In 2013, the front page of The New York Times devoted five straight days to the story of Dasani, an 11-year-old Black girl who lived in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. Now, Andrea Elliott, the reporter of that series, has published her first book, “Invisible Child,” which tells the full story of Dasani and her family up to the present day. On this week’s podcast, Elliott discusses how she came to focus her reporting on Dasani.
“I’ve always believed as a journalist that the story shows itself to you, and you just have to do the work of being there and being present for as long as possible until it becomes more clear,” Elliott says. “In the very beginning, I had three families I was following at that shelter. And I had this approach that a lot of journalists take, that you need to capture three different families to give a sense of the spectrum of experience. But what I think becomes more important to the reader is to be able to identify deeply with one story, one protagonist, and follow that person.” Dasani became that person, in part, Elliott says, because “she was somebody who, at a very young age, could articulate in a moving and profound way her experience. And that’s a rare trait even in adults.”
The stand-up comedian, actress, producer and publisher Phoebe Robinson visits the podcast to discuss her new book of essays, “Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes.”
“Book writing is a completely different style of writing than stand-up,” Robinson says. “Stand-up, there’s a rhythm and you’re aware of the laughs and how they’re hitting. With a book you can really have more flavor with it; you can be vulnerable, you can slow it down, have some down beats, you could be really funny. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult to write stand-up versus book writing. They both have their challenges.”
Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary; Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host.
Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:
“The Diary of a Country Priest” by Georges Bernanos
“The Magician” by Colm Toibin
“The Outlaw Ocean” by Ian Urbina