What’s That Book? How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

Hi Everyone! Today I’d like to welcome Kaitlyn Jain, today’s contributor to What’s That Book. Thank you, Kaitlyn!

I’d like to welcome Kathleen Le Dain as a contributor to What’s That Book.

Title:  How the Word is Passed

Author:  Clint Smith

Genre: Non-fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s it about? A reckoning with the history of slavery across America. The author alternates between educating the reader on known (and little known) history and providing a bigger picture of history through the eyes of Black Americans. It goes beyond slavery to Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, even mass incarceration.

How did you hear about it? I originally chose to read it since the author is an alum at my college and has done outstanding work teaching prison inmates in Washington, D.C. I had heard many positive reviews of the book, plus it has received many awards (Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, and New York Times 10 Best Books of the 2021.)

Have you read other books by this author? No, this was his first full-length book.

What did you like about the book? I went into this book with high expectations. Written by a fellow alum, with a three-month waitlist at the library, and an average of 4.8 stars on Goodreads, I figured it must be good. However, I was blown away by how good that actually could be. As a white woman, I learned a lot.

Clint Smith writes with the detailed description and language of a novel but with research-backed information and insight. Then, he peppers in personal info to make him relatable:
“Here I was, on a plantation that enslaved hundreds of people who had skin like mine, having a conversation with a white, conservative, Fox News-consuming woman from Texas, whose mother had conveyed to her throughout her life that people like me were—that perhaps I was—better off dead than alive. A woman with whom, surprisingly even to me, I was sharing photos of my fourteen-month-old son.”

I knew I’d garner information about southern plantations, the slave trade, and the prison system, but I was surprised by what I learned about New York City—namely that Central Park used to be a blossoming Black community and the Statue of Liberty serves as a symbol of abolition (she has shackles if you look closely).

He ends with interviews with his grandparents. His grandfather’s own grandfather had been enslaved. It shows how short our national history is and how far we still need to go.

Closing comments: This may be the best book I’ve ever read. If you want to learn about history from another perspective, this is a must-read. With current events, it gives me a completely new perspective as to how things happen and what we can do to improve things in our country.

Contributor:  Kaitlyn Jain. Mom to four under 10 and best-selling author of Passports and Pacifiers—Traveling the World, One Tantrum at a Time. Connect with Kaitlyn here: kaitlynjain.com.

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10 thoughts on “What’s That Book? How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

    1. I hadn’t heard of the book, but now I’m interested in reading it – I put a hold on at our library. Thanks for stopping by, Rosaliene!

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