New York Times Book Review Boosts Bette Midler Reading Black Authors Deeply on Race

December 4th, 2021 11:37 AM

The New York Times Book Review sometimes softly interviews celebrities for its "By The Book" feature, allowing them to boast of their love of the published word. For this Sunday, the celebrity was Bette Midler, and the gushy headline was "Bette Midler Is Still in the Thrall of 19th-Century Novelists." The drawing of her was also very complimentary.

Not only does she insist she has always loved to read, she aggressively volunteers how much she reads black authors. Like Maya Angelou.

What’s the last great book you read?

I recently reread I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Hands down, one of the greatest I’ve ever read....

What’s the last book you read that made you laugh?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The scene in church, where a woman gets the spirit and rushes the pastor, is one of the funniest things I have ever read.

What’s the last book that made you cry?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Okay, she looooooves Maya Angelou. There was more. Asked what current authors she admires, she included Ta-Nehisi Coates and bell hooks (radical enough to hate capital letters). And she insists "Alex Haley’s [The Autobiography of] Malcolm X made a huge impression on me." Also: 

What book should everybody read before the age of 21?

W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, Personal Finance for Dummies and Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

....What subject do you wish more authors would write about?

Race and Reconstruction. The villainy of the impeached Andrew Johnson should be common knowledge, but it is not. Our children should be made aware that we are still living with the consequences of Reconstruction. I’m 75, and it was news to me.

Despite all this messaging about her readings on race, her dream dinner with literary figures is all-white: 

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Charles Dickens, Fran Lebowitz and Vladimir Nabokov.