve just been introduced to the book and the sorts of messages I get from people, you know, just students who read the book in their high school history class who said it transform their understanding of their own lives of people who read it with their, you know, Fox News watching granddad, who said they like you know, we never talked about this kind of thing. But your book opened up space for this to happen. People who have messaged to say they visited the sites in the book, people who have the message to say that they that the book has like pushed them to think more critically or to even engage with historical sites in their own communities and Different ways, right? People who pass the same cemetery every day on the way to work or past the same, you know, live down the street from this museum that they never visited. And they just, and they talked about how my book gave them new tools with which to think about these places and new ways to think about public memory and iconography. And, yeah, it’s, I mean, it’s been amazing. I really can’t say enough about how much it’s meant to get these sorts of messages from readers. And you know, this, because I think I talked about on the podcast last time, but like, I really wrote this book for, like a 1516 year old version of myself. Like, I wanted to write the sort of book that was going to help a high school version of Clint, that would have given him the language, the toolkit, the history with which to more effectively understand why his state and his city, its country looked the way that it did. And there was a moment where I zoomed with students at my former high school, reading the book, and it’s, you know, the history teachers at Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans and assigned it to, to their students. And it was this sort of full circle moment, because I wrote it for right, the version of me that was those kids, right? And I was like, man, they’re sitting in the literal classrooms, right, that, that I sat in, that I so desperately tried to orient the project to. And it’s, there’s been so many incredible moments, but

Traci Thomas 6:26
Did they like the book? Or did they roast you?

Clint Smith 6:28
I mean, they if they, there were, there was no roasting.

Traci Thomas 6:34
Well, I know how teenagers are, like, okay. You went here, like, what was your-

Clint Smith 6:41
They probably did it at lunchtime. Not in class. No, they, they helped me down. I appreciate it.

Traci Thomas 6:47
I love it. So I wasn’t going to start here. But this is something that I want to talk about. So we’ll start and then we’ll kind of go back, we’re going out of order because you’re a repeat. One of the things about you that I think people who were introduced to you through how the word is passed, might not know is that you are a poet, and you are a poet, your first book is counting descent, which was a collection of poems, that actually is like the perfect pairing for how the word is passed. And now you’re returning to poetry. And so and you have the success with it, you’re talking about what this book and you’re, you know, top 10 books of 2021, from the New York Times in New York National Book Award and all of these things. What is the pressure, if any? Or what is the feeling about releasing this new thing into the world that is connected but is not necessarily the same kind of thing. I think a lot of people follow up their successful book with like, how the word is passed to, like monuments in my in Washington, DC, like more, and you have gone fully I’m writing poems about parenting and family and legacy and death and grief, and joy and like, I’m writing poems, you know, like, it’s 100 pages, and there’s no Thomas Jefferson insight. So what is that feeling? Whether it’s pressure, anxiety, excitement for you going into this book launch?

Clint Smith 8:12
Yeah, it’s funny. I always think about my hobby, Wesley Lowery, great journalists, great writer who will have a new book coming out himself later in the year. And one of the things he said, after all the sort of wildness happened with how the words pass, he sees like, man, the sequel, like, it’s gotta be sequel, you got to call it to pass to fear. I wasn’t thinking of a sequel, but I might just so that I guess you can title this I can title that make my own franchise. You know, it’s interesting, in so many ways. I’m so grateful that I’m following how the word is passed with a book in a completely different genre. First off, you know, the book came out almost two years ago, but in so many ways, it almost doesn’t feel like it like it. I feel like I’m still writing the, in the car that how the word is past built, like use a clunky metaphor, but it’s an extraordinary how much it still feels like a huge part of my life. And, you know, I just had we just released the paperback,

Traci Thomas 9:18
I know, I just, I was confused. I actually was like, we was planning on in 2022 or 2020. I like literally had to go back and look to see I was like, I thought it was 2021. But yeah, it was.

Clint Smith 9:29
Yeah, I mean, they kept they kept him in hardcover for a long time and released it in paperback just at the end of basically early January of this year. And so so in so many ways, the book has now gotten a second life and been reintroduced to or introduced to many readers for the first time. And when I first decided that I was going to publish my this next book, two years after other words passed, I was like, Oh, two years, that’s such such a long time, like, great, and it’s interesting the way it doesn’t feel are like, a very long time. But again, I’m immensely endlessly grateful for this long life that how the word is past has gotten to live. But I think it even it makes me feel even more grateful that the book that follows it is, like the texture of this project is so different, you know, it’s, I think there would have been a little bit of pressure following how the word is passed with another narrative nonfiction project. But the thing about above ground is that, and this is the case with so many books, but even though this book is coming out in, you know, end of March 2023, these poems have been with me for years, you know, like, these are poems that I’ve started, that I started writing when my wife was pregnant, in 2016. And so, you know, this book is, it’s a sort of, largely chronological, following us, of our journey from first becoming pregnant. So even before that, being told that we probably couldn’t get pregnant, becoming pregnant, and then, you know, having when my wife had my son, and then my wife had a daughter, and then the sort of larger what it means to raise children amid the sort of larger socio political, historical realities, shaping all of our lives at the same time. And the poems just sort of what poetry for me is both the creation of art, but it’s also the mechanism through which I do my best thinking. And poetry is, is kind of the act of paying attention. And so, you know, an example I give is like, if you walk past the same tree every day in front of your house, like you see the tree, you know, what’s there, you know, the tree looks like if somebody asked you to describe it, but it’s something different when you stop and look at that tree with a different level of intention. And poetry is almost the act of stopping to look at the tree it is, because when you pass the tree, you see it. But you don’t see it with the specificity with the granularity that you would if somebody was like, write a poem about that tree, or take a photograph of that tree, right. So you know, you when you look at the tree, now you might hone in on a particular leaf. And you might see the way that that leaf is actually a few different shades of green, or you might see the way that the edges of the leaf are turning yellow, as the season begins to change the way that the leaf has a hole in it at the end, where a caterpillar took a bite, right? These these small, small things, but allows you to see the thing that you otherwise see every day, right, with a different level of attention and specificity. And I feel like these poems are, are that in the context of parenthood, right, they’re sort of these small poetic archives, these attempts to capture sort of time capsules, and to hold on to these moments of, of joy, of wonder, of fear of insecurity, and to, to sort of capture them and to hold on to them. And in so many ways, what it does is it allows, it reminds me of how fleeting these moments are, right? Because, you know, this is mostly a cliche thing in the world, but that like, it flies by goes by so quickly, but it does, it goes by so fast. So all this to say it’s just, you know, these are poems I wrote for me, right, like, there are hundreds of these poems about parenthood that aren’t in this book, but that operate and play this, that played a similar role in terms of just ensuring that I am taking the time to reflect and be present in what is otherwise like a wild wild west of living, you know, being parents to young kids.

Traci Thomas 13:43
Do you feel like I love this analogy of like, writing the poem is like a way to like, really stop and like look at the tree. But as you were saying that you said like, take a photograph. And I’m just thinking like, Is that not what all art is, in some way is like, you you’re using a different medium to talk about, or think about or reflect on said tree. So if you’re a dancer, and you take the time to choreograph a piece about a tree, you’re still doing that same like kind of specificity. And I’m thinking like, because you write poems, but you also write narrative nonfiction. And I’m sure if you had to write narrative nonfiction about the tree, you probably would also stop and like, talk about those things. So I’m just, I just think it’s like, interesting to think, like, whatever your potential medium is. Art is the way to think about the tree.

Clint Smith 14:39
Hmm, no, I think that’s absolutely true.

Traci Thomas 14:42
Because I have no doubt if you wrote a memoir about parenting, it would be just as beautiful and and in depth and you would still capture a lot of these things. It would be different because it would be a memoir or not poems, but I knowing you and how detailed you are and like how like how careful you are with your work. I think you would write a really good memoir about parenting to Well, that’s very kind of you to say, I know if you can even write a memoir, I gotta be honest,

Clint Smith 15:08
I do not feel equipped to write a memoir about parenting. It’s interesting. You say that about, like narrative nonfiction, though. And details, because my editor Vanessa Mobley, who edited how the word is passion was extraordinary. She has since left little brown and is now at the New York Times, doing amazing things. But it’s funny that we’re like talking about the trees, because literally, I mean, you you read how the word is passed, you know? Like, I love exposition. Yeah, I love details. I will sit there and describe the tree for like, several pages. The problem is that that’s what I did in all of my first drafts. And so like,

Traci Thomas 15:44
She got out the red pen.

Clint Smith 15:47
Cool, cool. Lovely tree.

Traci Thomas 15:49
Glad you know that. Yeah, get to, where’s the front door.

Clint Smith 15:54
Sort of uh, it’s been seven pages, and we haven’t stepped foot inside Jefferson’s home yet, so. And so yeah, I mean, I think any genre, I think you’re absolutely correct that, that art plays that role for so many artists, right? You know, I know, my brother in law is a big photographer. And I know that he talks about it the same way, right? You know, I might write a poem about the tree, he might take photographs of the tree and, and those photographs might allow him to see the tree in ways that I, I don’t even see with my poem. And my poem might allow him to see the tree in ways that and that’s why it’s so important to have various forms of art in various mediums and different genres. You know, for me, the things I like about the thing I like about poetry is that, like, you can begin a poem with a question. And it doesn’t necessitate that you have to end the poem with an answer, if anything, you do end the poem with, like, more questions, or more wonderings, right, like, so many of my poems are just, just sort of like, you know, I think about a poem where my son is asking me about death, you know, and, and there’s a version of that, that somebody might write an op ed about, or an essay about, or an academic article about where they sort of outline like, what are the best ways to talk to your children about like life? And it’s, and I’m, I’m not equipped to answer those questions. And for me, what the poem is, is a sort of exploration of the uncertainty of like, did I enter that the right way? I think I do my best in that moment. Like, I could have said this, but I could have said that, and I ended up saying this, and it felt clunky, and it felt, you know, and so the poem for me, is just that space with which to excavate and question and wonder. And then the poem ends, and you’re like, Well, I don’t, I don’t know. But this is it, but it captures, it captures the moment and you know, memoirs can be written in all sorts of different ways. And I’m sure that but for me, this felt like the medium through which I couldn’t most effectively just sort of reflect on on these parts of this journey.

Traci Thomas 18:01
Yeah, so I’ve read I’ve read above ground twice. Now. I read it in December when I first got it because it couldn’t wait. And then I read it yesterday, because I wanted to refresh. And one of the things that struck me on the second read that I completely missed on the first read, which, okay, this isn’t meant to be embarrassing when I tell you what it is, because you’re gonna be like, I started the collection there is this idea of all at once, which is the title of your first poem. And when I went into the collection, the first time, I knew that it was like, Clint poetry collection on parenting. So I went in thinking that, and when I went back and reread it yesterday, the first poem, details, all of these things going on, fires and family, and you know, diagnoses and all of these things. And that all at once, miss, for me now, that’s the center of this collection. Like, it doesn’t feel like a collection about parenting anymore. There are a lot of parts about parenting, but what it feels like is a collection about all of the things that were going on, since you started since you became a parent. And for you, that looks like you know, the passing of your grandmother. It looks like you know, global events that have happened it looks like your your wife’s complications with her pregnancy, it looks like a swing, an ode to a swing, or a bear hug. It looks like grocery shopping. It looks like you know one of my favorite poems, or one of the poems that I think is like really interesting is there’s a poem about people congratulating you on being super dad and you being like, yes, yes, I am super dad, but also my wife does these things every day. And and that really changed the collection for me because I feel like in my mind, maybe because this is something I’m pushing against. Personally, I feel like parenting is like a small part of a lot of things. And it’s not often contextualized in the bigger part of a lot of things right? Like it’s like people ask me like, oh, what’s it like to be a twin mom and I’m like, like, can’t really take change that take that out of what it’s like to have survived this pandemic so far, and to have become a parent at the beginning to have been pregnant and had children right before this happened. And so, I don’t know, there’s not really a question there. But I would love for you to talk about this idea of all at once. And let me know if I am onto the right track at all.

Clint Smith 20:22
No, no. I mean, there’s a reason that the book began that way. And I love you saying that, because I think it’s also just a reminder of, you know, and we’re having this sort of meta conversation about art now. But like, I think that’s what happens with all kinds of art.

Traci Thomas 20:37
And like, especially with books for me, it’s also like to have been told what it was about, like, from marketing verses to I, once I read it, I knew what it was about. And then when I reread it, I was able to be like, Oh, this is a book about parenting. And then the first thing I see I’m like, this isn’t a book about parenting. I was lied to.

Clint Smith 20:56
Yeah, I mean, and I think your point about like, when people ask you about what it’s like to be a twin mom, and you’re like, Well, I can’t answer that outside the context of XYZ. Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, to the extent that this is a book about parenting is because parenting animates every part of my life now, right? So so everything that I experienced in the world, is animated by either in the foreground being a father or in the background, being a father, right? It is. And that’s present in how the word is passed to right, like, part of what changed the way I wrote and thought about that project was that as soon as I started the project, my son came into the world. And so even the things around like, family separation, like when whenever I thought about the spectacle, the sort of cruelty of slavery, I largely thought about it through the context of the spectacle of physical brutality, that black people and that enslaved people were the beatings and the whippings. And the torture and, and obviously, that’s a huge part of it. But it wasn’t until it became apparent that like family separation came into the foreground and my consciousness where I was like, Oh, this, you know, and I had you have one form about this in, in the collection. But just thinking about, what would it mean, if you went to sleep at night, you know, I remember standing in the windy plantation thinking in one of the original slave cabins, looking at the bed, where enslaved people, you know, a version of weddings, they were enslaved people want slept. And just imagining, like, what it would be like if I went to sleep one night, put my kids to bed, and I woke up the next day, and my children were gone, right, and I had no idea where they went, no idea would taken them, I had no idea if I will ever see them again, it’s sort of unfathomable type of cruelty, a type of horror. And then you realize that this is the omnipresent threat, that millions of enslaved people lived under every single day of their lives, that at any moment, you could be taken away from your husband, your wife, your brother, your sister, your children, your parent, you know, for no reason at all. And, and so that shows up in my previous book in ways that are sometimes more subtle, but it’s because of becoming a parent that the emotional stakes, and the emotional texture of my understanding of those moments has been changed because I have a different level of empathy as a result of my own parenting. And so in this book, it is all that is the sort of central animating feature is the sort of both endedness the all at once SNESs. Of, of what it means to be human in this moment, like, and for me, that is what it means to hold these moments of watching my child have their first hiccup, or watching the you know, or my family show up for their first birthday party, or watching, you know, as they discover a ladybug for the first time or a cicada for the first time, and the first time we go to a beach or that all of these moments are shared these interpersonal granular moments of, of profound joy, amid a backdrop of what often feels like global catastrophe, right, you know, climate change and, and war and violence, both domestically and across the world in. And this is a theme that I think shows up in, in all of my work, because it’s something I’m I will probably wrestle with, across you know, all of my books until I’m gone. But, but it is that sort of both and right like collect the counting descent, ostensibly, is a book that mostly about like coming of age, as a young black man, black child, and thinking of what that means in the midst of the black sort of emerging Black Lives Matter movement. But what’s true, and what shows up in that book is Like, we all are watching black people killed at the hands of police incessantly felt like you know, for years. And at that same time, I was falling in love with the woman who would become my wife. Right. And that like those two things happen alongside one another because because the human experience is not neatly bifurcated into like you only experience tragedy here and you only experience love and levity. Here, it’s, it’s that you, they are all happening simultaneously. And you are figuring out what it means to, to carry all of that in your body and your spirit together. And so this book is, is thinking about, you know, losing my grandmother, or losing my grandfather, while my child is coming into the world, or thinking about the parts of parenting that are, you know, there’s so many parts that are amazing, and joyous, and jubilant. And there are a lot of parts of it that are really hard, and really exhausting. And really humbling. Yeah, and it just, and I didn’t want to write a book that is like, wow, like parenting. It’s amazing. It’s only great. It’s only it is wonderful. And it’s the most challenging, humbling thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I just, I guess my whole thing that you’ve kind of touched on is, is we don’t have to write into spaces or talk about things in ways that pretend as if the other parts of any given experience don’t exist.

Traci Thomas 26:29
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s what makes this collection really great is like, the post, like the juxtaposition of poems, you know, an ode to a bear hug, you know, followed by a poem about, you know, grief or something like, because it just feels really, it feels like life, right, like hearing you talking about, like taking your kid to the beach or their summer or whatever, next to these other things, making me think about January 6, my kids were just started, you know, they were like, not just sort of, but they were they were walking. They were, you know, we were going to the park a lot. And I remember after naptime, I was getting ready to take them to the park. And I like texted my brother. And he was like a picture of my kids. He’s like, are you not watching the TV right now? And I was like, No, I’m about to take the boys to the park. They just woke up from there. They’re not. And he’s like, No, you need to turn on the TV. And then we didn’t go to the park that day, which was like a huge, you know, change in our schedule. Because at this time, because of COVID weed, I didn’t have help. So I was like, very regimented all this stuff. And like, it always sticks in my head that the way I found out about January 6 was because it was a canceled trip to the park, which made such a big deal to me. And on the flip side, I was at the park when the verdict came out for the George Floyd, you know, that whole situation. And I remember being like, because I’m in LA and LA is notorious for a bazillion helicopters. And there were all these helicopters flying over the park. And it was making me so anxious. Like, and I was like waiting on my phone and I kept texting my husband being like, I just want to go home. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be outside. I don’t want to be around these people like I don’t like and I was like freaking out. But of course I’m like in the park like pushing my kid on the swings on the outside. I looked fine. But I’m like feverishly texting my husband. And thinking about like the world falling apart while also like being a mom and like, I don’t want to stress my kids out because it really just is a Tuesday at the park. But no, yeah. So

Clint Smith 28:29
like, that’s, that’s what, that’s what it is. And I think that that’s what it is for the rest of our lives as parents right like it you it is that simultaneity. It is that juxtaposition, it is that sense of, and it’s that this sort of weird feeling of, and I don’t know how you know how you experienced, but sometimes I have these moments, where, you know, something like that is happening in the world, or like Russia just invaded Ukraine, you just heard the story in the morning about, you know, like, the Ukrainian children who were abducted by or the children in Afghanistan who don’t have any food to eat, or the kids in Detroit, who you know, don’t have what whatever the case may be, and you’re like, feeding your kids materials or like pushing him in the swing or your you know, it’s even the sort of It’s a sort of cognitive dissonance almost that you but it kind of cognitive dissonance that you just don’t want to say learn to live with because that feels like a reductive but, but it is again that sort of what it means to hold. Sometimes interpersonal moments of joy or wonder or levity or appreciation or gratitude amid either on a geopolitical scale or within your own family. Right because it’s not always the case that like you have to look abroad for this sort of thing. Sometimes it’s like, you and your partner are in a fight. You know, are you in Europe? If your mom just got Dioscuri diagnosis from the doctor or your know, you know, somebody your can’t find your cousin and they don’t know where he, you know, it’s just this and you got to, at the same time, like get on the ground and pretend to be a Brockie source, right? Because like it’s, it’s how- And yeah, I’m just so interested in, in that, right and in the, and that’s why I don’t know that I don’t know how to write about that. In like a memoir, narrative nonfiction context again, that’s not to say people write beautiful books, nonfiction projects about parenting that aren’t like, quote, unquote, parenting books like how to do this or how to do that, but, but for me, poems feel like the most natural way to simply wrestle with Yeah, with those sorts of things.

Traci Thomas 30:58
Yeah. Okay. Everybody, don’t freak out. We have to kind of transition this conversation. However, Clint will be back at the end of the month to discuss poetry because it is April, which is Poetry Month, and we will be talking a lot more and I have some more questions about your collection specifically. And also, we’re talking about catalogue of unabashed gratitude by Ross gay. So there will be more poetry conversations, but we do have to transition to clinch reading life because I have questions. So we’re going to take a quick break, and then we’ll be right back. Okay, we’re back. I didn’t prep you for this. But every month we do an ask the stats where someone writes in and we have to give them book recommendations. Okay, this one, I think this didn’t happen on our last one. No, because you didn’t do the two part. Only people who do the two part guests do this. Yeah. Last time, we talked just about how the word is passed. This summer, we’re talking about Clint too. Normally, we start these with, like, tell me about yourself, but we sort of just dove in and I don’t know, maybe we’ll do that in a minute. But um, so Amy wrote in this just came in last night. And I thought this was a good one for you. So we’ll see. Amy said, I’m looking for a book about dealing with terminally ill loved ones. I really enjoyed Rob Delaney is book and I really appreciated your episode with Marisa Renee Lee. But I realized most of these books are about loss or after loss. And I’m wondering if you or your guests have any recommendations for carrying or coping. I do prefer nonfiction. But I’m open to fiction as well. Some context, I lost a parent to cancer when I was young, and I have a friend whose dad is currently receiving treatment. And so she asked me for rats, and I realized all I could think of were ones after someone died. And I don’t think that’s great. When you’re hoping your loved one will pull through something. So first of all, Amy, very sorry to hear about your friend’s dad and your your experiences. And this is sort of tricky. So I don’t know if you have one or two. I wrote down a handful. I can go first or you can go First you tell me.

Clint Smith 32:51
Yeah, it’s I appreciate them reaching out with that question. I actually just finished a book that I really appreciated by the poet and writer I like to say poet and writer because I hate when people do that. Because it’s like as if poets not a not a writer, poet, essayist, or poet, nonfiction writer, Meghan O’Rourke wrote a book, The invisible kingdom. I think it was a National Book Award finalist last year. And it is adjacent to, I think what is being asked, but I think there’s a lot of overlap. It is about Meghan’s experience living with chronic illness. And I have people in my life who are also living with chronic illness and are living with conditions that aren’t easily diagnoseable. And I’ve seen and witnessed firsthand the, the sort of grief one experiences living with something that doesn’t have a name, having symptoms that won’t go away. And the it is an illness that depending on the nature of the chronic illness that is killing you at various speeds, right, like in, so to speak, but but I’ve also seen the way the sort of emotional toll that it takes on people and how difficult it is to, to live with. And, you know, part of what she writes about also is what it’s like for her family, to the experience of her husband, the experience of her parents and how she is both navigating the grief within her but what it is like for these people around her to feel so helpless, because you want to see this person you love suffering and you want to help them, but you don’t. But you don’t know how the doctors don’t even know how and so it was very helpful, because it gave me a lot of language. It gave me a lot of insight into the specific experience of a person who, you know, I think she’s been living with a chronic illness As for for decades. So it’s not quite about grief where people dying in a literal sense, but it is about, you know, this woman is sort of mourning the life that she thought she would have when and then realizing that she’s going to have to recalibrate her. Her expectations about what her own life and her conception of her own health will will be.

Traci Thomas 35:30
Yeah, I read that it was good. You said way more than you just read it. Okay, so I have a few different options for you, Amy. And some of them do end in death, and some of them do not. The first kind of category I have is what I call a cancer or death memoir. We’ve done a few on the podcast. So the unwinding of the miracle by Julie Williams, it’s her memoir, she does die at the end of the book. It’s not a spoiler, it’s common knowledge, which we did do an episode on that. And then the other one we did was the Undying, which won the Pulitzer. And it’s this woman who gets breast cancer, and she sort of like talks about her experiences, and also the medical community and all of these things. And then the third one that fits in this category would be When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Colombini, which is very well known. Again, he’s a young doctor who gets cancer has to drop out. And he also ends up dying. So two of those people do die, one of those people don’t, but those are all sort of in the same, you know, first person cancer memoir, the other one I would suggest, is called my own country by Abraham brigades. And, and I love him, he wrote that book cutting for stone as well. And he is a doctor, and he, at the beginning of his medical career, he ends up in Tennessee, rural Tennessee in the early 1980s. And he’s an infectious disease specialist. And so he is treating people for HIV and AIDS at the beginning of the crisis, when a lot of people either are treating people in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, or are not treating people at all. And he talks about kind of being with people who are sick, and who are dying, and what that experience is like for him. It’s sort it’s not exactly what you’ve asked for. But I do think that it speaks to sort of this being present among the ill, and among the people who are dying. And then the last one is Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, another doctor. And he writes sort of about the end of life care system. So this one’s like, it’s got some, you know, narrative nonfiction vibes to it, but it’s a little bit more nonfiction II than the other ones. It’s definitely not a memoir, but he’s talking about terminal illness and how we deal with that, as individuals and as communities. So sort of a lot of recommendations, because I don’t know that anything’s exactly what you’re at what you’ve asked for. But I think they’re all really good recommendations. I just want to add one more thing. I don’t have a specific book recommendation, but I just I’ll share a personal story, when my father was ill. And he, you know, he was ill for a long time. And then he went into hospice care. And a family friend gave us gave me this like little paperback book that was like, how to say goodbye to your loved ones, like it was like, sort of like a end of life, how to type book, maybe 50, maybe 100 pages. And I don’t remember the name, but it was very helpful. And they I think, you know, especially in this space, where it’s like, we’re a literary podcast, and we want like, great writing, and all of these things. This book is not necessarily that, but it was really helpful to think about how the end of life will be and potentially feel and what it might look like. And so, I don’t know, you know, you said not your friend is not quite there yet. But it might be something to get for her, if it does end up that way. Because it’s sort of a book that I would never have purchased for myself. And I read it in, you know, one sitting or whatever. And, you know, it’s not great, but I read it, and I obviously don’t remember the title. I’ll try to find it. If I can find it. I’ll link it in the show notes. But that’s another kind of book that might be helpful. That’s maybe not like a super compelling read, but might be like a useful read. Amy, if you read it, you have to tell us any of these books. Tell us what you think. And anyone who wants a book recommendation email, ask the stacks at the stacks. podcast.com. Okay, Clint, we’re transitioning to your reading life. And since we didn’t do this at the beginning, will you just tell people a little bit about yourself and maybe like a little bit about your relationship to books like when you remember first like getting into reading or or whatever that means to you?

Clint Smith 39:39
Yeah, I you know, it’s interesting. I don’t know if I told this story on the first podcast, but I always remember in third grade, were my teacher, Miss Bueller. She had us write poems about colors. And I wrote about color grading. I don’t know why I was strange and solid child. But I remember how the phone goes, it was a version of I hate the color gray. It reminds me of a rainy day. Gray, I really hate that color. It’s annoying, like my little brother. I remember she came over to me. And she, she looked at the poem on the desk in front of me. She put her hand on my shoulder, and she said, Clint, that was beautiful. You can be a writer when you grow up. Oh, for all I know, she could have said that to every single kid in the class. Fraulein No, she could have like said that out loud. And in her head be like, Man, I need to tell, like recommend this kid, mental health. You know, like he’s going through a dark period or something. But I remembered that moment for the rest of my life. And it’s in that’s not to say that, like, I’m creating a neat, linear causal relationship or line between the moment in third grade where Mr. Mueller said this and then, you know, me being a writer today but but i She’s still alive. She’s still alive. She came to my recital reading in New Orleans. Maybe a year or two, sometime in the how the word is passed to her. But she came is the first time I saw her in decades. And and it was so wonderful. Right?

Traci Thomas 41:20
And I tell that story. Did you have your Adele moment?

Clint Smith 41:22
I think she, I think she heard it on because I think I’ve told that story a couple of times on the radio programs. And I remember she, it’s it’s it’s funny, because I’ve been a teacher. And I’ve said things to kids that I have met very earnestly, but I don’t mean I don’t remember at all right. And she’s just like, that I’m so it’s so wonderful that you remember that. I mean, so much. I’m pretty sure she did not remember saying that. But, but she found it really meaningful that I did. And it was wonderful. We took a picture together. And that was very sweet. So I guess I just say that because like reading and writing, have I’ve been instilled both from my teachers and from my family, with this sense that like this was that writing was something that I was capable of. There was always this belief that was instilled in me that like, this is something that if you want you can do at various points in my life, I was like, Oh, that’s cool. That’s cute, but like, I’m gonna be a professional soccer player. So I have no need for this information. Like I’m gonna, I’m gonna play for Arsenal and live in London. It’s gonna be great. It didn’t work out like that. And here we are. But I should say for all those on podcasts who don’t know that my team is currently above Tracy’s team. Barely in the by five points. There’s what 12 games left in the season. I’m not going to turn this into a why Arsenal are better than Manchester City podcast. So why would-

Traci Thomas 42:46
You took our entire team and our coach so sorry that you’re just trying to COP? Yes, I don’t know. I just feel like it’s like get your own identity, right?

Clint Smith 42:54
Like, the student becomes the master sort of thing. So, so we’re gonna win the Premier League titles can be great. Anyway, I thought I would be a part of that. I’m not a part of that. I mean, a mere writer. But but because of that writing and reading have always been very intertwined. Right? Like it was, I always was told that if you want to be a better writer, you need to read more. And I really, it was just always put on my like, my mom always brought us to the library in New Orleans. I was very big on the summer reading contest. Oh my gosh, like, and maybe this is the thing a lot of writers tell you. But like I was, I was very, very intuitive. Because I was so motivated to win that personal pan pizza from Pizza. I was like, I want to, I don’t know, I can’t remember if you were allowed to get more than one. But I was like, I’m gonna get like seven pizzas, right? I’m gonna read 7000 pages and get seven pizzas. And it’s interesting. I mean, we don’t we probably don’t have time to get into this. But like, there is an interesting relationship for me between my life as a writer, and as a reader, and my like, a competition. It’s interesting. I’m like making these connections in real time on your podcast. So thanks for coming by my therapist.

Traci Thomas 44:16
Exclusively. You heard it here first people

Clint Smith 44:18
but it is interesting, right? Because like I was so motivated by the competition of the summer reading contest at the public library. When I realized when I was like 19 and had my sort of existential crisis of like, who because I got a fellowship to play soccer in college. I played at Davidson College, but I didn’t really play. And so this thing that had been the center of my identity, growing up like I was always Clintus soccer player. That’s what I was known as that was my social identity. That was my like identity. That was who I understood myself to be in the world. And suddenly I got to school I was playing at this D one school, which would have been my dream, and I wasn’t playing a lot. And so I was kind of trying to figure out like who I was off the field in a way that I had never had to before. And it was that summer, summer of 2008. When I was a, between my sophomore and junior year in college, I went to the new Rican poets cafe. And new Rican post cafe, for those who don’t know, is this poetry cafe on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, this legendary spot. I mean, so many of the writers you love and poets you love have, like, come from that space or grace that stage. Mo Brown was the longtime host and curator of the Friday night poetry slam. And I remember I went and this was when I was a sort of, like, disillusion English major, you know, we were reading Keats Yeats and Whitman and frost and all these folks who at the time, I had a difficult time accessing because it felt like that was the only way that poet I felt like I was being taught that that was the only way poetry could look. And I’ve stepped into this space where, you know, it’s full of black people and brown people and, you know, people speaking different languages and, and people in like, Biggie is playing on the, you know, on stereo, when people are drinking laugh, and I was like, this is a poetry show, like, what is this? And I will always remember, one of the first poems I ever heard was by a woman who had cerebral palsy. And she got on stage and did this poem. And in three minutes, the way I thought about an entire demographic of people completely changed, like I left that night, never thinking about disability the same way again. And I remember being like, I don’t know what this is, like, I don’t know what spoken word poetry is, but I want to do it. And I went back to Davidson, and like, you know, I was on soccer team. We showed it for preseason. My friends were playing FIFA, and I was like, Y’all, I think I’m gonna be a poet. And I turn around and be like a poet like white like blue your wack like shut up. And I started a poetry group at Davidson. And we kind of like kind of cosplay Dead Poets Society, we like got together in the main academic building on Sunday nights, and like, wrote poems and read poems and shared poems. And it was, but But part of what the connection making is that there was also a big slam poetry scene in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was just 20 minutes away from Davidson. And I was just so I would go to this thing, every time, they had a poetry slam, and I would enter the poetry slam, and I was trashed, and I was terrible. And I would lose in the first round. And, but there was something about the competitive framework of it, that tapped into the part of me that had been an athlete my whole life, that also tapped into the part of me that made me want to win the personal pan pizza from the public library, that served as an entry point into literature that allowed me to recalibrate my relationship to literature to then go back to Keats AND gates and Fosston women and access them and appreciate them in a different sort of way. Because it was like, Oh, I have a more expansive understanding of what literature can be. And now I can appreciate the the canon, so to speak for what it offers, and also critique it for what it doesn’t. But, but yeah, one thing that has been a sort of animating feature of my life is the way that competition or competitive infrastructure has facilitated my relationship to literature, in ways that are very clear to me. I don’t know if that’s to say that it’s like healthy or good necessarily, but competition is great. I’m there with you. But I know that that’s the tip. I know, that’s not the case for everybody.

Traci Thomas 48:29
And a lot of people in like the literary space don’t find the value in competition. And I mean, for me, it’s just like a personal motivating factor. Like I’m super competitive with myself, and I’m also privately competitive with other people but never publicly unless they deserve it. Which isn’t to say what happened one day right? I tried to keep it together. But I think there’s like a I think a lot of people who are in literary and Artspace has come to it from not necessarily from an athletic background first and so they don’t see the value in competition and I’m as you know, a big sports person and like that’s what motivates me competition just conditioning myself like how many boxes can I check on my To Do lists you know, like just like all that kind

Clint Smith 49:10
This is why we got to find each other on peloton so we can try to outdo each other.

Traci Thomas 49:15
I am competitive with people I know from the book space on peloton in a very creepy way like

Clint Smith 49:20
Is there a peloton Bookstagram community?

Traci Thomas 49:23
there I think I have one of the hashtags or something but like I like some authors because you can see that I have a peloton in the background. I like follow now like I shouldn’t name names. I’m going to name a name. So Justin Tinsley is on peloton and I follow him and I’ll purposely take classes he’s taken to try to like meet him.

Clint Smith 49:40
That’s so funny. I really like his Biggie biography.

Traci Thomas 49:44
Yeah I’m like, nice try Tins. But I sometimes beat him. Just FYI.

Clint Smith 49:49
I do want to say about the competitive piece that like, for me, I think it was very helpful as an entry point into literature. Right. It was helpful when I was A kid and it was helpful when I was experienced, I needed a thing that would serve as a bridge in for me coming from sports being the center of my life to now making books the center of my life. I do think that one of the things about, like in the literary space, so to speak, that competition can be like a really debilitating thing. And, and so my, my competitive instincts don’t exist in the same way. In, in the context of my current work, like I’m not a guy, I have no sense of desire to compete for, like prizes and stuff, like I like, certainly, I’m immensely grateful that, you know, if I’m nominated if I win, and, you know, I experienced some of that with how the word is passed. And it’s, it’s amazing, but it’s not, there’s no, like, I’m not out here being like, you know, who’s a person we both know, like, alright, David Dennis, I’m gonna get I’m gonna get that National Book Critics Circle Award. And you know, it’s not like that at all. Part of it is you realize that, like, so much of that is beyond your control, right? There’s so much that it has nothing to do with you. And if you if you use those external realities, and prizes, and bestseller lists, or all of that, to be the thing to be your metric for whether your book is successful or not, that’s not a healthy relationship to your work.

Traci Thomas 51:26
Yeah, no, I hear that. I’m competitive. And so I would be like, I’m gonna win a National Book Award. It wouldn’t necessarily be like, I need to be Clint, but it would be like this is but like, I’m also very goal oriented. So for me, it’s sort of one in the same. It’s like, okay, these are the things I want to check off my list. And like, I have a lot of lists where things are written down that I like to turn them off. Okay, we have to talk about your books. People are gonna be so mad. We’re not going to get to a lot of questions, but we’re gonna do our best two books. You love one book you hate.

Clint Smith 51:53
I’m just looking at what’s on my desk right now. I love from the the pod Petrograd and keeps empire of pain. I mean, Patrick Brennan keeps everything. I mean, he’s, we had lunch, when he came in town for his rogues tour. And, and he’s, you know, when you just certain people you meet, you’re like, you’re actually cooler than I thought you were because you’re like, am I going to be disappointed? This person’s writing so much to me? He’s just like, a coolest dude. Yeah. Cool. You know, just a good, good. Yeah. I mean, he’s, he’s among the best of the best in the history of narrative nonfiction. So anything by Patrick and Keith, but I’m looking at in power pain, right now. Another book, I love, Jubilee, hearing, interpret our maladies. Pulitzer Prize winning fiction collection. The characters in her book in the worlds she writes about have ostensibly nothing to do with me or my life. And yet, I feel so many parts of me feels so seen. And I think it really her work is such a beautiful example of the way that writing into granular experiences and specific experiences can have can carry these universal themes of loss and longing and transition. And it’s a yeah, she’s an incredible, incredible writer. And one that I hate man. You know, I really did not like, The Sun Also Rises. I’ve tried really hard. I love the old man in the sea. It’s very short. It’s like you could read it in one sitting. It’s kind of a novella. I thought that was very good. And I was like, Okay, I mean, wait. So this is after I watched the Ken Burns documentary, and I was like, this is a writer who’s central to the American candidate who I realized that like I’ve not really engaged with, and so I read all men in the scene, and I was like, Cool, cool. Like, I really enjoyed this book. And then I read The Sun Also Rises, which is one of his most critically acclaimed book. I was just like, this is not it. Like it just did not. Did not do it for me. So sorry, Ernest. Sorry, Ernest. It’s good fisherman. But try. It was yeah, it was it was. Some people love it. And that’s, again, like that’s, that’s literature that how it goes, but for me, it was I was very underwhelmed. It’s not often that I don’t finish a book. But I like got halfway through and I was like, I can’t keep going with this.

Traci Thomas 54:26
What are you reading right now?

Clint Smith 54:28
So couple things. I just finished the this time tomorrow by Emma Straub, who is a writer who’s big a big presence in the literary space because she owns stores in New York and I think because she seems like a very kind person. I don’t know that I’ve met her in person. I might have met her in person very briefly one time but didn’t know but I kept seeing her. Her work around and I read her latest novel and It was really great. One of the things that I enjoyed was the relationship between the daughter and father. It was it was rich, it was complex. It was nuanced. It’s about this, this woman, like travels back in time. But it’s a sort of meta time travel novel, cuz she’s aware that like, it’s sir that she’s traveling, but she was like, Wait, this is weird. Like, I’m not in Back to the Future, what’s going on? And so, but I thought it was really well done. I just read a novel by my friend, the poet cover Akbar, who just saw his novel took off, I think it’s gonna come out early 2024 called martyr extraordinary, just like, blew me away. It is. It is so so good. This now was gonna make a huge splash.

Traci Thomas 55:39
I can’t wait to add it to my 2024 list.

Clint Smith 55:41
There you go. My my friend and old advisor, Matthew Desmond,

Traci Thomas 55:48
he’s been reading that right now. Oh, man, poverty by America. I’m on chapter two.

Clint Smith 55:52
That is, it’s a different vibe. Totally different.

Traci Thomas 55:57
He’s not trying to win a Pulitzer Prize with this one.

Clint Smith 55:59
Yeah, it’s a different potential. But he is. He’s one of the most generous, thoughtful, rigorous, people like like when I think of the model academic, like I think of somebody like Matt, just, he’s such a good person, and is so earnest in his commitment to his work. And part of this book with this book is is a reflection of his commitment to rigorous analysis and engagement with like a big quote, like poverty, why do we have poverty in America? You know, and his commitment to excavating the answers to that, so that we might more effectively create policy so that we might more effectively build the sort of world in which there are not millions of people living in poverty. So it is, it’s cool to see a book that is an extension of someone’s sort of larger personal commitments. And this is very much one of those types of books.

Traci Thomas 56:59
Yeah. And I should say, I said, He’s not trying to win a Pulitzer with us. I mean, not in a, not in a complimentary or disparaging way. It’s just so different from evicted, evicted is like this, like narrative nonfiction, and like really weaving things. And so far, this book is much more like facts and figures, here’s what’s going on. Like, if we want to change it, this is what we need to do. And generally, those types of books aren’t like Pulitzer theory books is what I meant. But it’s really well done. And I’m super into it. I just didn’t want people to think I was shitting on him by being like, it’s not a Pulitzer. It’s just not the same. It’s not that kind of different people. Yeah, but it’s, it’s really good. What’s a book you’d like to recommend to people?

Clint Smith 57:37
Pachinko by Min, Jin Lee. Yeah, I think about it all the time. I always tell people, I’m the president of the Shinko fan club.

Traci Thomas 57:43
I don’t know you might have to fight Imani Perry on that she’s a huge fan of that book.

Clint Smith 57:47
Oh, man, you you have your fiction project tried to read it? For you.

Traci Thomas 57:51
I need to read it for the podcast because I need to know that someone’s going to talk to me about it at the end. Because it just it’s it was a little slow for me. I like got 100 pages in. And I was like, you know, I can’t do it on my own. I need I need help from your lifeline. Oh, I see your beautiful bookshelves behind you. How do you organize your books?

Clint Smith 58:12
Right now there’s no organization, it is welcome to my world. No, I also we recently moved into a new spot. And there’s no rhyme or reason to anything like what you see in this frame. There’s not all the books that are like around me on the floor. So there’s the I mean, I roughly have a nonfiction fiction and poetry section. So that is the extent of the organization. But it’s in my ideal world, it’s alphabetized. Because I do there are moments, I often want to look for a book, and then have no idea where it is. So I do want to create a more streamlined system, but I currently don’t have it at all right now. One thing I’m not a fan of, and

Traci Thomas 58:57
it’s me you don’t like color. I hear it. I hear it coming in. I don’t I literally can’t hear it. I color coordinate.

Clint Smith 59:02
I don’t understand.

Traci Thomas 59:06
I have a very visual memory. So I can remember a book. I oftentimes have no clue who wrote a book. Sometimes I don’t even know the title of the book. I just remember what the cover looks like. And I’m like, oh, I want it What was that book wasn’t that book about XY and Z. So for me if I can color code, it’s very easy for me to remember. And oftentimes, I can even remember when a book has a different color spine than the cover, which is the most fucked up thing that publishers do to people like me. I’m like, Oh, your books yellow but the spines green. What are you doing?

Clint Smith 59:37
Oh, man. Okay, that’s fair. That’s fair. I guess like for me sometimes it feels like I’m stepping into like the paint section of an Ace Hardware store and it just is not how I feel that’s and look, Ace is a very useful place. You get a lot of stuff there. But I will not be joining you In the color coded,

Traci Thomas 1:00:00
I love it here. We’re always accepting new people. But I’m over here. Yeah, no pressure. I know the answer to this question, but I’m going to ask it because I want to hear you shout them out. favorite bookstore.

Clint Smith 1:00:12
Loyalty books. My people, my people. Yeah. So out here in Maryland and Silver Spring, that’s as they run the show

Traci Thomas 1:00:20
are the best. Okay, this is our speed round. Last book that made you laugh.

Clint Smith 1:00:25
You know, it’s interesting. And we’re going to talk about his book, but Ross Gay’s inciting joy. And why it made me laugh out loud was because I listened to the audiobook, and there were parts of it, where Ross is laughing on the audiobook. And it’s just like, I started laughing, because Ross is laughing and you’re like, you must look like a silly like when you’re walking down the street. And like, Who is this party, maybe the people assume you’re on the phone, you different told a joke, but like, it was just very I hadn’t heard that in an audio book before. Like, usually that kind of thing is edited out. But he’s reading something, and he thinks it’s very funny. And then he starts laughing. And then you’re laughing because his laugh is so infectious. And so that was the last one that made me laugh.

Traci Thomas 1:01:03
What’s the last book that made you angry?

Clint Smith 1:01:07
This is going to be a sort of roundabout way. But a book that I love, love loves my friend and colleague, Ed Young, in a man’s world. And it’s such a fantastic book about the sort of senses broadly about the senses of other animals, and like how they experienced the world so differently than us because of their, the different senses they have, right? The different way they see the world the different way they hear the world, they taste the world, all of these. And I say it made me angry, because it just, I was already, you know, feeling anxiety, so many of us do about climate change, and all of the ways that our planet is changing so rapidly because of things that we are doing to it. But I think seeing how this book more than anything I’ve ever read, made me more fully appreciate the world around me and like the animals around me the natural world around me in a way that I never had. And I’m somebody who like loves animal documentaries, like I will watch nature documentary, like every day of the week if I could. But like it was like the feeling you get from watching the great David Attenborough documentary, but like, rendered with beautiful language. And that’s what I did. And and I was so it makes me angry to think that we are moving toward a world in which so many of these remarkable creatures no longer exist.

Traci Thomas 1:02:41
Okay, I’m just going to do two more. What’s the book you would assign to high school students? As I know you’re a teacher, not a high school teacher? Are you not know what size you are? But not anymore?

Clint Smith 1:02:51
Not anymore. I miss it every day. We already brought his name up. But I would really love to see David Dennis’s book assigned in high schools, I just, I’ve read a lot of civil rights books. And this one was one of the most intimate and most personal and I so appreciated, getting to see the civil rights movement, the impact that it had on people in ways that are not filled with glory, and also the impact that it had on those people’s children. Right. Like David, you know, and it just, that’s not always part of the story is what is sacrificed both from the individual but also from that individuals family in order to try to build a more and so I just, I keep telling David, I was like, this book. I had high expectations for David, but this is phenomenal. Yeah, it just was it was it was so so good. And I was so I’m so so proud to have like been in the same for those who don’t know me and David Dennis went to college together

Traci Thomas 1:03:55
with Steph Curry! Steph Curry, the light skinned trio.

Clint Smith 1:04:00
Oh, man. I Yes. I’m, I’m think I’m a little bit more brown. But, but yeah, we were all we were all there. You know, eaten, you know, our chicken parm and cafeteria. And But David, you know, we were literally we’re in the same poetry class in college and, and to see what’s happened with his career. I mean, he’s like this the ESPN guy now. It’s, it’s amazing.

Traci Thomas 1:04:29
Well, David, now that I know this about David, he’s gonna have to write us a poetry collection on parenting because he’s awesome. And you guys can compete. Oh my gosh, oh, we can host it on a bonus episode of the stacks that slam poetry competition between the Davidson boys. Okay, last one. If you could require the current president of the United States to read one book, what would it be?

Clint Smith 1:04:51
It’s interesting. This is going to be the Venn diagram of last time I was on the show because I think the one of the questions you asked me last time was if one person if you could have your book read by one person who had to beat and I said Frederick Douglass. And I remember just being like, I hope you think it’s good. But I would have Biden read Prophet freedom by David Blight, which is a biography of Frederick Douglass and one of the most extraordinary biographies I’ve ever read. And just it’s such a detailed treatment of one of the most important people in world history. And one of the people who has helped shape the landscape and the possibilities for this country in ways that few other Americans have. And so I was so glad that you know, David, David’s also a historian, without whom there would be no other word, his past, you know, there’s many historians who I’ve relied on for that project. But David’s work on public memory and history. And how all of that fits into this with a larger historiography of slavery is is second to none. And he’s just also just a good dude. Very generous. His book is extraordinary.

Traci Thomas 1:06:03
I love it. Just like last time when you were here, we went way over people. Don’t be mad. Just enjoy. You got bonus time with Clint Smith. Don’t write me a letter. I won’t read it. Clint and even more bonus time, Clint will be back on April 26 to discuss catalogue of unabashed gratitude by Ross gay for our poetry book club episode. Very excited, Clint, thank you so much for being here. It was a pleasure. Always fun. And everyone else we will see you in the Sox.

Alright, y’all, that does it for us today. Thank you so much for listening. And thank you again to Clint Smith for being our guest. He’ll be back on April 26. For our book club discussion of Ross gays 2015 poetry collection catalog of unabashed gratitude. I also want to say a quick thank you to lean a little for helping to make this conversation possible. If you love the show and you want inside access to it, head to patreon.com/the stacks and join the snacks pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to the stacks wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you’re listening through Apple podcasts, be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from the snacks follow us on social media at the Stax pod on Instagram at the stocks pod underscore on Twitter and check out our website the stocks podcast.com This episode of this acts was edited by Christian Duenas with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. Our graphic designer is Robin MacWrite. The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas

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