Maiysha has a candid conversation with Political Commentator and Author Keith Boykin about bringing his identity into politics, why quiet quitting and just plain out quitting your job is important, his numerous books including his newest one “Quitting”, how he navigates social media and more.
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Maiysha Kai [00:00:06] Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of Writing Black. This is Maiysha and this is a treat today for me because I have on not only one of my favorite writers, but one of my favorite people who I also happen to be related to. That’s a full disclosure journalist thing I got to do. This is Keith Boykin, y’all, who a lot of you may know as a popular, you know, political pundit on some of your favorite networks. And he’s also a bestselling author who’s written, I think, are we on book, we’ve done book four already, Keith correct. Are we working on?
Keith Boykin [00:00:44] Five.
Maiysha Kai [00:00:44] Five and six now? Five books now. Okay, see, I can’t even keep track. This is what happens when you have a very prolific person in your life and we’re not play cousins. We’re actually related. And he blessed us by agreeing to come on to writing back and talk about his own writing journey. And I’m so happy to have you. Thank you, Keith. Hi. How are you, honey?
Keith Boykin [00:01:05] Hey, Maiysha. I’m doing really well. I’m happy to be able to join you on this call and for the podcast and just to be able to talk with you about writing.
Maiysha Kai [00:01:13] It’s always a pleasure. You know, listen, in addition to being one of my favorite cousins, you you are you’ve been very prolific and you have been a groundbreaker, I think, in so many aspects. I mean, you were the first openly gay member of a presidential administration that I know of. You were in Clinton’s administration. You also worked on the Dukakis campaign. Your reach in the political sphere is far and wide. And yet you’ve also, I think, made such an indelible impact in terms of writing on LGBTQIA+ issues. I think well before that was like a part of like popular lexicon, you know, before a lot of other people were considering that. And I, I think when we talk about bringing your whole self to work or bringing your whole self to your writing, to me you’ve always been really exemplary in that respect. So A, I want to give you two years on that, but I also want to talk about what that journey has been like for you, because I think you’ve been at it longer than most of the authors that we talk to. The writers, the poets, the screenplay writers. Most of the people you talk to on this podcast have not been at it as long as you. And I think that that pioneering spirit is something I really want to delve into. So how did that. How did that happen for you?
Keith Boykin [00:02:40] Well, I’m tempted to say it runs in the family, you know, because I mean, I mean, I think about all the things you’ve done, not just as a writer, but as an editor, as a model, as a singer, a Grammy nominated singer at that.
Maiysha Kai [00:02:54] You know I get it from my mama. So there’s that.
Keith Boykin [00:02:56] Exactly. Exactly. I think the first time I remember seeing your mom actually was a child was when she was on her way to in Houston to host a TV news broadcast that she was anchor of. And so, you know, it’s like this. You come from a proud tradition, as do I. And it’s just I think it’s just it’s just something that’s always been ingrained in me that you share your story, you use your talents, that you help in whatever way you can. And so many of us have these skills and talents that we don’t get a chance to utilize because of the lives that we have or the work that we do. And so I’m very fortunate to be able to to be a writer, to be able to spend time to write because, you know, it takes time to write a book. It takes a lot of time out of your life.
Maiysha Kai [00:03:48] Yeah. Yeah, it really does. And, you know, listen, I think for people who aren’t familiar, you know, listen, you have one of the things I actually really love about your your writing career. I mean, you’ve kind of worked in several different mediums of writing. I mean, I remember, you know, for instance, going to a dramatic interpretation of and this had to be I’m going to say, gosh, you’re 30. So this maybe was your fourth book, which was for Colored Boys who considered suicide, you know. Right. And that was when we were both living in New York, you know, beyond the download was a bestseller. That was a huge thing. And, you know, you as somebody who is so politically, you know, astute, you really have leaned into the personal. I think a lot of people in that sphere are really afraid to do that because of, I guess, how do you interpret it, whatever. And I think like you were probably one of the people for me who taught me that the person is political in a certain respect, right? Like who we are and who we bring to the table and how we make political decisions, who we ask to represent us, etc. is incredibly important. And I don’t know that we get to do that if we don’t express fully who we are. So, you know, I definitely you know, your early books weren’t really political even though you had this. Well, I mean, to me, they weren’t overtly political. But like, even though you have as a professional, really lean towards politics, your books have really leaned into this like deeply, deeply personal aspect of your life and the lives of so many Black people and brown people in America. What have you wanted people to take from that?
Keith Boykin [00:05:40] Well, I think you are you’ve hit the nail on the head because it’s really important for me at least, to be able to bring all of different parts of my identity to the table. And as a political person, as a Black person, as a gay man and as an American. You know, so many different identities that I bring into any conversation. And I’ve never felt like there’s any one space where I’m fully represented. So I’ve always felt like an outsider in every space. And part of that is kind of what I try to sort of bring to my stories. I mean I mean, I worked in the White House, but I’ve been involved in politics my entire life. I’ve never been as political as the political people around me. I mean, the people who just talk nonstop politics, it’s never been me. I mean, I like to relax by not talking about politics. And one of the reasons I loved watching DC years ago was because everybody would always come up to me in bars and restaurants and start talking about politics. I was like, Oh my God, get my people.
Keith Boykin [00:06:38] And I just kind of feel like. I like to sort of be able to be all the different bring all the different dimensions of myself to to my writing and to tell my stories. I find that kind of difficult in some ways, too, especially, for example, with the compartmentalization in social media. So for example, I think I may have mentioned this before, whenever I’m on Twitter, it seems like people only want me to talk about politics or race in politics and usually politics. And if I’m on Instagram, people only want to see pictures or, you know, videos. They don’t really care as much about politics is what I want to see. You know, what I’m doing? And I feel like I can’t really figure out a way to sort of integrate all those different things so people can see me in all the different ways I am. So if I post a photograph of myself, just a regular photograph of myself on Twitter, nobody cares. Nobody even post or respond or anything. If I post something about Donald Trump, then I get, you know, hundreds or thousands of people responding. So, you know, it’s it’s this difficult thing about like not allowing people to put you into boxes. And I think that’s what I try to do in my writing. This was show up as who I am as a political person, as a Black person, as a gay man, as a human being, as an American, something different interest to who I am and layers. And none of us come into any conversation just one dimensionally.
Maiysha Kai [00:08:06] No, definitely. I mean, listen, I agree that I struggle with that, too. Actually, you know, I’ve been teasing you for years, you know, so if those of you actually follow Keith on Instagram will know what I’m talking about. Keith is like my favorite shirtless political pundit. Like, I’ve seen my cousin shirtless, like, more than one other thing. I’m not sure if I’ve seen my own boyfriend as shirtless as I seen you. But I love that. I would love, you know, again, because it’s like there’s a humanizing aspect to that. And I think we don’t always get that in our political discourse. We don’t always get that in our, you know. I think it’s very easy to flatten people, period, in the social media discourse, in political discourse, etc.. And I think that you’ve constantly demanded to be seen holistically. I, you know, I remember years ago people, you know, listen, you have to be a certain age to remember this. But I remember, you know, Keith, you you ran for you were on it was showtime. The candidate.
Keith Boykin/The Candidate [00:09:11] It shocked me at the end when they were asked to vote on me and 23 of them in the focus group raised their hand and said they liked me. They totally confused me.
Maiysha Kai [00:09:21] Were you really were able to kind of bring these, you know, disparate, well, I won’t even say disparate, just these, you know, varied identities to task in one forum. And I want to talk a little bit about craft, though. Did you get any kind of, like pushback, you know, from potential publishers, agents, etc., when you were like, yeah, I don’t really want to like talk about politics all the time. Like, I want to talk about other stuff.
Keith Boykin [00:09:52] Well, it was interesting because I was getting pushback from people, but not from publishers about that. I think publishers have put me into sort of a race and sexuality box for years. And so the last book I wrote, Race Against Time Politics of a Darkening America was the first book that didn’t deal with sexual orientation really at all. I mean, there was an element of it, but it was 99%. It was not about that. And a lot of people didn’t know exactly how to receive that. You know, like it was different for me to do that.
Race Against Time Excerpt [00:10:25] From 1865 to 1964, the racist Democratic Party of the 19th century slowly evolved into the party of civil rights, while Lincoln’s Republican Party very gradually began to transition into the party against those rights.
Keith Boykin [00:10:45] But one of the dangers I was afraid of from the beginning when I started writing was that I would be pigeonholed as just sort of a Black gay writer, just only writing about Black LGBTQ issues. And that’s something I was interested in. But it wasn’t the only thing I was interested in, because I’d also worked in politics and I’ve been a lawyer or been a teacher, a professor, and, you know, I have a lot of different backgrounds and interest, but sometimes it’s hard for that to show up in the publishing world. I also remember instance when my third book was published. Beyond the Down Low, it was a picture of me. Speaking of what you were saying was a picture of me on the cover of the book in a Black T-shirt. And I like the picture I thought was kind of a cool picture. But one of my colleagues called me up after he received a copy of the book and said, I have a question. Are you selling books or beefcake here?
Maiysha Kai [00:11:40] Why can’t I be both?
Keith Boykin [00:11:42] Exactly. Exactly the way I wrote. I don’t care what people buy the book, as long as they buy the book, you know, sort of hopefully they’ll read it once they get it.
Maiysha Kai [00:11:51] I’m happy to say my copy is signed. My copy is signed. I’m also in the liner notes of Race Against Time, so I feel special. We’re going to take a break, but stay tuned for more Writing Black.
[00:12:05] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars, Janet Jackson versus Michael, Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen, today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard.
Maiysha Kai [00:12:33] Welcome back to Writing Black, ya’ll. And clearly took us on. I mean, you really took us through a civics lesson and a journey in terms of how we got here, why we’re here, who wants us here and how it serves them, and what we personally should be doing to get ourselves out of here. Right. And I do hope people engage with that, because I think it’s really you’ve made it very digestible and you made it. These are some fundamental truths that we’re living with right now. And I think, like even since you’ve published it, we’ve seen even more of what you were already discussing unfold. But, you know, I think to myself with that, like. Do you think. Do you think people have a hard time in terms of like who was the messenger? Like, who’s the right person to give that information? I feel like there’s so many people were all kind of like screaming into the void, saying, hey, hey, you know, is there a right person to deliver that information is a right person. I mean, I, I don’t know anybody who’s more politically astute that you like personally. I don’t know that person. But what is it about that message if people are having such a hard time processing, I guess.
Keith Boykin [00:13:54] Well, you know, there’s an old saying when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And I feel like there’s lots of teachers out there. It’s just a question of whether America, the student, is willing to listen. And the reality is that most of us who are in the African American community have been teachers on this for a long time. We’ve been warning about what’s happening in our country for years. We’ve been warning about the dangers of Trump. We’ve been warning about the backlash against Barack Obama. We’ve been warning about the rise in racism and white supremacy and anti-Blackness. But a lot of those warnings were dismissed. I remember literally being on CNN a few years ago when Donald Trump was president and making some statement about after Trump had retweeted something about some people who were endorsing a civil war or whatever. And I mentioned, as I was saying, that the president should not be essentially endorsing the idea of civil war. And the people who were on the panel just kind of dismissed me like I was crazy for even saying this.
Keith Boykin [00:14:58] And and we’re Black people. I think we’ve always been the canary in the coal mine. We’ve always been the ones to sort of warn America about the dangers. And I think Black people can see very clearly where our country is headed right now. And I think a lot of people aren’t really stepping up to the plate. So I don’t necessarily know that I have to be the messenger or there ever be a soul messenger. I think there are lots of messengers out there who can communicate that message. And so there’s a lot of people who are writing books now and talking about these things. And some of my favorite books are books that I’ve quoted in my most recent book, you know, Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped from the Beginning or How to Be An Anti-Racist. You know, books like The New Jim Crow or the 1619 Project. Books that are really delving into not only who we are as a nation, but how we got here as a country. And I think the knowledge has always been there, but we haven’t always been willing to acknowledge and admit it. Not we, you and I, but we meaning America has a large.
Maiysha Kai [00:16:02] Listen, maybe me too. Sometimes I think it’s really hard. It’s a hard reality to sit with. I think that, you know, I mean, listen, I always call this a writing podcast and not a political podcast, but the personal is political. And I think of anybody that I know you have helped me reconcile that. Right. Like that. It is this. Who we are and how we exist in the world is political. And there are people who will cease to deny that. And so people have the luxury of denying that. But I can you know, I can. You can’t, you know, so. Yeah, no, I totally agree with you. And I think, you know, you’re right. There is no perfect messenger for that. Yeah. We’re going to take a break, but stay tuned for more Writing Black.
[00:16:48] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars Janet Jackson versus Michael. Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen, today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard.
Maiysha Kai [00:17:17] Welcome back to Writing Black, ya’ll. I want to hear about your upcoming book. I do. I want to let I know you guys. You have stuff where you are.
Keith Boykin [00:17:24] It’s funny you say that because I was just about to segway into that. When you mentioned.
Maiysha Kai [00:17:28] Come thru.
Keith Boykin [00:17:28] Personal is political.
Maiysha Kai [00:17:30] Yes.
Keith Boykin [00:17:30] Because I think I’m working on four different books.
Maiysha Kai [00:17:35] Four? You told me two.
Keith Boykin [00:17:37] Yeah, but.
Maiysha Kai [00:17:38] You’re so busy.
Keith Boykin [00:17:39] I use the word working a little loosely. Okay. Okay. I have developed four different book proposals, and they’re in different stages of development. Okay. But. But three of those four are all very, very personal. One is sort of is called I think it’s tentatively called Why Does Everything Have to be About Race. Which is sort of a response to all the questions and answers and provides answers to all the debates that’s been going on in our country. You know, not just affirmative action, but critical race theory and and teaching Black history and Juneteenth. Everything is going on. People are talking about is sort of response that provides information to respond to that. That’s the least personal of those four books. And that that one will probably come out next year. But meantime, I just finished a book that will come out this year, which is my first e-book actually, and I published and publishing this with Scrib and this was called Quitting: Why I Left My Job to Live My Life of Freedom.
Maiysha Kai [00:18:43] Oh, you know, that’s a common that’s a.
Keith Boykin [00:18:45] Very personal story about being.
Maiysha Kai [00:18:46] That’s a current event. Ask Beyonce.
Keith Boykin [00:18:53] Exactly. Well, I’m not telling everybody to quit their job like Big Freeda and Beyonce.
Maiysha Kai [00:18:58] And, you know, funny, I don’t actually think they were. They were telling people to quit their jobs either. But that’s that’s that’s another story. That’s not the story.
Keith Boykin [00:19:06] But I am telling people to quit this mentality of identifying ourselves by our work. Yeah. To to start to live our lives and. And to redefine the whole concept of how we work and where we work and why we work in the first place. You know, I mentioned in the book a story about visiting Spain when I was in college and going watching the siesta hour, you know, and in the afternoon, every day in Granada, Spain, when I was a foreign exchange student and thinking, why do they take 2 hours of the day every day just to to do nothing? It doesn’t make any sense to me. You know, my American capitalist thinking mentality, I’m like, this is so inefficient. And I remember asking a bartender in a local bar once about this in Granada, and he said to me, Well, you know, Americans, you live. You work to live. Assume you live to work. Sorry. And in Spain, we work to live. So, you know, I it occurred to me then. Oh, yeah, we do focus our lives around work in America, and that shouldn’t necessarily be the way things are.
Keith Boykin [00:20:12] So anyway, that is a very personal book and then the other two books that are in earlier stages of development. One, I think you may know about, which is, well, you know about both stories, but one is about the search for my biological father, which I just sort of discovered five years ago, I guess six years ago. And what that’s about and what that says about our history as a country, about Black history, about about how Black people are still you know, it’s a very political conversation, even though it’s a very personal conversation, because it to me, it’s a reflection of how so much of our history has been stolen from us. Like most people can’t trace their history in the African-American community, can’t trace the history back past the 20th century. And I couldn’t trace my history past a few decades before I was born. But but because I was able to do some research, is able to go back even farther. So then the third, the last project this is the fourth project is a book about a person I met in Cuba six years ago, started dating and we had this international relationship and I went to Cuba, went to Havana every month. And I wrote about it a lot on Facebook. And then I helped him to move to Chile. And he was in Chile, living in Chile for several years. And then just a few months ago, he crossed the border into the United States and applied in Mexico and applied for asylum. And just I’m in Los Angeles right now, but I was in New York last week. And just last week in New York, I saw him for the first time in the United States. So it’s sort of telling that whole story of how this person who I met six years ago in Cuba, went on this whole worldwide journey and ended up here in the United States. And it even though it’s a personal story, it’s also a story about American and why people want to come here and all the other things they’re doing.
Maiysha Kai [00:22:16] Stay tuned for more Writing Black.
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Maiysha Kai [00:22:49] Welcome back to Writing Black, ya’ll. I’m just to be honest, like, for me, you know, obviously we were born here and whatever that means to be Black in America. And we know that that’s incredibly loaded and is very dependent on class and, you know, socioeconomic mobility, etc., in terms of your experience here. It does astound me sometimes of like, oh, you still want to come here, you know? And that is I think that’s a really important conversation to have, especially given what we saw or I would even say saw magnified in the last administration here in America in terms of how it so deeply magnified the immigration issue and how immigrants and those seeking asylum are treated, how their children are treated, and what one can hope to look for here in this supposedly, you know, American dream.
Keith Boykin [00:23:49] Well, but, you know, part of that, Maiysha is that we forget sometimes just how privileged we are, even though things are incredibly outrageous right now in our country, we forget just how privileged we are in so many respects. I mean, I remember when I met this guy in Cuba, I had no idea what his socioeconomic status was. It was, I think, only in my second or third trip to Havana when I finally went to his house and met his mom and his family. And I discovered he was dirt poor. I mean, dirt poor, meaning like there was no bathroom door, there was no bathroom toilet, there was no running water. You know, the the leak the roof roof was leaking it. I couldn’t believe it. Like I and, you know, the average Cuban the average income for Cubans at that time was something this was only a few years ago, something like 25, $30 a month. So, yeah, so here I mean, this American spending, staying in these fancy hotels and spending hundreds of dollars on meals and stuff like that. It’s a whole it’s a whole different world of privilege that we come from. So, yes, I can see why somebody would want to leave that world and come here, even despite all the challenges that we have in this country. So it was a it was a learning experience for me.
Maiysha Kai [00:25:07] I mean, I think it’s a learning experience we should all have, because I think the facts are I mean, you’re right. You know, I know I’m incredibly privileged. Even while I’m not among the most privileged in this country, I do acknowledge that. But I do think that that contrast that you’re discussing now, I don’t always think about that. I don’t think most people think about that. Does that mean I’m sitting around being totally grateful for the way that like America treats its marginalized people? No, no. You’re also an academic. You are an educator. So at this point here, we talk a little bit about that because I think, like, you know, yes, there is writing there’s craft of writing this craft, communicating the story and then this craft of sharing the story and helping other people to share theirs. So what is that experience like? Like for you? Like what? What are you teaching and how were you teaching it?
Keith Boykin [00:25:59] Well, you know, I’m glad you said it. I’m glad you use those two terms, academic and educated, because I don’t know that I fit in as an academic. I think I do sit in as an educator. I don’t really sort of use through the academic lingo and jargon that so many other academics use. I, I find that to be off putting in some ways, and I understand the utility of it for some people. But for me, I like my writing to be accessible. So instead of writing in word with words that I think are commonly used in the academy, I’m more interested in using words that will resonate with with the ordinary reader. Hopefully the reader will be intelligent still, but but not necessarily needing to be familiar with all the latest jingo and jargon. Lingo and jargon. And. Sorry. Sorry. And. So yeah, that’s been always it’s always been a challenge for me. Sort of finding my way is what I said. I say it all the time. I never fit in wherever I am, people always assume I fit in. Have all these experiences? I went to the Ivy League schools, I went to Harvard, I worked at CNN, worked in the White House. I never fit in any of those places. I always felt like I was an outsider in all of those places and even in academia. I feel like I’m an outsider because I don’t really come from that academic background.
Keith Boykin [00:27:19] So the most recent course I’ve taught is of course on race and media. This is probably a perfect illustration of what I’m talking about. So I enjoyed the course. It started, of course, at City College in New York. It started in February and ended in May and required me it required me to go back and forth between here in Los Angeles to New York every other week because it was a hybrid course, half in-person, half virtual, which at first I signed up for. Oh yeah, this is going to be great. I get to go back to New York whenever I want. It was the dumbest thing I ever did. It wore me out. It just took so much energy going back and forth. I didn’t have the desire to even teach once they got there. Just the stress of going back and five and 6 hours in the plane, all that stuff every other week where it wears you out. So I would never, ever do that again. But the course itself was an interesting course. You know, I wanted to talk about race and media and racial bias and and all that. And we spent the first half of the course doing that. And it was there were so many examples of things to talk about politics and media, sports and just so many examples of bias that we were seeing and analyzing and of course, pop culture in TV and film as well. But finally, it got to the point for me where I was like, I’m tired of teaching this course. I probably shouldn’t say that, but I was tired of teaching, of course, halfway through. And I wanted to make the course more interesting for me and for the students in a way that was reflective of, I think, where I where my interests are right now. So we changed the second half of the course. We change the syllabus. So I asked the students to work on creating a screenplay. So we spent the second half of the class basically as a joint project writing a 30 minute comedy screenplay for it had to be a racially inclusive comedy screenplay. And they came out with this amazing.
Maiysha Kai [00:29:15] Who are you? Norman Lear? Okay.
Keith Boykin [00:29:18] I know what I mean. They came with a great idea. Instead of just critiquing the media, let’s create something. That was the concept behind it. And I showed them how to how to do a screenplay, because that’s what I’m working on now, working on TV and film projects out here in L.A. and gave them all instructions on how to do it step by step. And they came up with this amazing idea. It’s like a 1970s comedy sketch comedy show, a sitcom involving a multiracial LGBTQ group of friends who were living in the same house in New York City. And I don’t know how they came up with that idea and and why they chose this set in the 1970s. I was thinking, this is unusual. These are these are young kids, like 20, 19, 20 year olds. And this is what they came up with. But it was a really fascinating project to watch and develop.
Maiysha Kai [00:30:08] Stay tuned for more Writing Black.
[00:30:11] Witty. Honest, Entertaining. Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen. Today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture debates you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard.
Maiysha Kai [00:30:26] Welcome back to Writing Black, ya’ll.
Keith Boykin [00:30:29] And I really like.
Maiysha Kai [00:30:31] I loved how you just suddenly slipped in and you’re working on a screenplay, you know that you’re screenwriting now. Like, I was like I’m like, dude, when I’m writing podcasts, how do you how do you just, like, slip that in? Yeah. And then, you know.
Keith Boykin [00:30:42] Well, that’s why that’s why I moved to L.A.. I’m working on like four different speaking. I was got a lot of things going I’m working on for different TV and film projects. One is a one hour drama scripted series I’m working on with my producing partner here, Jarrett Hill, which involves I won’t say too much, but it’s tentatively titled Ambition, and it involves somebody who runs for office. I’ll just say that in New York. The second is a comedy series. And this is about polyamorous relationships. Put it that way. The third is a document document, a documentary film about a, how should I said it, a sports legend. This is this is one that we’re already in development, we’re shooting that one already, sports legend. And the fourth is a docu series and limited docu series. I’m trying to describe this without telling too much, you know, so that they haven’t told anybody about the act. That’s why there’s a little ambiguity in my voice. But but the fourth is it’s about various candidates running for office.
Maiysha Kai [00:32:03] Let’s listen. You know, and this is exactly why I wanted you.
Keith Boykin [00:32:09] Oh, this really to me, this is probably something. This one haven’t been developed at all. But I just came up with this idea of, like, two weeks ago, and I probably should tell you offline. It’s a comedy that I’m really, really excited about and I kind of, like, wanted to stop everything else and work on this one. But, but now I have so much else to do. But yeah, it’s, it’s very relevant to what’s going on in our country. But, but, yeah.
Maiysha Kai [00:32:34] Okay, you tell me. And if you need a co-writer, you let me know. Yeah, know this is exactly why I want you on the podcast because, you know, I think that a lot of times people like writers especially, we think there’s only one way to do something. There’s only one medium, there’s only one vehicle. And you, more than anybody I know, you know that ability to kind of like pivot and evolve and explore and, you know, whether it’s different genres or topics or what have you like, I just think like that’s what it’s about, right? Like you’re a writer and we write. That’s what we do. Stay tuned for more Writing Black.
[00:33:12] theGrio Black Podcast Network is here and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for news, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplify. Be Inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard.
Maiysha Kai [00:33:42] Welcome back to Writing Black, ya’ll. I just really appreciate this conversation. Now, I have to ask you, since you have been educating people, is there a recommended reading that you would give to people who are aspiring to to write or to explore different genres, or even just to open their minds to like what they could be writing about? Like what books do you gravitate towards when you when you think about. What inspired you to write?
Keith Boykin [00:34:13] That’s a good question. I guess a couple of questions probably. And I don’t I can’t think of any sort of how two books per se on how to write. But there are a lot of books that have influenced me as a writer. I, I don’t even know where to begin. But one of the one of the most influential was the Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley or as told to Alex Haley. And then by reading a long, long time ago and I think I was in college, you know, before high school and being influenced not just by the storytelling, but by the person who whose story was being told. And and so I think I always was sort of drawn to nonfiction books, you know, for a long time. I’m only recently in my life starting to embrace fiction more, and I wish I had done that when I was younger because I probably reading more fiction now than I am. But my two favorite novels, I’d say one is Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which strangely enough, I read in college and I didn’t like. I read it in college and was like, I can’t stand this. And I’m part of it because I didn’t like the language in which it was told and also because I wasn’t.
Maiysha Kai [00:35:34] Meanwhile, I chose my college because Alice Walker, went there, man.
Keith Boykin [00:35:39] And yeah, I didn’t like it when I first read it. Then I read it years later, many years later as an adult. And it just completely resonated with me in a way that it did not when I was in college. And I was like, Wow, how did I not appreciate this? And I, you know, because you can only like I said before, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And the second book is a more recent book.
Maiysha Kai [00:36:04] Yeah.
Keith Boykin [00:36:04] The Prophets. Which I think I may talk a lot about.
Maiysha Kai [00:36:11] Yeah.
Keith Boykin [00:36:13] Yeah.
Maiysha Kai [00:36:14] I may have it. Right here.
Keith Boykin [00:36:17] If you have it right there.
Maiysha Kai [00:36:19] We’ve spoken to Robert on the podcast. Robert’s one of my favorite writers.
Keith Boykin [00:36:23] That’s amazing. That’s an amazing, amazing book. And and part of the reason why I resonated with it, too, I have to admit in my own bias, is that years ago in the nineties, I tried to write a novel, my first novel, and it took place in Columbus, Georgia, and in antebellum Columbus, Georgia. And it was about two Black men who were enslaved. And I never finished it, I don’t think, because I said I was never a fiction reader. I don’t think I had the skill set at that time to be able to develop in the way I want to. And reading The Prophets made me appreciate that someone had taken an idea that was only just a small concept in my head and even though I developed a lot and gone in an entirely different direction and done justice to in a way that I never could have. So I’m so glad that that book is in existence. It’s amazing, amazing piece of literature. But then, you know, there’s a lot of nonfiction books I read all the time and I read everything from I spirituality books to political books to books about race. So I’m all over the map on the nonfiction and biographies as well as I’m all over the map on nonfiction books. I find that if I read a biography, I have to do audiobooks. Like I did Barack Obama’s biography.
Maiysha Kai [00:37:48] That’s a big that’s a book. That’s that’s oh.
Keith Boykin [00:37:51] Yeah.
Maiysha Kai [00:37:52] I listen I hope.
Keith Boykin [00:37:53] You listen to that.
Maiysha Kai [00:37:53] On the plane on those, you know, cross-country flight.
Keith Boykin [00:37:59] Because it says a lot. And, you know, he even makes fun of himself. In the book, he talks about how Michelle and his daughters would always tell him that he speaks so slowly that they have to turn up turn up the speed when they listen to him on the audiobook.
Maiysha Kai [00:38:14] And that’s only part one.
Keith Boykin [00:38:17] That’s a good idea.
Maiysha Kai [00:38:17] We’re going to get more. Keith, you know, listen, obviously, personally, I love you, but professionally I’m inspired by you. And I’m so glad that you’re in my ether, let alone my family. So thank you so much for joining us on Writing Black, especially as this is a new podcast for for theGrio. And it’s such a blessing to have you here and to, you know, you’re always so funny and so candid. So I’m sure this won’t be the last time. And I know I will be getting these two new books. Well, four new books. So, you know, you will keep me posted and we will we will keep our audience posted. But thank you so much for being here. Love you, love you, love you. I see I’m not going to say it to our writers on Love You, Love You, Love You. But I do.
Keith Boykin [00:39:04] I love you, too. Thank you so much for having me on the show.
Maiysha Kai [00:39:08] You, too. All right. We’re going to take a pause, but stay tuned for more Writing Black.
[00:39:13] Witty. Honest, Entertaining. Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen. Today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture debates you don’t want to miss also available wherever great podcasts are heard.
Maiysha Kai [00:39:28] All right. Let’s dig back into it. Welcome back to Writing Black. So obviously it was such a treat to have my cousin Keith on the show. And now it’s time for Mai Favorites, where I recommend to you books that are related to the content that we have discussed. You know, Keith, aside from being my cousin, he’s obviously been a political opponent for a very long time. And his new book, which we did discuss on the podcast, is finally coming to people as a digital release, Quitting. And I can’t think of a better book for this moment than quitting. You know, whether we’re talking about, you know, you never let them break your soul no more or, you know, just a great resignation. This is a phenomenal time to kind of reevaluate our lives and and what we really want out of life. I think if the last few years has taught us anything, is that life is incredibly precious. It’s been a reminder that life is incredibly precious and that we all need to make our time here as meaningful and fulfilling as possible. So I highly recommend Quitting to you by my cousin and friend Keith Boykin.
Maiysha Kai [00:40:37] But I also recommend this book, you know This Face Y’all. Tabitha Brown Feeding the Soul, Finding our way to joy, love and freedom. So you see, there’s a theme here. Let’s get free. Let’s get free. In the new year, holidays are coming. Let’s let it all go. Dance it off to Renaissance and then like come hard in the new year, new year, new you, new stuff, new time, maybe new job, I don’t know. But feed your soul and we’ll see you next time on Writing Black. Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Writing Black. As always you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:41:21] You’re watching The Blackest Questions podcast with Christina Greer. In this podcast, we ask our guests five of the Blackest questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it.
[00:41:33] Okay, so this is a trick question.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:41:35] We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history, past and present.
Eboni K. Williams [00:41:38] Beautiful. I learned a wonderful fact today. Great.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:41:41] So here’s how it works. We have five rounds of questions about Black history, the whole diaspora, current events, you name it. With each round, the questions get a little tougher.
[00:41:51] Oh, you got me. You got me. Let me see. Let me see.
Marc Lamont Hill [00:41:54] I have no idea.
Eboni K. Williams [00:41:55] I knew you were going to go there. Dr. Greer.
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[00:42:06] TheGrio Black Podcast Network is here, and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. News, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplify. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard.