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tv   Author Discussion on Pop Culture Race and Identity  CSPAN  October 30, 2021 2:46pm-3:36pm EDT

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i'm fascinated that over the centuries we have the same excuses the set of these cases and whether the results are intentional or unintentional and had devastating effects upon minorities. >> i want to thank everybody in this discussion and i want to thank you, the authors for participating in the southern festival of books. i want to thank everybody for attending and i want to remind people, don't forget that the book purchase link for this section is posted in the chat it is good for books and it's also supporting a good cause and again, i appreciate this very informative discussion and his and as a citizen in both of these books are valuable in
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learning and being a better citizen than learning the history of our >> more from the southern festival of books. >> good afternoon i am lee curtis with the philbin on behalf of humanity and tennessee we want to welcome you to the 33rd annual southern festival of books and humanities tennessee does a super job bringing this to us every year end they are the state affiliate of the national for humanity. we are virtual again this year, there are amazing authors that are participating from across the country and we are excited that we can bring them to you even virtually. one of the benefits you can see any of these online, on youtube,
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they will be archived and that's a great thing that we could do, in my opinion and i'm sure everybody as booklovers, no matter where you are and how you do it you are talking about books, there cannot be a bad place. the supporters like you are dedicated sponsors in the national endowment for the humidity, the national endowment for the art, tennessee arts commission, the metro national arts commission, dollar general and the literacy foundation and they did amazing job with great articles. you can purchase any of these books as well. we are very excited to bring this to you and youtube website
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you can go to the online store the festival website to purchase the merchandise or donate and we thank you. this afternoon i am delighted to introduce you to three very talented authors brian, anjali and nicole perkins. here they are, together in their collective essay they are going to share with us their stories in moving, each of those are so talented and i want to introduce each of them in a little bit of background and we love each of them talk briefly about their books and we will head into conversation so the authors and we can dialogue with each other. brian who is a poet and a free rider, i've had a chance to look through them.
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in the storytelling competition in the grand prize in the martin luther king writing award he was an instructor in the writing program at the university of pittsburgh, he also won an award from the pittsburgh black media federation for journalism in 2019 he resigned in pittsburgh, welcome he is an award-winning essay journalist and author of the novel in the essays on identity and social change and what will be discussing today. her work has appeared in the atlanta general constitution, the boston globe, the washington post and other amazing, she teaches creative writing in the program and he's a writer hear
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from nashville the 2017 at the inaugural arts retreat in emerging writer fellow, she is also in 2016 creating fellow for poetry informally cohosted the podcast about pop culture and had culture, that is quite interesting. her first poetry was posed and republished in 2018. does that not sound like an amazing lineup with all the
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talents to get together, that is great. brian why don't we start with you about the inspiration behind your book and then will get with the others. >> the inspiration behind my book is there really isn't a whole lot to do in rehab i posted a memoir and i ended up in rehab sometime ago for drug and alcohol addiction and after and the reason i was there i asked myself why i was there or what was the reasons i thought it was there. i was just writing the stories that i thought were watershed moment in my life.
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i found a lot of them had to do with this idea of being a man to the equation of all the things and i had never lived up to this idea of being a man in the eyes of my father and i question this site you in regard to peter black man it seems of the levels of masculinity and not shutting down those kinds of things are stronger or felt stronger to me with regard to racketeering. i just writing writing stories, i think i would pretty much right before i went to rehab my
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addiction, i've never been able to find a place because i felt racism from the population at large and that i felt homophobia from the black community and i found it resonated with a lot of black people, a lot of black queer people so that's basically what the book is about. >> here it is again will get into more of it later. i really started reading it i am not finished but it tells us about a lot of things it took a lot of courage. >> i embarrass myself really bad. >> no it takes courage these are people that you are connected to and relating to because a lot of it is wealth and i thought it was really great that you did that. why don't you tell us a little bit about doc brown and the
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essays on identity and social change and i also picked up and started reading and could not put it down either. very insightful, tell us a little bit about the inspiration for you. >> thank you so much, thank you so much for having me here, i appreciate this conversation. i would say probably one of the earliest kernels and became southbound was my question which is who gets to be southern. i lived in several states until i was ten years old when my family relocated from a suburb of detroit to chad chattanooga tennessee in the early '80s it was my first experience of being in the south and living in the south chattanooga back then was a very small community it was very heavily evangelical
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christian community. it was largely white but they were certainly black folks that were segregated, but they were not a whole lot of brown people living in chattanooga, my family is a mixed race family my father is from india, they were indian families, some lot next families, it was predominantly white and black. what i found out when i moved to chattanooga, first of all i was the first brown person that many of my schoolmates had met in their entire life, they had not see anybody agent, any agents, not many hispanics, i started to understand what it meant to be from the south, what does that look like, what are the stereotypes that we have for people to live in the south, i graduated from high school in
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chattanooga spent time in carolina and primarily outside of philly until i move back down to the atlanta area about 14 years ago and i chose to move back south because i love the south and i hope to never leave the south i feel and identify as southern. but i still found myself encountering these assumptions about what it means to be southern and he was southern and interestingly in a state like georgia which is something like 45% right now, it's really only 55% white, white, non-hispanic according to the latest census information but i'm also politically active and progressive work for the last couple of decades in the last
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five years admin electoral organizer, i've been bumping up more assumptions of what people think about the south politically culturally and that was a germination for the essay collection i wanted to write specifically how identity shapes activism how it shapes social change how this rises from various communities and how these communities in particular in the south don't necessarily look like preconceived notions that we have of southerners, that was my taking off point for the book. >> interesting looking forward to getting to that with you soon. nicole i love the title of this book, this is great we all
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agree, sometimes i trip on how happy we can be, i love it, what a great time we want to hear a little bit about the title of the book in the inspiration for you and them will get into with some more discussion. >> thank you so much i'm really happy to be here this is been a dream to be a part of the southern festival of books for very long time i am born and raised in nashville and moving to brooklyn right now i'm coming to you from brooklyn. i am in nashville to the heart. the title, sometimes i trip on how happy we can becomes from my favorite. song if i was your girlfriend from the times of the album that came a 1987 and i think it's my favorite. album, he has a lot of work so it takes a long time to figure out what your favor is. . . .
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at the time when he started writing the book, samantha humorous ethics collection like needy and then no thank you, stuff like that. i was just like oh, i thought they were clearing a path through may. not to say i am anywhere near as funny as mindy or samantha or even roxanne. i still fit like this a precedent for what i wanted to do. and what i wanted to do is write a book that shows the diversity of black women that shows a black woman who tried
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to come to terms with her sexuality and her body and expressing expressing herself through pop culture and sex. there are chapters on kermit and ms. piggy how their relationship is not so sweet once you get down to it and look at it from the eyes of an adult and how that relationship mirrored a part of my childhood. apartment seeing some stuff to my parents was also a chapter on niles crane the show frazier. i love that character pray to talk about what it means to have a grown up in nashville, in that middle tennessee state, meharry medical college as a black girl and seeing all of the wonders have been going
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on and to attend my own and new orleans. there's a lot of stuff in there the tv show, bones. there's also some heavy step a chapter of the book opens up with me talking about the term fast which is what a lot of young black girls get called anytime they express some sort of sexuality or even because her sitting next to a boy there called fast, that kind of thing. but that does to you when you are blamed for the natural course of humanity, things like that. it has got a lot of stuff in it. some humorous some very serious. i wanted people, especially women are not alone in their particular journey. that's what's behind the book. >> i have to say one on the
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back of the book jasmine warren, she writes and i love what she wrote about the book great comment, i really want to read this to everyone. a love letter to the black girls we were, to the black women we are, and to the brave new beings we are growing up to be. i thought that was really interesting the way they said that. talking about the collection of your essays to as a love letter to who we were, who we were going to be, as we are coming out. i thought that was a really interesting way and looking at what you've written. you talk about all of the characters, all of the celebrity topics ordinary
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person celebrities write memoirs. it was one of the biggest hurdles to figure out how much of other people's stories to tell. where they intersected with the mine and how much background i could give especially if it's a background i was not present for, right? i definitely want to be respectful. but i also have my story to tell. i had to figure out the best way of talking families dirty laundry off i could save anyone from being uncomfortable. but figure out what is relevant to my story is one of the things my mom told me when i first told her i was writing the book, she was like how much of your childhood are you
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going to talk about? that was her very soft way of asking how much of my business. [laughter] so i wanted to be mindful of that. we did not grow up in a vacuum. it raised in a greenhouse someplace. we have other stuff that shapes us. that comes from people who were shaped before we even came along. it is all that stuff is very important. it was very difficult. i talk a lot about sexual things in the book. one of the things that has struck me since the book has come out and people have dropped comments, contact me and things, as so many people are scandalized by the things i said. it honestly tried my best to tone down a lot of that
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stuff. to hear people like oh my gosh, even for the stuff i tone down it does have me second-guessing myself. second guessing the next things i want to write. our people not ready for me? i am going out the little spiral i thought i was not revealing that much. but clearly i showed more than i thought. and do i want to keep showing that? >> well, that is great hearing you talk about that. i think as a writer when you start writing you don't realize how much you are expressing more than you can ever know. because even though you know, we don't know it as the reader. that is why it seems so much more to the reader because you already know it. and you feel like it's old story and we don't. this is just enlightening and huge to the reader. bryant, want to get with you,
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looking at the back of the comics it struck me from your book. i want to quote from sapphire this author of push and the kid. i don't if you remember the quote or not this is what he said exquisite, a true work of art. not one of the best books i have read this year but quite simply the best. it is the best. not one of the best but the best. that really says a lot. i heard sapphire i looked him up i looked up some of the other authors. what a great thing. they talk about the courage it took for you to talk about that you grew up in chicago is that right? just talk about something hurdles you said you were
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writing. >> like nicole said, i did not care. i don't care i have to get all this stuff out. i was looking at it as a cathartic journey for myself i'll tell as much as i can without hurting anybody. hurting anybody that i care about or cared about. then i started taking some specific things out. things i found out later, they would not have added to the book at all. would not have enhanced the story for the reader. they were just me being angry,
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being hurt, or feeling rejected. that was a hurdle. and just embarrassing myself. looking like a fool. but we have all looked like a fool at times. and i put all of it out there and then the day before publication i realized, oh crab people are actually going to read this, oh my god what am i going to do now? i found the more open that i was about things, the more people i found who related to what i was saying. i've been really shocked because my wrote this book this was a book for black boys this is a book to tell black boys you don't have to be the thing everybody's telling you you have to be. since he book has come out i've heard from people from all different walks of life saying the circumstances were
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different. i am a white woman or whatever. but i have this exact same feeling when i was growing up. so that was a hurdle. to reckon with some of these things myself. it was my own addiction my own behavior toward others. that was hard to put down on paper and read back to myself. but in the end i'm glad i did it to some extent. pretty ashamed of some of the things i have done to people with that said. i look at the book in a way to move forward and try to be a better person in general, throughout the rest of my life.
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>> wealth that has a pretty powerful brian. that really is. i think a new start to write about reading what you were talking about in the book, the challenges, the hurt, trying to talk to other black boys, i think it is for more than just what you are thinking this'll be a book for black boys. as a blue book for everyone. it's a book for everyone to read. i think we can all learn so much from it. you have really gone through a lot with that. one of the things here, cleverly flank framed around the poem that iconic what can you tell us about the connection between that and your book? >> i was writing the book and i i discovered it myself,
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nobody else heard of it before. we are cool, we left school. i thought i could write stories for each one of these. and i thought i am brilliant, i am bryant, she's talking, look what i discovered you. then i found out the writer double hooks we are cool black men and masculinity. it was so smart and i am not that smart. she is a genius. [laughter] i will just tell my stories to the lines of this poem. but it is talking about are
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the rites of passage that black boys have to go through. black children in general do not get along childhood. i think a black boys and black girls are seen as adults far earlier than their white counterparts. she was the story behind the poem issues walking by a pool hall and she saw seven young boys basically inside the pool hall doing very manly things. i thought this is the kind of thing i have been up against my whole life. this show of masculinity, the show of being a man. something i can do about it the heavens opened up and spoke to me. it has to involve this poem and that's how it ended up in this book. >> did that help you search
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for the words you are looking for that you wanted to express, that you have done so wellin this book with your words? >> i think it just clicked. the words i was writing, i found this puzzle piece it fit so perfectly how could i ignore it. it was the perfect fit for what i was trying to say. she said it far shorter and fewer lines. but i knew i wanted to involve in the work i was doing. >> how many years did it take for you to realize that you wanted to write this book. have you pondered it for several years or did you just decide i've got to write this?
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have you thought about it for a long time? >> i did not start out to write a book at all. literally like i said i end up going to rehab. and i did not want to be there. they stuck me in the room with this guy. i wish i could remember him and thank him. because he snored so loud that i was just up all night. they gave you a pad and rehab to write down your very various epiphanies or whatever. and since i was up in his cpac machine had fallen off and he was snoring. i was just writing these stories. i was writing the stories for quite a while. when i got out of rehab, i was afraid to go anywhere because i was afraid i would relapse. i stayed at my house and
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continue to write. when i started to go out again i started doing open mics. after these open poetry night things. one night after i got off stage, a woman came up and said hi, i would like to be your agent. and i did not know what that meant. she said she was a literary agent she asked me if i had anything i was writing and i said got all of these stories. i wrote these in rehab it after rehab. and that is where the book started to take shape. i did not go into it with an idea of writing a book. i just wound up with the book. the whole time i thought nobody is going to buy this, nobody's going to read this. i found out a couple weeks ago i am a finalist for the prize.
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that is the glass slipper cinderella story. that is crazy to me from where it started,. >> it's crazy absolute crazy. >> that is amazing. essays on identity and heritage through social change. mrs. author southbound is a poetic for our lives. it's ambitious. so tell us a little bit about what inspired you to obviously combined from identity, social change and it links together. obviously your essays, tell us a little bit about the book
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and the hurdles. >> when i initially started writing the collection of essays, it's kind of like a bryant. wasn't necessarily that i thought of it as a book at first. what i initially was doing was retelling and synthesis of trauma perfectly racialized trauma. got that out of the system the process of drafts, revisions and really thinking about what i wanted to do and then connecting it to organizing work and social change work. wasn't trauma's that were the inspiration for the social change work. but really my complicity in
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the assistance of a power that marginalized communities. that was kind of a daunting realization for me. some particularly joyous to write about things, brian you mentioned writing about things you were ashamed of. that is kind of what i ended up doing in this collection. i write specifically about instances where i upheld white supremacy. i write about it in a way that is very, very honest in a way that nicole mentions having some readers tell her even about the part she toned down that while i can't believe you said that. readers tell me you're only 21 when that happened. that's kind of the point, the
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very subtle ways that even though i was racially abused, very subtle ways i decided to align myself with the whiteness. they are not subtle, you said" because nothing's really settled when it comes to racism. you are either buying into the system of power, or you are very actively rejecting it. and i was not actively rejecting it. i tell stories for example when i was 18 or 19 years old, i spent much of my formative years in chattanooga. i did not get invited, i did not get an invitation to the city's renowned debutante ball and when i first wrote that essay i was pissed off. but then when i realized it was i was part of the problem.
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i was aspiring to something i should have just condemned from day one. i think my desires in life were for whiteness. not saying ever wanted to be a white person, that is not what i mean. i never desired white skin. but the goal, the very goal of my life was to be accepted and to be heralded, and to be seen in ways that i was smart, and funny, is very much based on a whiteness. i had to unpack a lot of very uncomfortable situations where i made the wrong decision that caused harm, right? and write about these things that were embarrassing, and
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uncomfortable, and still are. it is the complicity in my egg knowledge that i think has helped make me a better organizer. if it was just the trauma, that would not have done it. it was me realizing you realize the way that you are really a weapon rising your privilege, this particular case was my brown skin privilege against communities, you go through a process so you have an authentic perspective to change the world in ways that empower communities that are not in power. really helps you realize you were rolls instead as a facilitator and a helper and not necessarily the champion.
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not necessarily the person who is expressing very openly, visibly and loudly their own experiences but taking a backseat in the shining the spotlight on other people that are most affected. the hurdle was tougher for me. took draft after draft after draft to really sit with the fact that i did bad things. it was not easy for me. and it took months of revision to sort of really reckon with the way i had thrown other people under the bus, right? i hope, i hope that helps other people see the ways they are complicit. i am not really doing thing openly or blatantly racist in the book. i am doing stuff that some people might not see as being
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racist but they should. but they should. that was very much a part of my process writing about my trauma and being the channel four doing social change where it's really just painting me in a good light and being disingenuous as to the forces that were really at power in my life. to unpack and interrogate the ways to uphold systems and continue to uphold systems today that make me actually part of the problem and not always part of the solution. >> that is interesting. one of the things i remember reading in the book from the very beginning in one of your first chapters was the questions you said, questions about your identity. questions about your identity
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have echoed in your mind for decades. that really struck. that's one of the first things it was the beginning of the first chapter of the first essay of where to start. you are challenging your own mind and having to deal with that echoing, who am i, where are we? brian and nicole, can you talk about also how that writing each of your memoir books, the good, the bad, the funny shape your identity? >> i want to say something to nicole. so, the last time we were together in a situation like this you read a piece from the book about a man you were
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dating very briefly. he was a nature guy. >> yes the hippy. >> i was like i have dated that same guy. [laughter] and so i immediately went out and got the book. i just want to say, such amazing writing. i recommend it to my friend who wrote the secret lives of church lady. >> that is an incredible book. >> this connection was happening i just wanted to say that. >> thank you. i wanted to fit that little bit. >> always been about who i am. take some time to get labeled
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look back at the celebrity crushes i had as a child i was watching tv with my sister who is about seven years older than me and i probably was watching things i should not be watching. it's not that she was watching anything super inappropriate, i am six watching a rat pack stuff and that might not of been the best for me too be watching. the man i crushed on as a child and i did know what a crush was i knew i wanted to keep looking at them on screen, the same men i'm pretty much attracted to you now. just celebrities but in general. in real life or whatever, my passion for reading and the stuff i like to read is still all there.
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it is going back in time and realizing that was me establishing my personality. i sit on another interview recently, i've always been careful about who gets my time and attention. when i was younger, again and the south that's considered being rude you're supposed be nice and warm to everybody. this post let everybody hug and kiss on you when you are a kid. and some are like no, i'm going to go over here. you get called antisocial, you get called all these different kinds of things. and now boundaries you are violating my boundary you do not deserve my time. i've been trying to do that all of my life. >> always apologizing when you don't need to be apologizing. something said earlier this morning really hit home we all do that. we need to stop that. brian, talk to us a little bit
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with only got a few minutes left. obviously you were about seven years old in this picture? >> i was 32 in that picture. [laughter] i think that is a kindergarten picture. just, for me talking about being embarrassed about the things you've done in the past. if read the book i can't wait to read it after talking to you about just admitting to doing wrong and how hard that is. especially for somebody to read. to give it out for public consumption and say these are the mistakes that i have made it. can you admit to making mistakes too? i think now we are in a time
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where everybody wants to be perfect. for good reasons and for not so good reasons, right? and i appreciate what you have just said about this thing. i did wrong these are the ways are going to try to do right. i think that is what has changed in me. before i think i did wrong and i justified my wrong. i just found ways to skirt it and not be responsible for it. and not listen to other people who were telling me i was doing the wrong thing. my preservation was the most important thing. and so i think, i hope that is what has changed. a little bit more of an ability to listen. and to not be afraid to do wrong again.
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to try things and to be told you are doing wrong. that is kind of what life is. i spent a long time being a character, playing a character that's who i was. i think what's change for me as i'm no longer willing to do that. and i tried not to do that. so i think at this a book of being in the world is what's change that for me. >> it's put me on the right track. clearly put you on the right track. we want to read more from each of you. toes a little bit more about how it changed you on identity , special change. tell us briefly with got very little time left but we want to hear from you on that too. >> i think i spent most of my life really up until he started drafting the first
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essays of this book, very imbalanced. i sort of let other people define who i was. i did not have the internalized self-concept about identity. you reference the prologue in the book or ask the question, where are you? what are you where you from? i still hear that all of the time. randomly from strangers usually from white people where you from, wanting to know a complete breakdown of racial and ethnic background. national origin everything. i did not have to do that i could reject that and define that myself. it's still a work in progress. but, once i changed my mindset and came from a place of agency and empowerment instead
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of sort of letting other people put me into boxes and categories, i think that is something that i have been able to work through in the process of the book. >> these are all connected. all three of these books, memoirs, essays and encourage to get them you can go online to the southern festival book their website, i have started in each of them. they all have a fun connection, tell them your story. nicole, onto lee, brian, each of you have amazing stories. i'm still how happy i'm going to be tripping on that pretty want to be crunched up to the gods us is also important i
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think each of you over twine with each other. we could probably talk another 45 minutes, each of you are amazingly talented so impressive. encourage our audience we appreciate your time with us this afternoon, we hope to see more of you, and remember you can enjoy the session you can watch it again on youtube, there will be archives don't forget to donate like to thank you for bringing each of the two of us. thank you for yourre watching bs
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