The world feels like it’s exploding. With Covid-19 and anti-racism protests both raging through our streets, I had a sensitive, maybe even a bold question to ask Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Patchett, two longtime literary idols of mine. How are a couple of white women so audacious as to write books where the majority of characters are not their race or gender?
How does a woman, sitting alone in a room, put her mind and heart into the soul of a man? Or an African American (enslaved, or modern-day). Or an Amazonian tribesperson. A Japanese business mogul. A Peruvian general. A terrorist. An American soprano. A brother and sister over the course of five decades. Or—as in the case with Sue’s new book—the wife of Jesus? And, in today’s tumultuous times, amid discussions about cultural appropriation, would they even attempt to tackle these topics if they were starting over?
Do you remember where you were when The Secret Life of Bees came out (Sue’s first novel that sold 6m copies and became a film starring Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Dakota Fanning)? I’ll never forget being glued to my couch for two days. Bees was my gateway drug to Sue’s memoirs, including the revolutionary, Dance of the Dissident Daughter—a beautiful unfolding of a woman’s spiritual life in a most feminine way. She’s currently on tour—from her house—for The Book of Longings (on the New York Times bestseller list now). Perhaps you heard Ann and me chatting early last year when she was here (where we discussed several of her incredible books: Bel Canto, State of Wonder, and Nashville among them). Since then, Ann has released the New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the PULITZER PRIZE, The Dutch House, plus, Lambslide, for the kiddos.
Like these ladies, this is a deeply FUN and rich conversation. I loved hearing about where they get their audacity, and empathy, to write about lives so far removed from their own. Also, where they write, how they write (about others), researching strategies, thoughts on social media, and my favorite question of all: how they STEAL time away from loved ones to get ‘er done. We have some laughs about that one.
I’m so glad you’re here!