BONUS: Novelist Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi has called many places home: Her native Ghana. Ohio. Illinois. Tennessee. California. Iowa. But she spent her formative years, from age 9 through high school, in Alabama.

On Nov. 1, Gyasi returns to Huntsville to read from “Homegoing,” the debut novel that earned her a spot on the National Book Foundation’s 2016 “5 Under 35” list. She’ll be at the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Chan Auditorium at 7 p.m.

Gyasi is the next guest on Triple Take, the podcast about the books, albums and movies that shape us. That episode won’t go up till Monday, but click play below to hear a bonus episode in which we discuss Alabama’s influence on “Homegoing.”

“I often say, I don’t think I would’ve written a book like this if I hadn’t come from a country that had some involvement in the slave trade and ended up in a state where the effects of slavery are still so strongly felt. I feel like this kind of connection, this curiosity, I guess, about how everything came to be the way it was. That was something that was strongly on my mind as I was growing up here,” she said.

Although it’s one of many stops on her book tour, Gyasi said her trip to Huntsville will be special.

“I do feel a certain affection for the places I’ve gone to that have, at some point, been my home,” she said. “There’s something about being able to walk around a place and remember with a fond nostalgia all the things that place has given you, has done for you, that I think is uniquely special on a book tour.”

Listen to more in the podcast below.

Like what you hear? Open iTunes or the podcast app on your iPhone and search Triple Take to subscribe, or do the same in the podcast subscription service of your choice. We’ll release new episodes every Monday morning. We also love suggestions for future guests, which you can make in the comments below.

 

Triple Take 19: Post Office Pies’ John Hall

john-hallImagine moving to a city renowned in your industry. While there, you work at well-known places and refine your craft. Then you have the opportunity to move home and open your own place.

For John Hall, that was the dream.

Hall is owner-operator of Post Office Pies, a pizza place with locations in the Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham, where he was raised, and in Tuscaloosa. Hall has worked under renowned chefs and at equally known restaurants, and he holds a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales.

What shapes this man, who has quickly become one of Birmingham’s beloved chefs? We invited him on the latest episode of Triple Take to find out. On each episode, we ask our subject about the book, film and album that shaped him or her. Hall’s picks were “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coehlo, the Spike Lee film “School Daze” and Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

John Hall on “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

“For some of us, there’s never this satisfaction. You have to feel like there’s something you’re always chasing, whether it’s subconsciously, tangible or not. It’s there. There are some people that are never satisfied. That’s not necessarily a negative thing, I think, because people have so much they want to do. There’s so much that needs to be done.”

John Hall on the movie “School Daze”

“My parents, they both went to college, but they didn’t both finish. In my mind, it was seeing people that looked like myself and also that I could relate to that were in college.”

John Hall on Prince’s “Purple Rain”

“Those A sides were more or less marketing, or songs like, this is what we’re going to put on the radio for people to know who we are. The B sides are where you get the artist. This is what they’re going through at this particular time when they’re making this album.”

Like what you hear? Open iTunes or the podcast app on your iPhone and search Triple Take to subscribe, or do the same in the podcast subscription service of your choice. We’ll release new episodes every Monday morning. We also love suggestions for future guests, which you can make in the comments below.

Triple Take 18: White House Historical Association President Stewart McLaurin

triple-takeThink back to your favorite children’s book. What does it have to do with who you are today?

If your answer is nothing, well, you’re probably not alone. But Stewart McLaurin traces his career path back to a children’s book about American presidents. McLaurin, a native Alabamian, is now White House Historical Association president. The nonprofit preserves and acquires artifacts of American history.

Although McLaurin has been interested in government and the presidency since childhood, his career also includes stops at the Motion Picture Association, Georgetown University and the American Red Cross. He’s also served George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the federal government. McLaurin is the keynote speaker at the Alabama Humanities Foundation’s 2016 award luncheon. The event will honor Ben and Luanne Russell with the Alabama Humanities Award; Hill Crest Foundation, Charitable Organization in the Humanities Award; and Nancy Grisham Anderson, Wayne Greenhaw Service Award. The luncheon takes place at 11:30 a.m. Monday at The Club. Tickets are available at alabamahumanities.org and start at $75.

McLaurin is this week’s guest on Triple Take, the podcast about the films, books and music that shape us.

Stewart McLaurin on a children’s book about American presidents

“It’s like these movies of life coming through to me interacting with these people who were integral in events of my youth, and now I’m working with them day in and day out in this job.”

Stewart McLaurin on the film “Chariots of Fire”

“It was a slower, more thoughtful time of life. People took time to really think and consider the reasons they did things. So many times we act flippantly and quickly in the moment, like some of our Olympians may have done recently in Rio. But this takes us back to a time when the sport was purely amateur–that’s part of the theme of the movie as well–and these young people were thought leaders among their peers. They challenged each other in very interesting ways.

Stewart McLaurin on “Nether Lands” by Dan Fogelberg

“It’s the kind of thing I can remember driving around listening to in my Chevrolet Vega at the University of Alabama. It brings me back memories of those days long ago and far away.”

Like what you hear? Open iTunes or the podcast app on your iPhone and search Triple Take to subscribe, or do the same in the podcast subscription service of your choice. We’ll release new episodes every Monday morning. We also love suggestions for future guests, which you can make in the comments below.

Triple Take 17: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute CEO and President Andrea Taylor

Andrea Taylor’s path to Birmingham may not have been obvious. But her passion for and connection to civil rights? That’s another story.

Taylor, the CEO and president of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, marked her one-year anniversary in the city in September. Prior to taking the museum’s helm, the West Virginia native worked in a variety of andrea-taylor-triple-takeroles at Microsoft, the Ford Foundation and taught at Harvard. She’s lived all over the United States. And Taylor’s always been cognizant of the importance of civil rights.

She attended the 1963 March on Washington as a high-school student, and followed the work of Howard Thurman as a student at Boston University. Thurman was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s mentors, and his writings have inspired Taylor.

Taylor explained the role of BCRI: “Much of what’s happening in our country is not happening in a vacuum. There’s a long, historical pattern of behavior and activity and interaction–or lack of interaction–in communities, really hearkening all the way back to slavery. The more the communities and individuals can know about that history and understand their role, or not, in it, I think it makes it easier for us to come forward as a community and move forward in a positive and constructive way.”

Taylor is this week’s guest on Triple Take, the podcast about the films, books and music that shape us.

Andrea Taylor on “Eyes on the Prize: No Easy Walk”

“Empathy is an issue and an area we struggle with in our society, particularly in a media environment, there’s so many images so many stories and so many crises that we’re all bombarded with on a daily basis that it’s easy to tune out. Not deliberately, but there’s only so much absorptive capacity that a human being has for tragedy and tension and difficulty. And so you’ll often find that the best stories are in a war situation or a conflict or any kind of environment, the best way to communicate is to pick one story, one individual, one family. Tell that story because you can absorb that. You can empathize and imagine how you might feel if you were in a similar circumstance. I think that’s the power of a documentary series like ‘Eyes on the Prize.'”

Andrea Taylor on “For the Inward Journey” by Howard Thurman

“We are a nation of such tremendous diversity, and yet we don’t always reflect that in our policies, in our practices, in the way we treat each other, the way we interact with each other and come together. We still need to focus on that and promote that as a positive construct and not as something that divides us and compartmentalizes us.”

Andrea Taylor on “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel

“(Music) forms a very positive and powerful human connection with people to talk about their experience, to reflect on their experience and give a lift. Just think what the world would be like without music.”

Like what you hear? Open iTunes or the podcast app on your iPhone and search Triple Take to subscribe, or do the same in the podcast subscription service of your choice. We’ll release new episodes every Monday morning. We also love suggestions for future guests, which you can make in the comments below.

Triple Take 16: ‘Underground Railroad,’ ‘Atlanta’ and ‘American Band’

triple-take-in-the-newsColson Whitehead, Donald Glover and the Drive-By Truckers have something to say–and America is taking notice.

In this week’s episode of Triple Take, we discuss a book, television show and album that are making headlines. “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead was recently named an Oprah Book Club pick. The novel imagines the network of safe houses and abolitionists who helped 19th-century slaves find freedom as a literal underground railroad. Donald Glover (“Community,” “30 Rock”) portrays his hometown on “Atlanta,” which airs on FX. The Drive-By Truckers, whose roots are in Georgia and Alabama, released their most overtly political album in “American Band.”

Listen to our discussion and chime in: Does juxtaposing present-day problems with the past draw you into historical novels? What do you think is the best television show about the South? Do lyrics or melody draw you to music?

Book: “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead

“One of the ways the book deals with the modern problem of race is by juxtaposing (modern conveniences) with the underground railroad, so there are some nods to things we experience in our world today.” —Carla Jean Whitley

TV show: “Atlanta,” Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Central on FX

“I think it says a lot about the show that there really isn’t any plot that keeps me coming back week after week. I just really want to spend more time with these characters because they’re fascinating, they’re multifaceted people and there’s something that rings very true about them.” —Matt Scalici

Album: “American Band” by Drive-By Truckers

“At their heart, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell are storytellers and they tell stories about blue-collar, down-on-their-luck, hardworking Southerners. And they do it in a way that loves these people, respects them and embraces them and tells their story in this Springsteen-esque, unparalleled way about the South.” —John Hammontree

Like what you hear? Open iTunes or the podcast app on your iPhone and search Triple Take to subscribe, or do the same in the podcast subscription service of your choice. We’ll release new episodes every week. We also love suggestions for future guests, which you can make in the comments below.

Triple Take episode 15: Novelist William Thornton

bill-thorntonWilliam Thornton’s name is familiar to readers in East Alabama, where he works as a reporter for AL.com and The Birmingham News. His name is increasingly recognizable among fiction fans, too. He’s the author most recently of “Set Your Fields on Fire,” the 2015 winner of the Aspiring Authors Award. The comedic novel’s central character is Alex Alterman, a mystery worshipper who reviews churches just as a mystery shopper visits retail shops.

Thornton is this week’s guest on Triple Take, the podcast where we talk to interesting people about the book, album and film that shaped them.

Bill on “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco

“Knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to take knowledge and use it in a way that helps not only you but everybody else.”

Bill on “Apocalypse Now” 

“In some ways, that can also be inspiring because you’ve got to find where your ground is. Maybe it’s not on the mountain top. Maybe it’s down here in the valley. It helps you get the nuts and bolts of life correct. Concentrate on what you can control rather than having the grand vision–and by doing that, you maybe move things an inch or two further along down the road. It doesn’t mean you don’t have ambition, but it means you understand the limits of ambition.”

Bill on “Let It Be” by The Beatles

“There’s an opportunity. There’s always the blank page or the blank screen that has to be filled. What are we going to do today? I think a lot of times if you concentrate too much on that, you get stuck. Let it go. And if it didn’t work, maybe it got you to the next thing that does work.”

Like what you hear? Open iTunes or the podcast app on your iPhone and search Triple Take to subscribe, or do the same in the podcast subscription service of your choice. We’ll release new episodes twice a month. We also love suggestions for future guests, which you can make in the comments below.