The world feels like it’s exploding. With Covid-19 and anti-racism protests raging through our streets, I had a sensitive, maybe even a bold question to ask Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Patchett, two longtime literary idols of mine. How are a couple of white women so audacious as to write books where the majority of characters are not their race or gender? How does a woman, sitting alone in a room, put her mind and heart into the soul of a man? Or an African American (enslaved, or modern-day). Or an Amazonian tribesperson. A Japanese business mogul. A Peruvian general. A terrorist. An American soprano. A brother and sister over the course of five decades. Or—as in the case with Sue’s new book—the wife of Jesus? And, in today’s tumultuous times, amid discussions about cultural appropriation, would they even attempt to tackle these topics if they were starting over?
Do you remember where you were when The Secret Life of Bees came out (Sue’s first novel that sold 6m copies and became a film starring Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Dakota Fanning–who just narrated a book by one of our upcoming interviewees)? I’ll never forget being glued to my couch for two days. Bees was my gateway drug to Sue’s memoirs, including the revolutionary, Dance of the Dissident Daughter—a beautiful unfolding of a woman’s spiritual life in a most feminine way. She’s currently on tour—from her house—for The Book of Longings (on the New York Times bestseller list now). Perhaps you heard Ann and me chatting early last year when she was here (where we discussed several of her incredible books: Bel Canto, State of Wonder, and Nashville among them). Since then, Ann has released the New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the PULITZER PRIZE, The Dutch House, plus, Lambslide, for the kiddos.
Like these ladies, this is a deeply FUN and rich conversation. I loved hearing about where they get their audacity, and empathy, to write about lives so far removed from their own. Also, where they write, how they write (about others), researching strategies, thoughts on social media, and my favorite question of all: how they STEAL time away from loved ones to get ‘er done. We have some laughs about that one.
At the close of the show, I talk about a few things that I think are especially important right now: When buying books PLEASE support your local bookstores, even when downloading audiobooks. They’ve been so hard hit and our communities desperately need these gathering places.
And, to my white listeners: Our black and brown sisters and brothers need us. They need us to stand with them with our voices, our physical presence, and our donations. They need us to do all we can to ensure they live freely and safely. I hope you’ll take your outrage at what you’re seeing and turn it into action. And read, as many diverse voices as you can. I have some incredible guests slated for the summer and fall.
I feel so blessed that writers like Sue and Ann have harnessed their courage and audacity to write books that allow us to put our minds and hearts into the soul of another. As long as I can, I’ll be bringing you such stories.