Book Review of How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

336 pages

Published in 6/1/21 by Little, Brown, and Company

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Nonfiction / History / Social Justice

Amazon | B&N

*click on photos to view original source.


Poet and contributor to The Atlantic Clint Smith’s revealing, contemporary portrait of America as a slave owning nation

Beginning in his own hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader through an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks-those that are honest about the past and those that are not-that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.

It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving over 400 people on the premises. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it. It is the story of Angola Prison in Louisiana, a former plantation named for the country from which most of its enslaved people arrived and which has since become one of the most gruesome maximum-security prisons in the world. And it is the story of Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.

In a deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view-whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods—like downtown Manhattan—on which the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women and children has been deeply imprinted.

Informed by scholarship and brought alive by the story of people living today, Clint Smith’s debut work of nonfiction is a landmark work of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in understanding our country.”



“The sky above the Mississippi River stretched out like a song.”

As the whitest person to exist in America, I feel it is my responsibility to educate myself as much as I can on social justice issues that have taken place in the past and present. The goal, of course, is to prevent future issues from coming up. I like to share what I learn from what I read, and there’s a lot to unpack with this one.

I’ll start by discussing my reasoning behind my rating. I’m sure there are people throwing shade my way for not giving this five stars. First, just because someone doesn’t give an important book a five-star rating doesn’t make it any less important. There’s more to a book than the content that makes it a phenomenal read. Second, I shouldn’t have to explain myself. It didn’t hold my attention the entire time, there were naming off fact after fact, and I had to take a break from the book, sadly. If I rated books with decimals, it would be a 4.5. Anyway, let’s get to the review.

There was information I didn’t know about places I’ve learned about before. The Monticello Plantation is the best example. I remember learning about that in school, but not like I learned about it in this book. The tour guides want visitors to understand what kind of person Jefferson was in his entirety, but visitors were offended claiming they were trying to change history. There were also people who didn’t think slavery was a thing. I don’t know if they just deny it completely, really didn’t know, or they’re messing with the tour guides. That’s why educating yourself on the topic is important!

Yes, he contributed great things. Yes, he gave us the Declaration of Independence, and the university where I got my degree, but he also owned people. He owned ancestors of people I know. That’s reality. I think in order to really understand him, and to fully understand him, you have to grapple with slavery. You have to grapple with [physical] violence and psychological violence, and family separation. We would not be doing the story justice if we don’t tell those stories.

Niya Bates – Monticello’s director of African American History.

Smith also visits Angola Prison (Louisiana State Penitentiary). A location I have never heard of, but it’s so interesting (and horrifying) to learn about. The Red Hat Cell Block (restrictive and harsh housing in Angola Prison) holds cells that are 5 x 7 ft. It got extremely hot in there with no air. Prisoners would just lay on the cement floor in misery.

The execution bed was built by PRISONERS. They actually went on strike when they found out.

The guide would often pivot the conversation to bring positive light to the prison while Smith visited there. How could you even see this place in a positive light? It was nothing but horrifying, disgusting, and cruel. I’m happy that Smith discusses what the prison actually did.


There was talk about how women would kill their own children because they didn’t want them to grow up in the same situation. There’s a lot of talk about the Confederacy and the Lost Cause. You really just have to read it yourself to fully enjoy all the things you learn. I definitely won’t do the book justice from doing a WordPress blog review. Go read it for yourself!


About the Author

“Clint Smith is staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of Counting Descent, which won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. Clint has received fellowships from New America, the Art For Justice Fund, Cave Canem, and the National Science Foundation. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review and elsewhere. He currently teaches writing and literature at the DC Central Detention Facility. His debut nonfiction book How the Word Is Passed, which explores how different historical sites reckon with—or fail to reckon with—their relationship to the history of slavery, will be published by Little, Brown in June 2021. He received his B.A. in English from Davidson College and his Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University.”


If you enjoyed this, then give it a like and follow my blog and other social media. Be respectful and happy reading!

Book Review of The Boys’ Club by Erica Katz

The Boys’ Club by Erica Katz

416 pages

ISBN: 9780062961488

Published: 8/4/20 by Harper

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5.

B&N | Book Depository

*click on photos to view original source*

Sweetbitter meets The Firm in this buzzy, page-turning debut novel—already optioned to Netflix—about sex and power in the halls of corporate America.

Alex Vogel has always been a high achiever who lived her life by the book—star student and athlete in high school, prelaw whiz in college, Harvard Law School degree. Accepting a dream offer at the prestigious Manhattan law firm of Klasko & Fitch, she promises her sweet and supportive longtime boyfriend that the job won’t change her. Yet Alex is seduced by the firm’s money and energy . . . and by her cocksure male colleagues, who quickly take notice of the new girl. She’s never felt so confident and powerful—even the innuendo-laced banter with clients feels fun. In the firm’s most profitable and competitive division, Mergers and Acquisitions, Alex works around the clock, racking up billable hours and entertaining clients late into the evening. While the job is punishing, it has its perks, like a weekend trip to Miami, a ride in a client’s private jet, and more expense-account meals than she can count. 

But as her clients’ expectations and demands on her increase, and Alex finds herself magnetically drawn to a handsome coworker despite her loving relationship at home, she begins to question everything—including herself. She knows the corporate world isn’t black and white, and that to reach the top means playing by different rules. But who made those rules? And what if the system rigged so that women can’t win, anyway? 

When something happens that reveals the dark reality of the firm, Alex comes to understand the ways women like her are told—explicitly and implicitly—how they need to behave to succeed in the workplace. Now, she can no longer stand by silently—even if doing what’s right means putting everything on the line to expose the shocking truth.


Thank you to HarperCollins and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Either you’re going to be perfect or you’re going to be alive. Can’t be both.

› There’s something about lawyers / courtroom settings that really intrigues me. I’ve had my eyes on this once since it was first put on NetGalley, and I immediately requested it.

› The beginning of the book is actually really good. It starts off with her getting ready for her first day at the new law firm, and she can’t decide what to wear. It’s also very clear that her boyfriend, Sam, doesn’t 100% support her. He definitely hesitates in the support department. After her first day, she questions whether she even wants to be a lawyer. It’s mainly because she made a lot of mistakes, such as accidentally calling 911.

› Once she moves up to M&A, the book completely changes. I still turned the pages because it continued to keep me interested, but Alex managed to get on my very last nerve. She tries to get into M&A for the wrong reasons. She does it to prove she’s “better” at the job than Carmen—another new girl at the firm that Alex went to law school with. Given, Carmen wasn’t always good to Alex. That’s what I got out of it, anyway. That feeling went away as she got to know the men in the firm. She became a morally gray character, which doesn’t make or break a book for me, but she wasn’t an interesting one. She just cheats on her boyfriend with a man who sleeps around. That’s a hard no for me.

› There is quite a bit of sexual harassment / assault in this book, which didn’t surprise me. Of course, the egotistical men of the novel made it seem like Alex had to endure it.

I watched his lips moving, and in a crystal-clear moment, I saw it: my cheating with a serial adulterer, my assault by a rich scumbag, my entire existence in corporate America, was just so . . . typical.

› It becomes clear to her that she doesn’t have to put up with it, but that happens at the end of the novel. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t have the type of ending I expected. I didn’t really know where the book was going when I started it. It’s not one that has a clear end in sight. I will say that there’s no justice, but there is a glimmer of hope and determination. That’s all I’ll say about that. That doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the ending. I thought it was on the cheaper side, and it didn’t make the novel anymore interesting. It just didn’t seem to fit with the tone of the book.

› One last note about what’s inside: Gary Kaplan can take a long walk off a short pier. Thank you and goodnight. 🙂

› I didn’t have any issues with the writing style. I wouldn’t mind reading another novel by Katz. I believe she’s also involved in law. I can’t confirm or deny that the information about law is right or wrong, as I am not a lawyer. I will say that the jargon went right over my head, as I had expected.

› Would I recommend this one? Sure. I know a lot of people enjoyed it.

Triggers: cheating, lying, sexual assault / harassment, drugs.

Erica Katz is the pseudonym for a graduate of Columbia Law School who began her career at a major Manhattan law firm. A native of New Jersey, she now lives in New York City, where she’s employed at another large law firm. The Boys’ Club is her first novel.


If you enjoyed this, then give it a like and follow my blog and other social media. Be respectful and happy reading!

Libro.fm referral

Goodreads Monday (8/19/19)

I wanted to find another weekly meme that I can participate in. I have never heard of this on before, but it sounded quite simple and fun. You basically just pick a book from your TBR and show it off. You can also explain why you haven’t picked it up yet. Don’t forget to give the host some love, and go visit Lauren’s Page Turners. I actually found this on A Little Haze Book Blog if you wanted to also check that one out!

This week:

Home for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler

Goodreads Blurb

An emotionally raw and resonant story of love, loss, and the enduring power of friendship, following the lives of two young women connected by a home for “fallen girls,” and inspired by historical events.

Why have I not picked it up?

I have it checked out from the library, so there is really no excuse as to why I haven’t picked it up. It sounds right up my alley, and I should probably get to it before it has to go back.

Have any of you read this one? I’m interested to know if it’s good or not!


If you enjoyed this, then give it a like and follow my blog. Be respectful and happy reading!

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

imageedit_6_4530722059

%d bloggers like this: