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138: Dive into Nonfiction Reads

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

In this Unabridged podcast episode, we talk all things nonfiction, and we each make recommendations for nonfiction reads to dive into that we've loved. We talk about Kirkland Hamill's Filthy Beasts, Kiese Layman's Heavy, Knox McCoy's All Things Reconsidered, and Phuc Tran’s Sigh, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In. As always, we find ways to talk about more books, too, and have lots of fun during our discussion. If you're interested in nonfiction reads, be sure to join us for our September book club choice, Chanel Miller's Know My Name.

Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Marie Lu’s Rebel

Jen - Adrienne Kisner’s Six Angry Girls

Sara - Chanel Miller’s Know My Name

Our Picks

Ashley - Kiese Laymon’s Heavy: An American Memoir

Sara - Knox McCoy’s All Things Reconsidered

Mentioned in Episode

Kirkland Hamill's Filthy Beasts

Marie Lu's Legend, Prodigy and Champion

Episode 137, Stamped Book Club Discussion


Knox McCoy's The Wondering Years

Give Me One - What We Wanted to Be When We Grew Up

Jen - a nurse

Ashley - marine biologist

Sara - fashion designer

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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Click here for a full transcript that you can read while listening, provided by

Sara 0:34

Hello everyone. Welcome to Unabridged Podcast Episode 138: Dive into Nonfiction Reads. Before we get started with the episode, if you are sitting, listening to us and wondering how can I support Unabridged? There is a really simple, easy way-- totally free way that you can support us. If you just go to Apple Podcasts and rate, review, and subscribe to the podcast that helps us more than you can know and it's a really simple way that you can support us and our podcast. So, if you could do that we would be so appreciative.

Bookish Check-In

Okay ladies, so let's start the way we always start with our Bookish Check-in, Jen, what are you reading right now?

Jen 1:20

Book Cover of Adrienne Kisner's Six Angry Girls

So, I am about halfway through an e-galley. It is Adrienne Kisner's Six Angry Girls, and this is a young adult novel. It is coming out on August 18. And this one has two protagonists. One is Raina and she is a theater kid who is really passionate about drama and her school's drama club, and she has this great relationship, she thinks--can you sense something coming--with her boyfriend Brendan, and then he dumps her and her whole world just falls apart and she starts remembering that the reason she got into drama was because her boyfriend pushed her to do it. And so does that mean the same anymore. So she's at a loss. The other protagonist is Millie. And her passion is mock trial. And she has been in it. She's a senior. They're both seniors. She's a senior. She's been in mock trial for four years, she's always been the one who has worked hardest to make mock trial happen. But she hasn't always been in the spotlight. She is the only girl who has been in mock trial for this whole time. And two of the boys, one of them being Brendan, stage a coup. And basically she is not going to be part of the mock trial that competes. So she's out. She's out. So both of these girls, partly because of Brendan, but partly because of other things are at a loss. They decide to start their own mock trial team. So, Raina leaves what she's been doing, she leaves drama altogether. She's like, I need to change my life. I'm going to join mock trial.

Jen 2:56

Millie has this new confidence that she's going to, you know, to prove that she is just as good as the boys and she's going to compete against them. And yeah, so it's just a really great message of empowerment and of identity and of figuring out who you are. There is a really funny subplot. Raina, one of the things she does to get over heartbreak is she takes up this hobby and she joins us knitting club. And the knitters are social activists, and they are really opposed to this judge who has just won an election. And so they are like, sending him knitted versions of the female reproductive system, like in the mail. This is a really great subplot. Like, because at first she's like, "What is anatomical knitting?" She's in this anatomical knitting lesson and she's like, "I don't know what that means." And then she's like finding herself making vaginas and uteruses and they're like sending them through the mail and like taking public buildings and like putting them on these public buildings. Anyway. So, that's a really funny subplot. But yeah, so it's just this great young adult novel. I think it has a great message behind it. I love the other girls that they find to join the team. One is Black, and she is a climber and her coach has quit because she was injured. And so she doesn't have her passion that she's always had. There's a girl who is transgender, who's moved in from another school, she was basically chased out of the other school because she's transgender. And so she joins the team. So it's just as cool coming together of a diverse group of girls.

Sara 4:41

That sounds really good.

Ashley 4:43

Yeah, that's really great.

Sara 4:48

Ashley, what are you reading?

Ashley 4:50

Book Cover of Marie Lu's Rebel

So one of the things that I'm reading right now is Marie Lu's Rebel, I am absolutely loving it. For people who read the Legend series, which was Legend, Prodigy and Champion . . . if you haven't read that, first of all, that is a great, great dystopian YA series. It is one of the first ones that I read. So I really started reading a lot of why when I moved to Virginia, and that series was one of the first ones that I followed and read all the whole trilogy. So this is 10 years later, and it is the same characters but a new setting. They are living in Antarctica, which is has, well, Daniel--Day, one of the main characters and Eden, his brother are living in Antarctica, which has a whole different governmental and social structure than they did in the Republic. So total different social structure than in the Republic, and it is all based on levels. So, it's a very high tech society. Everything is augmented reality. So all of that is really fascinating to read. I think it's very futuristic and it's cool to read about a world that's set that way. But the problem with the level system is that everyone is always attaining points. It's a gamification of society. And because of that, everything that you do either penalizes you or rewards you. But as you can imagine, it's much easier for people who already have a lot of economic prosperity and education and social standing, it's easy for them to continue to make good choices, whereas people who suffer from not having opportunities are, of course, going to have to make harder choices, and then they're penalized for those choices through the point system. And so, it's just fascinating. So, there's an under city, and the under city is all these people who have really low points and they can't even go to the other part, they can't get on the elevators to be in the other part of the city because they don't have the points required. So, it's a fascinating examination of socio-economic structure. And I think that Marie Lu is always so good at telling a really compelling story, but also examining the flaws within societies that impact individual people. And that's really what you see happening here. But like Legend, it's fast moving, it's compelling, people are having to make hard choices, and there are major consequences for the people in society for the choices being made. So, I am loving it. I am so happy to be back with June and Day and Eden and just seeing them 10 years later, and all the dynamics between them. I mean, I'm just absolutely thrilled. I'm almost finished, and it was hard to put it down last night, but I think it is a great read. So again, that's Marie Lu's Rebel.

Sara 7:40

I've read only the first one in that series that we read with our students a couple of years ago, so I'm interested to read the rest of those.

Jen 7:50

Marie Lu is so smart.

Ashley 7:52

Yeah, she's just a brilliant writer. And I think what one of the things I loved about Legend is the trilogy holds up really well. We've talked before about how with series books. It's hard to keep the story going. And a lot of times the first book is really excellent, but a lot of times it's hard to make it all coalesce well throughout the trilogy, but I think she does that really masterfully. And then this is the first time I've read one that comes back so far later and tells a different story but connected to the story before and it's just been great.

Sara 8:21

That's great.

Ashley 8:22

What about you Sara? What are you reading?

Sara 8:24

Book cover of Chanel Miller's Know My Name

So, this is actually in my Bookish Check-in a few months ago, because we rearranged our schedule awhile back. So I am now back reading Chanel Miller's Know My Name. I was reading it, I think back in May, because we were gearing up for it to be a Book Club pick, but we kind of switched schedules, so I stopped reading it, because I like it to be fresh so we can discuss. So, I am now back reading Chanel Miller's Know My Name it is for our September Book Club. And this is Chanel Miller's memoir, regarding her sexual assault by Brock Turner and the fallout from that and its commentary on his punishment the way that his his trial went down and it's all in her own words. So far it is phenomenal. I've heard nothing but good things about this book. And I've also heard that the audio book is amazing because she reads the audio. So, so far I love it. I mean, it is difficult content to read but she is so strong and she is so articulate and it's, it's just written very well. So, I'm enjoying it and I am really looking forward to discussing it on the podcast and discussing it with listeners.

Ashley 9:46

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it.

Jen 9:49

I'm really looking forward to it.

Ashley 9:50

Always in stereo.

Main Discussion - Our Nonfiction Recommendations

Sara 9:54

All right, ladies. So, now we are going to get into our main topic, which is we're going to dive right in to nonfiction reads. And so, the way that this is going to work is we all have read, or started Kirkland Hamill's memoir, which is called Filthy Beasts. And so we're going to talk about that a little bit. And then we're going to give a personal choice for nonfiction read that we've read recently or a little bit, you know, in the past, and we're going to talk about that and why we chose that particular nonfiction. So first of all, Kirkland Hamill's memoir, Filthy Beasts--Avid Reader Press sent us this book. We requested it and they were gracious enough to send us three copies that we could read for this episode, and just a reminder that Morgan who was in our episode 135, where we talked about book to film adaptations, she is a marketing associate for Avid Reader Press and she is actually the one that got these books in our hands. So we are very appreciative of that and if you haven't listened to Episode 135, definitely go back and do that. A bit of a summary from the publisher for Filthy Beasts is Running with Scissors meets Grey Gardens in this gripping true riches to rags tale of a family who lost it all and an unforgettable journey of a man coming to terms with his family's deep flaws and his own long buried truths. So, we're just going to talk a little bit about the book and we don't want to spoil it so this is not like a book club episode. But we're just going to talk a bit about it--what our general thoughts were about it and then we're going to move on to our personal choices. Does anybody want to start us off and give the what their thoughts were about it?

Jen 11:39

Sure, I can start. I appreciated a lot of things about this book. I really enjoyed it. I thought Hamill's vulnerability and just sort of ruthless honesty and considering his childhood--and his adulthood he gets through his adulthood at the end--was really powerful, and seeing him contend with the way that wealth had shaped his father in particular and the impact that had on the rest of his life was one of the things that I thought: I had not read that story before. I have not read many considerations of the ways that extreme wealth can just make families quite dysfunctional. And seeing them the way that his mother who grew up, so she grew up more wealthy than his family ends up, but not with the same extreme wealth that his father had . . . seeing the way that that wealth shapes her as well after the marriage, and then what happens when you take that away? It was just really fascinating to me. I mean, the things--my husband has done a lot of studying of economic issues, and he talked about how middle-class people often are strivers and think that you work hard for success, and that wealthy people don't value the same things, which makes sense to me intellectually, but to see that play out, the things that his father just didn't care about, or just didn't think, mattered, are so foreign to the way that I think about life. That was all just really interesting. So and you can see how that makes Hamill vulnerable to the idea that maybe you can't change your life because no amount of hard work is going to give you control over who you are. I don't know. I'm having a hard time articulating what I thought, but yeah, just the way that wealth played into his difficulty in figuring out who he was. Because that wasn't something that his father had to work at. He just took so many things for granted. And his mother is definitely a stronger presence in her life. I'm sure you guys are going to talk about his mother. So I'll leave that one alone because his mother is whew, quite quite an individual, that I was really fascinated by his father and his father's family and the role that played in Kirkland figuring out who he was or how trouble figuring out who it was.

Sara 14:01

Ashley, what about you? What are you thinking?

Ashley 14:04

Book cover of Kirkland Hamill's Filthy Beasts

Yeah, I think something that really struck me is the way that we see his view as a child of the things that are happening. So a lot of what we as the reader are reading about the things that the parents let happen, the ways that they were totally uninvolved is . . . all of it is atrocious to for the reader. But I think that Kirkland as the storyteller does a great job of helping us see what it is like for a child in that situation, and how children don't see it in the way that an adult does. Or even another child from outside of the situation does. And so I think, I mean, the neglect and the cruelty there are times that is outright cruelty. And but often it's just it's cruelty through neglect, and unwillingness to make good choices that prioritize the children over the parents' own happiness is staggering and happens over and over and over again.

Ashley 15:03

And I think that part, like Jen talked about with the wealth, it definitely is the coupling of the wealth with the lifestyle that enables them to be completely self absorbed as adults and for everything to circle around them. And I think we see that with the, with his mom, as well, that when things fall apart for her and they're in Bermuda, she still can't prioritize her children, and I think we see her with more grace than we do the father, which is partially because Kirkland loves her, and you can see his adoration toward her that he remembers as an adult and is telling us about himself as a child how desperately he wanted to please her, how he wanted her to be happy when she was so unhappy. So we see all that playing out, but still when they are separated, and you know, are living just with her, she still is wallowing in her . . . it's still about herself as an adult and what is or isn't working out and who was responsible for that, instead of prioritizing her children. So I think we see that over and over again about that, that all of that really shapes his life and his relationship with his siblings. I mean, in a lot of ways, I think we, as the reader want the siblings to be closer to each other so that they can take care of each other when these horrible things are happening. But because the family is so dysfunctional, there's not a lot of support for each other. And so I thought all of that was really painful, but rich and well told, and I love the way that he is able to put us in the place of him as a child. Instead of him just telling it from his perspective, looking back.

Sara 16:47

Yeah. That's great.

Jen 16:48

Yeah, that double vision I think is something that the best memoirists do well is both remember what it's like to view things as a child but also have that other view as an adult who now understands the implications of what's happening. And yeah, he definitely succeeds at that.

Ashley 17:05

Yeah. What do you think, Sara?

Sara 17:07

So I agree with all that both of you said. I thought the dynamics between he and his father and he and his mother are just, I mean, I just think those relationships are so complicated, but he describes them in a way that is, I mean, you can see that he loves them. But he also recognizes their deep flaws, and I think . . . I thought that was really great. I also love I've really enjoyed getting to see his relationship with his brothers and the way in which he was . . . he caught, he was kind of like a beacon in his family and was able to be supportive when everyone else couldn't. And I also thought that he did a really great job of describing how alcoholism affects the web that alcoholism weaves in a family, and how it affects . . . it affects people and also like the kind of like the innocent bystanders and how it affects them too. So I found . . . I found it fascinating. I really . . . I thought it was pretty a pretty quick read, and I really like memoir anyway, I really love reading about other people's experiences, and I think that what Kirkland did such a good job at. We keep calling him Kirkland. Usually I call authors by their last names.

Ashley 18:29

I think it's because he tells the story. Yeah.

Jen 18:32

He's a character and yeah . . .

Sara 18:34

And I mean, I think that, um, to me, ultimately, by the end, it's just this for, for him. It seems like just such a journey of self revelation. And I appreciate it at the end, knowing you know, knowing where we're having known where he started, and where he ends up was just . . . was really interesting, and seeing how that transpired throughout his life. And where he gets to, having known where he was coming from, and I just thought that . . . I thought it was really, really good. And I like there is an epilogue so you kind of got to know what was going on with the rest of the family, and also I read his author's notes and dedications, and that was really, really cool. So I really enjoyed it. I thought, I thought it was a solid memoir, and I enjoyed reading it.

Jen 19:28

Yeah, agreed.

Sara 19:30

Okay, so let's move on to our personal choices. I'm really excited to hear about these. Ashley, can you tell us what your personal choice for nonfiction is?

Ashley 19:40

Book Cover of Kiese Laymon's Heavy: An American Memoir

Sure. I just read Kiese Laymon's Heavy: An American Memoir. And this is one that has come highly recommended and that I had looked forward to reading and purchased last month, and was just really excited to dive into it. He is a brilliant writer. And he's examining his life as a Black boy moving into a Black man in Jackson, Mississippi. And I think what is remarkable about the memoir . . . first of all, he is able to take an unflinching examination of his own life. And I think that is really hard to do. He shows the gritty parts of itself of it himself. And while we, as the reader understand how he is making these choices, he struggles with anorexia, and it is very painful to read about because you can see how he's suffering, but because he's a Black man, people make passing comments, but no one is interceding on this situation that is more and more and more desperate and destructive to his body. There's very little of that because he is male. Because he looks very athletic, but he is able, like I said in that just unflinching examination he's able through. He struggles with his weight throughout his life. And then when he gets into exercise, I mean it is . . . it's a story that I have seen, told well as far as that part of the story, but never from a male perspective. And I really appreciated that because it the reception of what was happening, I felt was so different than the accounts I've seen of women who've been able to show what it's like to experience that. He just didn't get any help. I mean, people saw that he looked great, basically, and that he looked super athletic, but he was showing through the quant . . . through his need to quantify constantly, his exact percentage of body weight, his exact weight on the scale. His . . . he realized his grandmother didn't have a scale, and he was frantic to get back to where he could weigh himself again. So I felt like that's a small part of a very rich story.

Ashley 21:55

But I appreciated that is just an example of the way that he could take a deep dive into something that is an experience that a lot of people have, but show what it's like both for himself and the way that society and the people who love him react to that. But I guess what I really wanted to highlight..what I think is the thing I love the best is that he examines the connection between systemic racism in America and its implications on a single person's life, from childhood into adulthood. And he does that so well. And so I think while it is very much a personal story, which I think resonates with readers. It's very much about his life and his experiences. He is able to demonstrate, I mean, he's just a brilliant writer, so he's able to demonstrate it but also he beautifully demonstrates it with really amazing storytelling. He shows how the systemic structures make it impossible for him to make different choices than the ones that he's making. And a lot of what develops in his...when he gets into his eating disorder... has to do with this desire to control. And it's the desire to control something in his life and have control over it. It's something that has shaped so much of how people perceived him. So it had a lot to do with, you know, a lot of his consciousness of weight had to do with people seeing him as a Black man, as a threat, as someone who was intimidating simply because of size. And then this desire to do something to take control of it. I just thought all of that was so rich. He also talks about gambling addiction, both his mother's addiction and later on his own. And again, I just think the way that he's able to not soften his interpretation of himself is just really striking. I think most times when we are telling a story about ourselves, we're seeing ourselves as the one who's doing the right thing and everything around us is what's causing the problems. And I think he is able to show how, of course the things around him, even the people who he loves-- his relationship with his mother is very complex. The whole memoir is written to her, and is working out those dynamics between them and their relationship is really complicated, but he's able to show without blaming everyone else, his own faults. I just haven't read anything that could do that in the way that he does that in this, so I thought that was really gripping. And also I just appreciated the way that he could be so honest, I don't think I'm ever even in my stories to myself about what's happening. I don't think I'm that honest about my part in it. And I think that he does that in such a compelling way. So, I just really loved it. I thought it was a great read. I loved that, again, I talked a lot about just the small part of his eating disorder. But that is just one small part of the book.

Ashley 25:01

He does that throughout. He talks about himself as a writer. He talks about himself as a reader. He talks about--he winds up going to school and being a professor. And he examines all of that. And each of those things is just a small part of this really rich tapestry of his life. And yet he examines each of those things so well, and he talks about teaching at Vassar and being a Black professor at Vassar. And what that is like. I just thought it was remarkable. I will definitely be rereading, because I think it is something that is so rich, that there's, you know, so much to pick up and I think what he does is that there's so much packed into his experiences that is amazing. So yeah, and I listened and read this one and he reads the audiobook. So as we've talked about before, when you can hear the author, read the book, that's really great, but I also appreciated the print copy because the syntax is really beautiful, his language is really lovely. And so I appreciated being able to see the text as well. And I thought both experiences were great. So again, that's Kiese Laymon's Heavy: An American Memoir.

Sara 26:11

That is on my TBR. You know, I love a memoir, so I really am hoping to read that soon.

Jen 26:17

Yeah, I listened to it on audio. And yeah, I did wish for the print copy because you know I always want to mark quotations. I'm going to get into that with my pick. But yeah, the audio was so powerful and it's not that--you're right, there's so much in it but it is not that long. It is amazing what he's able to encompass in not that many pages, not that many hours, if you're listening to the audio.

Sara 26:40

Jen, what is your pick?

Jen 26:43

Book cover of Phuc Tran's Sigh, Gone

So this is one I actually did for a Bookish Check-in. I can't remember when, but I know I did. This is Phuc Tran's Sigh, Gone--and that is a play on words, so it's S-I-G-H comma GONE--: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In. And this is one of my favorite memoirs that I've read recently, It talks a lot about being an outcast and making these very deliberate decisions, to find ways to not be an outcast and not feel like an outcast, his father--and well he immigrates with his father. There's a whole story there--with his family in 1975, from Vietnam to the United States, into Pennsylvania, in a town that is not very diverse, it is predominantly working class white people. And so he definitely feels different from the beginning. There is a reverence for language that just appears throughout the book. His father, in particular, like has this feeling about the library, because he just cannot believe that you can go to the library and borrow these books that you don't have to pay for them. And so his father just, from the beginning, imbues in Tran, this feeling that knowledge and language is something powerful. And you definitely see the struggle of first generation immigrants to learn a language and to make a place for themselves in this community through language. There's a great scene--Star Wars is a big part of the beginning. Like they love Star Wars. I mean, I will just say as a child of the 80s--so I was born in 1976. There were so many moments from the 80s that I was like, "Oh, my gosh, I love this." So they love Star Wars. And so they have checked this Star Wars children's book out from the library. And his father is faithfully looking up all of these words that he doesn't know as they're reading. And so like there's a part in the dictionary where they're trying to figure out what a Wookiee is. And it's this great moment, and it's really funny, but also Tran himself is criticizing his father because he doesn't know what a Wookiee is. And so it's this moment of like, they're together in not knowing. But Tran is criticizing his dad for not knowing, for not being able to figure it out. And you see that sort of dual perspective or that dual--I don't know that dual feeling--translate through the book. Right? So there's always this feeling that they are in this together. But there's also a division that Tran is frustrated that his parents can't just make it work. They can't just fully assimilate into their hometown.

Jen 29:33

So at one point, Tran very deliberately decides that if he's going to be an outcast, anyway, he might as well make it on purpose. And so he becomes this huge fan of punk rock. And he finds this group of friends with which he has very little in common, but he loves music. And there's this great scene where one of his new friends who's very into skateboarding. So, he's learning skateboarding. Tran says that he likes this song, and so the new friend goes home and makes him a mixtape and painstakingly writes out all the lyrics to all of the music and gives it to Tran. And you can see how much that means to him. It's just this beautiful moment because these are these kids who don't seem very in touch with emotions, generally. And you know, they want to be tough guys. But then they just do these things that are really caring. And there are a lot of moments where you see how much they care for each other. So at a certain point, Tran realizes that he's not getting all he wants, just from this group, and he decides he's going to be a good student. He wants a way out of Pennsylvania. And so he decides he needs to succeed at academics and you see again, that thread from earlier with his father come to the forefront, and he just becomes this excellent student. And through the whole book, he finds these themes in classic literature that he feels connect with his life. So every section of the book has a work of classic literature that he's like pulling these threads from, to show how they connect with what he's going through. There's one quotation, I put this in my review on Instagram that I just want to read. And I will just say, Man, I started this one on audio. And the audio is great, but Ashley, like you said, I really wanted the print, so I ended up reading the whole thing in print because I was marking--it was a ridiculous number of quotations because his writing is beautiful, but this one I thought was really great. He says, "Do we want words to be powerful or powerless? We can't have it both ways. If we want them to be powerful, we have to act and speak accordingly, handling our words with the fastidious faith that they can do a immeasurable good or irreparable harm. But if we want to say whatever we want, if we want to loose whatever words fly into our minds, then we render words powerless, ineffectual and meaningless like the playground bromide of sticks and stones, that childhood logic leads you to believe that suffering corporal trauma is worse than verbal trauma."

Ashley 32:08

That is a great quote.

Jen 32:11

Isn't an amazing? He just--he really shows-- he has a younger brother. He's very protective of him. And you see him making these decisions to try to protect his brother. There is some abuse in his household. And he deals with that in a very honest way and with how he sees his relationship with his parents as being broken and then how they try to repair it. There's also this underlying consideration of what it means to be an immigrant to the United States. And what there is to admire about the United States in the way of life and also what there is that's not perfect, and so his dad definitely because of his perspective, sees everything in the United States as good and doesn't want to admit that anything could be bad and Tran is like everything is not perfect, right? He sees what can go wrong. So yeah, it's just this amazingly complex, really fun, really funny, really sad. All the emotions. Of course, I cried, but I also laughed a lot. And again, for any child of the 80s I think there are just moments of recognition that, yeah, you'll just love, there'll be a mention of a song that meant something to you, or there'll be a moment where there's a movie that you just love that he connects with. And then for any English nerds, like me, I mean, I just, every time he noticed something about like the Scarlet Letter that connected to his life. It just makes a lot of sense. So, that is Phuc Tran's Sigh, Gone that I cannot possibly encompass in this little description. I know I went on for a long time, but it is beautiful and wonderful.

Ashley 33:49

That's's funny because I had a quote open also and then I was like, "Can we do a quote? I'm not sure." I might sneak it in after Sara, because I definitely think that. I mean, I think that's part of what we look for with memoirs, is the ability to use the language to tell about that experience. What about you, Sara? What are you going to recommend?

Sara 34:12

Book Cover of Knox McCoy's All Things Reconsidered

So this is a book that I also requested. I've requested an ARC from W Publishing, and they were kind enough to send it to me. But, you know, I talk about The Popcast on here frequently because I love pop culture. And so I listen to that, that podcast religiously, and Knox McCoy one of the hosts of the podcast is also a writer and author. And so this is his second book, All Things Reconsidered: How Rethinking What We Know Helps Us to Know What We Believe. And I loved his first book, The Wondering Years, which was more memoir. This one is, I mean, it has many memoir elements, but it is told in chapters. So each chapter is basically he delves into a subject that he, he once thought one thing and then he is he is kind of wrestling with reconsidering it. And what I love about McCoy's style of writing is that he's really a straight shooter. He's very witty, and he is willing to address difficult and not-so-difficult topics. So especially the difficult topics, but I like that he weaves in things that are like he was like reconsidering sex scenes in movies, and he reconsiders participation trophies, and so things like that, but then he also thinks about his faith and reconsidering the things that his evangelical upbringing kind of instilled in him and rethinking that and reconsidering it, and sometimes the reconsideration is that he is going to continue to believe but believe what whatever it is about participation trophies or, or harder questions about faith. But sometimes in the reconsidering, he finds his own way and realizes that he is able to think about the things that he's been taught and think about what he knows, and that it is okay to reconsider and reevaluate and restructure beliefs based on the things that we know now, and I just really appreciate it. I think it's really brave to put that out there for the consumption of people to pass judgment. And I think what it inspired me to do is to think about those things too, and to think about things that I . . . that maybe were imparted on me from other other way . . . other places, rather than me coming to something on my own. And I think that it would be really hard for me to write something like that. So I appreciate when an author is willing to put that kind of stuff out there be vulnerable, but also be able to, to bring it with this great wit and sense of humor to make it really palatable, palatable to read.

Sara 37:00

And it was just really . . . I think it was funny. I think it's well written, and he is all about the footnotes. The Wondering Years had footnotes, and this one has footnotes. And I love a book that can utilize footnotes well, and he does that. He's a huge Hamilton fan like, like Jen is. When he was promoting this book, he was saying that he wanted to work in as many Hamilton references as he could. And so like the footnotes will be Hamilton reference Hamilton reference. And I mean, as someone who is not a huge fan yet of Hamilton, because I haven't seen it, I was appreciative of him showing me where those were because I wanted to see, and he was able to work in quite a few. So I think I think what I really got out of this is that it's okay for us to use what we learn as we grow as human beings and reconsider what our thoughts are on things that we . . . it's okay to change and evolve, and I really I just really appreciated that perspective and what it did for me as a reader and a human being. So that is Knox McCoy's All Things Reconsidered: How Rethinking What We Know Helps Us to Know What We Believe.

Jen 38:16

Yeah, I really liked. I just think anytime someone could say, "I thought this, and I was wrong, and I've changed my mind," I have so much respect for that. So yeah, I agree. And this is one: I borrowed Sara's ARC, but that I was like, I kind of want to listen to audio because the first, for The Wondering Years, I listened to the audio. And of course, he has a podcast, and he just has this great wry delivery. And so I kept imagining as I was reading it, like, how he would deliver some of the lines or some of the Hamilton references which, you know made my heart very, very happy.

Sara 38:47

Yes, and I yeah, and like I think someone that he's very self deprecating, and I think that I--and he's also very sarcastic--and I like all those things are things that I enjoy. So I yeah, I think it was really great. And it's a slim, quick read. And also, it's one of those books that you can kind of pick up and read a chapter and then go about your business and then pick up and read another chapter because each little chapter is kind of self contained in what he's reconsidering. So, yeah. Okay, anybody? Oh, Ashley, I'm gonna give you this opportunity.

Jen 39:26

I was reading her expression.

Sara 39:28

I will allow it.

Ashley 39:30

Thank you. I wanted to share this quote specifically because I know we have a lot of teachers who listen. So Kiese Laymon's memoir is very much about his life experiences. He experiences a lot of trauma, there's abuse, that then impacts him as an adult. So like I said, he looks at his own. He is very much an examination of his life and the way that his experience in his studying in America shapes his life. But I wanted to mention this quote because it really struck me as a teacher, and I know that we have a lot of teachers who listen so . . . All right, he is talking with his grandmother. And she is saying, "Did you at least tell your teachers in that schoolhouse thank you?" She's asking him after he's graduated. And he said, and this is his reflection, he says, "I sat there thinking about all the teachers I had from first through twelfth grade. I've gone to majority black schools all but that one year at St. Richard, and that one year at DeMatha. Ms. Arnold, my fourth grade teacher, was the only black teacher I had. Ms. Raphael, who taught us at Holy Family in sixth and seventh grade, loved us so much that LaThon and I once made the mistake of calling her Mama. The rest of my teachers maybe did the best they could, but they just needed a lot of help making their best better. There were so many things we needed in those classrooms, in our city, in our state, in our country that our teachers could have provided if they would have gone home and really done their homework. They never once said the words: 'economic inequality,' 'housing discrimination,' 'sexual violence,' 'mass incarceration,' 'homophobia,' 'empire,' 'mass eviction,' 'post traumatic stress disorder,' 'white supremacy,' 'patriarchy,' 'neo-confederacy,' 'mental health,' or 'parental abuse,' yet every student and teacher at that school lived in a world shaped by those words." And he goes on to say, "I loved all my teachers, and I wanted all my teachers to love us. I knew they weren't being paid right. I knew they were expected to do work they were unprepared to start or finish. But I felt like we spent much of our time teaching them how to respect where we've been. And they spent much of their time punishing us for teaching them how we deserved to be treated."

Ashley 41:39

And I just think when we talked, you know when we talked about Stamped last week, and the importance of reading that for teachers and getting that to kids, I think that looking at Black experience in America, particularly within school systems is so important for us to do, and I just loved what he said there that if we, if teachers are to do a little bit more of the right kind of work, then those relationships can be so much better, and we can serve our students so much better. So even though like I said, his commentary on education is just a small part of his exploration and examination of his life, that really stuck with me, and I think it is something worth considering for teachers is just how are we using our time? And when we are preparing for school, are we doing the work we need to be doing to really serve our students? So I wanted to share that because I think it's, it's worth consideration. And it made me reflect a lot on my own choices as a teacher in the way that I sometimes felt that I was utilizing my prep time, and the things I valued as important. And I have some regret about the priorities that I made sometimes about making a lesson instead of reading a book that would teach me better about a child's life experience. So.

Jen 42:54

Wow, that's powerful.

Sara 42:55

That is powerful. I don't know a good way to transition from that powerful quote.

Ashley 43:01

I just appreciated the opportunity to share that because I felt, like like Jen said, it's hard when we're summarizing something that we read because you already feel like you're talking a lot, so I felt like I'd already talked a lot about the memoir. And then to tack on the quote was gonna be a lot, but thanks for pausing and letting me share that because I just think . . . it was really powerful for me. And again, a lot of things resonated in the book. But that was the thing that for me as a teacher, helped me really think hard about what . . . the choices I have made, the preparation that I have done to serve students, and the preparation I can do right now to serve students better in the future.

Sara 43:37

So that's, that was a great quote. I'm slowly melting. I just want I just have to say, I hope that nobody can. I'm trying to discreetly fan myself with a piece of paper because our air conditioning is broke, and I'm melting and trying to hold it together, and you're going on and not acknowledging that I look like I have done a workout this whole podcast, however I . . .

Ashley 44:07

Sara told us before we started recording this, if she just passed out we should just carry on. So that's what we were prepared to do.

Jen 44:14

That's right.

Give Me One - What We Wanted to Be When We Were Kids

Repeated phrase "Give Me One" in several colors

Sara 44:17

So we are going to end today like every other episode, we are going to do Give Me One, and today we are going to find out a little bit about what each of us wanted to be when we were little when we grew up. So Jen, do you want to start us off?

Jen 44:33

Sure. So I wanted to be a nurse just like mom. My mom is a nurse. She's been a public health nurse since I was very small, and I just thought that that was a noble profession, I thought it was something I might be interested in. I actually, when I went to college, went in as "Deciding," that was what they called it at my college, and took classes . . . I had transitioned to thinking maybe I wanted to be a doctor. So I went to take classes that would prepare me to go pre med, but I took my first English class in college my third trimester and fell in love and didn't look back, though I did minor in biology, but yeah, I just thought, I really admired my mom, and I really admired the work that she was doing and is still doing for our community where I grew up, and I thought that would be really cool. I should say my dad was a wildlife biologist. So I got the biology on both sides, but that is very different from being a nurse.

Sara 45:31

Ashley, what did you want to be?

Sara 45:33

So for a while when I was young, I was really interested and I was interested in animals in general, but I particularly love dolphins and whales and aquatic animals. And so I was interested in being a marine biologist. So that was my interest for a long time but I don't think I've ever been very science oriented. It's funny because seeing my . . . my oldest child now is very science oriented, that is for sure her preference, and so I'm interested to see if that continues because, as it got into this study, I just was never, science was probably my least favorite of all the subjects, and so I don't think that my interest as a young kid of being a marine biologist had to do with my actual inclinations and what I'm curious about learning, I don't think, but I did really love the animals a lot. So yeah, yeah. Similarly, my dad had a background in herpetology, so he did a lot with amphibians and reptiles, but then his work life was . . . he didn't do science for work.

Jen 46:33

My niece is getting ready to graduate and she is going into marine biology. At this point. I mean, she's getting ready to graduate high school, so you know, things can change, but she's . . . she's very earnest. So.

Sara 46:44

That's awesome.

Jen 46:45

Yeah. What about you, Sara?

Sara 46:47

Well, I was . . . when I came up with this question, and I was thinking like, I don't remember like, when I was younger, I never you know, like elementary school, I don't remember like having a strong desire to be a career, like I didn't think about a career more than like, I wanted to be a mommy, and I wanted to, you know, that type of thing. But as I got older, I love fashion, and I loved reading about fashion, I love to watch people make fashion, and I would have loved to have been a fashion designer. But, you know, I we're from a really, I'm from a really small rural town, there was nothing available to me that would help me pursue that at all, like there was just nothing, especially in the late 90s when I was in high school, and to be able to explore that, but I always loved fashion, I love to like, because I went to like I said, a small rural high school and I would always try to, I would go to Washington, DC, to get my clothes, and I would wear all this . . . bell bottoms and all this stuff that I could get in the city that we were did not have at our mall, here in our little town. So I always really just love that and wanted to perceive fashion. But it was just not available at the time, which makes me really as an educator understand and realize and want to be able to provide those opportunities for kids in rural areas because there are so many things that are available in the wider world, but just are not available to explore in small areas and in, like lower socio economic areas. And it's important for us to be able to help kids find those things and find their passion and be able to pursue and make sure that they want to keep going. So that was what I wanted to be.

Jen 48:40


Sara 48:42


Ashley 48:43


Sara 48:43

Does anybody have any final thoughts or words of wisdom?

Ashley 48:46

I already tacked mine on.

Jen 48:52

I have no wisdom.

Sara 48:56

I'm just sweating up a storm over here. All right. Well we thank you again for listening today. We hope that you have found some great options for nonfiction reading. If you have suggestions for us for nonfiction reading, please hit us up on the socials. And again remember that what we said at the beginning of the episode, if you are looking for a way to support us that is super simple, free and just a great way to support the podcast and us, just go to Apple Podcasts, and rate, review, and subscribe. Thank you for listening.


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