tv Amanpour Company PBS February 8, 2019 12:00am-1:01am PST
. hello, everyone and welcome to amanpour and company. here's what's coming up. north korea the sequel. as donald trump prepares to meet kim jong-un again i and willcome cohen if the president can achieve denuclearization and also keep his promise to end america's foreign wars. >> the judges didn't thing sex disi discrimination existed. >> then the 85-year-old supreme court justice, we're look into the life of ruth bader ginsberg with the authors of the
documentary rbg. plus an african "game of thrones." marllen james tells us about his fantasy epic. she didn't know the recipes from her cookbook would make their way to her cruise line. b's locally inspired cuisine is served while cruising through europe, asia, india and europe. because according to b to travel is to eat. bookings available through your travel advisory. for more information visit uniworld.com. >> additional support has been
provided by -- >> welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christian amanpour in london. president trump is preparing for his second summit with the north korean leader kim jong-un. he said during his "state of the union" that the meeting will take place in vietnam at the end of this month. but while war on the peninsula has been averted for now, north korean denuclearization still looks to be a long way off. and when it comes to isis, does it look like it's losing all its territory in iraq and syria. president trump thinks so and says a formal announcement could come as early as next week. although the forces fighting l us that won't mean the terrorist group is out for the count. >> and warned against assuming the war is almost over.
isis isn't finished yet, he tells me. it's still in the area, it's still fighting. it still has sleeper cells in the area we've liberated. >> i trump's foreign policy comes as the administration is also making empowering women a key issue. rolling out a program spearheaded by the president's daughter and advisor, ivanka trump to improve economic security for 50 million women around the world by 2025 with the hopes they will then play a larger role in the public sphere including in conflict resolution. so let's unpack all of this with someone who's faced the very same challenges. he's the former defense secretary, william cohen. secretary cohen welcome back to the program. >> good to be with you. >> let's take some of these issues sort of in the order we've laid them out.
i guess the one coming up is the second summit with kim jong-un. what do you think the president needs to do or you must do in order to walk away with more than what was achieved at the last one? >> i think he has to make clear there will be no real reduction certainly in the presence of our troops on the ground or in relief from the sanctions until there is some measurable irreversible verifiable steps taken towards denuclearization. now, we had an opportunity -- president clinton had an opportunity to meet with kim jung-il during his tenure. and we said you should meet with him provided that we know the outcome is going to be. and the answer was let's meet and then we'll talk about the outcome. so this has been done in the reverse. the president said let's have the meeting first and we'll work out the details. well, the details have yet to be worked out, and it's going to be a long, slow process.
i'm hopeful that we would have a success. everyone would want that, but i'm very skeptical. i believe the intelligence community when they say that they're doubtful that kim jong-un will ever give up his nuclear weapons in totality. >> let's unpack that a little bit. i think i hear your subtext in saying that perhaps president trump should not have given this ultimate recognition to somebody like kim jong-un without getting something concrete in return. however, to play devil's advocate there definitely is something in return, which is the lowering of the massively high-tensions. and there is no war on the peninsula and it all looked like it might be going that way more than a year ago. >> well, of course the president was the one beating the war drums. you may recall he was threatening to rain fire and fury upon north korea. and then it was secretary jim
mattis saying look give north korea a chance. they were trying to calm the nerves worried kim jong-un might in fact see this as a threat and preemptive attack upon him. and so the president gets credit for saying, yes, i may take military action as a last resort. but he was beating the drums pretty loudly. if it works, he'll get credit. if it doesn't, he'll say he approached it the wrong way. >> again, to play devil's advocate to what you're saying, kim jong-un was busy testing intercontinental ballistic missiles and threatening the united states and all of that. but be that as it may, you're talking about specific steps that need to be taken. one of the key steps beyond all -- before you can even get to denuclearization is a declaration of inventory. and the american president said this to me not so long ago about
the problems just even getting a declaration from the north koreans. >> what the north koreans are doing are providing piecemeal compromising measures. saying you can look at this test site but not really getting at the heart of the problem which has to start with the declaration. >> talking about the essential first steps having to do with the declaration. >> right. and that has yet to be done, so that's just one issue. a full declaration of what we know and what we don't know in terms of what they have. and then steps to say how would we verify it, how much intrusion would the north koreans allow the united states or int international observers and specters to take? all of those could have been negotiated in advance and then have the president come and shake hands with kim jong-un. but i think doing it in the reverse way, standing the so-called triangle on its head by having the handshake first
and let's talk about details later, puts the president at a less advantageous position. we have lost leverage now. the chinese are going to be unwilling to impose serious sanctions in the future. the russians will not be helpful under these circumstances. so we've already terminated for the time being our training exercises, which has reduced our readiness. so these are issues that could have been worked out in advance, therapy not. and now we have to just play it as it lays right now and step by step. i have confidence in steve who's a good man. and again i'm hopeful that he's successful. i'm skeptical the north koreans will ever give up their nuclear weapons. >> steve is the state department point man on the north korean administration. you're saying this on the background of what the intelligence have been saying, that they found evidence of a consistent trend of the north koreans to disperse its ly, storage and testing
locations. again, let's see what the president can get in terms of a declaration. can i move on because this also speaks to what you're addressing, not just the strategy but tactics how you go about these very, very challenging issues. let's move ontoize. the president says that soon there will be an administration declaration that its lost all its territory. what do you make of that? and also you heard the forces on the ground telling us that even if they do, it doesn't mean to say they are disperse. and we've seen this movie before when they were pretty much crushed by the surge in iraq. >> consider this to be a medical condition. your doctor has said wave been treating you for cancer. and the doctor says we had the cancer eliminated 90%. there's 10% remaining, but we're going to cease treating you for
the full amount. we're going to declare victory over the cancer. you would react quite negatively to that. that's kind of an insane situation we have with respect to isis. it has lost a lot of territory. it has lost a lot of people. but they are still formidable. they are capable of metastasizing in the region and beyond. is this the time to say we've won, mission accomplished, the cancer is eradicated even the cancer might be left 10% or 1%. it's still very malignant but we've got it under control and we'll just ignore it for the time being? that's the situation we find ourselves in. and secondly the president consistently undermines the credibility of the intelligence community. they have to a person testified about the viability of isis returning, and yet the president ignores it. he then publicly criticizing his intelligence kmunlcommunity, ant
to me is very dangerous. because what he is saying is don't bring me any bad news or any news inconsistent with my judgment. ordinarily presidents depend upon the intelligence community to help him or her shape strategic policy and not the other way around. and what's happening here is that i'm afraid that our intelligence is going to be compromised and politicized so that it's the president who's shaping the intelligence rather than his intelligence community giving him information, and information is power, that he needs to have. and that to me long-term is very dangerous. >> so secretary pompeo says this withdrawal of forces, for instance, which is sort of i guess connected to the idea that isis may have lost its territory is just a tactical issue, that the strategy will remain the same. there will be this ad campaign. i want to get your idea on that
but also the way decisions are made and implemented and announced. just this week the commander was asked about how much heads up they got about the announcement to withdraw troops from syria. this was the exchange on capitol hill. >> general, were you aware of the president's intention to order the withdrawal of our troops from syria before that was publicly announced? >> i was not aware of the specific announcement. certainly, we are aware that he has expressed the desire and intent in the past to depart iraq. >> so you weren't consulted before that decision was announced? >> we were not -- i was not consulted. >> so as a former defense secretary, what's wrong with this picture? >> what's wrong with this picture is the ordinary chain of command goes from comto the
secretary of defense. the president is impulsive. he issues declarations without thinking through the consequences, saying i made a call i'm going to keep it. and i'm not making a call to my partners in the region. all of them who have contributed to the fight against isis, i'm not calling any of them. the only person i'm going to call is the president of turkey, erdogan. beyond that i'm not talking to my secretary of defense, and i'm not talking to any of my nato allies. i'm simply going to issue this declaration, we're leaving. so there is no interagency process. there is no process. it's just simply the president decides and carries it irrespective of what the military advice is or should be
given to him. he just decides on his own. i think it's very demoralizing, and when you have a situation where military kmanldecommander intelligence community are completely ignored. therefore i get to make the decisions without regard to your advice. >> can i just switch to a different issue? and i mentioned it in the lead in to you, there is an initiative now by the president and the president's advisor and daughter ivanka trump on on empowering women economically. there's a signing ceremony in the oval office. as a defense secretary, what is your take on the -- the security aspect of such a policy? in other words empowering women in many of these countries, many of these war torn countries and by that fact giving them more public space potentially around the conflict resolution table? >> well, first the policy is a
positive one. i would hope that we would empower women the world over because they deserve or are entitled to be part of the policymaking decision. they are equal to men. they should be given every chance to participate on a full basis. but you've raised a crucial issue. how do we do that without providing stability and contributing to the stability in countries let's say in afghanistan? the president has already announced we're pulling halff our troops out, the other half in some point in time. i doubt whether the taliban is ready at this point notwithstanding what they say to give equal rights or any opportunity to women inconsistent with their traditional submission subordination and in fact horrific treatment of women. but is this a good policy, the answer is yes. it must be be combined with diplomacy, economic assistance and security. >> much like the policy also of
side wg t siding with the democrats in venezuela. the democrats recognition. do you have hope this humanitarian intervention in venezuela including trying to provide humanitarian, you know, support, this is good thing. >> it is a good thing. i think the president, again, is correct of some of the countries in the region clolumbia in way f example which has been inundated with refugees. a million last year, a million this year. they really can't handle that influx of refugees. and so it's a humanitarian disaster we are responding to positively in conjunction with
our european friends. and this gets back to having partners the world over and nurturing those partners and not denigrating them on a given occasion but saying we're all in this together and this a very serious humanitarian issue. i want all of us to join in this, and resist the temptation to start again talking about military intervention, but rather treat it as a humanitarian humanitarian catastrophe in which we're going to participate in a diplomatic, economic and international coercive way. >> can i ask you to put your politicians hat on and pass your mind back to a long time ago when you were one of the few congressmen to break with the party and call for the president to take on his resignation.
would you take on this president at this time in a similar situation? >> well, i think the members of congress have an absolute obligation to get to the facts in terms of whether or not president trump has been compromised. from the very beginning i've said a cloud of distrust was going to hang over the administration until such time as he opened up his tax returns so the american people could see whether or not there is russian money involve. there's nothing wrong with russian money being involved in his businesses in the past, but is it still involved now? are they in fact trying to launder money through the trump organization? how much compromise was issued here or is he under? there's tremendous pressure. otherwise he would say something critical about president putin. he's criticized every single leader in the world but
president putin, president xi and now kim jong-un. xi a dictator basically but not president putin. >> secretary, thank you very much for joining us. and we turn now to perhaps the most famous face on the united states supreme court, known formally as associate justice ruth bader ginsberg she also is the notorious rbg, the liberal line of the times about her extraordinary life and career, progressive america has been holding its breath recently as ginsberg struggled with a bout of health problems. she is on the mend now but she did miss oral arguments for the very first time since joining the court 25 years ago. she is a trailblazer who rose despite entrenched sexism and paved a path for womens legal rights. one of the films about here is rbg, just nominated for an oscar
which was of course a thrill for the producers as you can see. well, that was the nomination process, which is where we started our conversation about their work capturing this extraordinary woman. betsey west and judy, welcome to the program. >> great to be here. >> so we showed your incredible excitement at being nominated for an oscar. how does it feel to be nominated or to have had this run away success about a film with a slight, a petite 85-year-old woman who wasn't a cultural icon until she suddenly became one. >> well, it's very gratifying. i mean, the fact that audiences have responded to our story about justice ruth bader ginsberg makes us so happy, because we think really her story deserves to be told. she's one of the most important
women in our country, and a lot of people didn't know what she did to help all women achieve equali equality. there's been this perception for so long particularly in the motion picture world that the only thing that's interesting about a woman is when she's in her 20s and what she looks like and whathe's wearing. here's a woman who's tiny, 85 and known primarily for her intellect and yet audiences are responding and want to go into theaters to hear what she has to say. that feels pretty cool. >> what was the process? how do you get access? because supreme court justices are rarely -- they're not out there posing for pictures and such other things. >> that's absolutely right. in fact, this is the first documentary that's been made about a sitting supreme court justice. and when we approached ruth bader ginsberg with the idea we
might make a full documentary back in january 2015 her initial response was not yet. but betsey and i kind of took a page out of the rbg play book of patience, persistence and kind of step by step fighting for what you want and kept at it. >> and you got access not just to her speeches and you followed her on the road, but at home and inside the supreme court. >> yes. i mean, we did the final interview with her in the supreme court. and we were able to do some steady cam filming in the actual chamber, which is unusual to be able to get in there. obviously, there are no cameras in the courtroom when the proceedings are going on. and, you know, about a year into filming we asked for a meeting with her, and that's when we said, hey, can we film you in your home meeting with some family, you know, in your office, and also could we go with you to see your legendry
gym workout, and we were very happy she said yes. >> we have great pictures of the gym workout as you were describing it. >> yeah, one of the most fascinating day of our film making lives. betsey and i were crouched in the corner while justice ginsberg was being put through the paces by her incredible personal trainer bryan johnson whose other life includes doing fitness training for member of the army. yet he says rbg is really the toughest person he's ever worked with in terms of working out. there's just nothing he asked her to do that she won't go along with. and betsey and i watched this whole routine. when we came out of that room our initial response was first of all, oh, my god, and then we've got to up our game. it was petsy who first started doing her own, cycling on her own and i started too. >> so rigorous body, rigorous
mind. the fact she's got this new life as an important social and cultural activist in the united states, she has really been at the forefront as you mentioned of equality and womens rights. and to be honest, i don't think a lot of society knew what a fundamental role she played in each aspect of the battle for womens' rights. so i just want to play a clip but to kind of set us off on this discussion about her role on making women go forth. here's a clip how she handled the sexism. >> men and women are person of dignity and should count equally before the law. >> you won't settle on putting susan b. anthony on the new dollar bill? >> when they would say things like this, how did you respond?
>> never in anger. always as an opportunity to teach. >> it's remarkable. >> tis is woman who graduated very top of her law school class. she was on the law review and yet in 1960 when she went out to look for jobs she was told openly, sorry, we don't hire women or we hired women once before and it didn't work out. you have to take yourself back to that time when discrimination was just kind of out in the open and accepted. ruth bader ginsberg in the early '70s as the womens movement was coming alive, saw an opportunity to challenge those assumptions. and she understood and came to understand that the u.s. constitution should protect women. her job was to convince nine justice to go along with that
idea. and he did it very carefully without anger. she goes onto say i really thought of myself as a kindergarten teacher. not just a teacher but a kindergarten teacher, which we loved. the idea that, look, they just don't understand what women are up against, and it's my job to show them. and she was very strategic in the cases that she took to kind of bring the justices along. ultimately this fight concluded or ended with her as a justice where she wrote the majority opinion in a case which found that discriminating against women, forbidding women from entering a military institution that has federal funding was unconstitutional. so her whole career came full circle from being a litigator in the 1970s to then being on the smoe supreme court and writing this important decision.
>> give me just a little bit of what we owe her in the legal domain, what women in america owe her. >> well, as a result of the cases that she argued as a lawyer in the 1970s, she basically hundreds if not thousands of laws and regulations in this country that discriminated against women are -- were found unconstitutional. some of them were done in the guise of protecting women, and as she explained putting women on a pedestal was really often putting them in a cage. so it was -- the impact of her work is pretty sweeping. >> can i just play this clip then from the film just to your point putting them on a pedestal is akin to putting them in a cage. this goes taa little bit to that. let's just play it. >> the sex criteria stigmatizes what it is used to protect women from competing for higher paying
jobs, promotions. it assumes that all women are preoccupied with home and children. these distinctions have a common effect. they help keep woman in her place, a place inferior to that occupied by men in our society. there was not a single question. i just went on speaking. and i at the time wondered are they just indulging me and not listening, or am i telling them something they haven't heard before. >> i mean, she really did seem to be mystified at the way she was being treated by these super highly educated guys. >> yeah, well, it was something she'd gotten used to from really her days in law school. and it was her job to push back. it was actually gloria steinham who first told me about what
ruth bader ginsberg had done in the '70s, and who pointed out that while women were out in the streets and fighting for equality very quietly and very systematically ruth bader ginsberg was affecting a resolution in the courts and gloria certainly gives her her dues. >> one of the things i found extraordinary obviously watching the documentary and reading a lot of the research now around her, is that there were a lot of women actually who kind of opposed her nomination as supreme court justice. right, people were concerned that she might not be as -- i mean people on both sides that she might not be as committed to roe v. wade. >> that's true. in the '90s there was some question among feminists. she wasn't a fire brand, she was
much more someone who wanted to very carefully consider the legal aspects of things, you know, kind of like a law nerd, as of course a supreme court justice should be. i think whatever concern there might have been around the time of her confirmation in 1993 was quickly wiped away by justice ginsberg's strong 25-year record of standing up for reproductive rights in, you know, every case where it's come up including some in recent years as there's been some move towards eroding women's right to legal abortion. >> i'll just play another clip how she hopes the make-up of the supreme court would look. >> in my lifetime i expect to see three, four, perhaps even more women on the high court bench. women not shaped from the same mold but of different c
complexions. i surely would not be in this room today without the determined efforts of men and women who kept dreams of equal citizenship alive. >> again, i think it's extraordinary. she kept involving the men, right? she tried to bring everybody into this struggle. >> yeah, i mean she talks about gender equality. it's helping women and it's helping men. you know, and certainly in her own life she had a tremendously supportive man who she always gave credit to, her husband marty, and their love story is part of our documentary. >> something that struck a cord with audiences both efemale and male, the idea you have have a feminist man is something we
don't talk about -- exposing man who has behaved not so well over the course of their lives, marty ginsberg is a pretty exemplary guy. rbg always gave him his due, and bringing forth that part of the story we felt was important. >> well, more than important it was really fundamental. it was really essential and dramatically beautiful, actually. the relationship was so amazing. anyway, let's play a little clip of what she said about marty and then we'll talk about that. >> i have had the great good fortune to share life with a partner. truly extraordinary for his generation, a man who believed at age 18 when we met that a woman's worth whether at home or on the job is as important as a man's. >> it's really moving. and in that clip we see the cameras zoom in on him during
those confirmation hearings. and of course he lost him in 2010, and just give us an idea of i mean he was very funny, he almost sort of humanized the family. he'd tell stories about his children refused to allow her to cook and how they sort of saw him being more of a domestic type at home. but he also lobbied very strongly and very professionally and strategically to keep her on that path to eventual promotion to the supreme court. >> well, you know, marty ginsberg was a very successful lawyer in his own right. and during the '60s when he was going for a partnership ruth bader ginsberg was supporting him. but as he saw the importance of her work in the 1970s, i think he began to understand that she really could play an extremely significant role in the life of
our country and he probably started to dream right then, that she could be and should be a justice. so, yes, when the time came he was very supportive. i mean in terms of the story telling, i think that we're telling a pretty serious story about constitutional law. and the fact that there's a love story to go along with it, a true love story that justice ginsberg loves to talk about really helped our story telling. and sometimes in the course of putting the film together we'd have a section about constitutional laws and we'd look at each other and say we need a little -- >> marty. >> there's been an idea, been like a myth out there especially i think in the hollywood movie world that feminism and equality is not romantic and it's not sexy. that's something i feel has been used to kind of tamp down women who are fighting for their rights. and i think what we really wanted to do was expose that myth and show that a feminist
marriage can be romantic and sexy. >> good for you. when they went to law school together, didn't the professor sort of challenge the female students and say how come you're taking a place that could go to a number of men? she was only nine in a class -- among nine women in a class of 500 men. >> yeah, it was actually the dean of harvard law school that invited the nine women to his home and go around the table answering that question. why are you taking the place that could be held by a man, actually extremely common question in law schools and medical schools for women at that time. we subsequently heard from dozens of women who had the same thing asked of them. >> but her answer was staggering because she said -- >> her answer back then was, well, you know, my husband is going to be a lawyer so i thought i would -- i want to understand his world a little more. like, you know, she was being a
good little wife at that point. she actually regretted not being tougher, not really, you know, speaking out at that time. >> well, she made up for it in a lifetime of speaking out on the bench. but define her importance politically right now at the moment of american history that we are living right now. >> well, ruth bader ginsberg plays an important role on the u.s. supreme court. she's in the minority, but she's in there fighting for her point of view, and hoping that she will on occasion as she had convince some of the more conservative justices to come over to her side. i will say wave never met a more determined person. and the morning after we rece e received the oscar nomination we called justice ginsberg, and we
were very happy to hear her sounding strong and talking about how she was doing a lot of reading and writing and keeping up with the court work and expected to be back on the bench soon. >> and not in the retiring mood, huh? >> no, no twr, no. >> i mean, she was focused quite a lot from her recovery from surgery she had in december precisely for the reason she wants to get back on the bench. >> all right, well, we wish you good luck. judy cohen and betsey west, thank you so much for being with us. and from that living legend, we delve into some ancient myths with our next guest, marlin james, the award winning jamaican author who brings us a powerful saga in his new book, black leopard, new wolf. he told our elisia menendez about his new fantasy epic.
>> thank you so much for being with us today. this is complex book, a complex world. how do you describe it? >> you know, the best way to describe it is just start at the beginning. a slave trader hires a bunch of mercenaries to find a child who's been missing for three years. that's all they know. the story then jump tuesday the end. they found the child, terrible things happened, people want answers. there are only three witnesses, and each witness is now going to tell the reader what they saw. >> what does that tell you about the nature of truth, there can be three different truths of one story. >> for one the reader has to decide. because i'm not going to tell them who to believe. pretty much you're judging. >> i like that. >> yeah, because the whole idea of truth, of the authentic
version of the director's cut, all these things -- in a lot of african story telling you know from the get go it's a trickster telling in a story. you always know you're dealing with an unreliable narrator. and that fsinates me. i'm still fascinated by eyewitness accounts and people who look at the same thing and come to completely different perceptions. somebody can look at a guy gorging down on a bag of chips and think oh, he's starving and another person thinking oh, he's gluttonous but are both seeing the same thing. >> you have described this as an african "game of thrones." i would love for you to read us a passage of the book. >> absolutely. this is from the beginning, actually. the child is dead. there's nothing left to know. i hear there's a queen in the south that kills a man and brings her bad news.
so when i give word of the boy's death do i write my own death with it? truth eats lie just as the crocodile eats the moon, and yet my witness is the same today as the same it is tomorrow. no, i did not kill him. draw blood out of fire out of his black heart and watch it explode black blood, and to listen for his voice croaking and hear his chest heave saying look, my wretched spirit leaves this most wretched of bodies. yes, i gloat at the conseat of it, but though, i did not kill him. not everything that i see should be spoken by the mouth. should i give you a story? i am just a man who some have called a wolf. the child is dead. i know the old woman gives you different news. call him murderer, she says. only my only sorrow is i didn't
kill her. the redheaded one said the child's head was infested with devils, if you believe in devils. i, i believe in bad blood. i will give you a story. >> how did you know that that was how the book has to start? >> i didn't. my beginnings sometimes come after i've finished the novel. i will have -- this is why when i'm teaching students, they have so much pressure how to begin and it can take them forever. i usually just begin. so the first word you write is rarely the first word the reader is going to read. and some of this has survived all the drafts, but i didn't really know how it began until i got to, you know, the end of it. >> when you have a book that is as successful as a brief history of seven killings, which critical acclaim, won the book reprise, how does that change the way you approach the work that follows? >> i don't think it changes
much. because if i was really concerned i think i would have written a more careful book. i think i'd have written -- i'd have made a less risky turn. although to me this doesn't seem like a jump. even in brief history a large part of the novel is told by a ghost. and if you grow up in the caribbean you grow up with the -- not just fairy tales and so on but the african traditions and myths and legends and the native-american myths and legends and so on. real and surreal doesn't have the boundary that people -- it seems to have for other people. has always said the great thing about the caribbean is truth is -- truth isn't stranger than the wildest fiction. and he's absolutely right. it didn't feel so much like a leap for me. in terms of the work, it definitely was a leap.
>> how strange is it for you? >> that's not strange for me. and that's the thing i've come to terms with as a fan of epic fantasy is most of it is european or most of what i read was european. most of it was based on european history, yoeuropean myths. i love vikings, lord of the rings. >> yeah, but you have strong opinions on hobitts. >> you know, i have strong opinions on people's opinions. but reading these stories when i'm growing up, of course if i'm a 10-year-old kid and see people doing dashing and daring events i want somebody who looks like me every now and then. and i think anyone from
scandinavian descent could take for granted stuff like thor, does it have a thor? for black people from the west who have been sort of cut off from all these epic traditions, you know, it's a new area, a new discovery. >> why did you know you had to write this book? >> that's a good question. because there were other books i could have written. i -- i think there are a few things. one, i always gravitate towards the book i think i would want to read. and if it's out there, i don't have to write it. but if it isn't, then that's the book i'm going to gravitate towards. i also because i'm kind of a glutton for punishment i always go after the most impossible kind of book. almost every book i start writing it starts from the position of me going there's no way i can write this. i don't know how to get into this story.
this is the book that's going to kill me. and that happened with this as well. >> because it was a trilogy or because it was epic fantasy? >> because it was epic fantasy and because i didn't know who was telling the story and i didn't know how to tell it. and that's when the whole idea of the trilogy came up, actually. that it wouldn't be me trying to create this long one narrative. it would be writing stories that sort of confound each other and cancel each other out. you know, the hero's story or what the what the victims story be or how the villain of the story be. >> how does writing in fantasy change the way you grapple with what many consider social kr constructions like gender or race? >> that's a good question because a lot of that didn't happen for me until i did the research. so in the book there'd gender
fluidities, different sexuality and so on. but all of that was from the ruch. it turns out that's the oldest element in the book, that there are tribes with 14 genders. that there are ways in which african societies had accepted ho homosexuality and strangeness from way back thousands and thousands of years until tv people told them it was -- but that was an aspect of the research just how old that was. >> much like "game of thrones" the book is replete with sexual references. and i wonder how often when you're writing ability sex in this book are you really writing about power. >> quite a bit actually. one, because people spend, you
know, a lot of time trying to demonstrate sexual power over other people. that's one aspect of human nature that hasn't changed. but there's also -- but there's also a certain kind of sensuality and frankness that's part of the african story telling tradition that i think with we can appreciate or think that shouldn't be shunted away. that's one of the reasons why blues was so sexually frank. in a lot of ways that's african coming out in blues music. and to latch onto that, to write in that sort of super sensual world with a really high erotic energy was exciting and also kind of scary. because at the back end of that is also danger. and the back end of that is abuse and so on. and the aim is how do you
capture that without that becoming the viewpoint of the book? because that's always the risk you run when you play with things like that. did you have a racist car, did you write a racist book. did you have a sexist character, did you write a sexist book? and between not flitching and not blinking in the sight of all this. but i also point out this is not normal, that this is not tolerated, that this is all people exercising power as opposed to people exercising what they think is right. >> i think there are a lot of us especially in those teen years who feel that we're growing up on the margin. i very much identify with everything you've ever said about being a nerd and retreating into books. >> yeah. >> and so i wonder is epic
fantasy a way of escape. >> reading x-man was a lot like being x-man. i thought certainly for me the idea of by opening up a book i can live another life was what drew me to it. so you're being drawn to these huge worlds, but in a sense of belonging to, oh, i can belong in here. there are other people like me here. there are other people like me reading this. i mean we didn't have the internet, so we didn't have chat rooms so we didn't have forums. you just have to assume there must be somebody else out there who is reading x-man, who is reading water ship down, and who's having the same moment i am having. and then when i get older and i read and they talk about what comics and fantasy did for them,
i realize, oh, i wasn't alone after all. >> how much of the marginality was about that nerd identity and how much of it was about being gay? >> i don't know if those are separate. i think -- you know, back then i thought of it as i went through all stages of that, the whole it must be a phase or, you know, god is going to fix it someday. and actually that thinking took me all the way through my 30s. it adds to it. it adds to the sort of everybody around me are nerds and i have one degree that i can't even reveal to you guys. you end up locking yourself off a bit. i remember by 1987 i had cut down talking to such an extent i
remember i went to visit my family in chicago and i my cousin sent a note back to my brother, your brother doesn't talk. because i was so convinced as soon as i opened my mouth people go, oh, there goes the gay and i just decided i'll stop talking. so i ended up in this huge kind of voluntary mental and social closed off. closed off to the point where one of my next door neighbors thought i went to america for high school. i was like, no, i was right here. >> but was the danger to you based on your nerd identity or on your gay identity? >> for me it was both. jamaica has a reputation for its homophobia of course. and when i was growing up i felt in a very acute way. i was never a gay bachelor or anything like this, but i didn't have to be. i think internalizing that fear
was traumatic enough. and also it's part of our culture, it's part of our music and so on back then. i don't want to, you know, put jamaica in an identity it didn't always have. it's funny, i talked to jamaican writers who are eight years younger than me and they read my essay in "the new york times" and they were like i didn't recognize that jamaica you lived in, i didn't realize how things had changed. but for me the fear was so immense i could internalize despite nothing happening to me. it didn't have to. the fear doesn't need something to happen for it to happen. and i realized for me i had to leave, i had to get out. not necessarily because i was afraid of attack but i was afraid of if i keep reducing myself more and more what am i going to be left with in a few
years? and i just -- i don't think i could have lived with such a constantly diminishing sense of self. so i had to go. >> it's interesting thinking of you living that dual life and then being able to write these characters that are looking at the same events from dueling perspectives. >> yeah. >> because you yourself were able to do that. >> yeah, absolutely. and, you know, i'm not just sort of call it switching but behavior changing and slipping into different identities, you knowthe time. i was like, yeah, i was -- i used to have this ritual where i was staying with family in the bronx and i was just very hip hop and i got my baggy pants and all of that. and i take the train down to union square barnes and noble and i go to the barnes and noble bathroom and put on my skintight
jeans and my queer outfit, and it was like super bad, super queer. and i was like i have to get back to barnes and noble at 9:30 because they close at 10:00. so i had to dash back to go back into the bathroom, change into my normal clothes and then take the 5 back to the bronx, and that was my life for a really long time. >> until when? >> until maybe 2007, actually. >> what changed that? >> moving permanently. moving to minnesota. i think the one thing moving to minnesota i thought, well, i will never have the eyes of jamaicans or the eyes of my family on me and i could completely reinvent myself the way i want to ream vent myself. i didn't have to have all these versions of myself running around. can writing more and learning to be boulder and accept myself
more, those versions of me just evaporated until there was only one. but it took a while, it took years. >> you must have reflected on that and thought there was a lot of lost time. >> yes. i believe things have to happen when they're supposed to happen. i i think maybe i wouldn't have had to emotional maturity to deal with that in my 20s or in my 30s. >> marlin, thank you so much. >> thank you so much for having me. >> warner brothers and the acts of michael b. jordan have already picked up the film rights for marlin emphasis new book which is out now. that is it for our program tonight. thank you for watching amanpour and join us again tomorrow. uniworld is a proud sponsor of amanpour and company.
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