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274: Henry Hoke's OPEN THROAT - May 2024 Book Club


Are you looking for a book written from an unusual perspective for the 2024 Unabridged Reading Challenge? Henry Hoke's Open Throat, a novel in verse written from the perspective of a mountain lion living in LA, certainly meets the requirements for that category.


This is a fast, compelling read that addresses many social issues from a unique perspective. Listen in to hear Ashley and Jen discuss Hoke's work as well as our pairings.


We're continuing to add exclusive content over on Patreon. In addition to monthly bonus episodes, we are now releasing more content on Patreon for subscribers. We appreciate your support so much, and it helps cover the cost of maintaining our podcast. If you haven't joined us there yet, you can check the details out here.




Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Lisa Fipp’s Starfish (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)

Jen - Mhairi McFarlane’s Just Last Night (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


Our Book Club Pick

Henry Hoke’s Open Throat (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


Our Pairings

Ashley - Shelley Van Pelt’s Remarkably Bright Creatures (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)

Jen - Christina Hammonds Reed’s The Black Kids (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)


Flashback - 6 Years Ago: May 2018


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


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Full Episode Transcript


[00:00:33] Jen: Hey everyone, and welcome to Unabridged. Today we are talking about Henry Hoke's Open Throat for our May book club. Before we get started, I just want to remind you that we are still putting some, if I do say so myself, some great content over on Patreon. We are posting an extra episode every month. This month we talked about the adaptation of Nella Larsen's Passing, and we are also putting a text-based resource there every month.


[00:01:01] So lots of great content and you get the chance to help support unabridged. So check it out at patreon.com/unabridgedpod. All right. To get started today, we're going to do our bookish check in. Ashley, what are you reading?


[00:01:16] Ashley: So, one of the things I'm reading Is Lisa Fipps' Starfish. I just started this last night. We had Sarah Ward, who is an author... If you haven't listened to her episode yet, she was on with us in March. And she talked about how much she loved Starfish. It is a middle grade, and I didn't realize this, but it is a novel in first.


[00:01:36] So I wanted to share it because I just started last night. I've only read a tiny little bit. But, I was like, Oh, this works for the challenge, which I didn't realize, so... and then Sarah had spoken so highly of it. I had wanted to read it. It had been on my radar before. And then when she mentioned it, it just reminded me.


[00:01:51] So I checked on Libby and, and found that. So I've only read just a tiny, tiny bit.So this story focuses on Ellie, and again, it's written in verse form.


[00:02:03] And so it starts out with a couple of scenes of when she made a big splash early on, jumping into the pool at her fifth birthday party. And she had on a whale swimsuit. And And people, when she came up out of the water, instead of people like cheering, which is what she was expecting, people were making commentary about her as a whale that made this huge splash because she was a little bit overweight. And, from that moment on, it's just this revelation for her as a tiny young person that suddenly people have all these opinions about her and what they should and shouldn't... like how she should be. And so there's a lot early on about, again, I've only read the first little bit, but I think that, you know, there's, I love the verse style.


[00:02:56] It's really impactful because it's just right away Ellie is telling us that there are things that she does that she calls the fat girl rules and The ways that she should and shouldn't be in order to keep people from making commentary about her, and so it's just really... Again I've only read a few pages, but I can see why it is so well reviewed because I am immediately Feel so connected to Ellie and I love the way that she lets us see


[00:03:26] how it feels to her, like what the world is like to her, and so I feel like she really invites us in and and so I just am really enjoying that so far. And so again, I'm brand new to it, but it is... I wanted to mention it both because I really have been sucked in right away and also because I thought it's a great recommendation for the challenge.


[00:03:45] I anticipate it's going to be a great read and because it's a novel in verse, I think it would work well for the 2024 Reading Challenge. So again, that is Lisa Phipps Starfish, and I will be excited to report back after I've read more of it. So far, I am absolutely loving it. I love Ellie. Also, I didn't mention but, you do get a glimpse right away into she has a best friend who's moving away, but there's also a new neighbor.


[00:04:09] And she is meeting the new neighbor who I think is going to be great. And so it's fun to kind of see her navigating those circumstances. So,


[00:04:17] Jen: That has been on my list for a long time. So it's nice to hear that. It's good. I'll have to check it out.


[00:04:23] Ashley: Yeah, and it seems like it's gonna be a really quick read too, which again, I didn't realize, but between the verse... I mean, it's just moving really fast, so I'm excited for it. So what about you, Jen? What are you reading?


[00:04:32] Jen: I am reading Varee McFarlane's Just Last Night, and just like you, Ashley, I started it last night So I'm not very far in, but it is a romance.


[00:04:43] I've read a couple of McFarlane's books and she is one of those people I'd heard about on Bookstagram for a long time. And once I read the first book by her, I just loved her. So, I'm determined to visit her whole backlist. So this one focuses on Eve, and Eve is part of a really tightly knit group of friends, four friends who've been friends since high school.


[00:05:05] So there's Eve, her best friend Susie. And then when they were... it takes place in England. So they're in sixth form, which I think they were seniors, the equivalent of seniors or juniors, I'm not sure, they met up with Justin and Ed and just immediately loved each other and became best, best, best friends.


[00:05:25] Okay. The one complicating factor is that since they were in high school, Eve has been infatuated with Ed and Ed has had a girlfriend since his first year in college and they are in their mid 30s now. I think they're 34. And so Eve has just, had this infatuation that she tries not to let affect their friendship.


[00:05:52] They had a brief moment when they expressed their feelings for each other, but then a miscommunication meant that Ed got this girlfriend. So the book opens, they're at a trivia night where they go every week, and you can see immediately the chemistry between the four of them. And then Ed's girlfriend Hester comes in and changes the whole mood, and in a surprise moment proposes to Ed.


[00:06:21] So Eve is, of course, devastated and gets really drunk, walks home that night, things happen... and then this is the part where I just left off, but I will just say there is a tragedy, and I don't know exactly what's going to happen, and I don't really want to spoil it, but I feel like it has turned the entire book on its head.


[00:06:46] And so I just don't know where it's going to go. It is marketed as a romance. I do think that the cover is a little... Given the seriousness of this tragedy, I think that the cover is a little misleading because it's this bright yellow cheery looking cover with an illustrated picture of the couple. So yeah, we'll, we'll see what happens with that.


[00:07:09] But again, I trust McFarlane. I think it's probably going to be great. It just, I was not expecting this really, really sad tragedy to happen.


[00:07:19] Ashley: Oh man.


[00:07:20] Jen: Yeah, I always think that's interesting. I remember that back with Emily Henry's Beach Read, which I absolutely loved, but just the mismatch between that cover and that book or the same thing happened with Bonnie Garmus's Lessons in Chemistry.


[00:07:33] So I always think that's interesting. Yes, maybe you're getting more people to read it, but if they're picking up a book they didn't expect to read, what does that do? Anyway, deeper thoughts than we need to get into here, but I've been pondering that. So... But anyway, all that to say, so far it's really good.


[00:07:51] It's really compelling. Just be ready if you pick this one up. So that Mhairi McFarlane's Just Last Night.


[00:07:59] Ashley: That sounds great. But also, I always like to know going in so


[00:08:05] Jen: Yeah. All right. Well, we are going to move on to our book club discussion of Henry Hoke's Open Throat, and I'm just going to read the first paragraph of the publisher's synopsis. "A queer and dangerously hungry mountain lion lives in the drought devastated land under the Hollywood sign. Lonely and fascinated by humanity's foibles, the lion spends their days protecting a nearby homeless encampment, observing hikers complain about their trauma, and in quiet moments, grappling with the complexities of their gender identity, memories of a vicious father and the indignities of sentience."


[00:08:40] So I'm going to stop there. I feel like the synopsis goes really deep into the plot. So I thought, you know, we do spoilers, but if you haven't read the book, you may want to go read it really fast. It's a fast read, and then come back. So, all right, Ashley, let's start with overall impressions. What did you think of Open Throat?


[00:08:57] Ashley: well, I really enjoyed it. I have never read anything like it, so I think that that really speaks to... It's just really unique, and so I really loved that, this exploration of a mountain lion's perspective, and what that might look like, and also the way that the environment is impacting animals, and what that... the consideration of that, the consideration of gender within the animal world.


[00:09:26] So yeah, I had thought it was just really interesting and invites readers to consider things that, I mean, I certainly had never thought about before. And also the difference between intention and action. I think there's a lot of exploration of that in the story. And I thought that was really interesting also.


[00:09:46] And again, because we're looking at it from an animal perspective, it invites this thought process about what are we trying to do, and then what actually... What does it seem like we're doing to everyone around us. And because it's an animal, we can see that more clearly, I think, than sometimes we can see it with people, and yet, that happens all the time, that, like, Intentions are so different than what the outcome is or what the, you know, contextually what it seems to be happening.


[00:10:12] I mean, I think that with like the town and the fire and the mountain lion is trying to help their people and it seems like of course they're attacking the people instead. And you know, so there's lots of instances of that in the text and so yeah, I thought that was really interesting. So yeah, very thought provoking, very quick and unique, unlike anything I've read.


[00:10:34] What did you think, Jen? What was your overall impression?


[00:10:36] Jen: Yeah, I really enjoyed this. So this is my second time through. I read this earlier this year for the Tournament of Books, and that time I did the audio, and this time I did the print. And I found those experiences to be quite different. I just, the audio was great, and I felt like it really propelled the plot forward, and so I was very captivated by that.


[00:10:58] Switching to the print, I paid much more attention to individual lines that I thought really stood out to me. I was marking a lot of quotations in my Kindle, but yeah, I really love it. And like you said, I think it's such... hoke does a great job of not anthropomorphizing, that sounds weird, but not anthropomorphizing the mountain lion in a way that is human.


[00:11:21] There's that weird, surreal part about Disney world, right? But beyond that, yeah, just capturing this unique, totally outsider perspective. I think it's such an interesting thought experiment. I actually heard him speak about the book in a different podcast, and hearing him talk about his writing process was fascinating.


[00:11:38] And just some of the scenes that played out entirely differently than they would have if we had had a human narrator were fascinating to me. And it gets a real... It's an interesting writing exercise. Like I think back to, When you're in elementary school and you have to write from the perspective of like a pencil or, and yeah, you just see the world differently.


[00:12:00] So I really loved it. I will say one of the longer conversations that happened during the Tournament of Books was about the marketing for this one as well. Apparently this is marketing day on Unabridged, but you know, it starts the very first line of the synopsis is a queer and dangerously hungry mountain lion.


[00:12:18] And they were debating, not the queerness of the mountain lion, but whether that's such an important part of the book. And so I was thinking about that this time in particular, reading through, there were actually some people who missed that the mountain lion was queer, which I felt like was on the page undeniable, but just that decision to market the book in that way is interesting.


[00:12:41] I don't know if we want to get into that, but I did think that was an interesting discussion and just the way that affected the development of the mountain lion's identity, especially in relation to their father, was intriguing.


[00:12:55] Ashley: Yeah. And like the missed partner, like partnership, and the way that Little Slaughter sees the mountain lion.


[00:13:02] Jen: Yes.


[00:13:05] Ashley: Yeah, I, I think this would be a hard book to summarize... It's not an easy, because of all the things you said, you know, it's not, we're not, it is not a human inside a mountain lion's body.


[00:13:17] And so that makes the entire idea of, like, summarizing the story challenging,


[00:13:23] Jen: Mm hmm.


[00:13:24] Ashley: But I thought that, too. And I did think that the queerness was on the page But in some ways I also already knew that before I started the book whereas in a lot of ways I think it is about a journey of an animal and so yeah, I can see why there's a discussion about that because then if the point is not the exploration of the queerness, but instead an integral part of the mountain lion, but the story is about the mountain lion and finding... Seeking, seeking, but maybe not finding, seeking purpose, seeking community, that's more what the story is about, I think, in a lot of ways.


[00:14:00] So yeah, I can see why there would be a discussion about that.


[00:14:03] Jen: Yeah, it was really interesting. But yeah, overall, I realized that was kind of a ramble, but overall I really enjoyed it in both formats, but I did find those reading experiences to be quite different.


[00:14:14] Ashley: I've only listened and I only did it once and I would be very interested in a reread, and to read it on the page because I did think that this is one that there's a lot to be explored, and even though it is a quick read, there's a lot going on and there's a lot that because it is from an animal's perspective.


[00:14:32] You're working your way through What what it means for us? I thought that hope did a really great job of imagining what animals believe about the things... Like the "long death," I mean things that... things that of course they see in a totally different way than than what we see as Humans with infrastructure and knowing like what the purpose is of those things... of those places and those things.


[00:14:55] And so yeah, I felt like it deserves more depth than I have spent. So in some ways talking about it, I feel like I have a very superficial understanding to be able to explore it in depth. But you know, it is an interesting, I thought that the audio was excellent, but I would be interested to read the print.


[00:15:12] And it makes sense to me that it would be two different. And I feel that with novels and verse a lot that I enjoy listening to them, but it is such a different experience when it is verse. Whereas I often feel like if it is written in prose, I don't have that same feeling.T.


[00:15:29] Jen: All right, well let's move on to something specific that worked for each of us. What really worked for you, Ashley?


[00:15:35] Ashley: I think something that I really loved... hmm, I think I want to talk about the town and the idea of the homeless community that the mountain lion feels kinship to. There's a lot of layers that I really liked there. I think one is that we see the profound inequities within the community, especially because we get to Little Slaughter later and see these, you know, mansion houses and just the extreme wealth and then that, seeing that contrast with profound poverty and people who are in dire circumstances and just trying to survive.


[00:16:18] And so I really. I liked the way we see the Mountain Lion's perspective on that as being The Town, and how that is the community that they gravitate toward, and want to protect and care for, even though the people at best tolerate the mountain lion, and in a lot of ways, hate and fear the mountain lion, and so again, it's that idea of like, The mountain lion's perspective of wanting to care for them and take care of them, and all of those things, and how that is so different from the way that the people perceive that threat that's out there, basically.


[00:16:59] So, yeah, I thought that, I mean, there are a lot of different things I could pick, I think, for something that worked for me, but that was one of the components that comes up several different times throughout the narrative that I thought was really interesting.


[00:17:09] Jen: Yeah. Yeah. You talked about that disparity between the mountain lions intentions and then the way they perceive it. And I think you see that, too, with Little slaughter. And when her father comes in and says that is a mountain lion. And you're like, I cannot fathom what I would do if I came home and one of my kids had a mountain lion in our house.


[00:17:32] So even though I don't love Slaughter, I feel like that is justified. And so I do think when you enter that surreal part of the book with Little Slaughter and yeah, you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit, but I think it also allows us to reflect then on the ways that extreme wealth maybe is allowing her a sense of security that the people in the tents, in the little town, can't have, and so she can have a naive approach that is not available to them.


[00:18:07] Ashley: Yeah. Yeah, that's a great point. Absolutely. And I think there's just so many ways that there is commentary here on... There's commentary on climate change, there's commentary on economic disparities, there's commentary on capitalism, there's commentary on human impact on the animal world. I mean, I thought all of that was just so interestingly explored.


[00:18:27] And again, in a way that is so different because this unusual perspective opens up an opportunity to look at these things in a very different lens.


[00:18:37] Jen: Yeah. Absolutely.


[00:18:39] Ashley: What about you, Jen? What was something specific that worked for you?


[00:18:41] Jen: I do think the climate change element... I think because I've been trying to focus so much on reading books about climate change, both fiction and nonfiction, and so I thought that flipping around that consideration of climate change from the mountain lion's perspective is fascinating, especially in the midst of somewhere like L.


[00:19:02] A., like, you know, right at the Hollywood sign where there is such a disparity between the way that's going to affect different people. But that scene after the fire, when the mountain lion is just so... You see the impact... is so disoriented that part of the narration switches entirely. It has been this looming threat that they are aware of through the whole book and that sense of dryness and of peril


[00:19:30] is always there because, of course, the mountain lion is keenly attuned to those types of peril. And then when it happens and, of course, happens because of such a deliberate action on the part of an ignorant and horrible human. But yeah, I thought that did such a good job of embodying climate change in a different way than I've seen before that I really appreciated that facet of it.


[00:19:52] Ashley: Yeah.


[00:19:53] Jen: I mean, there's so many of the things that you just listed that I think because it's from the perspective... Gender identity, right? That consideration of capitalism, that whole idea of scarcity being Scare City...


[00:20:03] Ashley: Oh, I loved that!


[00:20:04] Jen: Was so brilliant because, you know, it's, it's this clever thing that the mountain lion is translating all of these things and that the spelling is reflecting that.


[00:20:13] But of course there's depth there, and that's a very intentional decision on Hoke's part. So yeah, I think all of that's really brilliant.


[00:20:20] All right. Well, we're going to each share a quotation. Now, actually, what's your quote?


[00:20:25] Ashley: I'm gonna go with, "I try to understand people, but they make it hard." And I think, And so, I think something that really strikes me... You kind of alluded to the man who ultimately meets his demise, because he is horrific and the mountain lion ultimately acts in... Like it's a vengeful act. I mean, it's for revenge, basically. And so, we see that the story is always moving toward that moment from the beginning. I mean with the title, We are always moving toward The mountain lion deciding that this man deserves to die, basically.


[00:21:04] And, so I think it's this idea, we see it maybe most acutely with that particular man, but also like all this stuff with Little Slaughter. I mean, there's just like so many times, so I'd be like, And I think that's, that's stated here, but I think throughout the narrative, what resonates is that people don't make sense, and that a lot of the actions that people take are counterproductive to their own survival, much less the survival of everyone around them.


[00:21:30] And so I think that there is just a lot of interesting commentary on how messed up a lot of these systems are when you really get to the heart of them and how that might feel to the larger ecosystem that we live within at all times. So...


[00:21:51] Jen: yeah. I think that's such a great quote because it is about that inhumanity of, or a humanity, of the mountain lion, but also then because you were talking about the man with the whip, The mountain lion's most human moment is that vengeful moment. And so it's fascinating because So often the mountain lion is behaving better, behaving more truthfully.


[00:22:20] I mean, you know, the mountain lion kills Kiki in the zoo, and that whole line about well, you shouldn't have named it. But yeah, I mean the mountain lion is just true to its nature And then in some ways the thing that gets it killed is when it acts most like a human. And so, yeah, I think that's a really fascinating thing because people, from the mountain lion's perspective, are not understandable and just, yeah.


[00:22:43] Like why on earth would you set a fire? That action is just so illogical to the mountain lion because it has no purpose other than meanness. And the mountain lion is a lot of things, but the mountain lion is not mean. And yeah, It's so fascinating.


[00:23:02] Ashley: Yeah, and I mean, meanness to the detriment of everyone. I mean, it's that like, Again, it's about a hierarchy. I mean, this, the, the horrible man perceives himself to be above these people and therefore entitled to do this act. And yet, of course, it puts everyone at jeopardy, like not just the, the mean action itself and the cruelty of it, but then like the larger repercussions, which


[00:23:31] the man is too self centered and idiotic to see. And so I think we just see a lot of that play out in a lot of different ways... I mean, again, Little Slaughter is seen in a very different light, but it's equally ignorant about what could come to pass at any moment.


[00:23:47] What about you, Jen? What's your quote?


[00:23:50] Jen: It was such a quotable book, but the one I chose is, "The Shudder Inside Becomes Unbearable. I Can't Eat Everything I'm Afraid of." And just that sense of intangible peril that I talked about before. Well, and I was focusing on the fire, but of course there's the flood as well. And that these are things that... the Long Death, right?


[00:24:11] These are things that the mountain lion cannot defend against. So the mountain lion is an apex predator. As are humans and yet there are things that we cannot defend ourselves from because they exist outside of ourselves, and outside of the natural way that things work. And so that sense of fear... The mountain lion can handle themselves in a lot of situations.


[00:24:38] And yet there is this whole realm of situations that they cannot do anything about. And so I just found that to be a really relatable moment and that we often think that we should strike back when bad or fearful things happen to us. And yet we can't because it doesn't... I mean, the flood doesn't care if we strike back, the fire doesn't care if we strike back.


[00:25:00] And so there's this sense of things beyond our control that was really interesting. I really liked that quote.


[00:25:07] Ashley: Yeah, I thought that The earthquake and the fact that the that the shifted...


[00:25:12] Jen: Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.


[00:25:14] Ashley: Again, in some ways, like, there's nothing more... Like we have the metaphor of the ground shifting under our feet because It's like, there's nothing more unsettling than the idea that the earth under us could actually move at any moment.


[00:25:30] And so, yeah, I mean, there's the flood and the fire. I mean, there's just these things that, the natural forces, which are accentuated by climate change and accentuated by the environment in which the mountain lion lives. And we see how those are so unsettling. I mean, again, I think it's just a great quote, but we see that throughout.


[00:25:47] That's something that comes up a lot throughout the narrative. It's just that idea of constant fear and that fear is an integral part, even for an apex predator, because there are so many forces at play and because the mountain lion is more acutely aware of them in a lot of ways than the people even though the people are equally at risk.


[00:26:05] Jen: Right. Yeah. That juxtaposition of that hopelessness. And then it's such a perfect setting because being right below the Hollywood sign for so much of the book, of course you're in this sort of natural environment where humans have tried to claim things in a very visible way. And so I thought that was such a brilliant setting for the mountain lion's journey, because they are...


[00:26:29] This is obvious, but right, they're working their way through a world where the natural world and humanity have come up against each other. And it's tragic, and in ways that of course we know, but seeing it portrayed so viscerally was really powerful.


[00:26:42] Ashley: Yeah.


[00:26:43] Jen: All right, well, let's move on to our pairings.


[00:26:46] Ashley, I will say, got one that I really thought of, too. So I think this is a great one. Ashley, do you want to share your pairing?


[00:26:54] So yes, I, Jenna and I had this problem last month with Passing where I was like, dang it, she already got the one I wanted. And so maybe we'll go back and forth. We don't talk about it ahead of time.


[00:27:05] Ashley: It's just that we do have some books we have both read, and some of them, of course, are like somewhat obvious on the nose pairings. But so if you have already read this one, you will know why I'm recommending it. But this is Shelby Van Pelt's Remarkably Bright Creatures. And as the cover suggests, an octopus is an important part of the story.


[00:27:28] So what these have in common is Marcellus is the octopus, and he does have narration from his perspective within the novel. And you get to that pretty quickly as a reader. So that is the obvious... Like I said, it's a little on the nose, but it's the obvious connection here. And I think that similarly to the mountain lion,


[00:27:54] Marcellus is very much a creature who is not a human. Now, in some ways, Marcellus, I would say, is more human like than We see the mountain lion being, because he has this whole agenda to try to help Tova.


[00:28:08] Tova is, in a lot of ways, the main protagonist. And yet, there's also like this element of he's completely bewildered by humans. He can't understand a lot of the things that they do. What they do does not make sense, because a lot of what people do does not make sense, does not make sense when you look at it from an outside perspective.


[00:28:25] So you really get that from Marcellus, and he is just a great character. But, more generally, quick, And so this is a really great overview. Tova works at the aquarium where Marcellus is captive, and she cleans at night at the aquarium. She lost her son, tragically, a long time prior when he was 18, but then recently her husband died.


[00:28:49] And so the last few years she has been by herself. And so she takes care of the aquarium animals, and she really talks to them, and cares about them, and keeps up with them. And so a lot of different things come to pass, but basically people are wanting Tova, who is getting to a point where they feel like she should retire... her friends, and the larger community, is trying to like help her.


[00:29:16] To think about retirement so that she can get off her feet and take care of herself. And yet she is very reluctant to do that and kind of afraid of taking that step because this is what she's known. This is the way she's kind of kept herself going. And so we see that unfurling. And then there are, I don't want to give any spoilers.


[00:29:36] There's just a lot of different things that come to pass, and they come together in this very interesting, intricate way where all these characters who seem to be, their stories seem to be very separate from each other, but there is a very interesting weaving that is happening as the story unfurls. So I loved it.


[00:29:54] I think it is a fantastic book. It is also just like I think that a lot of different types of readers would enjoy it and it does have that unique perspective from Marcellus the octopus. So again, that is Shelby van Pelt's Remarkably Bright Creatures. And I think it would be a great pairing for this book.


[00:30:10] Jen: That one's wonderful. And I will say also so good on audio. So...


[00:30:15] Ashley: Oh, yes I read the print, but Jen mentioned that the audio is really good, and I've heard other people say that also So


[00:30:20] Jen: Yes.


[00:30:22] Ashley: what about you Jen? What's your pairing? Since I stole your first choice, what what is another?


[00:30:27] Jen: You just got there first.


[00:30:30] Ashley: What is another pairing?


[00:30:32] Jen: I chose, this one's a little off, but I chose Christina Hammons reads The Black Kids. And this one popped into my head because of the setting. And I feel like in Open Throat, again, this setting right below the Hollywood sign, and then down into Los Angeles is so vividly described in such an important part of that book and the same is true of The Black Kids, though it is a very, very different book.


[00:30:56] So in this one, this one's set in the aftermath of the Rodney King decision. And so it is set in LA, and it focuses on, as the title suggests, the Black population at a school where most of the people are very wealthy. The main character is Ashley Bennett, and she actually... So her family is very wealthy and at her school, she actually does not hang out with the other Black kids.


[00:31:23] She hangs out with a predominantly white group of students. But after the Rodney King verdict, her focus starts shifting.


[00:31:35] Though her neighborhood is distant from the protests that are shaking the city... so for a while she feels some distance, but of course she becomes aware of it and aware of the questions about race that are being raised.


[00:31:52] And she starts talking more to the few other Black students who are at her school.


[00:31:58] And so I think that is the connection, perhaps a slim connection, but it popped right into my head and the fires, are of course there for a different reason than in Open Throat. But when I envision this book, that is the image that pops in my head is L. A. and the fires. And so I think, because Open Throat does such a good job about talking, talking about so many social issues, as does The Black Kids, it takes on race, it takes on socioeconomics, Ashley's sister, has a very different approach to life than Ashley does, which also brings forth commentary on a lot of these social issues.


[00:32:36] So yeah, I think it's a... perhaps a tenuous pick. It is a young adult novel as well. It is not a novel in verse, but I do think that setting of LA is really vibrantly made a character in the book as well. So that is Christina Hammons Reed's The Black Kids.


[00:32:55] Ashley: I haven't read that one yet, Jen, but I think I have it on my Kindle, and I have really wanted to get to it. So, you mentioning it reminds me that I have really wanted to read that.


[00:33:04] Jen: Yeah, it has a gorgeous cover too, so I feel like that was the thing that grabbed my attention first, and then the setting because I remember that time so vividly, and have read about it since, but I thought it was a great perspective on that place and time. So, all right, well, let's do our bookish hearts.


[00:33:24] Ashley, what do you think?


[00:33:27] Ashley: I think this one's hard to evaluate. I found it very impactful. I'll go with five bookish hearts. What about you, Jen? Mm hmm.


[00:33:34] Jen: Yeah, I'm the same. I do know what you mean though, because compelling, but in a different way than I'm used to being compelled by a book.


[00:33:43] Ashley: Yeah, like, I thought, like, it's really thought provoking, but then in some ways I was pretty emotionally distant from it. Which makes sense, I think, with the perspective of the story, so, yeah.


[00:33:53] Jen: Alright, well we're going to close out with our flashback,


[00:33:55] so we are going to do six years ago this month.


[00:33:59] So May 2018. Ashley, what do you want to share from six years ago?


[00:34:04] Ashley: Well, we looked briefly back at the podcast, and oh my goodness, we had a lot going on. We were Yeah. I often, when I talk with clients about podcasts these days, one of the first things I talk about is sustainability. And when I look at those charts, I'm like, Oh my gosh, we were doing so much. So we had five episodes that month.


[00:34:23] I won't go into great detail here, but we read two books that we full on discussed as focal points. And then we also had the favorite dystopian novels, favorite memoirs, and a lit chat discussion. We had a lot going on. but we did, we did Emily XR Pan's The Astonishing Color of After was one of our books at that time.


[00:34:43] And I still think of that as being one of my favorites that we have done from the podcast. I did feel somewhat obliterated by that book, I will say. And did some serious, like, full on sobbing, but also I found that it was a really healing book and a really hopeful book. And so, yeah, I absolutely love it.


[00:35:01] Very impactful. We also talked about Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is, and that was another book that I just loved. It's the perspective of a parent who has a trans child and that journey with their child, and I thought that all of that was just really thought provoking and was different than a lot of what I had read at that point, so I really enjoyed both of those, but oh my gosh, we were very busy in the podcast world, and all of us also working full time jobs that were not that, so when I look at it, I think, Oh, gosh, there, there, there was a lot

happening.


[00:35:34] What about you, Jen? What, what else was going on in, aside from recording a lot of episodes, what else was going on in May of 2018 for you?


[00:35:42] Jen: My Google photos was hopping that month. So we got podcast photos taken that month. It was my in laws 50th anniversary party. We took a field trip to the National Aquarium with my son's elementary school over the weekend. And my older son was on a kickball team. And my younger son was in Lego League. So yeah, it was like, wow, we were doing a lot of stuff, and recording five episodes.


[00:36:08] So yeah, it's, it's,


[00:36:11] Ashley: We did not knock them out several at a time, either. So, that was, that


[00:36:15] Jen: true. I didn't even think about that. So


[00:36:16] Ashley: That was probably at least four recording sessions, if not five. So, that's a lot.


[00:36:21] Jen: It is a lot. Wow. Only six years ago. So much has changed.


[00:36:25] Ashley: So much has changed.


[00:36:26] Jen: All right, everyone. Well, thank you so much for listening. We would love to know what you think about Henry Hoke's Open Throat. And because of the timing of this release, if you would like to join our discussion, we are having a buddy read on Instagram.


[00:36:39] So you can just message us at Unabridgedpod. Oh, and I should have mentioned this one, of course, is perfect for the Unabridged Podcast Reading Challenge. This is a book told from an unusual perspective for sure. So, all right, well, thank you everyone so much for listening.

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