Clint Smith’s profound debut evaluates nine historic sites contending with the legacy of American slavery.
On this week’s episode, Clint Smith discusses How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America (Little, Brown; June 1). This exemplary work of narrative nonfiction follows Smith, an award-winning poet, teacher, and Atlantic staff writer, as he journeys across the country and abroad to evaluate the disparate ways individuals and institutions understand and teach the history of American slavery.
Kirkus: “For this book, [Smith] traveled to nine sites, eight in the U.S. and one in Dakar, Senegal ‘to understand how each reckons with its relationship to the history of American slavery.’ The result is a devastating portrait with unforgettable details.…At the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana…the Angola Museum at the Louisiana State Penitentiary…and other sites such as Monticello, Galveston Island, and New York City, the author conducted interviews with tour guides, visitors, and others to paint a vivid portrait of the extent to which venues have attempted to redress past wrongs. Smith concludes with a moving epilogue about taking his grandparents to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.…A brilliant, vital work about ‘a crime that is still unfolding’” (starred review).
Smith and host Megan Labrise talk about his experience teaching high school English outside Washington, D.C., and how it inspired the book; Monticello as one place that’s attempting to interrogate the legacy of slavery in a productive way; the important work of public historians; lyricism in long-form journalism; the 1811 Slave Revolt Memorial at the Whitney Plantation; the importance of the 1619 Project; and much more.
Then editors Vicky Smith, Laura Simeon, and Laurie Muchnick join with their reading recommendations for the week.
Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler, illus. by Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay (Little, Brown)
One Great Lie by Deb Caletti (Atheneum)
Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf)
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (Celadon Books)
Also mentioned in this episode:
Consent: A Memoir by Vanessa Springora (HarperVia/HarperCollins)
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (Knopf)
Thanks to our advertisers this week:
Apollo’s Raven by Linnea Tanner
Dagger’s Destiny by Linnea Tanner
Amulet’s Rapture by Linnea Tanner
The Forger’s Forgery by Clay G. Small
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.