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On the Emergency Room Table (with Junot Diaz)

April 2, 2023
Notes
Transcript

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz joins the Sunday show to talk his career and the current political climate in America. They also get into his experience with cancel culture, and if it changed his view of the world.

Plus, Tim and Sarah give their thoughts what the Trump indictment means for his re-election campaign.

Watch the gang record this episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K2dK1BEWqg

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This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:09

    Hello,
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:09

    and welcome to the next level podcast. I’m Tim Miller with my best friend, Sarah Longwell, and our aspiring good friend, June O’Dea. Who’s coming up next. If you don’t know, as you know, he’s a Pulitzer prize winning fiction writer, his book to drown, the brief wondrous life of Oscar Wilde, and this is how you lose Earth, then highly acclaimed. I think they’re great.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:29

    Sarah has read them when she was a younger woman, thought that they were great. His writing is infused with a lot of commentary in the immigrant experience and social issues. We get into that. He’s got a kid’s book called Island Born, which I got for Toulouse, which we get into. Sarah, what’d you
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:42

    think?
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:42

    So I haven’t read these books in, like, a decade. Like, I was trying to remember when, so I had to go back and refresh. Like, it was one of those things, you know, you do this with an author. Right? You read one book and you think, why need to get my hands on everything this guy’s written, which is what I did.
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:55

    I read all his books all at once. I’ve loved his writing, but then, like, I hadn’t revisited it. Actually the best thing about interviewing him was getting to go back and read some of that and remind myself of why I liked it so much. And a lot of the reason I liked it is because It’s writing, like, you know, whenever someone you you hit a style and you’re like, I’ve never heard this style before. It’s lyrical.
  • Speaker 3
    0:01:17

    He infuses Spanish with it in a way that you know, for a what am I? Like, a gringo, you can track. But then, you know, like, he hasn’t really been in my consciousness. I knew that he’d had a me too scandal of some kind. But — Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:01:29

    — only in the slightest way. The headline had I’d scrolled past it at some point. And I thought that the way that he handled that conversation when we brought it up was candid, you know, you and I had done I know I did. I I had not been in a situation before where I was gonna be, like, an interviewer of somebody who had this happen and I wanted to make sure that I felt like we were treating it properly by not — Yeah. — not talking about it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:01:55

    But one of the things in the research that I did was just how much he had been sort of exonerated by the process. And so the conversation was sort of ended up being more about maybe how it had impacted him to have this happen. And thought, yeah, I thought he was candidate honest, and so that was interesting.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:13

    He’s also a creative writing instructor at MIT. And so he’s in the heart of this discussion. When you’ll you’ll listen. I think it’s an interesting nuanced discussion. I wanna get to the indictment stuff that there was another story that made me laugh when I was thinking about our conversation today.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:26

    I don’t know. Did you see this Katie Hobbs is spokesperson.
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:28

    Oh, she got fired.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:29

    Katie contests. Yeah. She does a tweet. She gets fired. Her tweet was horrible.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:33

    It was kind of related to what we were talking about on Wednesday. About concerned about our the rhetoric online after shooting and and she’s like, if you’re a transobe and then, like, this is what we’re I don’t know the exact quote, but it’s like, this is what we’re gonna do. And it was a and it was a GS of, like,
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:48

    people
  • Speaker 4
    0:02:48

    Oh, god.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:49

    And it was a really yeah. And it was really, really inappropriate. But I was thinking about this today. I was thinking about our conversation with you now. And it’s like, there’s just this balance that it’s important to strike.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:02

    I think that he does he talks about this. Right? And he he’s on the receiving end of this. There’s, like, on the right, you’ve got Donald Trump out there, literally threatening Alvin Craig. You know,
  • Speaker 4
    0:03:12

    with the baseball
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:13

    bat, with death and destruction. He’s the standard bearer, no accountability, nothing. And
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:17

    the whole Republican party right now is threatening violence.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:20

    Here it is. Well, us when we see transverbs and showed a gif with a woman touting two guns.
  • Speaker 4
    0:03:23

    Oh my god. Yeah. So then on the left — So, like, canceled. Cancel. —
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:27

    sometimes it’s, like, canceled but good. Like, she gets fired. You shouldn’t do
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:29

    that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:29

    The spokesperson, you can’t do that. There’s accountability culture on the left. But then it gets, you know, where do you find that line? Between that, holding people accountable and, like, this mob, a ruling of the mob on the other side. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:42

    Where, like, the mob decides, oh, there’s one. He’s issuing somebody and now their reputation is ruined before they’ve had a chance to have it here out. So I just I think that it’s it’s super interesting and, like, you know, I I think that there’s sometimes ripe for old criticism of the left for overstating on this, but it’s just kind of it’s jarring to have that conversation amidst this, like, Oh, yeah. Fuck it. We’re gonna threaten violence, you know, up and down leaders on the right from Trump all in random bloggers, spokespeople, everyone.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:10

    Right? Is is doing this. And on Fox News, and absolutely no accountability at all. I’m wondering on the indictment stuff. So we did if you’re not a member of Bulwark plus, We did a live.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:20

    Slightly tipsy. I’ll speak for myself. I
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:23

    don’t know. Maybe Sarah Longwell also slightly tipsy. I I was. My cheeks were a little red in it, but I gotta say, you know, I was at a happy hour, and then everybody was like, we gotta get it through a livestream. And so I just I had to make a choice between being, like, I’ve had a couple drinks, and now we’re gonna go talk about politics or not doing it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:40

    And you know what I chose? I chose content for you guys. You
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:42

    chose content. And by the way, I I didn’t have that choice, I decided to get tipsy because I wanted to pop champagne as soon as I heard the news. So it was not a circumstantial thing for me. I had chose to do tipsy content. So if you’re not a board or close member, And you wanted to see our raw unfiltered thoughts.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:57

    Subscribe now. Go on to plus at the blower dot com, and and you can go back and rewatch the video from Thursday night. But now, you know, you’ve got a little bit of time to kind of think about it a little bit more, read the takes, have a more sober minded assessment, any any updated thoughts you know, from our Thursday conversation about the indictment.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:15

    So I’ve spent all morning on the phone with reporters who are all asking variations on the same question, which is like, how does this change dynamic. And I would say my position on the changing of the dynamic stays is roughly what I said last night. Like, the way that this helps Trump is and and you’re seeing all these takes. You just elected Donald Trump. You just nominated Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:34

    I wanna just sort of address this idea because I do think that I’ve always said it helps in the short term. But I think it’s tough to know what short term means. In short term, the duration of the Republican primary, it is very early. Donald Trump got in very early So this scenario would happen. So he would get indicted while he was actively running for president.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:52

    And while we’re talking about all these other potential nominees, Everyone’s focused on him. The media is focused on him. The only thing that really hurts Donald Trump is being ignored. So everything is gonna play to his strengths now because everyone’s gonna be focused on him. But how short term is that?
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:08

    Right? How many other indictments follow? What is the dynamic of those? Are people as willing to defend him on those? You know, what is the strength of even this indictment?
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:16

    It’s not unsealed yet. We don’t know. I think that the idea that this wins him the nomination takes the analysis, the true analysis of the fact that this helps him in the short term too far too far. There’s no way of knowing that there are a bunch of different twists in earns to this over the next we’re slightly less than a year away from Super Tuesday, which is March fifth of twenty twenty four. So, like, there are months and months for the stuff to play out.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:40

    Yeah. No one has a lower view of the right wing voters than, like, the center right
  • Speaker 4
    0:06:46

    parking class. Like even
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:49

    even JBL has a higher view of the Republican voters in the center right pundit class, which is like already decided, oh, Well, these people have no choice now, but to support Donald Trump, it’s like, are we sure? I just don’t know that you’re sure about that. And and I think maybe if you as thought leader, which I I assume is what you fancy yourself, people at Fox, and National Review, etcetera. Maybe if you told folks Actually, this is a bad thing for us to have a indicted, maybe multiple time indicted standard bearer. And and maybe we should like think of a little more practically that maybe some people be won over in that argument.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:23

    I don’t know. Maybe not. Maybe not. But maybe you should try that rather than just conceiving this. To to try about it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:28

    One thing that was interesting I saw David Weinhold observed this, which I thought was really smart. In sixteen, We’ve been through so many news cycles since sixteen, we’ve all aged so much. But, like, the Trump University thing was in the middle of the news. Right? Which —
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:42

    Yeah. —
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:42

    again, I I literally did it not my party this week. I started listing all Trump scams, and I’d freak out in Trump University,
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:48

    you
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:48

    know, all of his illegal scams. So he just has so many. Right? But in twenty fifteen Ron DeSantis, it was pretty common. I know Jeb did, Ted Cruz, like, for the other candidates to, like, weigh in and say, hey, this is fraudulent.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:00

    Right? Like, there could be legal ramifications here. Ted Cruz did the whole, like, oh, this would hurt the party to have someone that, you know, that has been in I don’t know if he said the word indicted, but this would someone under investigation. This would hurt our chances to win. So they made all those arguments back then.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:15

    Now they didn’t Bulwark, but Trump was new on the scene. The preponderance of evidence has not stacked up, you know, as it has in the past eight years of all his other crimes. And it’s just interesting that, like, now, like, even that position, which was a common position in twenty sixteen, is, like, not allowed in in Republican spaces.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:35

    No one thinks criminality hurts him. And this is where the the indictment of the voters really comes. It’s implicit in everything they’re saying. As they’re saying, we don’t have voters who will care or be interested or be turned off by criminality. That’s what they’re saying.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:50

    It’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:50

    a lot. What we have coming up next is an awesome conversation, not Trump and Diamond stuff. Take a little break from it. You know, get into campus culture, get into immigration politics, a little bit on police reform about writing, how you write, if you’re if you’re about the writing process, really great conversation. As you know Diaz, we’ll be back on Wednesday for our standard three triplet, trample, next level truffle, another
  • Speaker 4
    0:09:13

    truffle. We’ll be back Let’s not let’s not talk. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:15

    We’ll be back on Thursday with or excuse me, on Wednesday with JBL. Me and Sarah. And first, I don’t know if you noticed we have new theme music. It’s from my boys and acid tongue. So check it out.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:26

    And Yoluzhino and Sarah and me on the other side. Juno, thanks so much for doing this with us, brother. You’re coming from Toki we’re we’re in, like, multi time zone taping situation here. Oh, thank you. That’s what I’m really grateful.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:57

    Thanks for having me. You know, Sarah and I were talking earlier and thought the best way to kind of start this, especially for people that don’t, you know, kind of know your background as much as we do, having nerded out on your books. We wanna start a little bit of politics before we get into the the writing part. I’ve listened to you in other interviews, you know, kind of describe yourself as an activist, you know, as much as an author. And I’m just kind of wondering where did that begin?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:19

    Like, how did that get birth? You know, where does that originate from?
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:22

    Yeah. I mean, I I I think that for me, the definition comes from coming out of a family where they always told us it was kind of this conflict. They always told us my family growing up very humble, very poor, and my mother was raising five kids by her own for most of the time. But she always said, man, we are so lucky. You’re lucky you’ve got one parent.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:45

    You’re lucky you have a house. You should be very grateful. You should be focused on people who have less than you. And that always drove everything. This idea that, you know, we should be very grateful that we had a lot more.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:57

    There were always kids in my neighborhood who needed places crash. My mother kinda was like the local red cross. Whether it was my friends or my sisters friends, there was always someone staying with us and often for like weeks and even in some cases months. And I think that really embedded this idea that you could spend your life looking uphill and people have gotten much more shit than you or spend your life looking downhill, people with a lot less no matter what situation you are and how you can help them. And I was always an activist who was by activists, not a person who’d sit around and give speeches and sentence tweets, but I was always back when there was envelopes, I was the envelopes steeper.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:34

    Whatever remedial job our organizations had to do, that was about it. And I did a lot of Bulwark, and this was in the old days. I’m talking about thirty years ago, a lot of work on police brutality before anyone was interested in New York City and even in the Dominican Republic. And a lot of works on immigrant rights. But again, it was it was a lot of the kind of grunt hard
  • Speaker 4
    0:11:54

    — Is there
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:54

    a police brutality experience that prompted that? Or what do you think got you into that? Yeah. I think it’s because my dad was a cop in the Dominican Republic. It says a
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:04

    fuck you dad. Kinda thing. Yeah. And also I got a low scale brutality of that kind of that kind of an authoritarian dad. I had a real upfront look.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:14

    What kind of that homegrown police culture looks like. And I don’t know. I just thought it wouldn’t be a bad area to work in, you know.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:24

    Is your dad more conservative
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:25

    politically? Oh my god. My whole family is super conservative. No. My family is super conservative.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:32

    Again, it’s a military family. You know, my cousins are combat veterans. My sister was married to someone in the army, my brother was ROTC for a while. We’re very much a tons of guns in the house very conservative. You had any trumpers in the family?
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:48

    You got any mega hats? Oh, we got trump I know we I’m not sure they were the mega hats, but definitely straight up, if I go to the family dinner, there’ll be there’ll be some Trumpishness. Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:01

    Well, so Tim and I don’t know a lot about the grunt work of activism. We’re the send tweets people. And so I think we admire the fact that you, you know, put yourself out there doing it. How do you experience the politics of the Dominican Republic versus in the United States?
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:16

    Alas, there was a time where I would say that I required, like, entirely two different operating systems. One culture was highly medievalized, Uber, cronyism, the kind of domination of, like, maybe twenty or thirty families, you know, little absolute low level of education and the easy manipulation by elites to the kind of poorly educated masses they’re becoming much more aligned. I think that there’s now one of the things social media has done is that it’s definitely rewired all our nervous systems towards reactivity. And towards kind of an impatience towards kind of the basic fundamentals of or foundations of any kind of you know, democratic context, which is like deliberation and sort of moderation. You can’t have either democracy or justice without moderation and deliberation and neither of those things are being encouraged.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:17

    So I find myself the the same sets of muscles, even totally different sets of information archived for
  • Speaker 4
    0:14:24

    each of these context. But certain muscles are beginning to, like, kind of coalesce So people say this about Trump, and they there might be a little undercurrent of racism
  • Speaker 5
    0:14:34

    in this observation about Trump, but they like that he has these characteristic traits of, like, Latin American kind of Codillo strong man, right, that is that is a little bit
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:44

    more similar, right, to to what, you know, the types of politicians that emerged in place like Dominican Republic and other places in Latin America. Do you Did you get that? Like, when you saw him coming out of the scene, and somebody else said that was like an appeal for him. You know, he actually did better with certain obviously, the Cuban community and others than like Romney did. Did you kinda get that sniff on him when he was coming around the scene in twenty fifteen, twenty sixteen, or not really?
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:10

    For me, there’s a couple of things that are happening there. On one hand, kind of that sort of amputeant child aspect of sort of patriarchal kind of culture. Right? That, like, that brash boy that never gets old, that I think is a commonality across most of our patriarchal science that that gets forwarded. The second thing is, as far as, like, from my own specific context that the Dominican Republic I mean, look, you gotta understand we had a dictator for thirty one years except this dictator was trained by the United States.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:50

    And whenever you got trained by the United States, you came up in the United States Marine Corps that in many ways he had been groomed and sort of put together So for me, that kind of line between, you know, American authoritarianism, that kind of a script and the Dominican one, they’re a lot more kind of entangled, but I I do think one of the things is that the appeal to personality, the appeal to kind of charismatic irrationality over any institutional process. I think this is something that the two of them are beginning to match. Right? The Trump really put his finger on that erosion, the the slow nibbling away of institutions. And in a place in the Dominican Republic, the institutions are incredibly weak.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:41

    In the United States, they’re really robust for everything that’s happened still man, gotta tell you Trump gave us a sense of that robust doesn’t mean a lot when you’re facing a movement like that. Were
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:53

    you surprised to see it happen here?
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:56

    You know, I gotta tell you what shocked me was not only that that Trump, you know, because I came up, and I kind of kind of weaned myself on Ronald Reagan. Like, if I learned any politics, It was looking at my house and everybody being like, join the military and then looking outside the world and look at a Ronald Rankin. Being like, trickle down economics, You know? Yeah. So, you know, and Ronald Reagan doing his crazy stuff, both across racial lines and, you know, and so many fronts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:29

    But I was even with that kind of sort of horizon, I was like stunned. And what stunned me even more was the way that the opposition quickly adopted a lot of his vernacular. I mean, it would be one thing if, you know, we were, like, those of us who opposed them were kind of coming at it from different tactics, but if I kind of erased the names and kind of the a lot of the stuff that was happening both on the left and the right looked very similar. Right? So this kind of, like, we’re not gonna talk to each other.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:06

    This person now has said that. They’re my enemy. You know, the kind of things that reinforce habits that outlast the battle. If you’re kind of thinking that your enemy is someone that you can never damn speak to that because you said x. That’s it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:23

    You’re tainted forever. I mean, those are habits that I last the skirmish. And those aren’t good habits. Those are not good habits. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:31

    It’s interesting. I’ll listen to some of your older kind of comments on politics and you know, you talked about this collective action problem. Right? That, like, we suck at that as a society because, like, we’re at at each other’s throats. I’m paraphrasing you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:45

    You know, though, it had this tinge when I was listening to of being kind of, like,
  • Speaker 5
    0:18:49

    you know, almost pro socialist. Right? Like, we have this collective action problem and we need, you know, more community action. We do
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:55

    more community organizing. I’m listening to you now and it sounds a little bit more like you’re a squishy moderate like us, you know. I want to compromise. I want not to work together. Not hate each other.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:04

    Where do you kind of define yourself in that spectrum? Yeah. I mean, shoot. Squishy. I’ll take anything.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:10

    But for me, there’s kind of
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:12

    You know what I mean? For me, it’s sort of the same thing where I’m saying that, like, look, we we need profound levels of collaboration. And the habits that allow for collaboration, why do I say this well? Gee whiz. We only got climate change we only got like a bunch of stuff that isn’t gonna be faced if only one third is showing up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:35

    If we only got like forty percent sign up, none of these problems are gonna get resolved. There’s a lot of stuff at stake that’s coming down the pipe that’s already here that really requires absolute amount of coordination. And so for me, it’s kind of the same thing. We need a lot more collective action, but Collective action ain’t gonna happen with bad habits that don’t permit us to have a bigger umbrella, like a bigger tent. I mean, if everybody’s approach to everyone else is prosecutorial, you know, oh, your pro x I can’t mess with you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:10

    We’re not gonna get anything done, and we really gotta get shit done. I mean, some of the squabbles that we’re having, the energy that’s getting wasted on stuff that thirty or forty years from now, we’re gonna people gonna look back and say, really, that was what was you were worried about when the whole world is burning down? We
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:26

    were talking about this on our Wednesday episode about the issue of guns. I’m like, there’s reason for you with that righteous anger. Right? Like, what do you say to be others on the left who are like, and fuck these guys. Like, they let in school kids get shot up.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:39

    They don’t wanna do anything about climate change. They elected this racist game show host. Isn’t that a natural instinct to just say fuck these guys? Like, how do you fight that? Like, in what way you’re a man of words?
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:51

    How would you you know, tell people to kinda combat that emotion? Hey, it’s a natural impulse under a kind of nealed
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:00

    approval regime of atomization. Of everybody go into their own corner and not worry about anything. But my question is, it’s also real convenient a great alibi not to have to do anything. My thing is what how else are we doing while the world burns down? There are people that are really, really on the front lines of this, and really, so if my only task is to find in myself a way to be tolerant, because look, we’re not talking about being tolerant to every extreme absolute wild person.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:31

    Everyone’s got their limits, but we all also have a range of people that we could be more tolerant of to gauge in conversation because I’m gonna tell you straight up what every single person here is born with this sort of wonderful enlightened radian consciousness. You weren’t all sorts of fucked up to age x We’re all sorts of messed up till AgeX. So what do you think about that person? What do you think about the self that you were? When you were all sorts of a troglodyte.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:04

    Is that person now, someone you pretend that you erase? Where do we understand that that very person who had all this messed up ideas led to the person we are now. And while we’re not having a conversation with that young person we were, who if they were an adult would seem entirely malignant to us, there’s something really, really convenient involves a lot of erasure. For our understanding of what our current politics are, they often arise out of really messed up uneducated Bulwark thinking. And if we’re living with that person still, now that I’ve got this carapace of enlightenment, and progressiveness.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:43

    But at this core, there was this other person. If I can engage with that person and live with them, I I can make some gestures You know? And like I said, what else am I doing?
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:55

    You’re touching Sarah’s buttons right now.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:57

    Yeah. These are these are all all the good stuff that I love. Something you just said, like, is this because, like, you’ve been through some things now and you see the world differently? Is it because you can because of your writing, a lot of your writing is sort of because I’ve read everything you’ve written, and I love you. But you seem to be reaching back for your inner child.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:18

    Like, it is a lot of communicating with a person that you were. And so what you just said is a thing that is easy to say. I preach it all the time. The ability to be optimistic to try to not allow our grievances to just, like, hold us back for being able to do anything good but it is actually genuinely hard. I struggle with it all the time because I am so angry at the hypocrisy or whatever.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:41

    But, like, have you arrived at this because you’ve been through some things and now you see it that way? Or is this always been a disposition of yours to try to find the ways in which we can collaborate and work together? Like, are you naturally full of empathy for people who who don’t share your view of the world?
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:58

    I mean, two things. To be honest, you know, all the crap that I went through this last four years, in fact, I fight against withdrawal and just being like fuck humanity. Fuck all these people. Fuck all these systems. I’m gonna do me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:14

    I’ve got my crew. People know me. I don’t care about any out of the crap. For me, it’s been the impulse to not to turn into the person who gets wounded and withdraws, which is what they really everybody really wants everybody, you know, withdraw, get atomized. I guess, part of it was coming from a big community.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:33

    If you actually come from a big community, which I mean in a sense that I was always surrounded. Look, look, if I there were photographs from my childhood, there would be, like, fifty kids playing baseball. We would be taking turns, inning after inning after inning. There were tons of relatives around. There were so many people just on top of each other And we had to learn what could be managed and what could not be managed, you know?
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:57

    Like, what was the Lending terms a non antagonistic or antagonist contradiction. VI Lenin here or I’m the walrus. Yeah. The the Yeah. The the island got
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:09

    fly out of bear. I just wanna make sure I know I’m getting my dismissed from what
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:13

    I’m saying. I mean, I don’t know. I just think Look, ultimately, there’s always been that part of me that’s, you know, union person. It’s like, what can we live with? If we all wanna survive, you know, a climate ravaged planet.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:29

    You know, as a friend of mine, as an emergency room doctor, he’s Muslim, from Jersey. And he’s like, let me tell you, when I get people on my table, they not check up my politics, and they certainly check up my race or my religion. When they’re on there. And in some ways, we’re on the emergency room table. And the question is, is that, what’s up?
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:49

    What’s up? What are we really about? And it is hard to fight the reactivity that gets reinforced by our world. And the reactivity is you say one damn thing to me and all that pain and all that dehumanization that I’m carrying it. I’m gonna take it out on you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:06

    There’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:06

    some people that are in the list
  • Speaker 5
    0:26:08

    that don’t actually know the context what you’re talking about the last four years. So just get that on the table. You’re accused of sexual harassment. The Pulitzer Board investigated it. There’s this Ben Smith to this great Sema four article a couple months ago.
  • Speaker 5
    0:26:21

    Investigators were not just unable to verify the allegations. They didn’t identify allegations that the board
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:26

    considered sexual misconduct at all. That said, there’s been some fallout for you and you haven’t written in in the past few years. There’s been some personal thoughts. So I I just wonder how did that what was your reaction to that whole experience? And just to follow-up on Sarah’s question, I guess, did that, like, change your kind of world political
  • Speaker 4
    0:26:43

    views or world view or views about this our culture at all? You know, the shit sucked. And for four years, dealing with that shit for four years. Absolutely sucked. There’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:56

    a lot of bad things in life, and we had the pandemic where all sorts of shit was happening to people’s real lives. But I was going through this and it wasn’t great. You know, the the shocking thing was, you know, here I am on the Pulitzer board. I spent nine years dealing with journalism and dealing with journalists. And for me, the shocking thing wasn’t that I was falsely accused of stuff.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:17

    For me, what was shocking was, like, the absolute silence from the media when suddenly it became clear that looks like the preponderance of the evidence is, like, do did do anything. You know? At first, places like the times where you know, running up articles left and right, but as soon as it was became clear that, oh, shit isn’t what it seemed that this dude is, you know, They liked the idea of the possible guilty. They didn’t seem to like the idea of credibly innocent. And that was shocking.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:53

    And I think when you say about what my politics, etcetera, look deep injuries to self and ones that are very public you know, that kind of thing where you feel like, you know, whatever quote unquote reputation you had gets burnt down almost to the ground. It’s the same thing as friends of mine who have had terrible losses, like actual familial losses, to become cynical to become negative, to become angry, to have no forgiveness in your heart is the easiest thing to do. And it’s the thing that’s gonna just eat you alive. And I think if I when I said I spent four years dealing with this bullshit, the real thing was getting myself back to a place where I’m like, you know what? You can’t let this shit eat alive.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:42

    You can’t let it turn you into a a quasi human because for me that means like no compassion, super angry looking to avenge yourself. I don’t want any of that fucking crap. You know, I just wanna go back to my life of nice deliberation, reading, doing my work with my students, and putting nonsense like that as far behind me as possible and rebuild. You gotta rebuild. Life’s gonna serve you up some shit and nonstop.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:13

    It might be not gonna be as humiliating and as disgraceful as this crap and as false and cruel, but you’re gonna get served. There ain’t anybody who’s not gonna pull a back card and you’ve gotta figure out what you can do to yourself, what you do for yourself, how you
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:27

    can rebuild, do you have a process like a, you know, giving yourself things to to work on, to do, to focus on? You know, I I going back to right obviously, you have the class at MIT. I I’m just what you went through, you know, was just so high profile. But everybody in their life goes through this shit, embarrassment, humiliation. Like, how are you getting back on the horse from like a process standpoint?
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:50

    Look, I think the real thing is the matter where especially if you’re
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:54

    an artist or if you feel like you have some kind of calling. And life decides to run you over with a tractor. And especially if there’s injustice involved, Right? There’s stuff that happens and it’s just random. That’s one specific kind of cruelty.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:09

    Right? You’re, like, walking around, suddenly you get a little headache, you go to the doctor, bad. But when there’s injustice involved, it creates a lot of situations, and I think, ultimately, you gotta figure out and we’ve got to remind yourself, well, look, many of us have callings, many of us feel very passionate about things, many of us have loves We love certain things and you gotta go back to the thing which you love because otherwise all this other secondary stuff’s gonna overwhelm. For me, Listen, the only reason anyone was interested in me at all, any because I’m some ball Dominican kid from New Jersey is because I love books and that love of books created something. And so whatever it is that you that kind of foundational love you return to, And for me, it was just back to reading, back to like being at storytelling, and certainly back to helping people, man.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:07

    I mean, I’d always been involved, but, you know, nothing reduces quite your pain, like helping people in far more pain. Leverage what privilege you have, because there’s nobody on the in the world besides death who can eliminate all your privilege. You’ve always got some space to help other people. Help other people. Help other people.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:28

    You know?
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:30

    Yeah. I but one of the things kind of
  • Speaker 5
    0:31:31

    just on the broader kind of this whole environment of around cancel culture, whatever you want to call it, giving people space to make errors, to make amends. You know, you’re
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:41

    at MIT. Right? You’re on campus. And, like, this is the center of this shit. You know, like, every everybody on the right says, not not MIT is in the center of it, but the college campus says.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:51

    Right? Like, everybody on the right says, oh my god. These kids these days, you know, the Gen Z kids are so ill liberal and like they they just wanna shut down conversation and they just wanna like point fingers. What’s your sense that you you’re with these kids day in day out? Like, do you feel that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:07

    Or do you feel that’s, like, you know, whatever Fox News? You know, misdiagnosis of of what’s happening with the younger generation?
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:15

    I mean, look, I think it’s super, super complicated what’s going on. Especially with our young people. And it’s hard because no one wants that. I don’t think these conversations are ever interested in contacts or Nuance. They’re just, you know, it’s sort of the way prosecutors.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:30

    They’re looking for their whatever they can get you, lock you away with, and that’s it. No one’s interested in extenuating anything. For me, look, everything begins with, if you look at the numbers, arts education and liberal arts education has absolutely collapsed.
  • Speaker 4
    0:32:46

    We’re
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:46

    not just talking about Ivy League, we’re talking about public schools, we’re talking about kindergarten. We can’t even get, like, fizz ed. We have certainly not gotten arts education. So two of the greatest ways that we get people to tolerate contradiction to entertain Nuance are off the table. Then you kind of create a kind of a Hobbesian world of scarcity where most of our students think if they make one goddamn mistake, they’re doomed forever where there’s like, you know, Himalayas of debt.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:21

    Where they don’t have any time because nobody unless you’re at a Ivy League school, none of these schools are well funded. There’s not enough classes. You’re like, trying to figure out how to get your classes while you have your job. Then most of our students are working. Then look on top of that, most of our students have their imaginary captured not in ways that allow them to reconstitute themselves.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:43

    So after a hard day of having to work, go to classes, and deal with all the rigorous stressors, you don’t have any place three constitute yourself, you get online Ron DeSantis scrolling, guaranteed to disrupt everything. So then we have a conversation about cancer culture. And I’m like, well, really, do we expect given all of this and more for there not to be a certain amount of reactivity. And the universities do a lot to encourage this crap even as they sit around and say, oh, no, Our students have to be more open to debate. Look, these schools, all of these schools are not accountable.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:22

    They’re interested in being reactive if they don’t wanna be accountable to their students. They don’t wanna say, well, why is it that we’re basically an investment bank who’s making all the switch profits? But you’re still stressed to get classes. You still feel like you’re never gonna get a job. All of this stuff.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:38

    And it’s in that contradiction where I think A lot of this stuff happens. Yeah. Do do young people learn bad habits from social media of not waiting for all the facts before they jump the conclusions so do adults? And I think we we have a lot of stuff we’d love to put it on the kids, but I’m like, I don’t know, man. I think this is a societal problem.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:58

    A real societal problem where folks have been really, really well trained at not tolerating each other and sort of just jumping down each other’s throats and who the hell feels like they got time or energy or space or even training to contemplate a discussion. There’s no space for that that no one has any time. And so I I hear all these conversations, but they always seem not to be discussing the students that I know who are just up to here with there’s no sense of peace. It’s all precarity. It’s all pressure.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:33

    It’s all tension. And, man, I mean, gee whiz, it’s There’s a lot going on here, but to focus on that, has always been weird. Yes. Yes. Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:45

    We gotta have more tolerance. We gotta have reinforce the ability of people to actually hear people that they think are or at least to allow views that they think is malignant. Both sides You can’t claim your religion and be like, so this person can’t exist. And you can’t claim your politics and say this person doesn’t exist. We need more of that space, but there’s a lot going on.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:08

    But it’s that’s the whole point of the academy. It’s the whole point of university. It’s just like you’re supposed to be there reading, being given space, to challenge yourself with ideas, hear things that you disagree with, have good teachers who are sort of guiding you through, you know, life’s nuances into contradictions and understanding that. I mean, this is not the whole point. And are you saying that’s not what’s happening on college campuses right now?
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:29

    What I’m saying is, like, look, what colleges are we talking about? There’s so many college campuses and if we just focus on the the brush fire, we miss it too. Look, if we’re talking about the select colleges, the Ivy leagues, and the top psychologists, first of all, what diversity of ideas? I mean, if you subtract people with money from a place like Harvard or a place like Brown, what’s left? So subtract people with money and people who have been a private school, high school.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:01

    What’s left? I mean, maybe we could encourage more of this if academia itself was more diverse in ways that we’re actually kind of complex. You know? And I think that it’s true, like, I wouldn’t wanna be a poor kid at any select school. But these days, it’s not like when I was there, where there was at least a couple of us who were poor kids and these select colleges.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:28

    Now, The numbers have dwindled. And so, yeah, I mean, of course, academia should be a place for this to happen, but First of all, we squeezed real diversity so that kids are not even encountering people that are very different from them just on their daily basis. Second of all, you know, suit. These kids are learning from social media and other things just to be as reactive as possible. I mean, I’m not sure it’s their fault that they’ve learned some of these bad habits.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:57

    And yes, we are trying everyone’s trying to kinda, you know, encourage more of deliberation, encourage more conversation, but we’ve got a lot aligned against us.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:07

    Do they give you a hard time about the women, the way you talk about women in your writing?
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:12

    My students, you mean? Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:14

    Like, I’m imagining the horror stories of cancel culture on campus. And I guess I’m thinking like of the way it would manifest in terms of their it sounds like you’re describing like an inability to engage with art in a way that’s critical. And so I guess I’m wondering if people engage with your art in ways that are critical
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:31

    in these shallow ways that you’re describing. People have, I’m not saying my students I mean, I think people have in general. Again, it’s one of those things where I’m one of these people who thinks that, like, look, that sort of kind of split non thinking, just I’m gonna simplify who folks is. This happens. But for the most part, when I’m thinking about the students, I know, most of them are so overworked and so fearful about getting a job and not getting a job that I’m not sure any of them are they’ve got even the space for this
  • Speaker 4
    0:39:12

    stuff. Can
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:13

    you paint us a picture? I have no idea what kid goes to MIT and then takes Ginkgo Diaz’s writing class. I like I can’t even envision what this
  • Speaker 4
    0:39:22

    I can use stereotype your student for us. Let’s try another school and not the school that I’m having.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:28

    You
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:28

    need a break from building, like, a robot? Or
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:31

    When I was at NYU, again, these are area lead kinda these kids got a lot of pressure. Kids a girl. Their parents are kinda like, yo, we’re spending this loot. You better justify this with a career. I think what ends up happening even a place is like NYU where I would teaching undergraduate.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:48

    And despite the reputation of what everybody thinks, the majority of the undergraduates that I was teaching at NYU None of them wanted to be creative writers. But they, like most select college students, are awesome at everything. They were on a sports team. They played an instrument. Some kind of musical or some kind of thing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:06

    They they enormous amount of volunteer Bulwark, and we’re still doing it. And they had an art that they were kinda like bad ass at.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:13

    Sounds amazing. These kids sound amazing. I was just I was just smoking weed and gambling on sports. What that was I doing? I wasn’t doing anything.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:21

    I didn’t do anything. I had no skills. Brother, I could
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:24

    not survive the college application process now. Because the pressure is so intense. So I guess what I mean is that these kids are kinda awesome at everything and and some of them are like they’re like, yeah. No. I wanna start my own engineering firm.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:37

    I wanna start this. But I also kinda wanna write a book or
  • Speaker 4
    0:40:40

    two. And
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:41

    I believe them. I believe them. I’m like, oh, these kids will not get the hell out. You know, and you try to hook as much as you can. I wanna
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:48

    do writing stuff that I have one final burning political hot button I have to ask you about. Which you seem like the perfect person to give me a one minute
  • Speaker 5
    0:40:56

    rant about. I have no idea what your position is on the use of the term Latinx.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:01

    Whoa. That’s a that’s a bag, yo. That’s a big old bag.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:05

    Right there. This is a big old bag. That’s what I’m saying. I want a nuanced, your nuanced, deep thoughts on that is because talk about a shallow debate. The lat the Latinx versus not Latinx debate is about as shallow as as exist out there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:19

    Yeah. So where are you at on it? And
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:20

    it’s interesting the way that everyone can have their own opinions and yet what’s fascinating is how language gets the final vote. That’s great. This really kind of remarkable, dynamic, absolutely protein always changing and shifting, it gets the final vote. So I think at an executive level, People are using Latinx at an executive level. It’s an interesting, you know, it’s important.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:51

    I prefer the e that comes out the Latine because it actually makes sense in Spanish. But what’s fascinating is how little traction it’s gained inside of the actual language. And I’m talking amongst even my most sort of the friends of mine who are like really into this. It’s like, when you’re speaking Spanish and you’re speaking Spanish, it’s remarkable how it’s not getting a lot of traction. Now that doesn’t mean it won’t get traction.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:19

    That doesn’t foreclose the ability for language to transform, but I think it’s possible for both of these things to exist at once that you could have this executive function where you’re making all sorts of important political openings by using the word Latinx. And then you kinda drop down into another realm where the exicencies of language are making that more difficult for you to do. And It’s become kind of a way of a talk about code switching. My friends once described it as code switching. They’re like, are we speaking Latinx?
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:51

    Are we speaking fan? I just cracked me up. If it’s true, once we start speaking Spanish, a lot of this stuff begins to fall away. And trying to explain this, look, I go to Dominican Republic. Try to explain Latinx to someone.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:03

    Of course, I’m the idiot who does. He’ll be sitting there for us surrounded by folks on their way to these horrible jobs are on their way to some other, burdensome, you know, business. And I’m like, well, if
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:13

    this is why it works and people are like, boom. Gringo shut up. I’m like, okay. I’m sorry. Alright.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:20

    Let’s talk let’s talk writing. I asked one of my buddies, but I should ask you because he had read all your books as well. Thinking to have some, like, deep, you know, penetrating question about this is how you lose or something. He’s like, no, man. I just wanna know, like, when does he write?
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:34

    How does he do it? Where does inspiration come from? Is it a daily thing? Like a lunch pail every day from ten to noon? Or just like when inspiration strike, and sometimes I go months without writing something.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:44

    I I what’s your process like? Do you go
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:47

    from blank page from zero to one? I used to be and I’m starting to move back to it. I used to be the lunch pail writer. I think that ultimately having spent over a decade trying to figure out some other way of doing this. I realized that for me that’s not working.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:04

    The waiting for inspiration and strikes isn’t providing what I need. So the way I used to do it was and and I’m starting to do it again was I would wake up in the morning, have my coffee work, And by me waking up in the morning is always like quarter to six. If I knew when I’m done, call it a day. What
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:22

    what does one thirty look like if you’re done by noon? I’ve done my university responsibilities mean oh, god. Okay. Got it. You have your day job.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:29

    Right? I’m in right now. You’re on break. You’re in Tokyo. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:32

    You know, so while you’re having sushi or what what are you doing? Just hanging?
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:35

    Well, I still I still have departmental responsibilities
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:38

    because I
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:39

    might not be teaching classes. We still have a bunch of stuff we have to do. So that takes up a little bit of time. And, you know, the the weird thing about writing is it’s sort of like being an athlete with, like, no money, no broken bones, no strange, obsessive fans. It’s a sense that the game is only a little bit of it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:58

    I spend at least three or four hours a day reading. Because if you’re not reading, you ain’t gonna do nothing. Yeah. You know, it’s sort of like if you’re in the news biz and you ain’t following the news, I mean, how are you gonna get on and talk about it? So the background work you do.
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:13

    So I read a lot a lot a lot. What do you read? I read a lot of history, a lot of politics, strangely a lot of anthropology. You know, I kind of just read as much as humanly possible, Reesman’s latest book on Vince McMahon, It’s kind of how Vince McMahon and wrestling explain absolutely everything about Donald Trump and the
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:36

    the whole moment. If you haven’t read this book, it’s just JBL who’s us on this podcast with us on Wednesdays. It’s like, we it’s like, maybe we should
  • Speaker 4
    0:45:43

    have Reesemann on. I swear to God just yesterday, let me know about this book. Reeseman is the real deal. And, you know, I know Reeseman because Bulwark in comics
  • Speaker 1
    0:45:52

    and kind of the popular culture, but This is someone who’s got their got their finger on it, and is looking for strange ways to explain the world. Because look, if we’re not explaining the world strangely, we’re not gonna get at how strange this world really is. And I know that seems like a simplistic, solidistic statement, but we’re in a real weird world. And wrestling helps to explain some of that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:13

    So you’re doing high and low art reading. You know? You’re reading some deep anthropological stuff and also also you’re worried about stone cold Steve Austin. You know? You’re just catching the whole gamut.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:23

    Yeah, man. And you know You got too. You got too. And Doug read a lot
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:28

    of fiction and a lot of J. C. Scott, you know. The man is like weapons of the week. And things like that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:46:35

    And I gotta tell you I find myself finding books, for example, the little bars in Japan, somebody left copy of a, you know, one of these Herman Walk, I can’t pronounce his last name, one of these huge airport novel types book. I’ll read those or Frederick Foresyth. You know, stuff from the eighties. I’ll read anything because you never know what you can learn. Did
  • Speaker 3
    0:46:57

    you read the Hamilton biography that led to the Hamilton play?
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:01

    Yeah. Before the Hamilton play, I did.
  • Speaker 3
    0:47:03

    And did you feel do you feel a connection to that? I’ve because this is a problem just because I have too much musical theater in my head, but listening to you talk about the reading and the reading being the key. Right? I think for a lot of people who become writers or even are able to sort of move up in circumstance. Like, books are the thing.
  • Speaker 3
    0:47:23

    How important was books to you as
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:25

    a young person? And how’d you decide to start reading? Books came to me because I had since difficulty learning English. I immigrated when I was six. Speaking English was so difficult, my accent, people with back in those days, the absolute intolerance was just total.
  • Speaker 1
    0:47:41

    Nobody can hear your accent when you’re reading. I became hyperlexic as a compensation for it. And then I had a friend who had emigrated, who had come from Egypt, who had moved into the neighborhood, who was also a reader, and his mother encouraged it, his mother worked for a publisher. And she always would give me books. And if it wasn’t for her, missus Hemaway, and for my librarian, missus Crown, I don’t know where I would be.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:07

    Because look, books are especially useful for one of the things I was saying earlier as a method not only to learn, to get access to the world, to access your emotions, to be able to deal with complicated nuanced feelings, but also to reconstitute yourself. You have to have a habit of reconstitution by the time the world gets done kicking with you, you need a space where you put yourself back together. And books were awesome. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know how I would have survived my family. And not just because I could retreat, because they could just in them, I reassembled myself.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:38

    For
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:38

    somebody who keeps saying they’re bad at language, who used a lot of you know,
  • Speaker 4
    0:48:42

    thousand dollar words. Cara pass, hegemony. English is where all of my, you know, I put all my energy into, but learning other languages. I’ve been a
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:55

    catastrophic failure. I lived in Berlin. I lived in Holland. I lived in Japan. And I never never manage but a word or two.
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:03

    It’s like the circuit or doubt after English. I
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:05

    wanna ask you I got one more quick question after this, but I wanna ask you about like the character development side of of writing too. I just the only book I was non fiction and, like, the writing fiction is so intimidating. Right? Like, it’s hard for me to keep track of, like, what happened in real life. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:21

    And what I’d wrote about in the book and not be repetitive and not, you know, and make sure that the reader knows what I know. In fiction, that just has to be, like, an unbelievable challenge. Like, creating these characters, and you have the one character junior who kinda goes through your different books, who who maybe has has some particular similarities to the author. But, like, all of those other characters, like, how do you keep track of them? They’re arcs and their story and, like, where does that emanate from?
  • Speaker 1
    0:49:47

    I think it just is part of that kind of you you lock into that process where you’re there. And that’s why if you break from it, you kinda lose the magic. You’re kinda creating this artificial world. And look, It only looks hard. I mean, it’s hard.
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:02

    It’s not easy, but it it’s a lot easier once you get the basics down. And it’s kinda like, again, and not everyone’s great at this, some people are good at performing other roles. And if you’re good at performing on the roles, if you’ve had to live in two or three different worlds, and so there’s two or three different sides of you, you’ve had no problems sustaining them. And it’s so much easier to anchor characters in these kind of different masks that you’ve wear. And for me, you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget, the idea that we keep them in our minds at all the time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:34

    I guess I’m not that brilliant because I’ll tell you what, after two days, if I don’t go back and read what
  • Speaker 4
    0:50:40

    the hell I wrote, I will forgot and very important things about my car. Do you have like a beautiful mind board up there that’s, like, junior. He was he’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:48

    this age and he he started here. Like, how are you doing that from a process table?
  • Speaker 1
    0:50:52

    Oh, I definitely have a cheat sheet. I have, like, for almost each of my characters, I will create a little of index card of all the stuff that matters, so I can look at it. And at the center of it, Again, this always powers all of my characters at the center of it. I write, what is the one thing this character will never say and I the writer will never say for them. And that silence helps the character coherent.
  • Speaker 1
    0:51:18

    Because we all have something inside of us that’s a deep, deep silence. And when we break that silence, we become someone else. Something
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:24

    that’s true about them that they would never say? Is that what you’re saying?
  • Speaker 1
    0:51:27

    Okay. It’s true about them. They experienced something they’re holding. Just what is the the kind
  • Speaker 4
    0:51:32

    of the the organizing silence in this person’s life, and that’s always helped me create characters. I just wanna ask you about island board and show your kids book everybody should
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:40

    buy. I’m I’m holding it here. When we met at one of these ridiculous book festivals, I have a funny book festival question for you, the rapid fire here in in our final segment. But Islandborn is is amazing. And why don’t you actually you explain the message of the book?
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:53

    Then I have one question for you about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:51:55

    I mean, for me, I just I want it to work. I just work slowly, but I had this kid’s book idea because so many of my friends, whether they’re Egyptian, whether they’re Kamer, like, they have this experience where they’ve they’re, like, one or two generations removed from some horrific political monstrosity, whether it’s some dictatorship, some just wild nightmare, you know, national trauma. And I’m like, okay. Given all this, why are there no kids’ book that talk about? Why maybe we immigrated?
  • Speaker 1
    0:52:29

    Some of us immigrated how do we explain the children, hey, we had this dictator that ate almost half our country up. And so I kind of wanted to create a book that would be you know, that would work as a kid’s book that wouldn’t scare kids and it wouldn’t be kind of like adult. That would interest kids, but at least would in some ways collaborate with what children already know. If you don’t think a five or six or seven year old kid, on an unconscious level isn’t aware that there’s a lot of shit behind the reason why their parents are the way they are or why you know, we immigrated. That’s nonsense.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:06

    Kids might not be able to understand it intellectually or put it to words, but they they know something’s up. And so the book helps them to engage with it and collaborate in a safe way. So it’s a book about a little girl who ends up writing a story about her little community and ends up discovering that there’s behind her little beautiful community. There’s this dictator that chased everyone away. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:28

    It doesn’t scare kids. I’ve read it to Liz. And I guess my old it is beautiful book. My only critique is that it is it’s a little long for a bedtime book.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:35

    Eight to a little bit
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:36

    tired at the end of the day, baby. I’m like, I’m not page twenty two, you know. I’m like, come on. Alright? I gotta I gotta I’m falling asleep here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:43

    But it’s it was it’s good for a daytime book. For your child. It’s not it’s a bed time book. It’s a look.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:49

    There’s what happens when you don’t have kids, but you can imagine all sorts of generosity of pages.
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:54

    Well, somebody who doesn’t have kids who can ask you for payer take advice. My takeaway from the book is this little girl, it it it’s beautiful in a way. Right? She she’d left the island, which is called, which I assume is to stand in for the Medicare public. And she left the island, and she has this assignment, right, where she’s asked to kind of draw it, right, and paint it, and learn about it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:54:13

    And at the heart of that is this, you know, like she has this little missing piece kind of, right, that I know I’m from here but I haven’t been there. I don’t know it. Mhmm. And, you know, having an adopted daughter, you know, who’s black, that weighs on me a lot. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:54:27

    And so the immigrant experience isn’t exactly the same as the adoption experience, etcetera. But there are some parallels in the sense of, like, you having been a kid that, like, felt a little bit of a detachment from ancestors from where you’re from. I’m just kind of wondering, like, if there are things that you wish you would have had more of as a kid growing up or if there are lessons from that experience?
  • Speaker 1
    0:54:49

    No. And it’s interesting having four other siblings, especially three that were one year apart. Four of us were one year apart. And you see the way different siblings under the same almost identical well, similar conditions reacted very differently. If I had had my four siblings as my kids, someone like me who really wanted a connection with that island.
  • Speaker 2
    0:55:11

    You
  • Speaker 1
    0:55:11

    know, my parents didn’t respond to that. They were like, I really want to know my parents were like, yeah, go back to the island so you could starve to death, which was very miniatory, but very threatening. I was like, oh god. You know, where they kind of were more in line with my other siblings who if you said, hey, let’s go to the Dominican Republic, they’d be like, great. I got to go to the beach.
  • Speaker 1
    0:55:30

    Or my sibling who was like, I don’t wanna know anything about the Dominican Republic. I’m in America. And my parents endorse that as well. And I think you gotta I mean, it sounds simplistic, but when I look at my siblings, I kinda wish my parents had met us each where we were at.
  • Speaker 2
    0:55:44

    Right. I
  • Speaker 1
    0:55:44

    think I was more threatening only because I was inviting them to rethink where to think again about their own loss. You know, they gave up a lot more than I gave up when I left the island. They were a full grown adults. And so having a kid who’s like, oh, what’s this about? What’s that about?
  • Speaker 1
    0:56:00

    You’re just like, you know what? Don’t wanna think about this place. So meet a kid with her at and try to size the loss appropriately. You know, I kinda don’t think I would have been as success with Dominican Republic. My parents helped me size it and understand that, like, loss is a part of everything.
  • Speaker 1
    0:56:16

    I know it seems like a lot that you lose your country, but people leave leave their neighborhoods all the time. And you’ve got to size it appropriately. Unfortunately, no one was there to help resize it, so it became this overwhelming obsession for most of my life. There
  • Speaker 2
    0:56:30

    anything else where we get to the rapid fire and get let you know, get out to the streets of Tokyo?
  • Speaker 3
    0:56:34

    I mean, I could keep going all night. But let’s let’s let’s do the rapid fire. Alright.
  • Speaker 2
    0:56:38

    Rapid fire, this was one of them. Was it gonna be my first instance? You just said it, for people who do wanna go to the Dominican and maybe not just to the tourist beach, like, do anything? And they’re like, oh, you have to go see this or to this neighborhood or to this restaurant or anything?
  • Speaker 1
    0:56:54

    I mean, septalmingle is so traffic like cursed, I would say, stay in in Gonde because at least you could do some walking. And look, before you get there, check to see what theater is playing. There’s some really great theater in the Dominican Republic, like live theater. See that. You know?
  • Speaker 1
    0:57:13

    And Missoulte body, get yourself some nice, I love goat. So that’s a restaurant, well worth checking out. I think it’s called the Palacio de falafel. There’s a falafel place there that I
  • Speaker 2
    0:57:24

    think is absolutely excellent. I wonder if it’s still open. It’s a lot of the pandemic. Anyway, that’s that. Well, good.
  • Speaker 2
    0:57:28

    Good. I want a colorful Spanish curse from you that I could use.
  • Speaker 1
    0:57:33

    Oh, god.
  • Speaker 2
    0:57:35

    It’s a favorite one.
  • Speaker 1
    0:57:37

    Oh. There’s a couple of them. Oh my god. My favorite from my own father was Right? A little figurine of shit.
  • Speaker 1
    0:57:55

    When you acting up, I was like, oh, that is very, very evocative. And it’s a finesse cursed. I’m like, oh, you could even mute
  • Speaker 2
    0:58:02

    that. Thanks, dad. I won’t forget that. Let’s see. What else do we have here?
  • Speaker 2
    0:58:07

    A modern book or author that you admire that doesn’t get enough love?
  • Speaker 1
    0:58:11

    You know, I I’m always gonna say Samuel r Delaney. I think it’s like absolutely my favorite living author. Is brilliant. If you have not read, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, this
  • Speaker 4
    0:58:22

    ninety page book explains our kind of current lunacy better than anyone. He’s just a genius. You’re a man of the people working class guy, class warrior, but I I just
  • Speaker 2
    0:58:32

    have to I have to poke you. I want to know your favorite capitalist indulgence. You know?
  • Speaker 1
    0:58:37

    Oh, absolutely eating and travel. Yeah. The the things that are put in the stake in the heart of the world, man. Well, I’m a person who, you know, I I definitely do weeks of research on where to eat. And and again, I just I travel to eat.
  • Speaker 1
    0:58:53

    This is what happens if you’re not obsessively worrying about your kids. My friends travel. They’re just like, their heads are blown off. I travel and I’m like, hey, listen, there’s this hotdog place in Montreal. I’ve been hearing about, you know, like, wanna go to Montreal and these these young Asian American cats just opened up a
  • Speaker 4
    0:59:12

    a burger joint that I wanna go to. This is what I live for because life is empty. That’s cool, man. So I’ll post that on Instagram so I never go.
  • Speaker 2
    0:59:18

    Okay. My last one. Maybe you won’t have it, but I I have to at least ask. Where we met was that this book the festival, I guess, in Palm Springs. These a lot of these things are, like, kind of, ridiculous.
  • Speaker 2
    0:59:28

    I mean, you have there these don’t, like, rich people are giving money and, like, you’re a little bit, like, animal in the zoo that you’re speaking for them. So I’m just curious around all of this, you know, kind of elite crowd at booked festivals, at these universities. Do you have do you have a favorite, you know, kind of story or a little anecdote in your head, like absurdist experience that stands out? Probably the one that had
  • Speaker 1
    0:59:52

    me both in stitches and just astounded was I was once asked to go to dinner with the then president of the Dominican Republic in the Dominican Republic with Nobel laureate Eric Walcott. And Derek Walcott, me sit down with Leonnet Fernandez, and Derek Walcott walks around and, you know, he’s again, I don’t know Derek Walcott from Pain. And Daryl Gracow looks around and says, so let the, you know, the kind of the presidential palace. He says, so Did y’all buy this with drug money? I’m looking at him.
  • Speaker 1
    1:00:27

    This is a Caribbean man. He was intentionally putting it to him. He knew what he was doing. You know? He knows what was up, but I’d never I just was like, I have to go to the bathroom now.
  • Speaker 1
    1:00:38

    The bathroom for like a half hour. I was like, That’s good. This man is out of control. Out of control.
  • Speaker 2
    1:00:46

    I love that. I got accidentally sat next to Alan Dershowitz at the table at a thing when we were at. I didn’t realize it was him till I sat down next to him and so I kind of like your experience. Give it to the dictator rather.
  • Speaker 1
    1:00:58

    Just a small one and a completely different side. I once sat next to I was doing a photo shoot. I’m sitting next to a cat, and I’m like, hey. So and he’s in the photo shoot too. I was like, so what do you do?
  • Speaker 1
    1:01:08

    And he’s like, I live in California, blah blah blah. Now you understand, I’m the biggest fan of Lord of the Rings that ever happened, that ever I just love Lord of the Rings. Of course, it’s Elijah wood. And I’m like, oh, that’s cool. You live.
  • Speaker 1
    1:01:20

    So he said, yeah. I’m an actor. I’m like, you’re an actor. That’s awesome, and I walked away. And all my friends, the people who were there were like, You
  • Speaker 2
    1:01:27

    can’t But you’d joke. You’re just too short? You’re shorter than you
  • Speaker 4
    1:01:30

    thought? Or
  • Speaker 1
    1:01:31

    Ma, I just didn’t recognize him. And I never think anyone famous around. So Anyway, I I missed my moment. I’d love him and I love that. And I just I’m still humiliated.
  • Speaker 1
    1:01:41

    My friends are still always like the TV’s on. They’re like, look, it’s a lot of wood. Oh, boy.
  • Speaker 2
    1:01:47

    Dude, this was so good. Thank you for taking all this time. Okay. I’m so grateful. It’s so nice to meet you and I I treasure your your riding.
  • Speaker 2
    1:01:55

    I hope you have something else coming down the pike that we can read and learn from and for all the folks listening. We’ll be back on Wednesday with JBL for your normal next level with the Bulwark. Catch you all later. Peace out. Thank
  • Speaker 1
    1:02:08

    you so much. Bye.
  • Speaker 2
    1:02:10

    Good brother.
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