tv Anna Malaika Tubbs The Three Mothers CSPAN February 28, 2021 9:10am-10:01am EST
this essay spends the online store at c-span shop.org. to check out the new c-span products and with the 11017th congress in session, we are taking preorders for the direct report every sheet c-span shop purpose help support the nonprofit operation sprayed shop today at c-span shop.org. >> welcome to atlanta if even virtually congrats. your wonderful husband is like a little brother to me. that makes you a little sister to me. congratulations on this book, on the baby. you've had a lot going on. please tell me, how did you find time to write a book? >> set it has been an epic couple of years to say the least. but it actually started the research even before i was
expecting my son. a couple of years ago and found myself expecting him halfway through my research i gave birth to him when no starting to edit the book. and really even edited while he was laying on my chest i could hear his little breath. it was a beautiful journey to become a mother while writing this book. even no it's not only celebrating biological motherhood it's our different forms of motherhood it's a different way of caring for others that kind of a mothering work we do. it also is another level of connection that i have with the three women i was celebrating. >> these are of course three extraordinary women. and three extraordinary men. can you tell us a little bit more about how you came to put these women together in this book? so becca definitely. it has been a journey. like i said i started knowing
i just wanted to join other scholars who were correcting the erasure black women story. it's really inspired with the figure that went on to become an incredible film also inspired by elizabeth wilkerson and how she showcases the importance of understanding black experiences in order to understand the united states of america and where we are today. and so i had a lot of choices to make. so many of her stories have been erased, forgotten print that's when i also decided i needed to narrow down, i have a interested in starting with someone famous and thinking about the ways that was erasing people in their lives. more often than not how that was erasing the women in their lives. having been the first in the past four years having been the partner of somebody who is a public figure since i was 19 years old, i often heard this
notion of you are the woman behind the great man. as much as i think people meant it as a complement i never took it that way. i've always been right there right beside them. if they didn't seem they are choosing not to see me. i want to split the narrative of the woman behind the man and think about the woman before the man was even thought of, even conceived. that's what i became really excited about showcasing mothers. i think many of us could do this kind of work but non- biological teachers essential workers are doing work we often feel underappreciated and not seen in erased and not heard. that's why wanted to celebrate them. specifically these three women they were all within five years of each other for their famous sons were all born within five years of each other that allowed me some really cool intersections and their stories and make commentary on the historic perspective and how each of the events they live through affected them differently.
there's a lot more to say about this kind of the background to how i arrived that studying alberta king baldwin and little. >> i'm so glad you explained those connections. there is a natural connection you think of with martin luther king jr. i did not know were james baldwin and his mother although he was the voice of the movement in so many ways. i did not know how his mother became a part of this story. >> guest: there so many events that led to this very specific project. i also read i am not your negro baldwin's writings were he says he is the witness to his friend's work to martin and malcolm and what they did
for our nation and our world. and then i thought that is really cool. i now see james baldwin as a natural part of this group. and so when i was thinking about the mothers and did some even preliminary research, burtis baldwin added again this layer of how writing is part of the way of giving life it's part of our activism. we thank you so much about martin luther king jr. and malcolm x incorrectly as if they were the direct opposites of each other. but the introduction of a third person allows us to think about the variety and the diversity of not only these three immense approaches , but also the variety and nuance of black womanhood and black motherhood experiences. so bringing the three of them together really painted a beautiful and i think a much more accurate portrait of the black experience. >> host: did any of your research show anytime these women their lives intersected
with one another besides the interaction of their sons? >> know they never met each other. that would've been really powerful if so. however in other ways they intersected. sometimes in very painful ways. they were all black women who were again born in this time when jim crow reigned supreme but even they were not born united states, she was facing the direct violence of white supremacy and colonization in her own island. said their experiences intersect because of many of the coats i include in the book that showcase the dehumanizing treatment that black girls, black women, black mothers were facing at the time that they lived. in the different ways that they respond to that. also showcases intersections. they are all three willing to put their own lives on the line. they understand their children are going to be part of this
transformation of the world. but even in those intersections are able to see differences and celebrate that diversity. that's cool, the book goes in and out between similarities and intersections of the ways which we are all connected in the community. it also how we celebrate the different approaches to that. i love the way you begin your book. you talk about learning you are to become a mother. and the joy of learning that you were pregnant pray but also the concern you had not knowing what that would mean to be a mother. so as you are writing this burke and birthing your baby, did any of your preconceived notions of motherhood change? >> guest: absolutely. just to go back further when i found a spread with my son i
already had at masters i've been studying black feminist theory for a long time periods very well aware of the dangers of black motherhood in the united states. that whether or not you're educated, whether or not you have access to money. whatever it is, whether or not you are famous that becoming a black mother in the united states is very risky. we are much more likely to die in childbirth and in pregnancy simply because you're black women. it's really saying our bodies were different. that the pain we felt that we did not really know we were in pain and did not understand our bodies and people did not listen to us. we're still seeing a remnants of that to this day. i was also really worried when i found out that i was having a child. of course i was excited, overwhelmed with joy. but extremely worried with the knowledge i had around how
dangerous this was going to be. but studying these mothers gave me incredible help and maybe feel very powerful. they never accepted the circumstances they were avoidable or they were going to have to endure pain as black women. instead they said i see the world as it isn't going to be part of change and i'm going to my children how to join me in that fights. i'm not going to accept this notion i'm any less than anybody else. that allowed me to it advocate for myself. i knew i wanted to work with duelists when i went into the hospital. and have other women of color right by my side. but also use this book to speak to how we can exchange circumstances that this is not unavoidable. we do not have to carry these burdens greatly need to continue to push our nation to
see us as the force human being that we are. so i felt powerful. i felt influential. even in thinking about the ways they influence each of their sons, this is it obvious connection with their mothers passion and talent with their sons were able to do for the world. and so jaisol myself and continue to see myself as a powerful influential person. we often think about motherhood, honestly is second-class citizenship. we often forget the work that mothers are doing. we take it for granted. we expect them to do all but then we don't thing when they do. if something goes wrong they are the first ones to blame especially when it comes to black mothers. and i wanted to change that are really grateful and studying these three women i see my motherhood in the very different light than society does. >> when you described is dangers of black motherhood that made my heart sink. i have never heard it worded
that way. the really is a physical danger and there is a social and emotional danger of it being a mother. i am a mother of four. that is an interesting description. but i think for anyone who is a mother, a black mother you understand exactly what it means because you feel it. >> having your loved one out in a world that sees them so differently than the way you do and we see it constantly. we see news stories and how many of us are being killed the in and day out we know that as we hold our children with us. we also have to face that reality more people to see the pain we are feeling as a
community as a people and also were not going to accept this printer going to continue to push for change and fight for change because we need the world to see us as well as everybody else as a human being that we deserve to be in that we are. >> as you research these women , i know you're right about the difficulty in uncovering their story. is that because they are black women of a certain kind? or are there stories not told? >> there's a lot of factors that contribute to their erasure. i think one of them is yes at the time and even today to record words, record histories and people who deem important to society. and that is quite often the
white mail heard so much of her stories are told from this white mail perspective. they are not the ones is going to say yeah, this black women mattered let's make sure we tell her story was even record the date that she was born. two of the women were not even sure what year they were born. it's just kind of estimates because no one recorded it. confined or on the census data for example. also something each of these three men's care deeply about their mothers they credited their mothers with their success for they celebrated their moms, the calls were constantly. he passive before she had one of the dying wishes was having double spot where she would be buried right next to him. that whenever someone came to
his grave they would see how interconnected their lives were print there's example after example birdie the malcolm x he also credits his mom with saying she's the first to teach in this kind of discipline that he found in the nation of islam. in many ways he was returning to her teachings before he even met muhammad. so why is it that we had this evidence and include in the book that we just erased it over time. some part of it is this understanding of sexism and our society of racism in our society. in that intersectional impression that black women are facing the people don't think that our lives are worthy and they are not worthy of celebrating. >> ready think these women found their strength? >> i think several different
sources pretty think even part of the story, celebrating this generational knowledge in these movements there passing onto their kids. it also started before then. their parents also really believed in their daughters. let's look at king for instant she is very well she's the only surviving child of the williams family. and they say as a young love and, they're going to instill in her disbelief and the importance of her own education. add her own voice and her own opinion. that matters for her strength in her ability to carry forward even when multiple challenges are stacked against her. it's the same with burness, her siblings and her father even when she's born she loses her mother, she's born in this tragedy. they all surround her with love and remind her there with her no matter how far away she will end up from them throughout her life. it's again the same thing her grandparents were these
liberated slaves. they knew what it was like to live in captivity and they find their freedom and they teacher to continue to carry freedom in her heart. that is really the lessons the main thesis of the book. these are fully formed notions of how they're going to accomplish freedom. but instead they find their strength and generational knowledge. and their background and their experiences and their community. and it's crucial to our understanding of what they were able to do for all of us. >> often refer as a negative referring to men as mama's boys. we write about the strength these relationships gave her a
thing about these relationship that served as a negative? >> that's a great question. the book definitely as much more of a celebration of the need to focus more on the positives pretty think seven that is important to mention it's not only about generational knowledge that's passed down. i don't think it's necessarily because they were mama's boys that it made it anything difficult for them in their own lives. but simply the fact they were part of these families that were facing literal attacks for being black people. we think about malcom x very specifically his family has so many tragedy incidents that happened. they were very active, very outspoken, in terms of their commitment. they believed in self independence and black pride
long before the nation of islam was even established. they become the black legion which is another white supremacist group their houses burned down, her husband murdered she's not given the life insurance money that she deserves. then she is put away for 25 years of her life against her will because she's imagining being discriminated against. so every single one of their rights consistently taken away from them. could grow up learning not necessarily always a positive thing to be learned about white supremacy. uses that a very sad and tragic way. sometimes it almost pushes them to feel that they half they have no other option. academic see that being something difficult.
one would hope they didn't have to. he was raised poor and black in harlem. and he speaks to that experience of the fact that his mother was the victim of abusive relationships. he himself was a victim of his stepfather's abuse. his mother was as well. she has eight more children with this man and he sees this over and over again. he hates the fact she keeps becoming pregnant it's really difficult. also contends these are not perfect individuals. they are all carrying trauma as a result of ace racist attack against them. >> obviously you have three
extraordinary women. other neat mothers, sons, do owe that you opted to leave out? because this is an extraordinary highlight of these relationships that i would imagine there are so many more you could shine a spotlight on. >> definitely there som anymore pay not even mother son duos but duos are generally paid i decide is going to write about the mothers and sons because i felt almost that erasure was happening on a different scale. maybe not a larger scale but a different wethers and assumption that women cannot leave men. we talk about these three men if you are a fan of any of them, if you study their work you've heard about their fathers. in society think about the
role with thing about reverend martin luther king senior and the fact that okay he was a reverend therefore that must be where mlk junior got it from. i think about oral little and people know he was an activist pretty think about his stepfather recite everything james baldwin does as a response to his stepfather it's ridiculous. whether or not the fathers are good or bad influences, we think that marvin influenced sibley because of their gender. i also went to change that narrative. as parents are influencing our children and showcasing it from this perspective were again they clearly inherited their strengths and talents from their mothers helps us to reevaluate parenthood.
son about is not about generating start to distance ourselves from that. so to get some examples with baldwin she was a writer purge she was a poet. she believes in confronting the darkness, the light, the hope or even james baldwin inherits his writing talent from her this creative perspective and says it many times he wants to be a witness to the power of the lights. the power of truth. again thinking about the darkness, not hiding from it. but confronting it and finding a path forward. these are lessons he learned from his mother paired with think about martin luther king jr. it is his mother and his maternal grandparents who make ebenezer baptist what still is today. the combining space with social justice they could not be saved unless they are working to create what god would want us to have here on
earth. which is everyone having equal rights. which is focusing on the poor. it's focusing on justice. this is how she has raised pretty even when she meets her husband she's considered illiterate and has a college degree there on the same agencies don't have the same opportunities that she does. she helps them get into morehouse this is what she does. the men go to morehouse, she raised her sons narrative or to say this is her husband's church. he inherits from his appearance. from the with malcolm x, like i said earlier this is what she was raised upon these notions of standing up for your freedom, fighting against colonization fighting is white supremacy purge she finds her
path with these men. that's where she meets her husband are both activists. that's how they are that's how they come together even after he dies he continues to witnesses mothers stand up against these racist attacks. so really it's not to raise the men to raise the fathers of such a race the parent of the sun. his essay why are we erasing the mom when they clearly had an important role to play. >> do you think these women and these relationships existed today, do you think the erasure but still be as blatant? stomach i do think so. that's because my own personal experts i don't think are only representative of me. i know what it's like to be associated with a famous man or somebody that people know
well. and how opted not only i am a race the survey how much is mother and his aunt are race from his story. it's on my mind which is awesome but even the filmmakers wanted to focus on his dad rather than the three women who had faced him. waited his entire life is not his fault. there's so much you can focus on with incarceration. you commit until michael's story focus on the mail narrative it's not okay. it's wrong and it's not right. i think we see it still to this day honestly really do. i think that's why this book still speaks to people.
even though its historic narrative. it's also contemporary commentary on how we are still doing this to black stories. >> it's interesting to bring that up. especially the context of how black women are influencing the power structure and election across the country. i wonder if you're able to give these three women specifically related to how they could amplify their life work. >> that's a great question. there be a lot more opportunity there platform or
space to tell their side of the story. whether that is social media are getting their work publishes a lot more opportunity for that now they were not afforded. think in many ways they did their best to make sure the people in their lives knew of their influence. i think they were bought a skull but they are humble and probably did not know, stand up in the same way i do say i did that. i can take credit for that. i constantly do because it happens all the time. even when our son was born out of be standing next to michael at events and they would say congratulations to him on the birth of his son. and i would go, i didn't know michael is capable of having children, congrats, good for you. [laughter] >> he's very talented. >> i'm not sure that's something he can do.
so i am very outspoken about it. something i've studied for a long time. very sensitive to the erasure of black women. i think they were somewhat aware of it even if they did not have the same opportunities to speak up against that that i am given now. i write articles about a product talk about in this book. i'm very unapologetic about addressing that pretty think it has a change not only for me but for many of us feel erased. and when we are erased we are really just missing huge parts of the puzzle. we think about policy were not going to fix things unless we are focused on those who are being impacted the most in a big part of erasing black women stories is erasing the need to address the issues that affect us. personally and very deeply. but burtis and louise they
were very proud and would stand up against the white supremacy group i mention while her children watched her. she was aware they were watching her. it mattered more to her that they see her in this proud light and maybe she was risking her life than for them to see her cower, bow down to her oppressor. so they practice it in their own ways but burtis wrote these letters, all of her family members telling her live with love, to focus on life and not carry pain in your heart. not carry hatred. so they found ways to instruct people around them. i just think we have an opportunity to do that today. it's also a reminder to black women today to focus on her own narrative, be okay with doing that, sharing power with the rest of us understand how we continue to move forward in a world that really treats us
in so many dehumanizing ways. sue and how will you impart these lessons to your son? your son is howled now? >> he is 15 months. >> he is so adorable. >> he really is. [laughter] i can't believe he is just 15 months old he carries himself like a full-grown man. >> has such a personality. but when you know who his parents arts not surprising. >> host: how and when will you begin, teach these lessons to your son. speech is going to be interesting about a mother who wrote this book the appreciation of mothers and how sons need to give credit where it is due and i am curious to see how that sort of plays out. i think a big part of it is not necessarily this constant see me i'm here, i want you to see me. it's not that but more so just
a fair acknowledgment. something my mom raised me with actually. she was very clear that just because she was our mom, she was not obligated, it's kind of a funny thing. if she cooked us a meal or drove us to our ballet practice or whatever, she would say you could say thank you for that. i didn't have to do that. that took effort on my part. i could be doing my work. i could be doing something else right now. but i want to support you. i am a person to so if you could thank me. we don't really think her mom's. we don't think about them as human beings we are very sort of like great, you did something you were supposed to
do and cool. takes a little while longer, maybe when we are adults we start to think oh well, my mom has done a lot for me and i should thank her for that. so when i was little, ever since i can remember my mom was there. gratitude was important. she was still her own person. and to acknowledge that for her pretty want to continue that as a part of the way i will teach my son that as well. also just having honest conversations. think part of what i've learned is vulnerability is something that's helpful to all of us and we don't% ourselves as a superhuman who can carry on all of the burden and the weight and i don't need any help. i think that is unrealistic that doesn't do any of us any favors. also being willing to say i'm having a hard day. or, i do need some help or i would love to speak about this. all three of these famous sons also had a deep understanding of the human condition partly because they're very honest conversations with their mothers.
she says right-hand man is shipped eight other children he supported her through that. that was probably a huge burden for him to carry. but he learned a lot about humanity. and she did not shield him from that. maybe she didn't have a choice in the matter, but i actually think it's something that did him a favor to not see her as he superhuman who didn't have feelings of her own. >> host: 's interesting you talk about the roles of gender and gratitude. i'm thinking when i remember my oldest was younger, she had very definitive feelings about what men should do, what women should do, i remember being perplexed by it. there was nothing happening in our household that would give him the impression that was only for women to do or only men do that.
i still don't know where he was getting it from. it was behavior that i really had to correct a lot. and i love now that with my daughter, we have a chore chart. she said what i do i have to wash the dishes? boys have to wash the dishes. it really does begin at such a young age. when i read about these three extraordinary women in their own way and leading james a baldwin's mother leaving letters to her children. although she was not a published writer, having just the thoughtfulness to leave something with her children in that way and with the other two women, equally extraordinary. growing up in atlanta very
familiar with the king family. but there is even so much more that i did not know about alberta king. you're absolutely right, the stories just simply aren't told as reported narrative. i just wonder what surprises if any would you find in researching these women? select the biggest surprise was how onpoint my hypothesis was. i started off thinking; tell the stories whether or not they had that much of an impact in terms of a direct connection to the sons at work pretty want to tell these women stories before they became others in a while they were mothers, even after their sons passed away because all three of them lived to bury their sons and into of the cases had to actually bury two of their sons. alberto lost her other son as
well as baldwin's son david passed away before she passed away. the surprises really came when i find this evidence that a principal of one of james' schools said he directly inherited his writing talent from his mother. she writes these beautiful notes excusing his absences. i don't know how you make that beautiful with the fact that was note worthy speaks to her talents in her ability. but something i sat there and was in shock. we had not heard about her influence on his writing when everyone who knew them could see it so obviously. i think about visiting ebenezer baptist britta had the privilege to be there i love atlanta so much. so this event meets the world to me to it be able to speak about it not in person but in
atlanta and be speaking with you is such an honor. but yes to be ebenezer baptist mv at the king's first home. and to have my own knowledge of alberta's influence. and to see how she was being erased even in her own home. everyone was focused on mlk junior of course that makes sense. but then there focused on senior. no one was time but the fact that was also her child's home, her parents bought it that was really shocking to me. so yes. i am excited and was excited to continue to do the research for i'm excited now the book is out there. i want to more to feel that same sense of shock and surprise they did not already know these facts. >> host: have you gotten any feedback from any of the families? select yes.
yes i've been incredibly supportive. first it was difficult because you think about these three families they have been hurt in many ways by researchers, all these people just want to tell their story and find the next scandal. these of their lives these are their loved ones. they've had to deal with the being in the shadows of a famous man. but also the person they really loved it deeply weathers their own coal, father, whoever. and thank themselves a bit in the stores it's very painful but they've also had to deal with misunderstandings. they've had to deal with people treating these men as if they weren't themselves human. we tell stories about them is there a literary figures when they were people and they had families. i really approach them first when i'd much more knowledge. did as much research as they possibly could do to not repeat any questions that i could have already answered on
my own. and to also spend the time just to get to know their perspective. if they wanted to add anything personal to it. and really the ultimate goal they didn't want to speak to me as they knew i was doing the work. i did not want this to pop out of nowhere and then sort of be shocked that i was doing work on somebody who matters to each of them. they did not at least know about it for that was really important to me. all three families knew from the beginning. then as i develop the work, some were willing to speak with me. that's a really cool conversations over the phone and some in person. it just helps a kind of fill the gaps. and since the book is about bernice king has been incredible, in terms of supporting it, getting people excited about it. i wrote about in to a peace in "time" magazine. she asked everybody to retweet it, that's kind of support for me, makes me so happy it
really means the world. and then to have one of burgess baldwin's grandchildren, trevor baldwin has been instrumental in giving me that family perspective. and helping me to it understand how crucial grandma was for the baldwin family and continues to be. and how again he saw her and his uncle is being inextricable from each other for if you did not know bert you are missing a huge part of his story. and then i've also been really privileged to speak to one of betty malcolm's daughters as well as have been granted to use her photo on the cover of the book. there's just these little knots and i hope i've made them proud. now that the book is out there they can see i'm not trying to hurt anybody that maybe they will be comfortable in sharing
even more about the women. i think there's a lot more out there to uncover. if they are excited about it, maybe they'll start to tell a few more stories. >> host: does that mean working to get a part two? [laughter] that be really cool. i write about a lot of different things. a part of it too is, i don't want to necessarily take advantage of the families and make my whole career about that. i think there is a space for scholars and the pace for loved ones to do their part as well kind of like if somebody wants to tell more and get more personal details out there want to get them the space to do that. i was asked to do a children's book about this and maybe talk a little bit more about davison burgess baldwin since her heart children's books about him but it didn't feel was my role to do that. think there's a time to say, maybe later.
if the family grants me permission and they wants me to it be the one to write it. but i don't want to build my career off of telling his personal stories for myself of this a lot more projects to come. maybe down the line i will return back to the private. it's my debut as an authors going to define my career in so many ways. i am just grateful i was given permission thus far. we'll see if there's any more. but maybe it's also enough. [laughter] 's back it's hard to believe this is your debut. this is so wonderfully written in so well researched. i am curious, did any family members share with you that they learned something about their loved ones from their research with curtis baldwin's
mother and she passed away in childbirth because of her death certificate being the same month and year that he was born how she passed away from hemorrhaging they did say that was a hassle to have. their great-grandmothers or death certificates and to learn more about her name, her journey, there were deeds to the land that their great-grandfather owned whatever they want i will continue to send everything to them. think again it's really important is researchers and return it i have not heard any major surprises i think is generally more a feeling they were happy that someone was
changing the narrative and make it more accurate to represent these men as part of the larger whole rather than what they have been represented as which asserted the third nowhere without family background it's painful to family members i think they were thankful for that. >> host: i know doctor bernice king is very intentional speaking her mother's name it's extraordinary that you focus on the mothers of these great men. and my last question, of these three extraordinary women, was there one that you felt more connected to than the other? stupid catholic i pulled different parts of their stories that i found to be inspiring or that i connected with. actually the conclusion of the
book i talk about how we can find ourselves with black women today by understanding their stories. maybe one more than the other we see ourselves as a combination. i see myself as a combination for an 11 burgess' ability to focus on love, and lights and the reminder that when you carry pain and hatred in your heart you're only hurting yourself, not hurting the person you have hatred for. in order to hope and move forward. king's ability to use her privilege to help those around her. he didn't see yourself being any better than anybody else even though she had very unique experiences as a black women living through jim crow and having a college education for that was really not common. but she uses that to teach her students.
she's also this incredible instrumentalist, singer and organ player in once other people to find their talents and creativity as well so she teaches so, so many. to find that she is really incredible and inspiring. and finally with luis, the bravery for anything for her the confrontation of fear and acknowledging that fear is there. it's very real. it reminds me that i will paraphrase they're going to try to grind us to death anyway. if you're afraid and don't do anything you're afraid and do anything that might change their minds and that that something i will vary in my heart. >> one of my favorite, whether
or not i'm afraid thank you for this extraordinary work. thank you for highlighting these incredible women. and, this should be required reading for every son and every husband across the globe. so thank you, i look forward to your next work. i am going to tell my dear friend, michael tubbs and i. [inaudible] [laughter] >> thank you. i don't think he's going to excepted but we can try. [laughter] thank you so much for your time. >> host: thank you and congratulations. >> guest: thank you, thank you, thank you.
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