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Interview with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas; Interview with The New Yorker Staff Writer Susan Glasser; Interview with "Class" Author Stephanie Land. Aired 1:00-2p ET
Aired November 17, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
The families of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas call for urgent action. But with the world's gaze fixed on Gaza, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas
warns that we shouldn't turn a blind eye to the threat from Russia.
And conflict and politics collide in America. "The New Yorker" Susan Glasser explains how the Israel Hamas war is fueling tensions going into
the 2024 elections.
Plus, navigating college while under the poverty line. Michel Martin speaks to bestselling author Stephanie Land.
And finally, remembering the man behind some of the world's most beloved books, Christiane's conversation with veteran publisher, Stephen Rubin.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the program. I'm Bianna Golodryga in D.C. sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
The families of the estimated 237 hostages believed to be held captive by Hamas are demanding answers about where their loved ones are and when they
will see them again. Today, they continue their march towards Jerusalem after setting off from Tel Aviv four days ago.
And in New York, the face of one hostage, nine-year-old Emily Hand, lit up Times Square on her ninth birthday. Her father told CNN that he just wants
his daughter back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS HAND, DAUGHTER IS BEING HELD BY HAMAS: She can't have a birthday. We were hoping that she would be back by now. That was -- that would have
been our prayers answered. But she's not, she's still down in the tunnels. And now, we have to hope that she'll be back for Christmas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Just unimaginable pain these families are going through. Well, these calls come as Israeli forces say they have recovered the bodies of
two hostages near Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital. They've been named as 65-year- old Yehudit Weiss and 19-year-old Noa Marciano.
Israel is doubling down on its claim that the medical center sat above a Hamas command center. The IDF released this image, which it says shows a
tunnel shaft that's part of that network. CNN has not been able to verify that on our own, although we geolocated this to the hospital complex. Hamas
denies operating out of Al-Shifa.
Well, whilst the eyes of the world are trained on Gaza, there's fear among Ukraine and its allies that its fight against Russia is slipping down the
global agenda. Watching all of this closely is Estonia, on the front lines of Russian aggression.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, dubbed the Iron Lady of Europe, met U.S. House Speaker Johnson in Washington this week. Upon her return, she spoke to
Christiane from the Estonian capital of Tallinn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Prime Minister Kallas, welcome back to the program.
KAJA KALLAS, ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER: Good to be here.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you whether in Estonia, in the Baltic States, you are feeling a little left out? Do you worry that the shift of focus to the
Middle East, where there's a raging war, has taken the eye dangerously off the ball of Putin?
KALLAS: Well, clearly, the new crisis has taken a lot of attention from all of us, but I think that we can deal with similar -- I mean,
simultaneous crisis at the same time. We have been doing this before and we can't have, you know, focus shifted from Ukraine because it's a war going
on also in Europe and has a much broader consequences for everybody if Putin succeeds.
AMANPOUR: What do you think Americans need to know about doing what you've just said, that Putin should not succeed, and of course that's what Biden
has said? But in the meantime, you have the new Republican speaker of the house cutting out aid for Ukraine. You have President Trump reminding
audiences that when he was president, he told a head of government, I will not protect you if Russia attacks.
KALLAS: You know, the fundamental thing is that everybody thinks America is the greatest country in the world. If, you know, America is not
supporting Ukraine here, Russia will win, and then America will be second, not the first power. I think this is also important.
What is at stake here is really fight for freedom. Freedom is the basis of American constitution. It is all what America is about. So, here we have
one country fighting for its freedom, for its right to exist. And on the other side, we have a country that wants to erase this. It's very, very
clear. It's very black and white.
And America has always been on the right side of, of freedom. So, I hope that this is the case right now as well.
AMANPOUR: Can I play a quick sound bite from President Zelenskyy who also addressed the issue of, you know, war fatigue or war distraction?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: If Russia will kill all of us, they will attack NATO countries, and you will send your sons and daughters,
and it will be -- I'm sorry, but the price will be higher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, he's basically saying that it could drag the U.S. in, finally.
KALLAS: This is correct. I mean, when we don't do the right thing now, then the price will be higher. The price will go up with every hesitation,
with every delay. And I mean, we all want this war to end. We are in a place where, you know, Russia could easily end this war when they realized
they made a mistake. They can't win in Ukraine because they can't break the will of Ukrainians. And because we are supporting Ukraine with the military
aid, with everything that is needed.
So, this tipping point is not far if we stick together. If we give in now, then I'm absolutely sure that the price for all of us -- also those who are
much further away from Russia or Ukraine, the price for all of us will be bigger.
AMANPOUR: You know, your states are frontline states, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. And you have experienced Soviet invasion and occupation in the
not-too-distant past. What are you doing differently, and do you fear now that Putin might be emboldened, despite what you're saying now, by America
being focused on the Middle East and might even try some mischief at some point in your states?
KALLAS: Not so far. Putin hasn't tried NATO, but saying that if you think past every step that he has taken, the next one has been bolder because the
response from the West has been weak. I bring you this example. In 2008, Georgia was attacked. In 2014, Crimea was annexed. And there, you know,
Russia was ashamed that it's Russian soldiers because they were afraid of the western response. But as the response was weak, then the next time,
it's already bolder. It's like, yes, we're going to attack a neighboring southern country and we don't even hide it.
So, I would guess on the basis of this pattern, then the next step will be even more bolder than that. And yes, it might be also you know, testing the
NATO in some way. In NATO, we have the Article 5 that says that attack on one means attack on all, and that means we all have a skin in the game.
AMANPOUR: And you have said that you would like to be considered as the next NATO secretary general. We know that Stoltenberg is finally going to
be retiring. Can you give me some more detail on that? Do you want the job? Why do you want the job?
KALLAS: No. I mean, I get this question a lot. And this time the journalist asked, would you like to be considered? Then who wouldn't? And
at the same time, I mean, I have this frustration in terms of being in these big organizations already 20 years, and I see -- you know, we have a
lot of good people in Estonia, smart people, very hardworking people. But when it comes to, you know, posts, different posts, then we are not even
considered. And it's still the western countries and people coming from there.
So, would I be offered such a job? It's highly unlikely. But would I like to be considered? Then, yes.
AMANPOUR: And I just want to press one more question on this. And do you think it's because, you know, one of your qualifications, apart from all
the others you've just said, is that you've actually experienced Russia on your border? And, you know, you know because it's happened in the not-too-
KALLAS: Well, we know definitely Russia, because we have been occupied by Russia, not so -- not in so distant past. Therefore, we have been right
regarding Russia before, and I think we are right regarding Russia now.
AMANPOUR: Do you think there's still stuff about Putin that we don't get? Do you think that the Americans, the Europeans, the Global South still
doesn't fully understand what you understand about Putin?
KALLAS: What we have to keep in mind is that, it is not a democracy. So, as we are used to thinking and seeing things through this democratic lens,
then in Russia, you know, Kremlin doesn't think that way. They are -- you know, he's a dictator and he's thinking like dictator is thinking. So, we
have to, you know, have awareness of this totally different attitudes towards governing.
So, we have to keep in mind what is of interest to a dictator, keeping the cronies around him happy, that means the oligarchs, and keeping the power
structures, the army happy because they keep in human in power and make the deeds that he wants them to make.
So, I think in terms of those two elements, there are oligarchs who are not happy because we are sanctioning their property and already talking about
using that property for the benefit of reparations in Ukraine. And regarding army, as I was saying the Prigozhin mutiny shows that the army is
not happy. Why I'm saying this is that I still feel that the tipping point might not be that far.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's provocative thought -- food for thought. How long do you think this war will last?
KALLAS: Well, it's hard to tell. At the same time, I don't want to say -- I don't want to give expectations that it's going to end very, very soon.
But if you think about, you know, Russia's military operation in Afghanistan, then they were there for 10 years. If you think about Ukraine,
they, you know, started already 2014. So, next year, it will be 10 years. Maybe then it's the time when they realized they made a mistake and they
can't win there.
AMANPOUR: Really fascinating. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, thank you so much for being with us.
KALLAS: Thank you. All the best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Well, from Europe to the United States, where this week protests turned violent outside the DNC in Washington, with people calling
for a ceasefire in Gaza amid the Israel Hamas war and a rise in Islamophobia and antisemitism. All of this is playing out as the prospect
of a dark, divisive 2024 presidential campaign becomes even clearer.
Just over a week ago, chilling Veterans Day promised from Trump to root out communists, Marxists, fascists, and radical left thugs that live like
vermin. It's a quote. We've also had, this week, allegations of a physical altercation inside of Congress.
A week ago -- a week away from the big U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving, what to make of this moment as war, politics, and dangerous rhetoric collide?
Here to discuss is Susan Glasser, staff writer with "The New Yorker." Susan, it is great to see you.
So, let's start at the bottom. And that is the very childish behavior that we have seen from several members of Congress. Congressman Tim Burchett, a
Republican from Tennessee, accusing former Speaker McCarthy of intentionally elbowing him in the kidneys. McCarthy replied, if I really
wanted to hurt you, you would feel it. We also had a potential fight, that was defused by Senator Sanders between a Republican senator and the head of
the Teamsters Union.
I mean, a lot of this transpiring, as I've described with the backdrop in the intro to you. You've been covering Washington and politics for a long
time. With so much on the line now in the U.S. and around the world, what do you make of this rather childish, immature and very inappropriate
behavior we've seen?
SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, first of all, I'm just exhausted by your very accurate, I'm afraid, summation of things. This is
an exhausting, grueling, stressful time to be engaged with politics in the United States. It's only -- temperatures are only going to rise as we get
closer and closer to our national elections next year.
And, you know, there's tensions inside the Republican Party. There's tensions inside the Democratic Party. There's tensions, of course, across
the aisle. It's really -- it's a very fraught moment. And, you know, you see those (INAUDIBLE) Capitol Hill, where, of course, Kevin McCarthy, the
speaker who allegedly was, you know, elbowing, that wasn't just a random member of Congress, it was one of the eight Republicans who ended his
And if you wondered, does he have hard feelings? The answer is clearly yes, at least if you believe the account of this incident. But, you know, right
now, you have a situation where dysfunction is almost the synonym for what is happening in our government.
The only good news that you left out is that they decided to kick our next spending crisis this week down the road into January, which I suppose is
good news, but it does mean that at least they can go off and have their holiday break, and they even gave themselves extra time for the holiday.
GLASSER: Yes. Speaker Johnson accomplished what his predecessor, Speaker McCarthy, could not in a relatively similar bill, and that is keeping
spending levels at their current level for the next few months. But what was missing, notably missing from this stopgap spending bill, which the
president incidentally signed this week, was something that was really important, a top priority for this administration and for Democrats and for
many Republicans, and that is funding for aid to Israel, Ukraine, and then Taiwan and even border funding. This is something the president had been
hoping to accomplish before the end of the year.
What do you make of the predicament this administration finds itself in in getting that aid in time? Because as we know, that money is really
depleting, especially on the Ukrainian front.
GLASSER: Absolutely. This is really important. President Biden's major foreign policy priorities at this point are all wrapped up and their fate
is linked to Congress, which, as we've just seen, is just a hotbed of dysfunction right now. Biden has asked Congress to send him $105 billion
supplemental bill that would pay for some of these foreign policy priorities as well as the border.
The vast majority of that money in that bill, $60 billion out of the $105 billion, would be for Ukraine. There's a real urgency to that. In fact,
there was a Pentagon spokesperson who quoted this week is saying they were down to their last billion of previously authorized funds. Joe Biden has
said to the Ukrainian people, the United States will be there as long as it takes. He's repeated that quote over and over again, as long as it takes.
And yet, honestly, we can't guarantee that we'll be there past next week in a meaningful sense. And so, the U.S. has made this extraordinary
commitment. This is, by some measures, the largest such military assistance the U.S. has given since the end of World War II and the Marshall Plan.
This is an incredible foreign policy priority to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression, and yet, its fate is completely up in the air.
There's still a bipartisan majority, I should say, it appears, in both the House and the Senate to get this money. The problem is the leadership in
the House and the growing momentum behind the kind of what you might call the pro-Trump, anti-Ukraine forces in the House. Getting that to a vote on
the floor, nobody sees the pathway to that at the moment.
GOLODRYGA: Well, as we heard from Christiane's interview with the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, that this is a real concern for allies in
Europe when they see the president coming up this type of resistance from many in Congress to providing additional funding for Ukraine and Former
President Trump, who is the leading frontrunner for the Republican nomination now, has been very vocal about his stance on the war and
And you speak to any expert, yourself included, this is what the Russians and Vladimir Putin are banking on. They are hoping to see another Trump
presidency because they think that would really impact the direction this war takes. That's just one of the issues that the president -- the former
president has said that he will implement if he is re-elected. Let's talk about some of the other plans that he has been transparent about if he
wins, and they include rounding up migrants, placing them in massive detention, purging tens of thousands of government workers and replacing
them with his loyalists. And then, of course, using the Justice Department to harass political opponents.
And we'll get to his language that he's used in just a minute. But just on the policies themselves, what do you make of the fact that he's being,
again, transparent about what he plans to do, yet we're not seeing much pushback from Republicans, even though he's running for the nomination
against him, and we're not seeing much impact in the polls right now.
GLASSER: Well, look, you know, the Republican Party has largely made a choice, which is to continue to be the Trump Republican Party even after
his unprecedented effort to remain in power after losing the 2020 election.
And so, you know, really, you've seen a kind of years of purging of anti- Trump Republicans or marginalizing them, moving to the sidelines, members - - rather than to continue on is who is actually a trumpier Republican Party in many ways than it was even just a few years ago. So, that's part of it.
You know, Trump would represent a radical shift, a radical shift in American foreign policy. There's no secret, as you said, to his agenda in
many ways. If you want to know what his agenda in his second term is, look to the unfinished business of his first term, things that he wanted to do
that he consistently spoke of but that he was constrained in some way, either by his own advisers who turned out not to be as trumpy as he wanted
them to be or by the courts or by Congress.
And so, those form the basis. Donald Trump has always spoken of using the justice system to go up against his political opponents. That's what he
tried to do with Joe Biden that led to his first impeachment and it led to his rift with his second attorney general, Bill Barr, in the fall of 2020
when he demanded, you know, aware of the indictments of Biden and the like.
And so, of course, Trump now just has more grievance. He's got 91 felony counts. He's got four different criminal indictments. So, when he speaks of
his campaign agenda now, he uses the word retribution and termination, as in termination of the constitution if that's what's necessary to put him
back in power. We should take that seriously, it seems to me.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. He also used the word vermin, which is a repetition of what we've heard from Adolf Hitler directly. I mean, that is the exact word
that Adolf Hitler used, Trump using it in describing his opponents.
And listen, it just speaks to the history of the type of language, shocking language that sadly has become more or less the norm when it comes to
what's to be expected from the former president. Listen to what he just said this past summer in June as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is the final battle. With you at my side, we will demolish the deep state. We will expel the warmongers from
our government. We will drive out the globalists. We will cast out the communists. We will throw off the sick political class that hates our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: You know, his former opponent, Hillary Clinton, said that we should take him at his word and believe what he says. How do you interpret?
And from people that you talk to in your reporting, how is this language being interpreted at this point?
GLASSER: Look, Donald Trump is using the language of dictators. He is speaking in terms to dehumanize his opponents, to degrade them, to make
them non-human, sub human. This is the technique of demagogues and dictators.
I remember, you know, when he was president, writing a whole column about his use of the phrase human scum. And you know, I looked where any other
examples of incumbent heads of state using the term human scum. And the answer is, essentially, there are only examples of dictators using that
kind of language. The kind of people who talk about human scum are people like Kim Jong Un.
You know, Trump's signature phrase against us media folk was enemy of the people.
GLASSER: That was the specific term used in Stalin's Russia to condemn millions to the Gulag. And you know, Donald Trump, he might've been
ignorant the first time he said it, but he was certainly told again and again and again what it meant.
He's doing this on purpose. This is not an accident. This is a window into the thinking of the man who would be president of the United States again.
GOLODRYGA: Susan, I feel we'll be having many more of these types of conversations in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, thanks so
much for coming on and Happy Thanksgiving to you. We appreciate it.
GLASSER: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, in a significant shift in position, Israel now says that it will allow two fuel tankers a day into Gaza to support water and sewage
processing in the enclave. Medical staff in Gaza have been warning for weeks about the serious threat posed by the lack of clean water and the
spread of diseases.
According to the United Nations, 1.5 million people are now displaced, most of whom have fled south. One Palestinian journalist recorded his family's
harrowing journey, showing us the many dangers along the way.
Correspondent Jomana Karadsheh has his story. And a warning, some of the scenes in her report are graphic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (VOICEOVER): Gaza City, two-year-old Walid, distracted through his family's most difficult night of the war so
With daybreak, the Israeli military calls with an order, you have 30 minutes to get out. It was 9:30 a.m. on November the 10th. With makeshift
white flags, they say the military told them to hold up. They prepare to move.
RAMI ABU JAMOUS, JOURNALIST (through translator): We stay together, we don't rush. If there are strikes or shooting, it's not at us. We walk
together slowly. Slowly together. No rush. The Israeli army knows, and I am recording because the army knows.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): With a little they can carry, they head out and into the unknown. Some too frail to walk.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): Carry him. Carry him. Put him on your back.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): Journalist Rami Abu Jamous is filming the forced evacuation of his family, along with more than 30 of their neighbors. His
phone in his right hand and in the other his son Walid.
He speaks French with his son, looking for his wife ahead, while waiting for other elderly neighbors struggling to catch up.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): Carry him, Eyad. Put him on your back. Don't be scared. Stay on the right. Don't be scared. Be careful around this
KARADSHEH (voiceover): That constant buzz you hear is Israeli drones overhead. It's been the soundtrack of Gaza for years. As they get to the
other side of the street, Rami spots his neighbor, Abu Ahmad. Something's not right.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): What's going on Abu Ahmad? What's wrong? It's all in God's hands.
ABU AHMAD (through translator): My son, Ahmad.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): It's all in God's hands. It's all in God's hands.
ABU AHMAD (through translator): I told you, let's stay at home, my son. I told him, let's stay at home.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): Let's carry him. Let's carry him.
ABU AHMAD (through translator): I told you, let's stay at home, my son. Let's stay at home, my son.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): Let's go. Let's go.
ABU AHMAD (through translator): If only we had stayed at home, God. Ahmad? Ahmad. Are you breathing my son?
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): Yes, he is breathing. He is breathing. Breathing. Let's carry him. Yes, yes. Carry him. Carry him. Pray to God.
Pray to God. He is still alive. There's breathing.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): Ahmad was shot in the head. He didn't make it.
And around the corner, two others, a man and a woman, also shot. It's uncertain who opened fire on the group. CNN geolocated these videos and
traced this deadly journey out of Central Gaza City. We provided the Israeli military with details of this incident and these coordinates, but
they did not respond to our request for comment.
ABU JAMOUS: Hello?
KARADSHEH: Hello, Rami?
KARADSHEH (voiceover): We reached Rami, now in the south.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): There were no ambulances.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): Like most here, they were on their own. They got to Shifa Hospital, but so did the war.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): Total panic at Shifa Hospital. Look at the dead bodies, not even a morgue. Gaza has fallen.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): Witness to it all, two-year-old Walid.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): I kept trying to make sure he's not scared and make him feel like what he's seeing around us is a circus or an
amusement park. I don't know if I succeeded. Even the journey of humiliation where you take a donkey here and a horse there, I was trying to
make that entertaining for him.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): I asked Rami why he decided to film.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): I just want this to get to the world so they know the injustice that we're facing. They cast doubt on everything we
do. They're stronger in every way. Not just militarily, but with the information that comes out, the narrative that comes out, the news that
comes out. What they say is the truth and our words are lies.
Please, just deliver our message. I don't want anything else. I don't want all those who have been killed to have died in vain.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): Rami doesn't know what they'll do now, but says he will only leave his homeland forced at gunpoint or dead.
ABU JAMOUS (through translator): My dear, my dear. Give me a kiss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Israel says they have tried to call people in Gaza to evacuate areas where military operations are underway to minimize civilian
casualties. But there has been worldwide criticism on the number of deaths in Gaza. The Hamas controlled Gaza Ministry of Health says more than 11,400
people have been killed, including about 4,700 children.
Well, the author, Stephanie Land, became an overnight sensation with her debut memoir "Maid," a long, hard look at her impoverished beginnings and
the trials she faced as a single parent. The book became a bestseller and was turned into a hugely successful Netflix series. We covered that,
incidentally, here on the show.
Well, now Land is back with a sequel called "Class," which digs into how her struggles didn't end once she got into college, which is where "Maid"
ended. In fact, many things even became harder. She tells Michel Martin about it all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Bianna. Stephanie Land, thanks so much for talking to us.
STEPHANIE LAND, AUTHOR, "CLASS": Thank you. It's good to see you again.
MARTIN: Yes, likewise. You know, I was thinking about your last book, "Maid," it made huge waves. I mean, it was a New York Times bestseller. It
led to this Netflix series that, you know, at the time, one of the most successful series that they've ever had. And I just -- you know, I was
thinking about it, and going back to the book, and it ends with, you know, what you'd think as the Hollywood ending, you'd get to go to college, which
just had been a dream, but it kind of wasn't. So, why wasn't it that Hollywood ending that we all thought it was going to be?
LAND: Well, I made did end on a kind of literal high note, you know, we'd climbed up a mountain and had this like joyous moment and over the years,
people have said, like, I'm so glad that you had your happy ending. And I just kind of thought, like, I got kind of really hard after that. And it
was simply because I had to go to class in person.
And so, of course, that limited the amount of hours that I could work, and government assistance programs don't count the hours that you spend in
class as work for work requirements. So, the amount of assistance that I was getting for food and housing and everything, was diminished because of
MARTIN: You know, the story picks up with you moving to Missoula, Montana with your then four-year-old daughter, you call Emilia. So, one of the
things that's a through line between this book and your previous book it's just how precarious it all is, even when you're doing what everybody says
is the right thing to do, right?
So, just kind of walk us through it, just from the very beginning when you're trying to say enroll, for example. Talk a little bit about that.
LAND: Well, the thing that I immediately was surprised by was I thought the residency, you know, how you get a smaller amount of tuition if you're
a resident of the town where the school is, I thought that because I had completely moved my whole entire life there, then that made me an immediate
resident, but that wasn't the case. So, I had to prove that I was a resident over a year before I would get the decreased tuition.
I think what I really didn't realize would be such a huge need would be the child care. The classes, you know, they tried to make, you know, kind of
blend together so I could group them into two days a week or something. And then I could work Monday, Wednesday, Friday. But a lot of my classes went
into the evening and that required a babysitter because that was after daycare hours or public-school hours. And that was most of my stress, was
just making sure that someone was taking care of my daughter while I was in a class that I was required to attend.
MARTIN: And then, there's also the question of the grant. Now, I think people are aware because it's been very much in the news and because so
many people are affected by it, just how much debt people can get into trying to finish a degree, a degree that, you know, many people need just
to function in this economy.
LAND: Yes. So, I did receive a full Pell Grant. And I had a small tuition that came out to be about, $2,000 a semester. And I did take out the
maximum amount of loans. And what the loans actually went to was my living expenses. So, it came out to be about $1,000 dollars a month that I
budgeted for very heavily.
And so, when I graduated school, even though I'd only taken out loans for, I think, the last two and a half years of school, I was $45,000 to $50,000
in debt just from that.
MARTIN: What made you write this book?
LAND: The part of this story that I think is the most meaningful to me in just how it has affected me as a person, as a human being was I was kicked
off of food stamps because I could not meet the work requirements.
I needed to work 20 hours a week while going to school full-time in order to receive food stamps, because my daughter was over six years old. And
that really -- that's something I still struggle with today, is just feeling like I somehow don't deserve food if I can't work enough for it.
MARTIN: You know, I remember when those work requirements were being debated and as they have been, you know, off and on through the last, you
know, couple of decades, that kind of concept in the modern era came in during the Clinton administration.
You know, you write a lot about that. You said that, all government assistance programs operated on the assumption that every person who walked
into their office brought with them the possibility of scamming them in some way. We were asked detailed questions about our assets, what kind of
car we drove, or if we had a burial plot, not because the government cared, but to determine if there was money hidden that we didn't disclose, it was
ridiculous to imagine that anyone would try to pull a fast one by spending hours at a government assistance office in the middle of the work day so
they could possibly leave for the couple hundred bucks a month for food. But this was how I spent hours and sometimes entire work days of my life,
convincing authorities that I wasn't a criminal. These invasions of privacy caused me to fidget and squirm, but I submitted to them like everything
else, because it was another means to an end.
Do you remember when it occurred to you that that's kind of what it was? It's almost like they don't want you to have it or that they assume you're
trying to sort of get one over on them.
LAND: I think over the years, you know, I've been off of food stamps since early 2016 and I have been writing about it and paying attention to, you
know, the conversations around it, especially in the media. And I just -- I've noticed a trend that I think that they make it harder so that less
people sign up.
And there's two reasons for that, I think is, you know, the states receive block grants and if those grants aren't used, then they can use them for
other things. And the less people who sign up, then the more progress is being made and things are better and, you know, see, we don't even need
And there's always the welfare to work thing. You know, you mentioned Bill Clinton and welfare reform and that has been the assumption since the
beginning of welfare programs, it seems is the people who are on government assistance programs are choosing not to work and that is hardly ever the
case. Most of the families who are on food stamps are working multiple jobs sometimes.
MARTIN: The other through line of the book and -- is this whole question of what you deserve, like, do you deserve to go to college, like, do you
deserve to do work that you want to do as opposed to work that you have to do or that you are worthy or if you're only worthy because you're working?
Could you talk a little bit more about that and what that feeling is and why you think it's so pervasive?
LAND: It really felt like not only did I not deserve to be there, like, I never felt deserving of higher education, I never felt entitled to it. To
me, it felt like I was taking up space. I mean, I felt like I was not just an imposter, but, like, I was there on a grant, you know, like, I couldn't
fully participate in a lot of the college atmosphere. You know, like, I couldn't hang out with friends, I couldn't go to the outside of class
activities that a lot of the other students were going to.
And not just the pizza parties, like the -- you know, the readings of authors that were visiting in town and things that a lot of people who were
in my degree program were going to. And I just -- you know, I was 10 years older than most of the people in my class and very much felt out of place
and like I didn't belong. I really felt apologetic if I needed to take up my professor's time because I just -- I felt like, you know, being on
government assistance and already receiving so much help in that way, like, it -- I think it just messed with me a lot and I just felt like I shouldn't
ask for more help because I was already getting a lot that other people weren't.
You know, and I, I think there's a thing, when you are hungry and you don't have enough money to feed yourself to the point where you are satiated, it
really affects you and you hide from people, and I did my best to hide that. It was embarrassing to do not have enough money.
MARTIN: You do write about kind of the judgment that you get from a lot of different people, including family members. I'm just sort of puzzled by why
it is that so few people seem to be willing to let you dream and I'm just wondering why you think that might be?
LAND: It was, you know, dreams don't pay that much. And it takes a lot to succeed, especially in the arts. And so, if -- there was no guarantee,
there was no job at the end of it, there -- you know, even my classes in college didn't teach me how to make money as a writer. And so, there was
really this question of, like, you're doing what? You're getting a degree in English? What are you going to do with that? And so, it was very much
this, like, I needed to be on a path where employment and health benefits and all of that was at the end.
MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) have an awkward question, but again, you're kind of -- your brand is honesty, right? The decision to have a second child when you
were already struggling to be the parent you wanted to be to your first. You talk about that in the book. Will you talk about that? Because that is
something that I think where people feel entitled to judge, right? I mean, they feel entitled to judge. And so, I wanted to ask if you would just talk
about that. How you came to the decision that you were going to go and have a second child, even though it was already hard to have one?
LAND: Well, I mean, it wasn't a planned thing. It wasn't. You know, I was purposefully trying, but I discovered I was pregnant. And I have always
wanted my oldest to have a sibling, you know, I grew up with a little brother and she was always asking for a little sister. Like she asked for a
sandwich for lunch. And so, it was just this -- it was something I wanted.
And I have experienced so much judgment from that, just because of my economic status at the time. And, you know, that's a very unique sort of
judgment for people who are poor. And I -- and so, like, I -- for me, it's been a conversation that I've just kind of had over the years, but lately,
it's just been this -- since I've been doing so many interviews, it's just like, well, why can't I choose to have a child?
In writing the book, though, you know, I wrote the book right after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, and I really wanted to show what it's like to have
a child with absolutely no resources, because for a lot of women or, you know, people who have a uterus, like, if they can't get an abortion, then
they suddenly have a child to take care of and that doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to receive a lot of resources because of that. I
mean, there's still -- it's very hard.
And so, part of me really wanted to show what that it looks like too. But for me, you know, I really wanted to have a baby. I wanted to have two
children. And I was 35 and, you know, I was already considered like a geriatric pregnancy and stuff. And so, I thought my time was running out
and that was the choice I made.
MARTIN: So, interested in also your -- how you feel you kind of changed between your first book and your second, or have you?
LAND: Oh, well, I mean, the voice and kind of my character are very different between the first book and the second. You know, the first book I
wrote it in a very apologetic, you know, please, sir, can I have some more, you know, Oliver Twist type of character? And I felt apologetic for just
being a person in that story, you know, for being a person who's on government assistance.
And in writing the second book I discovered that I was pretty angry about what I had to go through. And I had the -- I felt I had the platform, you
know, I had the clout, I had the Netflix series and all of that, that I felt like it might be accepted to hear an angry woman write a whole book
and talk about how angry she is about something.
And a lot of that was because it's been 10 years since I have been in that situation. And I have a new sense of normalcy. I have a lot more privilege
than I did then. And I still had privilege then just as a white person in that situation. But now, it's like to go back and truly live in that time
and absorb it and write about it and write from that space, I couldn't believe that I had to go through that, and it made me angry.
MARTIN: There are a lot of people who think we're in an even meaner time now than we were then. And I'm just wondering, like, how do you feel now?
Do you still feel angry? Do you feel hopeful in any way?
LAND: There was a time at the beginning of the pandemic that I did feel hope. And it was really incredible to see so many people realizing -- like
even Biden tweeted that people didn't have a sick day. And all over the news where restaurant workers who suddenly couldn't pay rent because they
had been out of work for two weeks, and we called workers essential, which I thought was kind of sad, to be honest, because, you know, those were
people who could not afford to not go to work and they were also forced to go to work in a pandemic.
But there was just this moment of, like, oh, my goodness, these people, they need help. We need to help them. And you had the unemployment
expansion, you had the child tax credit expansion, you had all of these programs begin and then, they ended. And everybody went back into poverty.
And, you know, we were able to show how much poor people actually do benefit from having some money and then it disappeared again.
And I think, you know, the crux of all of this is, you know, the American bootstrap myth, you know, if you work hard enough, then you're going to
make it. And so, if you're not making it, then you're not working hard enough. But there's also just this -- we don't trust poor people with money
and we don't think that they deserve nice things.
And I -- when all of those arguments start up again, you know, when people start crying about work requirements and how we can't just give people a
free lunch and they need to work for it for like -- that's the basis of that argument, is a belief that poor people just can't have nice things.
MARTIN: Stephanie Land, thank you so much for talking with us again.
LAND: Thank you. I can't wait until we get to talk again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: We can't wait for that either. And finally, this week marks a month since the passing of Steve Rubin, the man behind some of the world's
most beloved writers and biggest books working with the likes of Dan Brown, Hilary Mantel, and John Grisham.
The veteran publisher died last month at the age of 81. Remembering his life and legacy, we take a look back at Christiane's conversation with him
from January, where the two discussed Rubin's own memoir, "Words and Music: Confessions of an Optimist."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you before I go on to some of these great writers that you discovered. You are an optimist. It says "Confessions of an
Optimist." About publishing, do you remain an optimist? I mean, are enough people reading books?
STEPHEN RUBIN, AUTHOR, "WORDS AND MUSIC: CONFESSIONS OF AN OPTIMIST": I do. I do.
RUBIN: I do. You know, they -- for years they have been predicting the death of the book, which is a lot of crap, because people love the tactile
experience of reading a book. I love it. I'm sure you love it.
RUBIN: I would much rather read a book than read a book on a device. So, yes, I'm -- yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And in fact, sales are better than
ever. You know, the pandemic, people read a lot of books.
AMANPOUR: They really did. Let's go to one of the first big, big authors, John Grisham. You were brought -- "The Firm", I guess it was his first big
book, right? Tell me about that.
RUBIN: Yes, what happened was when I joined Doubleday, the -- he was already there. I did not acquire it. And I read it and I say, oh, my God.
It was such a whirlwind. Such a narrative force. So, we decided that what we will do is, remember, no one ever heard of John Grisham at that point,
but we decided we'd market it to lawyers.
It seems like the right place to go. And that's how we started. We had 25,000 first printing. And I've never seen anything like it. It just took
off because of word of mouth, which is still, by the way, Christiane, the best way to sell a book.
So, he just took off and took off and took off. And it was the cleanest sale ever because there were no returns, because all we ever did was
Then, you know, he's a very handsome guy. So, we plastered his face all over the ads and everything. He really did not like that. He wanted to be a
-- you know, a model kind of thing. But he once -- just to make me angry, he once insisted on being published with having not had a shave.
But it all worked. I mean, it was just amazing. And what a thrilling ride to be on.
AMANPOUR: And --
RUBIN: Oh, my God. It just got better and better.
AMANPOUR: -- and you said, I think --
RUBIN: And he's still doing it.
AMANPOUR: Yes, and 23 books, I think, you all published together.
RUBIN: I published 23.
AMANPOUR: Yes, 23 books, exactly.
RUBIN: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: And -- but the other big one, which kind of, again, came out of nowhere, well, explain to me whether it is, it was Dan Brown in "The Da
RUBIN: Well, what happened was that Dan had published three novels that were very, very modest successes. And his editor left his publishing house
and came to us and brought us a proposal for "The Da Vinci Code," which we thought was just great. So, we bought it. We bought two books actually for,
I can tell you, $400,000. Just think.
And he gave us 150 pages to start with, which had absolutely nothing to do with the bloodline of Christ. And we read it and said, oh, my God. This is
amazing. So, what I did was I chose 15 people to give it to. And all 15 of them, male, females, old, young, editorial, sales, everything, every single
one of them fell in love with it. So, we knew -- in my mind, that's a microcosm of the world out there, and we knew we had something special.
Then we met him. And, oh my, God. He was so charming. So, we sent him out to meet everybody. And eventually what happened was that, Barnes & Noble
really took a great stance on it and then Borders heard about it and they took a stance at it. So, for a guy who never sold anything, we shipped
220,000 copies, day one.
RUBIN: And on -- at the end of day one, he sold more copies than his previous three books put together.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, and the rest is history. Films, you know, Tom Hanks, and the lot.
RUBIN: And the nicest guy in the world.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you something about the person that we both knew, Jackie Onassis. And that's how I first met you. She was an editor at
Doubleday. And there is a story here that I had no idea about. I want to read it. She -- you asked her to -- you know, to help on a book by Maya
And here's the extract. Surprisingly, she, Jackie, could also be very insecure. We once were scheduled to have a conference call with the
formidable Maya Angelou, and as we preparing for it, Jackie suddenly demanded that I ask all the tough questions. Why? I responded. She scares
me, Jackie said forthrightly. Maybe you scare her, I said. No way, Jackie said in her signature whispery, campy, unmistakable voice.
Why was Jackie Onassis scared of Maya Angelou?
RUBIN: Well, did you know Maya Angelou? She was pretty --
AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to say, she would terrify me.
RUBIN: Yes, she was terrifying. And Jackie was really, really nervous. But then again, you know, people who had a deal with Jackie were nervous as
well. So, the -- actually, in the interview, nothing ever came of it but it was a perfectly good interview. But Jackie was surprised -- could be
AMANPOUR: Good editor?
RUBIN: She's very modest. She was very modest.
AMANPOUR: Good editor?
RUBIN: Oh, my God, yes. She -- the writers adored her.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask --
RUBIN: If there's one thing where --
RUBIN: One thing where she said to one of her writers, don't tell anyone. I'm going to get you money. It was so --
AMANPOUR: From her, that's funny.
RUBIN: It was so -- I just adored her.
AMANPOUR: You finished the book, literally your last line basically saying, optimism was your loadstar. And of course, it's the -- you know,
the subtitle throughout your career. You say, as I look back, it amazes me how many extraordinary opportunities seem to have fallen into my lap. I
know I was pushy, cheeky, even audacious at times, but there was never a master plan, a stratagem. Just optimism. Unpack that.
RUBIN: True. It's true. And you know what else? People have pointed out to me, and they are absolutely right, I could have said confessions of an
enthusiast also, because I'm both an optimist and an enthusiast. And I know that people think I'm silly sometimes. I don't give a damn because that's
who I am and that's who I feel. They feel I'm naive. Trust me, I'm not naive. But I will go the positive route anytime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: What an incredible career. What an incredible man.
Well, that is it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And remember, you can
always catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media.
Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from Washington, D.C.