Podcaster and Stacks friend Sam Sanders returns to discuss You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi. We wonder whether it qualifies under the rules of romance novels, and what makes the book feel like monoculture. We also discuss how the story feels like real life because it mirrors the messiness of actual love stories, and we brainstorm who we would cast in the movie. (There are spoilers on today’s episode.)
Be sure to listen to the end of today’s episode to find out what our book club pick will be for September 2023.
*Due to the nature of podcast advertising, these timestamps are not 100% accurate and will vary.
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 it is the Stacks book club day. My friend and fellow podcaster Sam Sanders is back. We’re going to discuss You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi. It is a messy love story about second chances and grief. And today, Sam and I talk about the rules of the romance novel, whether or not this book is actually a romance novel, who we were rooting for the mess of it all and so much more. And yes, there are spoilers in today’s episode, make sure you listen through to the end of the episode to hear what our September book club pick will be. Quick reminder, everything we talked about on each episode of the stacks can be found in the link in the show notes. If you want more of the stacks, you got to join the stacks pack. It is only $5 a month. And if you join you have access to our monthly virtual book club hangs the stacks pack discord channel, and a monthly stacks bonus episode. Plus you get to rest easy knowing that your support makes the stacks possible. So if you like this podcast, join the firstname.lastname@example.org slash the stacks. Shout out to some of our newest members of the stacks pack. Justin Castillo Tony healed. Leah kappa Lucci Carolyn rasp Marianne diamond and Kira DeLonge thank you all so much for joining the stacks pack and thank you to the entire stacks pack for being your wonderful selves. Okay, now it’s time for my conversation with lots and lots of spoilers with Sam Sanders about You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty.
All right, everybody, it is the Stacks book club day I am joined again by friend of the podcast fantastic podcast journalist, cultural critic human being Sam Sanders. Welcome back, Sam.
Sam Sanders 2:07
Thank you for having me. I am right now just like envious of the bookshelf that is on the screen behind you. Because I have a lot of books and I have some bookshelf space but there’s just a large corner of my living room. That right now is just piles of books and I tell myself it’s cute but it’s not.
Traci Thomas 2:26
It’s I lived that life for for three years. So I finally got bookshelves this year so I feel very proud. But thank you thank you. They’re from IKEA. Don’t worry.
Sam Sanders 2:38
Are we going to IKEA together gonna get bookshelf soon?
Traci Thomas 2:41
I need I need more bookshelves that you need to hang some anyways. Okay we are already on a fucking tangent, Sam. Okay, everybody today for book club we are discussing you made a fool of death with your beauty by Akwaeke Emezi, which is a 2022 romance novel. And there will be spoilers today, people. So if you haven’t listened, if you haven’t read the book, or listened to the book or whatever. Don’t blame us when we tell you what happens because we’re going deep. Let me give folks a quick primer. If you haven’t read the book, or you don’t quite remember, it’s about fate, who is a black woman living in Brooklyn who has suffered a terrible trauma when her husband and love of her life is killed in a car accident that they’re in together. About five years before the book starts. The book is sort of the beginning of her getting back into the dating scene. And then she meets a guy in the seer who takes her on vacation to his family’s home. In an unnamed Island. She meets the father, there are sparks. And here we are. Okay, we always start here. What did you think generally of the book?
Sam Sanders 3:52
My first thought was, why aren’t I reading more romance novels? This is so fun. It’s just a thing that like hasn’t been part of my book intake for a while, you know, it’s probably the way that America teaches us what men should read and what women should read, et cetera. But I was reading it the whole time. And I was just like, oh, all I want in my life before I go to bed right now is a really fun romance novel. And this was that. I know that I liked it. I know that parts of it felt cheesy, but I thought that was the point. I know that parts of the plot didn’t make sense. But also, that was the point. And so if I’m just looking at this book in terms of like, what was my visceral experience in general, it was just quite fun. It was quite fun.
Traci Thomas 4:41
I am totally with you. I went into this book being like, I don’t really like romance. I’ve read a few romance novels that I’ve liked. But I’m a pretty, like, pragmatic and like, I’m not into a lot of feelings stuff. I don’t like love in that way. Yeah. And I’ve talked about How I especially don’t like romance novels, because I’m a very slow reader. And because romance novels always end with happiness, I’m always like, ahead of the book in a way that if I could, like, I’ll watch a rom com movie because it’s only like an hour and a half or two hours, but spending like six or eight hours with something where I know where they’re gonna end up together anyway. Yes, yeah, that’s really hard for me. But I liked this book, because I actually didn’t exactly know where it was going. I mean, I knew where it was going. But I wasn’t sure how it was all going to play out. So I liked that. And I thought it was a fun ride. And I loved the mess of it. And I loved the main character. And like, it had such good writing. I just had a great time. There are deaf I have notes also. But like, Yeah, but like I overall, this was a yes, for me. Yeah. Are you familiar with the rules of the romance novel?
Sam Sanders 5:50
I’m guessing it always has to end with some kind of happy ending. I’m guessing there always has to be some kind of like, wait until there’s like the physical release of them having sex for the first time. Okay. And at some point, you have to assume that their love is gonna fall apart. But no, I’m guessing, but I don’t know what else.
Traci Thomas 6:12
So there’s only two rules one is happily ever after, or happy for now. Basically, the book ends on a happy note, you know, maybe they don’t get married, but like, yeah, the book ends with them together. And then the other one is even more obvious, which is there has to be a central love story. Yeah. And those are the two rules of romance. They’re very broad. I think I think happy happy ever after is pretty narrow. But I think the central love story is pretty broad. I don’t know if you know this about this book, but this book cause a lot of countries controversy. In the romance girl it because a lot of romance. People don’t think that this book is a romance novel.
Sam Sanders 6:53
I would love to read from page 134. For them. It is a romance novel, please read. And this wasn’t what I liked it to be like, Oh, this is what I’ve been missing. Like I remember as a kid, my mother read a bunch of romance novels like Danielle Steel. And I would like sneak and like read a page or two and I was like, This is crazy. But in my adulthood, I’m like, No, this is it. This is it. And there was one exchange that really made me like see when this kind of genre can like be at its best she does it and I want to find it give me one second. This is before they hook up when there’s some sexual tension over a can of mangoes. Literally a can of mangoes, so many mangoes. I live alum, how do you say it?
Traci Thomas 7:41
I live? I’ve been saying Aleem.
Sam Sanders 7:44
Aleem was liquid in that space totally at ease. And I have rickets and cloth slung over his shoulder. He walked over to a large refrigerator his body reflecting warped on its surface, then pulled out a metal canister frosted with cold shaking it before depressing his lover. A thick foam spread it out deep and Orn splashing against the rim of the metal bowl on the counter. As Aleem studied the flow fire a smelled mango sharp and sweet and tangy in the air. He put down the canister and tilted the bowl, then scooped some foam dripping off the rim with two fingers and held it out for her a taste. His eyes still on the bowl as he tipped it back and forth with his other hand gauging the consistency. They’ve made a sexing out of a can of mangoes. How was that? Peak may never be the same.
Traci Thomas 8:43
So listen, I’m with you. I think this is a romance. I think there’s a conversation to be had with people who are much more entrenched in the romance community than you and I guess about, like what makes romance but my experience of having publicly read this book and engaging with other readers, both romance readers and not is that the controversy around whether this is a romance novel or not comes from the idea that she doesn’t meet the central love interest until page 75 or something. And so what’s wrong with that? Well, therefore it’s contemporary fiction. It’s a story about a woman looking for love. But it’s not necessarily a romance novel because the love story isn’t Central.
Sam Sanders 9:24
I disagree. That love story is very central. I think part
Traci Thomas 9:27
of their love story is all the stuff that comes before I think part of the love story is like she hooks up with Milan then she meets misir And then this year takes her to the island and then she meets Aleem, and the moment she sees him it is odd. Yeah, we are headed to mango phone people. Yeah, we’re on the road. And Lacey bras on a hike.
Sam Sanders 9:47
There you go. I guess for me, it’s like if the plot of the book feels rom commie enough for me, it’s a romance book, but I have a lower standard I guess Yeah,
Traci Thomas 10:00
yeah, we have a lower standard, but I also am just like, I think there is like some gatekeeping in the romance community about, like, what is and isn’t. And I think like also because a quick MSC is a literary fiction writer as well.
Sam Sanders 10:13
And you know, they’re very prolific as well. Yeah,
Traci Thomas 10:16
I mean, I think that that’s part of it is that people feel a type of way, when authors who are not proclaimed romance authors try to write romance like that there’s some protection around that and maybe like some hyper criticism, because also, you know, when I’m as he does write books, they’re beloved books, and they got a lot of attention. And I think that like romance readers and romance authors are used to being shit on in the industry, like what you were talking about earlier. It’s like a women genre. It’s just love stories. It’s always you know, so I think there’s some protection over like, when someone from the outside tries to do it, that is like, are they doing justice? Or are they just trying to get a bunch of romance readers? You know, I think there’s like all sorts of nuanced crossover into genre fiction,
Sam Sanders 11:04
which is, which makes me think a lot of like, the debate over whether lil NAS X’s song Old Town road was actually country you’re not. It’s like, we can have that conversation is a country not. But if you’re invested in the success of country music, you’re just happy. It’s a hit. Yeah, hit right. And so like, for me, it’s like, did this book make readers happy? Was it popular? Could it possibly get more readers into romance books? Yes. Then a Okay. A okay. Yeah,
Traci Thomas 11:35
that’s how I feel. That’s how I felt like I’ll read more romance because I like this. Okay, let’s dig in to some of the book. So for me, I was like, I know I like this book, because the first scene is a hot and sexy sexy and I hate slowburn in the
Sam Sanders 11:53
Traci Thomas 11:55
fucking rod. Party. I’m just like, let’s fucking
Sam Sanders 12:00
Traci Thomas 12:02
But then we had to wait. hundreds of pages for more sex.
Sam Sanders 12:08
Yeah, this was my biggest critique. The main character, ruins a family gets enraged as a potential suitor all before she’s fucked to the guy. She hasn’t even had sex with the guy.
Traci Thomas 12:24
It’s big bachelor energy because on The Bachelor, it’s like, I love you so much. I’m like you’ve never even seen me made. Yes. Like yes. Yeah. Like you’ve never like we’ve never talked about our credit scores. We’ve never like, like, you know, nothing about me. Except for that. Like maybe I had a troubled past or something. But like, you’re willing to throw it all away. Go on national TV. Yes, your love get dumped, like all this shit for a fucking stranger. That part for me is always the hard part with romance. I’m just supposed to believe you see this person and you love them. I will believe you see this person and you want to fuck them? Like, they will believe that. I am with you on that. Yeah. So when it starts to be like, I’m willing to give
Sam Sanders 13:07
up my whole way. And we met yesterday. And we haven’t even done relationship yet. I’m sorry. Right?
Traci Thomas 13:13
Like I’ve licked foam off your finger. Which like is kinky? Yes. I don’t know that. It’s like, I think it’s interesting because I feel like Aleem the dad, he’s really the one who is has the most to lose in the story. Yeah. Yeah. Like, and he’s the one who was kind of pushing for it. Who’s pushing for it? But he’s the one who blows up the family. It’s not her. No, because she’s like,
Sam Sanders 13:44
prepared to be like, I understand this is kind of fucked up. And he’s like, no, no, no, no, no. And this is what this gets to one of my larger critiques, and it didn’t cloud my enjoyment of the book, it was still enjoyable to read. But as soon as you start to try to really, really, really get into all of these main characters motivations, the motivations make no sense, no sense. So like this father, character Alene. We also find out over the course of the book, and spoiler alert, he is queer. And at one point in his life, he had tried to introduce a male suture to the family, and they shut it down. And he wasn’t allowed to live that part of his life, because he’s
Traci Thomas 14:25
a very famous chef from this Caribbean island. Yes. And the his kids were worried that it would ruin his career and also ruin the family image. And it would be they would be the talk of the town and they didn’t want that for him or for them.
Sam Sanders 14:44
Exactly. And so to have this character, who didn’t follow love, just for career considerations, to then choose to follow love in a way that blows up his family. It feels out of character. We From the Aleem that we know, he seems to be someone who does what he needs to do to keep his family and his career together. But making this choice in the book is the opposite of that. I’m confused.
Traci Thomas 15:12
Yeah. And he says it’s because he did what everybody else wanted before. And he’s been lonely and unhappy. I don’t know. I don’t know. Because I I feel like what the kids did was really fucked up. Right, like being like, you can’t be with this person. But we’re saying that ostensibly because we want to protect your fear your ass. Yeah,
Sam Sanders 15:40
we live in your houses you pay for us to live like, yeah.
Traci Thomas 15:44
And it’s like, you know, the kids are just homophobic. Right? Yeah, like, I think it’s like, they’re, it’s the thing of like, oh, you know, we don’t we don’t care that you’re gay. We just don’t want other people to know, because your career is doing really well. And like, I hate that for everyone. Yeah, but I do think that there is a kind of person who feels that way of like, I have been doing everything in my life for these kids. Since their mother died. They have been my whole life. Every decision I’ve made, I’ve put them first. And now I want to put myself first. So I do sort of, I can see that. But also it also
Sam Sanders 16:23
cheerleading himself first. Yeah.
Traci Thomas 16:28
Is it’s not just I’m putting myself first I’m actually saying this car. Fuck you. Yeah. Like, I don’t give a fuck about at all anymore.
Sam Sanders 16:37
Everything. The hard part, everything about the way he’s presented as a father makes him seem like the most caring father. Right? And so if he were to have a relationship where he fully gives his heart his heart to, he’s not going to try to find a person who is not his son’s love interest. He’s not going to like that was just like, I thought this guy loves kids.
Traci Thomas 16:59
Yeah, it’s a little bit aggressively. Like, I’m doing the opposite of what I’ve done. Every single degree. Yeah. I also think like, even just the fact that like, he, I think another version of this character, which is a way less interesting book is that when he starts to have feelings for Fe, he immediately goes to this year and says, Hey, or they all sit you know, like that. There’s a way that it doesn’t fall out that the gardener is like talking like gossiping, like fucking some hot blonde.
Sam Sanders 17:31
always love it when that trip comes out of the bag. The nosy gardener?
Traci Thomas 17:37
Yes. The nosy domestic worker. Just like Yes. Yeah. Is it a maid? Is it a chef? Is it a gardener? Like, yeah, we are watching. And we are waiting for the fallout like in the like in the movies where you see the like, maid lean back behind the doorway. I’d like peek at an affairs. She’s gonna blow.
Sam Sanders 17:59
Yeah. I want to know what you thought about the confrontation between fi and the seer. Where we’re basically told through all the context clues in this book, to take her side. It felt weird.
Traci Thomas 18:17
So he like when he comes to her after he finds out from the gardener. Yes, what has happened and he’s physically violent. Grabbing all her clothes, calling her all sorts of names. That that scene
Sam Sanders 18:31
well, and then also later on, when they interact again, at one point, she’s like, Kleiner at his face. Where was that happened? When the gallery EBO like she’s like scratching his face and like, gallery gallery gallery.
I found many times the book was asking me to take her side when clearly she was approaching something of a homewrecker bike. And what worlds? Do you say anything besides? I’m very sorry. This family has boosted your art career. Let you be on an island vacation for weeks. And you and you’re about to sleep with the dad after the sun. Obviously wants you once you get caught. Don’t you just say yeah, my bed and go home. She stays at the house. Yeah. And then scratches the sear in the face. I don’t understand that.
Traci Thomas 19:29
Okay, so I have a slightly different read. Okay, the first confrontation okay. Where he finds out he comes to the house. He’s calling her names, whatever. I, from the beginning felt weird about next year because the first kind of scene where they’re alone together. Do you remember they’re on the rooftop and he’s like touching her and he’s like, Hey, you want to like, yeah, keep going or whatever. And she’s like, No, what
Sam Sanders 19:57
the fuck are you doing? Because this year has just seen her with Milan happy
Traci Thomas 20:01
hour with Milan, who’s his friend? Yeah. And the vibe of the way that that scene was described, was so reminiscent of when I used to be 20 something living in New York City, hanging out with friends, I would be there with someone and like, their friend would be inappropriate towards me or like overly flirtatious or touchy or just like, putting the moves on. And I would clearly be like, I’m not done with this. And then it would become this awkward thing of like, male ego, and then I would start to feel stressed out because there’s like that element of danger. And in that scene on page 22. And as he writes, quote, he was hunting her and that language and she would describe him as dangerous and and so that seemed to me felt so like I recognized indicative teittleman. Yes. And so when it comes out, again, so far into the book in this like, heightened emotional scene, to me that was like, this is the guy he’s always been. Yeah, he’s always been dangerous. He’s always been aggressive. He just knows how to be smooth and like how to play it. And he’s feels entitled to her and by helping her that he deserves her earned her. And I just don’t buy into that. And like, That scene was scary, where he’s like, throwing shade Viola with her. Yeah. And he is I mean, he puts his hands on her like he, I felt in that moment, regardless of what she had done. She wasn’t saying be angry. Yes, she wasn’t safe. And, and he’s always been that guy. And he was just trying to put the moves on her to get her and when he didn’t get what he wanted. He freaked out.
Sam Sanders 21:44
Yeah. What I didn’t understand though, because this perfectly tracks. Why why do we go through that entire middle of the book with her not acknowledging in the way she writes about in this year? That dichotomy? I wanted more acknowledgement of, yeah, he’s he’s been such a good friend now. But in the back of my head, do I reminisce about that first night when he was hunting me. There’s never a discussion of that, until it all blows up.
Traci Thomas 22:11
All blows up. Yeah. And like, also the thing where he’s always like, we’re friends. Hmm. I found that so deeply manipulative,
Sam Sanders 22:18
and I want her to speak to it in the coffee. Yeah, and I agree. I agree.
Traci Thomas 22:22
I wish that it was talked about more, because that is the key of that. Of that. And Assir character to me is like this. He’s the he’s that nice guy who’s not a nice finance, bro. To be nice. Yeah, who feels like nice guys finish last, but he’s not actually nice. And that’s why he’s finishing law.
Sam Sanders 22:40
And I wanted discussion of that. You know, how I get in Gone Girl, the book, not the movie, the movie kind of fails. But in the book, when she spins pages just breaking down the myth of the cool girl, the cool girl. Yeah. And it’s just pages like talking about this trope of a person. Right? I wanted that about your Sears character, because he is a trope. We all know that guy. Talk about what that guy is, and like, why he exists. We didn’t get that. And I
Traci Thomas 23:08
wish because like, I feel like with Milan, we get that sort of thing when she’s talking to joy about him. Like he’s an enjoys like your fucking teddy bear. And she’s like, Yeah, you grow. Yeah. And like we sort of needed that about Milan of like, he’s that guy who acts nice, but then you see these flashes of like entitlement. Yeah. And like, all of that does track within his character. He’s got this rich daddy, who flies his friends out in this thing. And he’s attracted to her. And he’s like, taking it slow, but always like trying to touch on her. It’s just like, and then he throws it in her face. I was taking it slow, like, Okay, well, you’re not entitled to have sex with anyone. So, you know, like, she doesn’t actually owe you anything. You guys kissed a few times. Like yeah, granted, she, I think that like, she, you know, abused or used his generosity in a way that like, I’m not a super huge fan of though I don’t think that what she did in violence or that kind of rage. But like she was toeing the line knowing she wasn’t into him and still going on this trip, like knowing she wasn’t into him and still, you know, but then he was saying we’re friends we’re friends. You know,
Sam Sanders 24:21
I also don’t get like she’s not dumb. She’s very smart. Why didn’t Why didn’t she just leave before it got that crazy? I’m just like, Alright if I’m in this situation where a new potential love interest who I’m not sure if I’m into yet invites me to his family compound, get then I realize the dad’s catching feelings for me and vice versa, but also the sun’s gonna be gone for a while. My nervous asked the first thing I would do would say, How can I remove myself from the situation which would be just going back home to Brooklyn,
Traci Thomas 24:58
right or going to the hotel Oh, that the woman who commissioned the art said Yeah, could go to Yeah, like, there were options. I mean, I think part of that is like, you have to suspend your disbelief, because if she leaves the book ads and just no book, it’s not a romance novel. It’s like a draft. Yeah. But I feel you. I feel like we’re mature adults. And I feel like a lot of mature adults would do that. Yeah. I mean, I think I would have left even earlier, I think I would have left. Like, as soon as my piece was done, you know, I would have done the commission from Brooklyn. Yeah, like, and that I would have like, gotten a leaves number and text him and been like, you’re super rich, like come to New York? Because like, that’s a good thing. Money’s not an issue for these people.
Sam Sanders 25:40
Yeah. That happened in the house. We’re in a seer is moved to New York. Yeah.
Traci Thomas 25:47
I also so is she still paying rent in New York?
Sam Sanders 25:51
Like, let me tell you something. Also, is there a day job at all the speak of
Traci Thomas 25:56
unclear? Seems odd.
Sam Sanders 26:00
But this is the thing it’s like we are going through and being kind of nitpicky, none of my nitpicking takes away from the general sense of enjoyment I had reading this whole thing. She does this thing working. Yes, every sentence is fun. She writes in such a fun way. And I don’t even know I wish I had better words to describe it. Their writing is just so fun. Every sentence they write is enjoyable. And the writing leans into the absurdity and whimsy of those first romantic sparks that we’ve all felt like it’s cheesy, but is it that what romance is it first cheesy, it’s cheesy, the mango is cheesy, the foam is cheesy, the sparks are cheesy, and like they’re writing captures that feeling so beautifully. I can forgive all of my minor quibbles all of them.
Traci Thomas 26:49
Yeah. And I honestly think that the writing is so good. And there’s so much to play with. But also the nitpicking, I think is part of my enjoyment with reading in general. But typically, with reading this book, like so much of the fun of this book has been being on the stacks packed discord, and like having everyone weigh in and being like, what the fuck was this? Why did they do that? I hate this person. I love this part. And like digging into all the different ways that we read these situations, because I think that is like, so many books are not juicy and fun to engage with. Yeah, so even great books, like I think of what you talked about so much on your show, and like in your work is about this idea of mono culture. And I feel like this book is a kind of book that could be a mono culture moment, if the kind of book that you want to be like, Oh, my God, just read this book, so we can talk about it. Like, I want to know what you think. And I feel like there’s so little little literature these days that is doing that, like just like feeling Zeitgeist. Yeah, because it’s fun.
Sam Sanders 27:58
Well, and it’s the kind of book and the kind of topic that can allow smart people to argue about a book with low stakes. I feel like sometimes when I argue with people about books, the books are about such serious topics that it feels like the entire argument itself is fraught, because it’s so heavy, right? This is so yeah, yeah, this is light. So I could argue with anyone about it for an hour and not feel bad at the end. You know what I’m saying? It’s finally it’s finally-
Traci Thomas 28:27
Wait, I want to go back to the other part of the scene that you were talking about where she like, puts her hands on Nazir at the art gallery. Yeah, she gets a phone call from another employee of another institution, the art gallery. who’s like, yeah, man is over here. The stairs here. And yeah, the vibes are off, come quick. So she goes, and she goes full. Like, Mama Bear, and digs her fans, I think into his face or chest or something, and tells him basically get the fuck away from my shit, because I will go even harder on you next time. And I mean, here’s this is how I read this scene. And this is maybe me defending violence. So sorry, everyone, but the art installation is wedding rings and blood. And the ring. The rings include the actual wedding ring of her dead exactly husband’s a big deal his actual blood. And I think that like, you know, it’s like you can fuck with my clothes in your dad’s house or whatever. But when you fuck with my livelihood, my professional career and the actual, like, sentimental pieces that I have left of my dead husband. Like, I don’t think she could control herself like I don’t think and I don’t think that She wanted to and I don’t think she wanted to leave any space for this year to ever fucking try it again.
Sam Sanders 30:05
Oh for sure. And I get that. But I’m also like, if I am her, as soon as Nazir comes in and goes off on me for making out with his dad. Yeah, I’m leaving the island. I’m really stuck around for how many weeks weeks? Yeah, we actually stuck.
Traci Thomas 30:29
She stuck around for too long. But in that scene, I get it.
Sam Sanders 30:34
I did it. Well, also, I wonder why she’s sticking around to protect her art. While she worried about this very thing happening. This is where I would have loved a little more, you know, unveiling of the internal monologue like I would have loved to just have more of an explanation of what was going on in her head. Not so much of the like, on we between her and Aleem.
Traci Thomas 30:57
Yeah, okay, I get that I fully get that. Okay, who do you think? First of all, do you think this book is messy?
Sam Sanders 31:03
Oh my god. It’s so messy.
Traci Thomas 31:06
I think but a lot of people were telling me it’s not that messy. And I’m like,
Sam Sanders 31:09
I’m not reading romance novels.
Traci Thomas 31:11
I don’t know what else could be messy.
Sam Sanders 31:14
Everyone is everyone and I say this with love as a as one of the alphabet people. Most of the main characters are messy. bisexuals who we love, they are fornicating not just on the mainland, but also in the islands. There is wealth there are celebrity chefs, there’s art. There is fornication. That starts out in a bathroom at a party in chapter one. How is this not messy?
Traci Thomas 31:43
Well, and then there’s an affair with someone’s your your situation ship spot. Literally that is mess capital. This is so messy. But I think also I said I said this in the discord with the staff because we’ve been talking about this all month this book has been the most engaging book on Discord. Oh my gosh, it’s I’ve never been so active. I’ve been doing the show. For years. We’ve had the discord for I think two years now. It’s never been so active. But I think some of it is the cultural use of the phrase mess. I think black people use mess different than white people.
Sam Sanders 32:16
Tell me more.
Traci Thomas 32:17
I’m not sure how white people are using it. But people were like, it’s messy. But they’re like it’s not that messy. Because they’re both adults and they take accountability for their actions. Bah, bah, bah. And I’m like, no, no, no, no, no accountability. But also to me mess is not it has something to do with who took accountability down the road or in the moment or whatever to me mess is. Are we talking about this at brunch and let me tell you, if I am Joy, I texted all of our other friends. Like girl is going nuts into this story. Let’s tell me that. Yeah, it’s the gossip. It’s the cheese smae it’s like yeah, juicy, crazy shit. Regardless of how it plays out exam s is like that stuff in the moment where you’re like, holy shit, girl. What are you doing?
Sam Sanders 33:07
If you want to gossip about it? It is inherently messy. That’s my I agree. Yes, same page. It’s same.
Traci Thomas 33:13
That’s how I feel. So I think maybe I don’t exactly know how the whites are using it. Caucasians please let us know. But I feel that the way that I use maths as a black person this book is that it’s
Sam Sanders 33:26
mad. It’s mess. You know? It’s gonna be an Amazon Prime video either movie or TV show.
Traci Thomas 33:32
I think Michael B Jordan Yeah, company. Do you think he’ll be in it? Do you think he plays massager.
Sam Sanders 33:38
I motherfucking hope so, I hope he’s Aleem, let him be aligned baby.
Traci Thomas 33:42
No, I hope he’s Milan because I want that scene. I’m gonna beginning with him. No, I think I think Aleem has to be a little bit older. Yeah, he’s like almost 50.
Sam Sanders 33:52
What if Aleem could be Blair Underwood? I never get tired of him. I never get to him.
Traci Thomas 33:58
Do you think I mean listen, I do. I’m always gonna go eat dress but you know that’s just to me.
Sam Sanders 34:03
I don’t know who’s managing Aegis his career right now. But I’m just like, where are you my dude?
Traci Thomas 34:07
Yeah, where are you? You made a fool of death with your beauty is waiting literally come do it.
Sam Sanders 34:10
That would actually be great. As long as you keep him from contributing any tracks to the soundtrack. He cannot do that. He tried to rap for a while. He’s for sure a DJ and he’s released a few rap tracks and we’re like baby. No, James Bond need not rap. You don’t need to do that. After this is done, go search for his music.
Traci Thomas 34:31
I will be linking- I will be linking to this in the shownotes.
Sam Sanders 34:37
Who should play-
Traci Thomas 34:39
Do you know? I’m so bad at coming up with actresses. Can Dominique Fishback do it? I just love her.
Sam Sanders 34:46
I do love her. I would not be joy. A part of me. I don’t know if Holly Bailey can do it. No. And I don’t know if Lupita is young enough at this point to do it.
Traci Thomas 34:58
Kenzan can do it.
Sam Sanders 35:02
Sorry and no shade. Literally no shade to my people.
Traci Thomas 35:05
She’s too light, you could do it. I feel like I always feel like this is the hard part with black actresses is like, there are so few. And there’s like always such a huge age gap in the like 20 Something range. It’s like, because black people can play young. So it’s like all these women in their like 30s and 40s that 20 year olds, actually 20 year old. I feel like I’m missing an obvious person though.
Sam Sanders 35:34
Although I do like the idea of Dominique Fishback.
Traci Thomas 35:37
I love her. I think she’s so-
Sam Sanders 35:40
and it’d be a turn for her because her character in Swarm was very flat on purpose. You know, this like, detached serial killer. I wonder.
Traci Thomas 35:50
I have someone who What about Janelle Monae?
Sam Sanders 35:55
Oh, cuz she acts She sure does that.
Traci Thomas 36:00
And I feel like she kind of has the sad girl vibe. And she’s very. She’s very sincere, very sensual. She’s an artist. She sort of has that. Artists. Do you think she’s fluid? And like it would? I would believe her kind of flip flopping through all of these men.
Sam Sanders 36:18
Yeah, you know,
Traci Thomas 36:19
I don’t hate it.
Sam Sanders 36:20
I don’t hate that either. Let’s, let’s call some studios up. Well, let’s call it Michael Jordan.
Traci Thomas 36:26
Oh my god. Yeah. Do you have his number?
Sam Sanders 36:27
I don’t know.
Traci Thomas 36:30
Jenkins now Oh, Chance the Rapper, these famous friends now. So maybe you can get us a meeting.
Sam Sanders 36:38
If you are listening, I will happily be the intimacy coordinator for this shoot.
Traci Thomas 36:44
And I will also star if you need someone. Yes. That’s about the scenes but yeah, I’m avails. I’m available. We I wanted to ask you Who is the messiest of them all.
Sam Sanders 36:58
I know what it felt like to be 28. And I was almost a homewrecker myself at 28 That’s another conversation. So I’m not going to hold all that against Fe a lame should know better. You are how old you have how much at stake with your career. You’ve been down so many of these roads before, especially knowing that he has gone through a similar kind of grief. With his wife dying years ago. Him knowing that kind of a loss almost makes it feel like he was predatory on Fei Yi, who was so fresh and raw in those emotions still. So he’s the messiest. I think, do better. You knew your son brought her out here. He was obviously interested in her. You have a duty to just check your penis. You just have a duty as a father. So he’s the messiest. Although he’s the one I most want to have a drink or more with,
Traci Thomas 38:00
Or having a mango flavored cocktail. Perhaps
Sam Sanders 38:03
Listen, he can make me a mango dinner. Okay, yeah. Yeah, he’s, he’s the messiest energy fuckboys. Energy big.
Traci Thomas 38:13
But I feel okay. So here’s what I think. I think that he is not far from the grownup version of this year. There’s the entitlement, she feels like he can have what he wants. feels like he can manipulate the situation to not to take any agency away from failure, because I think she you know, we follow her. It’s her work sort of her point of view were closest to her point of view. Yeah, throughout the book, but so I’m not suggesting that she was manipulated into this relationship. But I do feel like the entitlement to her does not feel far away from the entitlement that Nasir expresses throughout the book. However, he’s just more mature. He’s smoothed it out. It’s not so obvious. It’s sort of like this underlying thing. Yeah. That like he should get what he wants, regardless of what happens to his family. Regardless of what that what happens to fate. You know, like, the fact that misir came into the house and was violent with her and his home like that it was a dereliction of his duty as well,
Sam Sanders 39:18
Why and then to even let her stay after that. You could have been the adult and said, things have gotten a little bit too heated. I think everyone needs some space. It might be best if you are not here for a while. And he’s like, stay, stay. Stay. Yeah.
Traci Thomas 39:32
Yeah, I definitely think he’s the messiest. I think, you know, I heard you and I are both the children of age gap marriages. Yeah. But a lot of people I’ve heard from were unhappy with the age gap. And I was like, Oh, it never occurs to me that people have a problem with the age gap. So my parents were 17 years.
Sam Sanders 39:54
I’m totally 42 years apart. My mother had me when she was 28. My father at that time was 70. And you want to hear about mes. I can say this because they are literally both deceased now and they would laugh at this. My mother was fresh out of college teaching her first teaching job at like an elementary school in Seguin, Texas. And one of the other teacher friends, she became close with an older teacher, she got cancer. And so my mother, a good friend would go visit her colleague who had cancer in the hospital all the time. The colleagues husband at that time is my dad.
Traci Thomas 40:34
Oh, they colleague die of cancer.
Sam Sanders 40:38
A colleague died of cancer. And within a year, my mother was married to her widower, my dad, and we all think that she might have been pregnant at the wedding with my brother. And I’m never gonna say no to that, because it got me here. Also, Xmas. Yeah, there’s my my mother talked about this time in her life with me pretty frequently when I was old enough to talk about it with her because, you know, mothers left on their gay kids all the mess. And she basically was like, I knew what I was doing. I knew what I was doing.
Traci Thomas 41:15
Oh, see, I feel like that makes me like the book more. Like, I feel like it makes me feel better about some of the mess of the book of like, maybe they actually do end up happily ever after. Maybe they do.
Sam Sanders 41:27
Also, this is a thing. Most relationships start out messy. My favorite hobby is to read the New York Times Wow section. And guess which relationship actually began with cheating because they will always mask it with some euphemism. Like when they first met, they could not be together. And it’s like, oh, so one of them cheated. One of them cheated, right?
Traci Thomas 41:51
Or like when they first met, they were both in another relationship actually tied back together.
Sam Sanders 41:56
So it’s like every this is the way it works. Like this is the way it works. And like whether it’s in the New York Times vows section or in a romance novel, this is kind of the human condition.
Traci Thomas 42:08
Yeah, yeah, no, totally. I mean, I think another thing that’s like so present in this book, and I think he’s done really well in the book, but I’m curious to hear what you think is how grief shows up? Do you feel like the book portrays grief? Well, do you feel like I know that you’re kind of in a season of grief right now, as your mother passed away recently, like, did it resonate with you at all it does.
Sam Sanders 42:28
And I appreciated how this book deals with the emotional complexity of grief. So they, she is still shaken up about the loss of her husband, who she lost in the most brutal way. But she’s also still horny, and like, both can be true. So like, the moral of the story, on grief with this book is that like, your grief can actually contain a multitude of emotions. I can be grief stricken and horny at the same time, I can be a mess over the death of a loved one. And still be messy. Right? Like that is the through line of this book. And like that’s real. So I appreciated that it was real. This idea that people are just like, when they’re grieving, and they’re just in a quarter being grief stricken. No, they’re living lives to their living lives to and they can still be a hoe.
Traci Thomas 43:24
And like, make bad decisions. But I also feel like so much of like, grief. I feel like grief stories and love stories go together. Yeah, for sure. And I feel like that’s what makes the grief I think in this book feel very resonant is because of this book, was this just a story of a woman who is coming to terms with the loss of her husband and trying to get back out there. But without the sort of like, forced Love Story Part. I don’t think this book is successful. I think grief needs the love to be able to sort of show the juxtaposition, but also the complementary feelings of like the fear and the loss and the like the stress of new love and all of that. I think they tie together really well.
Sam Sanders 44:15
Oh, yeah. Well also, what is romantic love is just a respite between bouts of grief. All relationships end in grief. one of you dies and one of you leaves the other one bottom line. And so romantic love is actually always dancing around grief. And it was refreshing to see a romance novel. Also talk about grief to you know, like that.
Traci Thomas 44:38
And like talk about it. Well, like give it real. Yeah, time and energy and not just be like she lost her husband and she’s a sad girl now. Yeah, too often how like books handle grief. It’s like she’s so sad. She’s crying in her room all day. Okay, well, it’s been five years like she’s sad and it probably had turned waves but like, let’s dig in. And I think, you know, there’s so many passages in the book that I thought were really really well written like really just beautifully written. There’s the speech, about the the fish at at the dinner for her about like the softness of grief. I mean, if I can find it, I have it on 147 Oh, so he’s talking about this lionfish that’s like venomous to humans. And he says, The devastation the lionfish wreaks, reminds me of grief. The way it destroys so many around us the way it feels like a lifetime of venom spikes piercing through us.
Sam Sanders 45:41
Traci Thomas 45:43
Like, there’s just there’s a, there’s so many lines, or moments like that there’s the space the sun speech on 175 that I thought was so fantastic. I just, there’s so many of these, like, quick moments where I’m like, I recognize that I feel seen to, I feel seen in my grief. And like, you know, like,
Sam Sanders 46:01
Well it hits, it hits, like my only critique. And it’s not even really a critique, like 15% more of that. And, and 15% less of a whole chapter, where they’re not fucking, but they’re talking about mango juice. Yeah. And I love I love to both of those things. But I would have like, tilted the scales a little more to that kind of, you know, exposition on emotion. So much of it was exposition on sexual frustration, which is what romance novels do, but she’s so good at talking about the emotion when she goes there.
Traci Thomas 46:36
Yeah, I agree. And I feel like I wanted more sex just period.
Sam Sanders 46:41
Well, because yeah, like, they don’t actually fuck until after page 200.
Traci Thomas 46:45
Yeah, I think it’s like 253 Wow.
Sam Sanders 46:49
I love that. You notated it?
Traci Thomas 46:51
I did. Because I was like, when the fuck am I getting sex again? Like, this is killing me. And then we get it on this hike where she’s like, in a dress on a hike. And I just like, come on now. I mean, we’re Angelenos we hike. It’s not a dress moment. And it’s not like she’s in a sporty like tennis dress. She’s wearing a lacy bra with a hike. And I’m just like, listen, yeah, yeah, like spandex is sexy, too. Okay, let’s be in a legging. Yeah, we have a sports bra moment. Masking. Okay, the last thing that I just want to quickly touch on is the title and the cover. The book is called you made a fool of death with your beauty. And it’s a lyric from a Florence in the machine song hunger, which surprised me because there are no white people in this book. Not a single one not surprised me as well. But I love the title. Oh, it’s great.
Sam Sanders 47:39
It’s great. I thought it was like an old Nigerian proverb until I Googled it. And I was like, Oh, before that.
Traci Thomas 47:49
I mean, I like it. Because I feel like, there’s so much talk of like beauty and youth and death in this book. And also like, the foolishness of all, it just all worked for me. The cover is mediocre. For me. I like the color. I have the orange one, the green one. I hate the color. But I don’t know, the cover is like striking, but also sort of means nothing.
Sam Sanders 48:12
I mean, I was just like, why is there a hummingbird? Like, okay, yeah, I don’t know, I don’t ever know what to think about book covers. I’m a person who loves books, but has no universal theory on book covers. And I actually always hate it when people say, you can judge a book by its cover because it’s like, I can’t, I don’t know how to. I really,
Traci Thomas 48:36
I just know what I like. And usually if I see something that I think is ugly, I assume that whatever’s inside the book is not going to be to my liking because they thought that the cover was worth putting their book on inside their book. I love it. Well, Sam, thank you so much for being here. This was such a joy everyone you can find Sam at his podcasts into it and vibe check. Thank you. This was so much fun.
Sam Sanders 49:00
Yes, I am so plugged in now to just continuing to read romance novels the rest of this year. I want you to send me recommendations. Okay. And listeners if you’re so inclined, let me know what romance should I be reading because
Traci Thomas 49:11
Oh, my This was fun. People will let you know I can’t wait to hear what you read. Thank you so much. You are the best. I will talk to you soon. And everyone else we will see you in the stacks
Alright, y’all, that does it for us today. Thank you so much for listening. And thank you again to Sam Sanders for being our guest. And now for the big announcement. Our September book club pick is a Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer. It’s an examination of the age old conundrum around the art versus the artists. Listen next week to find out who our guests will be for our September 27th discussion. If you love the show and want insight access to it, head to patreon.com/thestacks and join the stacks pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to the stacks wherever you’re listening to your podcast. asks and if you listen through Apple podcasts or Spotify please leave us a rating and a review. For more from the stacks follow us on social media at thestackspod on Instagram, tiktok and threads and at thestackspod underscore on Twitter and you can check out our website thestackspodcast.com This episode of the Stacks 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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