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In honor of the upcoming 2023 Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards ceremony, we’re proud to share this Asterisk interview with historian, author, and Ohio native Tiya Miles, who won a 2022 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award prize in nonfiction for All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake. The Asterisk is a production of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. Karen Long conducted this interview with Miles earlier this year.
The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, which have been administered by the Cleveland Foundation since 1963, recognize books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures. To learn about the 2023 winners, please visit anisfield-wolf.org. The 2023 award ceremony will be held Thursday, September 28; a livestream of the event will be available.
Laura Maylene Walter: Welcome to Page Count presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. This podcast celebrates authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, literary advocates, and readers in and from the state of Ohio. I’m your host, Laura Maylene Walter, the Ohio Center for the Book Fellow and author of the novel Body of Stars. Laura Maylene Walter: Today, we’re doing something a bit different and sharing an interview courtesy of our friends at The Asterisk, a production of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. These awards recognize books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures. Established in 1935, the distinguished Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards remain the only American book prize focusing on works that address racism and diversity. The Cleveland Foundation has administered the Anisfield-Wolf prizes since 1963. Cleveland Public Library has a longstanding connection to these awards and houses a collection of the award-winning books throughout the program’s history in our Special Collections department. Laura Maylene Walter: Earlier this year, Karen Long, who manages the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, interviewed historian, author, and Ohio native Tiya Miles, who won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction for All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake. We’re reposting this interview only a few days before the 2023 Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards ceremony, which is held each year during Cleveland Book Week. Check the show notes for this episode for links to the Anisfield-Wolf website and to learn more about this year’s winners. In the meantime, thank you to the Cleveland Foundation and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards for allowing us to share this thoughtful and in-depth conversation with Tiya Miles about her work, her research, and the story behind Ashley’s sack. Enjoy. Karen Long: Hello, I'm Karen Long and you're listening to The Asterisk, a production of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. An asterisk is a reference mark indicating an omission. Today we are figuring out some of the holes in our knowledge with historian Tiya Miles. Born in Cincinnati, Professor Miles won a National Book Award and a 2022 Anisfield-Wolf Prize for All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake. The book beckons the reader to travel with the sack and the 10 lines of embroidery on it to seek its history. Karen Long: The author describes this piece of cotton being ready for a place in the new international African American Museum in Charleston, as quote, "At once a container, carrier, textile, art piece and a record of past events." Anisfield-Wolf winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed calls this book, "A brilliant exercise in historical excavation and recovery. A successful strike against the traditional archives erasure of the lives of enslaved African American women." Professor Miles is the Michael Garvey Professor of History and Radcliffe Alumna Professor at Harvard University. She and her husband, the scholar Joseph P. Gone, live in Cambridge, Massachusetts and are the parents of three children. When she was 41 and teaching at the University of Michigan, Dr. Miles won a MacArthur Genius Prize. Welcome, Professor Miles, welcome. Tiya Miles: Thank you so much, Karen. Karen Long: At the Asterisk, we like to get out of the way of the art, so if we could put your voice into the ether, that would be pleasurable, now. Tiya Miles: I would be glad to. This is the inscription that was sewn onto the bag that is known as Ashley's Sack by descendant of the enslaved woman who first packed the sack for her daughter. "My great-grandmother Rose, mother of Ashley, gave her this sack when she was sold at age nine in South Carolina. It held a tattered dress, three handfuls of pecans, a braid of Rose's hair. Told her it be filled with my love, always. She never saw her again. Ashley is my grandmother." Ruth Middleton, 1921. Karen Long: Thank you. It's worth looking up online to see the stitchery. The word "love" is in red, as is the entire line, and it's the largest word on the sack. I had a question about whether you've touched the sack and if you could, would you? Tiya Miles: I have not touched the sack. When I have seen the sack, it has been encased or in some kind of protective enclosure. Oh, the question of if I could, would I? Oh my goodness. Yes I would, Karen, I would, but I had to think about that for a moment because I would not want to violate the sanctity of the relationship that the sack represents among those women, and I certainly would not want to contribute to any damage to the material artifact itself. Karen Long: It has a sacredness, and thank you for your complete answer to that. You have won a slew of prizes for this book, and I know that is an ambiguous gift in some ways, but it also means the book is finding its readers. And on that note, I would love if you'd welcome the listeners into some of your writing. Tiya Miles: I'm going to read a few pages from the end of the prologue. Rose couldn't know how things would turn out, but she held fast to a vision. She saw her daughter alive and provided for her into the future. A radical imagining for a black mother in the 1850s. Rose's daughter, Ashley, realized that vision by surviving and her great-granddaughter, Ruth, preserved their history by stitching sentences onto the surface of the sack. Tiya Miles: In the third decade of the 21st century, we face our own societal demons, equal in some respects to the system of slavery that would finally be slayed. The world feels dark to us, just as it must have for Rose. And like Rose, we can't know what will happen. We think in a fantasy that we might rescue our children's futures, or revive our democratic principles or redeem our damaged earth. In our moment of bleak extremity, black women of the past can be our teachers. Who better to show us how to act when hope for the future is under threat than a mother like Rose or an entire cast of enslaved brave women who were nothing and had nothing but the dominant standards of their time, yet managed to save whom and what they loved. Tiya Miles: Rose and her long line of descendants realized that salvation depended on bearing up to the weight and promise of their baggage. We should too. Just as Rose and Ashley found on their forced journeys through slavery's landscape, there is no safe place of escape left for us. The walls of the world are closing in. We need to get out of here in a hurry. We need to get out of these frames of mind and states of emotion that elevate mastery over compassion, division over connection and greed over care, separating us one from another and locking us in. Our only options in this predicament, the state of political and planetary emergency, are to act as first responders or die not trying. We are the ancestors of our descendants. They are the generations we've made. With a radical hope for their survival, what will we pack into their sacks? Karen Long: That is a perfect way to bring us into the moment. Thank you so much. I noted when I was going through this again, there are a lot of footnotes, which marks you as a historian. Is there a footnote that's especially precious to you because of how hard you worked for it? Tiya Miles: That is a really surprising question. As I try to scan my memory banks and see if I can identify that footnote, I will say that the footnotes in this book were important to me and sort of a second way in which I tried to have a conversation with readers about the sack. I wanted the narrative itself to be very open and very accessible and to even be melodic in some ways and as lyrical as I could make it. But I didn't want to sacrifice offering people the sources that I used and showing them the steps that I took to arrive at my suppositions and my arguments. Tiya Miles: And so I tried to tuck as much as I could into the footnotes, illustrating what it was that I was thinking, what some of the background material was that I was reflecting on, the names of the scholars that I was thinking with. And I've heard from some readers that they feel like the footnotes are actually a second book, which I really appreciate. Karen Long: Complimentary, and I can feel that conversational piece talking in again, you have this poignant note in a footnote, acknowledging the lineage that we are discussing and noting, and I guess we shouldn't be shocked that the sewer and the artist, Ruth Middleton, died very young, and her daughter Dorothy also died young. And that it seems to be the end, but if it's not, you apologize. Tiya Miles: Right. It was really crucial for me in my thinking about this project and the sack and the women who cared for it to mark absences and to leave space on the page in the book for all the possibilities that I can't think of, for all the things that we don't know. And it does seem to be the case that this lineage of women ended with Dorothy, the last woman whose name we can identify through census records. But perhaps it's not, and I didn't want to foreclose other possibilities, and I didn't want to overstep my role as a researcher and writer and scholar by presuming that I know everything you know about this family's line. And so I just tried to make space for the possibility that there are other descendants, and also to think about how these women might feel if they were to read my book. Karen Long: You also ask, and it's such a great question early on, I think on page 36, what would Rose think, what would Ashley think, that this sack hung in the Smithsonian, that it traveled through their generations north to Philadelphia, that it was even taken, is so moving during the Great Migration. And then now it's in the deep south again. Tiya Miles: Having an object to think with really changed my approach to trying to interpret this history. The sack was necessarily at the center of this study because it is the main primary source that exists about these women. And as we were talking about earlier, the sack only consists of a few embroidered lines. There's not a lot there to go on, which meant I had to think a lot about the materiality of the sack itself and to imagine the experience, the feeling, the thinking that these women would've been doing in relation to this object, to this thing. Tiya Miles: And that led me to also replicate that kind of a process of thinking about the thing and the object and its materiality, which led to the tracing of the sack as it moved across space, across time to these different museums. And the Smithsonian chapter of the sack's adventure is incredible. It's something that I am sure these women... I mean of course, they couldn't even begin to take the first step toward imagining that given how little visibility, regard, respect, care they received in that society. Tiya Miles: So if only they could look down from wherever they are and see the attention that their story has been getting, it would just be astonishing for them. And I hope that it would allow them to feel a sense of dignity and admiration that they would not have received from dominant culture in their own time. Karen Long: One of the heart stopping bits in the book is you point out that a nine-year old could get inside that sack so that it could be shelter. And that is such a gift of the materiality to be able to think that way, because once you've thought that thought, it doesn't go away. Tiya Miles: Well, this came exactly as you said from my thinking about the thing. Karen Long: Yes. Tiya Miles: And the particularities of its makeup, its dimensions, its size, its fabric. And it also came from a realization I had at some point while just thinking about the women and their story and the sack, that this gift that Rose made to Ashley really seemed to encompass within it all the things that we think of that would satisfy a human hierarchy of needs. So as I was going through that in my mind as I thought, okay, we've got some of the basics here. We've got food, we've got clothing, but what about shelter? Karen Long: Yes. Tiya Miles: And then those two thoughts came together. This sack was actually sizable, and a child of nine, especially an enslaved child of nine who would not have been well-fed more than likely, would have been small. Those two things added up means that the sack could have been something that she could have crawled into, something she could have covered up with. Karen Long: As a reader, it makes me cast my mind toward my mother who was so proud that my grandmother sewed me dresses, and I wore my dress so often to kindergarten that my grandmother sewed, that other kids asked me if I had other clothes. And I remember being put out, because you are as a child, but your book reminded me of some of that maternal tactile lineage, and it made me ask what I have of my mother’s to give to my daughters. Did you have the same thought? Tiya Miles: I did. I did. So much of the thinking and feeling that went into this book was unexpected. I mean, one thought seemed to flow from another as a result of, again, thinking about the sack. And the sack was such a precious item for these women, which we know because it was cared for, saved over time, it was patched when it ripped, that it seemed to me that I couldn't help but think about what that could mean for many other kinds of people. I mean including me, but for anyone who might have objects in their family that had been special to someone and had been handed down. And in the book I talk about how this might be especially something to think about with regard to women's experience because in many human cultures, not all, but many, women are the people who managed and created the textiles traditionally. And so objects made of fabric and cloth could have special meaning for them. Karen Long: One of the things that struck me recently looking at your Twitter is you identify yourself as a hope carrier, which I'm guessing is related to All That She Carried. And I so love the distinction that I go to immediately, which is not a hope giver, a hope carrier. Can you talk about that? Tiya Miles: That was a change, Karen. I used to have optimist in that space, because I do want to think in a positive way about the future, and I want to try to encourage people or maybe inspire people to also think that we can be moving toward light and not just kind of the sense of darkness and doom and gloom. Tiya Miles: But I was doing some reading about just the word optimism in probably, it might have been The Atlantic, it might have been a New York Times opinion piece, but just the popular press, some pieces about these different terms that we use, and one interpretation of being an optimist is that you expect everything to be positive, that you have kind of Pollyanna-ish glasses that you're always wearing. And that didn't really precisely describe how I feel about my perspective, and so I thought I should change it. I thought about it quite a lot, and yes, Ashley's sack did inspire me to think about the language of being a hope carrier, because to me what that means is that I want to take on the responsibility of bearing into the future, this sense of the possibility or the potentiality of something good can come of this, and it's an active role, I think, that we could all take up in our various walks of life. Karen Long: You had a gorgeous essay in the New York Times on that topic, and you described sitting at the family table in the pandemic and one of your children sounding a particularly bleak note, I think she said, well, we're all going to die. Tiya Miles: Yeah, she did. Karen Long: Hitting the existential accelerator a decade early, maybe. But you recoiled from that and the notion that Ashley and Rose and Ruth couldn't have envisioned what their love gives all of us is an exemplar. Tiya Miles: It is. When my daughter said that, it felt like an electric shock and kind of a wake-up call in a way, about how people of these younger generations must be feeling about their world, about our shared world, and the desperation and despair that has kind of perhaps turned into a cynicism. And I was scrambling in that moment to say something to her and to all of our kids, we were all there in the same space because it was mealtime, to encourage her and to protest this and say, "No, no, no, no." We've got to think with this in a different way. And I wasn't satisfied with what I can help with, and so I decided to write the piece and to try to think it through and to try to offer some kind of notion or some kind of pathway that could feel concrete and also approachable. And it's probably not surprising, not that pathway I came up with ended up being, thinking about historical examples and thinking about times in the past that at least up to now and many of the places that I have lived, was much worse. Karen Long: One of the things you say is that you came to this book through the environmental study store, which is one of the reasons we feel despair is our climate. And when you accepted the Anisfield-Wolf Award in September of 2022, you were introduced by Dr. Henry Lewis Gates Jr., and he mentioned that you're currently working on an environmental study of American girlhood, which I don't even know what that would be. Tiya Miles: Right. All That She Carried ended up being what I hope and think is also an environmental history, taking that word environmental to mean many things at once. I mean, it had to do with nature, but of course human beings are a part of nature, even though we have sometimes try very hard to forget that. Karen Long: Yes. Tiya Miles: And also thinking about built environments, about cityscapes and about agricultural work, compelled agricultural labor, all these things coming in together and how they would've influenced the experiences of these enslaved women and girls. And part of that impulse in the book came from a conversation, or actually more than one conversation, with a journalist in Savannah who had been a marine biologist before he retired and started writing in the local newspaper. And he and I corresponded about the sack, and in those emails he would talk about the sea level rise because he lived on an island and the storms, and all these ideas were with me as I was thinking about what it could mean to be a person, a parent, a child who was facing a desperate situation, who was facing uncertainty and chaos and considering how they might respond. That seems, to me, to very much be our condition right now. Karen Long: Yes. Tiya Miles: And so there is a theme about environmental crisis and response running through the book. I am moving toward working a little more explicitly on those questions, and one of those projects is a book about girls in the 19th century. And this book was actually inspired by a project that I developed when I was at the University of Michigan. It was an organization called ECO Girls, and it was a project in which I worked with fellow staff members and grad students, undergraduate students to invite elementary and junior high age girls from the Ann Arbor area, Detroit and Dearborn to come and do activities with us in the city, to also travel to different parts of the state, to try to learn more about our environmental surroundings and to try to begin to develop a vocabulary for the natural world around us and to really work on skills that could be useful in a changing environment. Tiya Miles: That project also had a summer camp, which was named Camp Bluestem by one of the graduate students in the project because it's a native grass in Michigan. And this book, which is a very short treatment of girls from the 1800s and their lives outdoors and how that shaped them was absolutely inspired by that project, and I mean it to almost be a continuation of that conversation with those girls. Karen Long: Yes. And it's so clear as a reader of yours that your initial interest centered in your family and your grandmother in indigenous history too, has marinated your work and continues to inform your thinking. You can read it in, right in All That She Carried. Tiya Miles: It's there. I mean, one of the things that I found while touring many of these plantation homes that are now museums in Charleston and in other parts of the south is that indigenous history, Native American history, is often left out. Even the museums that have been making an effort to incorporate interpretations about enslaved people at those sites are still... Karen Long: Skipping. Tiya Miles: Yep. They're still not attending to, first of all, the original control and occupancy and rights of indigenous peoples in those spaces, but also the enslavement of native peoples on those very plantations. And so in this book and all my other projects, I really try to interweave the indigenous experience and history into the larger story. Karen Long: And now we'll pause for a short break. The Asterisk is a project of the Cleveland Foundation to bring more readers and listeners into conversation with the best writers in English, in this case, recipients of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. We'll now return to the conversation. You also got recipes in here. I wondered if Norton pushed back on the pecan recipes. Tiya Miles: The recipes were another place where I didn't expect it to happen. I mean, I worked really hard on that chapter and I was struggling with that chapter. I think I was struggling with it in part because this is a chapter that looks a lot at Ashley, and she is the person in this trilogy of women for whom we know the least. There just aren't very many records about her. She kind of almost fades behind that wall of slavery, and it was difficult to think about how do I even imagine her life? And so I tried to use some of the items in the sack that Rose gave to Ashley as a way to think about her life. Karen Long: Conjure her a bit more. Tiya Miles: Yeah, and pecans were among Rose's gifts. So I tried to think through how would Ashley use these pecans. It makes very good sense that she would've eaten the right away, she probably have been very hungry on that journey. But I learned, well talking with a gardener and also an arborist that she also could have, anybody could have planted a pecan to try to grow up a pecan tree. I started thinking about how she and others might have prepared pecans, because pecans were really healthy and they were basically free food. I mean, if you lived in place where they were naturally growing groves, you could come and gather these foods. And in fact, this was a longstanding indigenous practice in the areas where pecans grow naturally, where they are native to those locations. Tiya Miles: And so I think when I was casting about for a way to imagine Ashley and thinking about pecans as sort of a bridge to her, I started wondering, well, if she was going to be serving pecans from this imaginary tree that she might have grown, if she had planted one of these nuts, what would she have made? And then I had this really fun moment because I have a number of old cookbooks that are focused on African American cooking traditions and recipes, and I love them. So when I see them at used bookstores, I'd kind of buy them here and there. My mom buys them for me as well when she sees them. And so I just simply had to go to my kitchen. Tiya Miles: I went to my cookbook shelf and started flipping through some of the traditional cookbooks and looking for pecan recipes. It was really fun, it was completely spontaneous. And you're right, it was a bear to be able to use these... It was very, very, how can I put it? It was time-consuming. It took a lot of following up and a lot of requesting to be able to use them. But in the end, I feel that it was just a triumph to be able to tuck this little bit of sunshine into the book. Karen Long: Yes. And Gill Lepore talks about the unfairness of the archives, just who is remembered is wrong. It's wrong. And you have a phrase of the rags of the archives because they're so... that's a great word for what they actually are. And we were lucky enough to talk to the poet Shane McCrae just yesterday, and because I was thinking about him, I found a couple of lines that seem to speak to this, and if you don't mind, I'm going to put them into our conversation. Karen Long: This is a poem called "Banjo Yes Asks a Journalist," and this is imagined historical speaker who we can think of as laboring under the Stepin Fetchit era of performance and dehumanization. And the last eight lines of "Banjo Yes Asks a Journalist" are, "I'm bound to that man's will, Hell. I'm bound to that man's pleasure. He got me on a level where he doesn't even have to think, and all I do is think about him. Tell me, when have I been free? Boy, write this down. I'm asking, when have you not had to say something about white folks to say something about me? Tiya Miles: Well, I mean those lines really sent a chill through me, Karen. They're very profound in more ways than one. The notion of having to know someone who could care less about you, is incredibly well captured in those lines, and I think really does describe a key feature of the experience of enslavement, of the syndrome of enslavement, the psychological cause of enslavement, and the idea that to speak of oneself or one's group is impossible without speaking of those who had subjugated or oppressed the person or the group, is an accurate description of what we face as scholars of slavery. Tiya Miles: It's just really sad. It's also the reality that to try to gain any kind of access or understanding to and about the lives of enslaved people, we have to go through their enslavers. We have to look for the records that were kept about them. We have to look for these violent transactions of the sale and renting and leasing of them. We have to look through these terrible court records about their abuse. And in these sources we see glimpses of people which are always already compromised. Karen Long: It's one reason the sack is this profound counter narrative and a great reason to be grateful for it. I feel I should tell the listeners that the poem is in Shane's book, In The Language Of My Captor. And I think there is something also poetic about the last prose line in your book, Professor Miles, because it confers dignity on the people you've thought so many years around. And that line is, "After only five years spent drawing near to this textile, I cannot claim to know Rose, Ashley, Ruth and their families intimately, but I take heart from their example of an ethic of bequest love made manifest in the preservation of things passed on." Thank you for writing that. It's tempting for the reader to think, I've got this, at the end. Tiya Miles: Well, thank you for reading it. The idea of an inheritance that we all have, that we have duty to care for and pass on as something that came to me as I was working on the book when I realized what I thought Rose might be doing, and I was very hopeful that I might be able to convey that sense of mission for people who might read the book. Karen Long: How do you think about the gnarly and offensive way that erasure keeps renewing itself? And I'm thinking about the governor of Florida trying to take away African American AP studies. Tiya Miles: It is so maddening to consider where we are right now and how it feels like we are just turning the clock back decades. It's the last thing we need to do right now, is to try to unlearn what it is that we know. It's obviously politically motivated and I think it's just quite distressing. I think about this question a lot, Karen, because I've been doing conversations with teachers and many of them are in situations where their states, as you said, are passing laws that limit what they can do. They can lose their jobs. This is a very real issue in their lives, trying to determine how they can teach the material that they feel students need to know and deserve to know, how they can teach in a way that feels to them to be authentic and truthful, and how they can also maintain their careers. Karen Long: Yes. And bread on their tables. Tiya Miles: Right. How they can also feed their families. I don't feel that I have a satisfying response or answer to what this means or what we should do because the repercussions for people who go against these laws and against this changing culture in some of these school districts and states are real. But I do think that we have to keep trying in all the ways that we can to find and to translate and to communicate a full and complex and true picture of our history. It does us no good, by us I mean Americans, to pretend that these things didn't happen. Karen Long: To tell a true story, you have to tell a complete one, which is what Margot Lee Shetterly said, and I've stitched that close to my art. I did take some comfort in the students in Florida organizing, and I did take some sadness from that because students around the world are organizing around the environmental issue. Tiya Miles: Yeah, they are. I mean, I talk so much in this book about the notion of caretakers, people in the parents' generation, the grandparents' generation acting as the saviors of their children and those under their care. I talk about Rose kind of saving Ashley, giving her a chance at survival and life through packing that sack. And I think this is important. I don't think that we should be absolved of any responsibility, but the examples you just gave, I think it just points out that it seems to be the younger people who are saving us. Karen Long: Yes. Tiya Miles: They're the ones with their heads on straight. Karen Long: Yes. Even us, they have such an early dose of existential despair, with the accelerant of the pandemic put upon them. Even me trying to imagine what isolation would've meant in that year where developmentally those years where your identity is just budding, it's horrifying. And it's hard to know how to carry the hope, but to obviously as a parent, one is called to do exactly that. Tiya Miles: That's right. It is hard to know how, it's hard to know how we address any of these problems. They feel like they're intractable or becoming so, but we just have to. I think that we just have to keep trying and thinking and imagining and doing. Karen Long: I was struck that you just very recently addressed Facing History, and one of your classmates in the Anisfield-Wolf cadre is George Makari. And his thesis is, we're having a bit of moral struggle now because the immediacy of the Holocaust is fading. Those post-World War II years had a clarity to them, the Russians, the Americans, positioned themselves as anti-Nazis and claimed it. And as that fades, the joy of thinking we're getting somewhere is met with counter. Tiya Miles: It definitely feels as if we are in a period of dissolution, as if many things that had been established or that we thought we were working toward have been disintegrating. I really, really hope and pray that it's not going to take even more war for us to arrive at a new kind of clarity. Karen Long: When you were in Cleveland in September, a dear friend of mine was online to get her book signed, and she told you, her name is Margaret Bernstein, that she had a grandmother who helped start a school for black children in the South, and you wrote in her book for Margaret, "Write the words that save the story." And we, like coals, warmed our hands over that. And I love that so much, and thank you. Tiya Miles: Well, thank you for reminding me that I wrote that. When I talk with people who are coming to chat or get a book signed, I often just feel moved by what it is they say and not something that I commonly write, so. Karen Long: Well done. So let's talk for a minute about the stories that are moving you. I know that your life is a reading life. I can't imagine there's pleasure reading in there, but I hope there is. Tiya Miles: There can be pleasure reading over the holidays. And the novel that I started over the holidays that I haven't finished yet is Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry of the Future. So this is, I think, my first dive into Cli-Fi or climate fiction. And this book was recommended to me by a fellow teacher and the novelist Belle Boggs. She said that she thought that I would really appreciate it because of the way in which it contends with these current environmental pressures and questions and tries to really think through possible lines of well, if not solution or resolution, at least standing up to face those problems. So I'm well into that novel, I'm listening to it and I am finding it to be really interesting, really engaging, really wonderfully crafted in terms of all the different facets of it. Karen Long: Good. Tiya Miles: Chock full of information. I have to take breaks because it's tough material, but I'm enjoying that one. And I am also reading a book called Blunt Instruments, and this is by the cultural historian Kristin Haas. And this is a book that looks at the ways in which what she calls cultural infrastructure, and in that language she's pointing to memorials, monuments, museums, and also patriotic practices, really shape our society and shape our interactions in ways that we don't intend to, because this infrastructure seems to just fade into the background and to become an ordinary part of life. So this book has been really instructive. It's written as, actually calls it a field guide to help people understand what they are seeing when they come up to a huge statue of a white man on a horse, for example. But that's on the cover of her books. Very apt example for talking about her book. Karen Long: One of my favorite responses to the new consciousness around our monuments is Elizabeth Alexander, who is a poet and phenomenal Anisfield-Wolf winner and now runs the Carnegie Endowment. And she has put some millions of dollars toward new monuments. Tiya Miles: Oh, I didn't know that. Karen Long: And that springs generative notions. Tiya Miles: Right. It does. Karen Long: And I just need to thank you. I could keep you here all day, and you have students who need your attention very soon. So thank you, Professor Miles. It's a joy to be proximate to you. Tiya Miles: Aw, thank you, Karen. That's so sweet. Karen Long: The Asterisk is brought to you by the Cleveland Foundation. The executive producer is Alan Ashby, with help from producer Tara Pringle Jefferson. Cleveland Public School students working with the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society, wrote and performed our original score. I'm Karen Long, manager of the prizes. Visit Anisfield-Wolf.org to learn more on the history of the award, about previous winners and upcoming events. And thank you for listening.
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