Ep. 180 Fifty Years After Attica with Heather Ann Thompson

Today we are joined by Pulitzer Prize winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, Heather Ann Thompson. We discuss her process in researching and writing this epic civil rights story, and the legacy of the uprising 50 years later.

The Stacks Book Club selection for September is Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson. We will discuss the book with Derecka Purnell on Wednesday September 29th.

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

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

The Stacks Book Club — September 2021

If you’ve been a fan of The Stacks for a while you may know that there was one book that sparked my desire to start the show. I talk about the book all the time, but have never featured it on the show. The timing never seemed right, I never felt like I had the guest to take on such a transformational book. However, September 2021 marks the 50 year anniversary of the uprising at Attica Prison, and so this month, I am proud to say, we are finally reading Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson for The Stacks Book Club.

In her Pulitzer Prize winning book Blood in the Water, Thompson takes the reader through the history of an event that has shaped the criminal legal system over the last 50 years. The book explains the conditions that led to the unrest in the prison, the five days of negotiations, the violent retaking of the prison, and the years of litigation that followed. The book is a master class in research and storytelling. Blood in the Water gives voice to the people who fought for over 45 years for the truth of Attica to be exposed.

We will be discussing Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson on Wednesday, September 29th. You can find out who our guest will be for that discussion by listening to the podcast on September 1st. If you’d like even more discussion around the book consider joining The Stacks Pack on Patreon and participating in The Stacks’ monthly virtual book club.

Order your copy of our August book on Bookshop.org or Amazon.


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

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

Ep. 170 The Undying by Anne Boyer — The Stacks Book Club (Mychal Denzel Smith)

It’s time for another installment of The Stacks Book Club. This month we’re discussing The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness by Anne Boyer with Mychal Denzel Smith (Stakes is High). Our conversation explores the commodification of cancer, the ways sexism is entrenched in the language of breast cancer, and how form and content can work together and fight against one another in the same text.
There are no spoilers in this episode.

Be sure to listen until the end of the podcast to find out The Stacks Book Club pick for July!

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

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


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

The Stacks Book Club — June 2021

After reading an 800+ page classics novel in May, I’m thrilled to be getting back to nonfiction in June with the 2020 winner of the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, The Undying: A Meditation of Modern Illness by Anne Boyer.

At the age of 41, poet Anne Boyer was diagnosed with an aggressive form of triple-negative breast cancer. This memoir comes out of the experience of being diagnosed, going through treatments, and ultimately undying from breast cancer. Boyer looks at the ways terminal illnesses are portrayed in art, the media, and the ways that the cancer industrial complex is flawed and erroneous. The Undying is full of emotion and lyrical writing that enhances Boyer’s observations and experiences.

We will be discussing The Undying on Wednesday, June 30th. You can find out who our guest will be for that discussion by listening to the podcast on June 2nd. If you’d like even more discussion around the book consider joining The Stacks Pack on Patreon and participating in The Stacks’ monthly virtual book club.

Order your copy of our June book on Bookshop.org or Amazon.


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

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

Ep. 161 The Tradition by Jericho Brown — The Stacks Book Club (Reginald Dwayne Betts)

On today’s episode of The Stacks we’re talking with poet, lawyer, and activist, Reginald Dwayne Betts about The Tradition by Jericho Brown for The Stacks Book Club. We discuss poems as fact or fiction, what happens when you hear a poem out loud, and the ways different poems can take on different meanings to different people.

Donate to Million Book Drive as part of The Stacks $50,000 fundraising drive.

The Stacks Book Club selection for May is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, we will discuss the book on Wednesday May 26th.

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

Connect with Dwayne: Twitter | Instagram | Website | Million Book Project

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram| Twitter | Facebook | Apple Podcasts |The Stacks on PodcastOne | Shop | Patreon | Goodreads

Support The Stacks

Care/Of – to get 50% off your first Care/Of order go to takecareof.com and enter code STACKS50.

Libro.FM – get two audiobooks for the price of one when you use code THESTACKS at checkout.

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


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

The Stacks Book Club — April 2021

April is National Poetry Month so we’re going all in with an award winning poetry collection.

The Tradition by Jericho Brown won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for poetry and is our book club pick for April. This collection examines the many intersections of life, safety, ancestry, and Blackness. Brown’s collection has range and moves between the power of the past, the intimacy of the personal, and the strength of the collective. In under 100 pages, Brown is able to ask questions around queerness, Blackness, fatherhood, trauma, legacy, and so much more. It is also worth nothing that this collection shows diversity not only in the content of the poems but in the style choices and form each poem takes one. The Tradition is not to be missed.

We will be discussing The Tradition on Wednesday, April 28th. You can find out who our guest will be by listening to the podcast on April 6th. If you’d like even more discussion around the book consider joining The Stacks Pack on Patreon and participating in The Stacks’ monthly virtual book club.

Order your copy of our March book on Bookshop.org or Amazon.


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

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

The Stacks Book Club — November 2020

This month we’re taking a look at global superstar and musical genius Kendrick Lamar in the brand new book, The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America. Lamar is only in his early thirties, but has already won The Pulitzer Prize, 13 Grammy Awards, been chosen as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people. He is also the voice of a generation and his songs have become part of the soundtrack to The Black Lives Matter movement. In The Butterfly Effect, Moore explores not only Lamar and his music, but also the ways his music speaks to a generation of Black Americans and their struggle for justice and equality.

We will be discussing The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America on the podcast on Wednesday, November 25th. You can find out who our guest will be by listening to the podcast on November 4th. If you’d like even more discussion around the book consider joining The Stacks Pack on Patreon and participating in The Stacks’ monthly virtual book club.

Order your copy of our November book on Bookshop.org or Amazon.


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

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

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved is perhaps the most critically acclaimed book written by one of the most prolific and celebrated authors. It is the story of a woman, Sethe, who escaped slavery, only to be haunted by her past life both on and off the plantation. The book is parts historical fiction and part surreal ghost story. The book has been turned into a film, won a Pulitzer Prize, and continues to be assigned in schools across the country. When we talk about the “great American novel” Beloved makes the list.

There is something funny that happens to books when they’re proceeded with superlatives, they become untouchable and intimidating. A fear creeps in, that the reader won’t understand or appreciate the book, and often that can start long before the reader ever starts reading. That was the case for me when I picked up Beloved for the first time as part of The Stacks Book Club. I was so nervous and intimidated by the book and what I might think of it. Would I “get” it? Would I like it? Would I be moved as so many others had been?

The truth is, my answer was mostly, no. I didn’t really “get” it, I didn’t really like it, and while I was moved by specific scenes and passages, I wasn’t over come by this book. And the more I think about that, the more I think thats allowed.

As I read Beloved I appreciated the skill and mastery of Ms. Morrison. I was impressed by her ability to create layer after layer of meaning in her story. Her ability to write nuance is unmatched in my reading, she understanding of how pain manifests itself in people is art in itself. I read Beloved and understood what makes both Ms. Morrison and the book so great, though I personally was never personally overcome. What I’m learning, especially when it comes to great work, is that both things can be true and live together. There are both technical and emotional components to any good piece of art, and you can appreciate one even if the other doesn’t resonate. These things are not mutually exclusive.

Of all the themes in Beloved, the idea of generational trauma, is what spoke to me most. Morrison connects the years of suffering under chattel slavery to the everyday manifestations of trauma on her characters. She creates characters that are complete with confidence and crazy, which is so very human. Your heart aches for the women in this story, their fear, pain, and rage is deserved, and Morrison never lets you forget that. Weather she is recounting events from years ago or writing dialogue, the trauma in this story is never far from view. It haunts the world of the book.

The book moves between points of view and events without much set up, the years skip around, and sometimes its hard to know exactly where you are in the story. This was challenging for me to connect with, though on a second or third reading, I think this complexity would add so much to my enjoyment of the book. Like in a good scary movie or thriller, Morrison is leaving us Easter eggs to pick up on, only when we’re revisit her novel.

There is a lot to unpack and look into when talking about Beloved it is not an easy read, and the subject matter is not comfortable. This book requires a commitment of the reader. The expectation of greatness from her reader is partly what makes her books so good. Toni Morrison demands you bring your full self to her work, and that you take your time, and if you do, you might just be rewarded with a story that will stay with you for life. This book is worth you time. I can’t promise you’ll like it, but if you read it with an open mind, I think there is much to appreciate about this story.

For a more in depth conversation on Beloved, check out The Stacks Book Club episode with DaMaris B. Hill where we discuss the themes, characters, and social implications of this story.

  • Paperack: 275
  • PublisherPlume (October 1 , 1998)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy Beloved Amazon or IndieBound

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

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

Ep. 60 Beloved by Toni Morrison — The Stacks Book Club (DaMaris B. Hill)

Beloved is a classic American novel by one of the greatest novelists of our time, Toni Morrison. It is also The Stacks Book Club pick this week, and we are lucky to have author and scholar DaMaris B. Hill (A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing) to help us break it down. We talk about the legacy of slavery on Black Americans, how to discuss great works that we don’t personally enjoy, intimacy as it relates to insanity, and Pulitzer Prize controversy.

There are spoilers on this week’s episode.

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Everything we talk about on today’s episode can be found below in the show notes. If you’d like to support your local indie, you can shop through IndieBound.

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Connect with DaMaris: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Website

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Support The Stacks

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

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

The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer

5DF10CBB-A65E-4C65-B6E5-F119B079DA59.JPGI have been fascinated with murders and murderers for as long as I can remember. I’ve also always been a big reader, and when you put those two things together, true crime and reading, you invariably get to The Executioner’s Song. It is an eleven hundred page true crime classic. And so after ten years, I finally decided to check this off the big book bucket list.

Here is more about The Executioner’s Song:

Arguably the greatest book from America’s most heroically ambitious writer,The Executioner’s Song follows the short, blighted life of Gary Gilmore who became famous after he robbed two men in 1976 and killed them in cold blood. After being tried and convicted, he immediately insisted on being executed for his crime. To do so, he fought a system that seemed intent on keeping him alive long after it had sentenced him to death. And that fight for the right to die is what made him famous.

Mailer tells not only Gilmore’s story, but those of the men and women caught in the web of his life and drawn into his procession toward the firing squad. All with implacable authority, steely compassion, and a restraint that evokes the parched landscape and stern theology of Gilmore’s Utah.The Executioner’s Song is a trip down the wrong side of the tracks to the deepest source of American loneliness and violence. It is a towering achievement-impossible to put down, impossible to forget.


Normally when I read a book, I feel pretty confident in my review. I sit down to write it, and out comes my thoughts. I may stop and start a little, but with The Executioner’s Song I am about 4-5 attempts in and still feeling unsure of where I stand. Part of my struggle is coming from the fact that there is just so much book, so many ideas to unpack and feelings to sort through. Another part is because I do not want to spoil anything, even though you could easily spoil so much by looking up Gary Gilmore on wikipedia. So here goes my attempt to explain my thoughts without out giving away too much…

This is the kind of book that haunts you, not because of what happens in it, but because of how it all unravels. I didn’t love the book. It never fully hooked me, but I have found myself thinking about the people involved in Gilmore’s life and death a lot since I finished it. There were moments of suspense that I thoroughly enjoyed, and then sections that felt endless. There were people I loved in one section of the book, and then was hoping they’d be leaving the story a hundred pages later. While I never fully understood why so many people rave about this book, I suspect it has to do with the way Mailer is able to give his characters room to transform in front of the readers eyes. These people feel full and complete, no one is without dimension. Mailer’s writing style is impressive and specific and lacks any frills. It is direct, like the people you find in the book.

A tale of White toxic masculinity told by a toxic White man, The Executioner’s Song can be rage inducing. I felt myself feeling sorry for a murderer and domestic abuser in one moment and then feeling furious at the author for presenting the story in that way. Giving Gilmore so much room to garner sympathies when he really behaves disgustingly through out. Despite his deep flaws, Mailer does find humanity in Gilmore. He also finds the humanity in the kind of world where a Gary Gilmore could be created. I don’t disagree with Mailer that part of Gilmore was cultivated during his time in prison, however the compassion that Mailer asks us to show to Gilmore was often times more than I could bear.

There are no answers in this book. I am okay with that. Conversations around incarceration and murder and class and relationships are seldom clear cut. Mailer throws all his research your way, and more or less asks you to sift through it. He may guide you, or allow his characters to sway you, but in the end you’ll take from this book whatever you need.

One of the big topics of debate revolves around capital punishment, not only if its a good idea or not, but how someone is sentenced for death and how that process progresses. Forty-plus years later, this part of the book feels more current than it should. We get a view of the death penalty debate from many sides. We see how death row works, how the appeals process functions, we even get a good look at the media frenzy behind high profile criminal cases. In the end, I found myself asking over and over, what is the point? Is the world really any better off with Gilmore dead?

In the end I am glad I read this book. I didn’t love it, but I appreciated it, not only as a piece of writing but as a glimpse into a moment in time. After spending the better part of a month reading through this book, it was not the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but I did have major moments of shock and awe. It is an incredible feat of journalism and story telling, and it is an exceptional commentary on the death penalty and the humanity of criminals. I can recognize the greatness in The Executioner’s Song theoretically, but I could never fully feel the power that many others have experienced in reading the book.

  • Hardcover: 1136 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (May 8, 2012)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy on The Executioner’s Song Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.