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Interview with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim; Interview with "Tom Lake" Author Ann Patchett; Interview with "The Six" Author Loren Grush. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 27, 2023 - 13:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


ANWAR IBRAHIM, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: After all the stipulations and trials, you have to do your best.


AMANPOUR: From political prisoner to prime minister, Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim on being a bridge between the United States and China.

Also, ahead --


ANN PATCHETT, AUTHOR, "TOM LAKE": A lot of times, there's just a lot of love and joy and connection. And somehow, those things aren't taken as



AMANPOUR: Ann Patchett's medication on love. The award-winning author of "Tom Lake" joins me.

Plus --


LOREN GRUSH, AUTHOR, "THE SIX": They did such an amazing job and they've really helped to pave the way for the women that came after them because

they were so adaptive and capable of their jobs.


AMANPOUR: -- "The Six." Journalists Loren Grush speaks to Hari Sreenivasan about her new book on America's first women astronauts.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York, closing out a week of reporting and interviews from the United Nations

General Assembly.

The war in Ukraine and defense of democracy took center stage with the Ukrainian president even urging an end to the war in order to focus on

other global challenges, including the worsening climate crisis and rising inequality. But no-shows included Russian President Putin, Chinese

President Xi Jinping and the French and British leaders.

Rising Chinese power and influence in the Indo-Pacific region, a big focus for my first guest, Anwar Ibrahim, the prime minister of Malaysia.

Balancing relations with both China and the United States. We spoke about all of this, including his own incredible journey from protest leader to

political prisoner to prime minister. Just under a year ago, after a long time in waiting, Ibrahim became prime minister.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Twenty-five years ago, as we speak, you were first arrested, put behind bars on what you've always maintained have been politically trumped-

up and false charges and betrayals. So, what does it feel to be sitting here today, you're going to addressing all the world leaders after that

incredible journey?

IBRAHIM: Well, at times, I thought that probably just part of a dream. I mean, you still have to grapple with new realities. But you have to

overcome that and then you have work to do. And after all this tribulations and trials, you have to do your best.

AMANPOUR: As I'm speaking to you, I just have an image of Nelson Mandela. He spent 28 almost years in jail, came out, turned his country into a

thriving democracy with all its challenges. But I wonder what do you take as an example for leadership, you know, when you're faced with a similar


IBRAHIM: Madiba (ph) taught me the lesson, one is to be able to forgive, the compassion, but to be really focused on what you need to do for

democratic accountability and to serve your people. And I think that we will have to do for Malaysia. It was a thriving democracy. We have lost the

steam, the focus. And now, we have to free focus and initiate changes and affect reform for democracy, for justice and essentially to propel economic

development, to serve the people.

AMANPOUR: When you say initiate changes, I wonder if there's just one that springs to mind. Because you have emerged as prime minister since November

last year, barely a year, and you're in a very different kind of world maybe than even five years ago, massive geopolitical superpower competition

in your region, the threat to democracy around the world, the existential climate crisis, the massive and increasing differences between the haves

and have nots.

IBRAHIM: Well, in a way -- in many ways these post normal times have gotten worse.

AMANPOUR: Did you say post normal?


IBRAHIM: It is post normal because of the extent of the problem, the damage, climate, for example, clearly a major issue, migration, civil wars,

the reviving trend to somewhat of a Cold War, which was quite absent when I entered prison. So, these are new challenges.

And democracy deficit, clearly, in developing countries and in the Muslim world. So, it's a major challenge and we want to prove a point that we can

do it. So, the focus has to be governance and we start with our own backyard.

AMANPOUR: How much of a threat to you and to the stability of the Indo- Pacific region is the competition between the superpowers?

IBRAHIM: Well, it is unfortunate. ASEAN talks about centrality. We have to ensure that we maintain excellent relations both with China and the United

States. And we have been asserting the point that they cannot insist, that we take sides in that sort of differences between both these countries.

China is an important neighbor, important trading nation and close to us. United States have been traditionally a long-time friend who -- more

responsible from the beginning to invest and help and assist develop the country. So, how do we then navigate in a difficult circumstance? Our

appeal that leave us to live in more democratic peaceful atmosphere and focus on centrality of ASEAN but maintain excellent relations with both?

AMANPOUR: With both? But you've said, I would want Malaysia to be closer to the United States as much as we are very close to China. What kind of


IBRAHIM: The United States has been our traditional of friend for a long time. So, I thought the United States should be more proactive in retaining

that sort of understanding, tradition of diplomatic and cultural and economic relations. We still continue with very important defense regiments

with the United States. We think the largest defense calibration is still with the United States. Education, trade, investments. But we certainly

observe the weakening or I should say less sort of focus, because probably they're more involved in the Middle East and Ukraine, Russia. So, less

importance to them.

AMANPOUR: So, I just want you to know what you thought of China's map of the world that it broadcast just on the eve of the latest G20, where it

showed ownership of great big swarths of India, parts of Malaysia, Historic Malaysia and -- I mean, what was that all about?

IBRAHIM: I have extremely cordial and good relations with both Wang Yi, the foreign minister and Li Qiang, the premier. But if they are really

contentious issues, we can negotiate. I was extremely pleased because there are (INAUDIBLE) by Li Qiang in that forum was clear and categorical.

Yes, we do have this claim, but will never do anything to exercise any action that would explode or cost dissension with our colleagues, our

friends in the region and we'll continue to negotiate. It was reassuring, and I met him again three days back in (INAUDIBLE) and -- where he

reiterated the point, and at least for Malaysia, I'm extremely satisfied.

AMANPOUR: So, that's really interesting because clearly, they're not saying that about Taiwan. Because he says, President Xi and others, by all

means necessary, Taiwan will become part of China. What does that mean to you, by all means necessary?

IBRAHIM: As a foreign policy position is one China policy, we accept. But of course, we are concerned of any sort of turbulence in the area will

adversely affect the region. I don't believe they would be that aggressive or provocative. And it is also for the West, and particularly Taiwan, to

try and avoid what is termed as unnecessary provocations.

AMANPOUR: And you don't think China needs to avoid unnecessary provocations?

IBRAHIM: Both, I think both parties. I mean, we take it -- of course, Malaysia, Christiane, is a small Malaysia.


AMANPOUR: Yes. But if you're affected by whatever happens in your neighborhood.

IBRAHIM: But we need to stop them in private, very forcibly on some of these contentious issues. And I'm happy because they have responded very

well. They've been very cooperative and was prepared to listen.

AMANPOUR: Let me just go back to some issues inside the country. We all remember that you took a very, very strong anti-corruption position, it's

part of your platform, it's part of your push back from the charges they leveled against you and all the rest of it.

And yet, this month, the state has taken a number of actions that question that commitment to being anti-corruption. One of your supporters says that

you've ditched your reformist goals in this regard. He says, this is Hassan Karim of the party, Anwar is concerned more about the survival of his

government and his power rather than the reform agenda that he had promised the people.

What about the charges that you're cracking down, closing some new sites, opening sedition and graft probes against the opposition, because it

doesn't look good?

IBRAHIM: Look at it positively. There's a member of my party expressing criticism against me. It's a very democratic process.

AMANPOUR: OK. That's one way to look at it.

IBRAHIM: Right. Yes.

AMANPOUR: But what about actually doing that stuff?


AMANPOUR: Because it doesn't look like you're supporting your initial agenda.

IBRAHIM: OK. His criticism on the issue. What do you expect me to do? Do I then instruct the attorney general to change his decision?

AMANPOUR: But why are new sites being closed down? Why is sedition and graph probes being open against opposition figures? Is there feeling of

crackdown? Like the opposition leader, I'll read his name, Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, has been charged with sedition for allegedly insulting the

country's revered sultans.

IBRAHIM: They're part of a full lese-majeste has been there, is in the law. You see, any criticism against the prime minister of the government, I

would charge him with sedition. I've been abused on a daily basis. None have been charged. But you attack the rulers, the sultan, we have the law.

AMANPOUR: It's like Thailand, right?


AMANPOUR: Lese-majeste?

IBRAHIM: But not as serious. But then, the law is there.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it's right?

IBRAHIM: Unless we are able to make some adjustments to the law, amendments to the law, then we can consider whether to charge or not. But

if the issue -- you know, Christiane, the system of the royalty has its paraphernalia. You -- there is, I think, the need to protect the

institution. That's what the people have decided from independence. There's a system we inherit.

So, when a person is deemed to be abusive or the rulers and the charge have been preferred by the attorney general, I mean, there's a law. Until we are

able to amend that law, the law persists. I cannot be criticized for the prosecution. There's purely a decision, particularly when you touch the


If the issue the criticism against the prime minister and the prime minister takes action, then it's valid, your criticism is valid. Otherwise,

we have to deal with it.

AMANPOUR: OK. Let me ask you -- I want to pick up on something you said earlier, that you want to show, you know, the reform, the democratic

process, and particularly, how a modern Muslim nation and democracy should be able to, you know, be an example to the world.

As you know, this year, you said, Malaysia would never recognize LGBTQ rights. Sodomy, that word, carries a punishment of 20 years in prison. Last

month, stores that sell Swatch watches were raided. Three-year prison sentence was threatened for people wearing or selling watches with the

LGBTQ elements, you know, the colors. I mean, I've got the picture and we'll put it up. All these nice colors. If I was seen wearing a watch like

that, what would happen to me?

IBRAHIM: Well, I wouldn't defend that action, right? I should say it's excesses. But the law that Muslims, non-Muslims alike, Christian or Hindus

or Buddhists, this is the consensus. In the country, they do not accept this. All right. I'm not saying that --

AMANPOUR: They do not accept what?

IBRAHIM: LGBTQ. Open public display of this. But do then -- do we then go and harass them? That's a different subject. I do not approve of any

attempt to harass. I mean, the issue of, what you said, Swatch watches --

AMANPOUR: The Swatches, yes. Three-year prison sentence.


IBRAHIM: Well, there was no charge preferred.

AMANPOUR: No, no, no. You know, a three-year prison sentenced was threatened.

IBRAHIM: I cannot defend all the actions of the --

AMANPOUR: Would you like to see that changed?

IBRAHIM: -- enforcement. Of course. The consensus of the people I have got to respect, but they should not be seen to be a harassment.

AMANPOUR: I mean, that word sodomy was falsely labeled against you as well. I mean, this carries a 20-year -- you must be sensitive to the abuse

of that kind of --

IBRAHIM: I am. In fact, I have made it quite clear that we need to review and then, look at the law. It should not be abused. It should not be an

attempt -- in the case that I went to is being used for political persecution, yes. But finally, we have to respect the general sentiments of


AMANPOUR: So, you think for Malaysia a sort of don't ask, don't tell policy is what people accept?

IBRAHIM: Not necessarily. But I think we should exercise some tolerance, yes. The issue against LGBT is the harassment. That, I think, we have to


AMANPOUR: And finally, just remind us, Prime Minister, as you're sitting here what you suffered in jail.

IBRAHIM: Well, it was tough. Of course, jail, firstly, is not a bed of roses, but I was badly abused and assaulted to near death the night I was

arrested by the police chief. So, it was tough. Not only for me, but for, Azizah, my wife, and the family and the colleagues.

So, what I've learned is important. The meaning of freedom. The value of democracy. Leaning for compassion. In a country we must respect the rule of

law and people's busy crimes to express themselves. So, I am, in a sense, more a democrat who believe values human rights more before I was arrested

and charged with trumped up charges and imprisoned.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, thank you so much.

IBRAHIM: Thank you, Christiane. It's always a pleasure.


AMANPOUR: An extraordinary journey to leadership. Last week, we brought you a wrenching report from Haiti, where Correspondent Paula Newton met

with several women who say they were exploited or abused by U.N. peacekeepers, some fathered children and left mothers to struggle with both

poverty and stigma. Here's a snippet.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): We sat down with half dozen families, some of whom have received money mostly for schooling. But all

have the same complaint, that they were made to feel like beggars, not victims of exploitation. They need to wait years for little money that does

not meet the needs of their children.

JOKENCIE JEAN BAPTISTE (through translator): Do you know what hurts me the most? Every time you call them, the way they treat us it's like, they treat

us like we're nobody.

NEWTON (voiceover): Jokencie Jean Baptiste says she and her son have been victimized all over again. First, fighting for paternity test then

financial support, submitting receipts for expenses to the U.N., waiting months or years for money that arrives sporadically or not at all. If money

is granted, the U.N. decides how she should spend it.

BAPTISTE (through translator): If you get the money to pay for school, and the child dies of hunger when he's back from school, what would you do?


AMANPOUR: So, I asked the U.N. secretary-general about these wrenching issues when I sat down with him at the U.N. Security Council.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: When I saw that, I immediately gave instructions, let's see what's happening and where are we

failing. Because we shouldn't fail. And there is another issue that you didn't mention that, for me, it's the most difficult, and where we are

having clear problems. We need to make sure that the fathers were identified. And in many situations, they are identified, assume their


And for that, the countries need to do it through their legal systems. And we are having a strong program to create the conditions to make countries

work on these. But it has been very tough to make things move. Very tough. There is a lot of reluctance.

And my appeal to member states is to really make sure that those that have children recognize them and do the best they can to assume their

responsibility as fathers.


AMANPOUR: Now, the secretary-general had made this a priority. Let's hope now that our reporting, his new pledge lights a fire onto those who've

absolutely got to implement this change.

Now, we rarely get to say this, but next, we turn to love and joy. Ann Patchett, the bestselling novelist behind "Bel Canto" and "The Dutch House"

often finds herself writing about heartache, pain, sorrow. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2021 for putting into words the beauty,

pain and complexity of human nature.

But for her new book, "Tom Lake," she tells me she enjoyed this departure into exploring love in all its many dimensions.


AMANPOUR: Ann Patchett, welcome back to our program.

ANN PATCHETT, AUTHOR, "TOM LAKE": Thank you so much for having me.

AMANPOUR: So, the last time was when you published a series of nonfiction, personal essays. Now, you're ninth novel, "Tom Lake," which is going

gangbusters. I just want to read a little thing which I love from one of the reviews. It says, so many books about love are actually about

heartbreak. Ann Patchett's "Tom Lake" is not. It's about romantic love, marital life, maternal love, et cetera. And all the -- all joyful love.

Is that deliberate or do you have to think about being so Taylor Swifty and talking about heartbreak all the time?

PATCHETT: No. Actually, I didn't. Because I think that heartbreak has been well covered. It's funny. I own a book store in Nashville, Parnassus, and I

read whatever is coming out constantly, I'm reading new books and they're wonderful. But heartbreak and despair, hopelessness, dejection, completely

covered. So, I figured slipping in a book about perhaps a happier love, literary fiction about happier love. There's just not a ton of it.

AMANPOUR: That is such a really interesting and welcomed observation and obviously, you know, story. So, tell us, for those who haven't red read it,

what this is. Because, as I've said, it's premarried life and love, it's married love, it's maternal love, it's so many different layers of. And

there's the mother and her husband and the daughters all rejoined during the pandemic for this storytelling.

PATCHETT: Yes. So, it's 2020 and Laura is on the cherry farm where she lives in Traverse City, Michigan with her husband, their 20 something-year-

old daughters have all come home during the pandemic. One, because they have to go home. And two, because they need help to pick the cherries. And

the daughters say, all right, if we have to work on this farm this summer, you are finally going to tell us the story of when you were 24, mom, and

fell in love with Peter Duke.

When Laura was 24, she thought she was going to be an actress. She was an actress. She was at summer stock theater. The summer stock theater is

called Tom Lake and she was in love with a boy name Peter Duke. And at the end over the summer, Laura stops acting and Peter Duke goes on to be the

most famous actor of his generation.

So, the novel goes back and forth between the work on the farm and the story of the kind of explosive catastrophic wonderful horrible romance when

Laura was 24.

AMANPOUR: So, she was 24. It was a summer romance, but you've just pointed out something that obviously really zings with today, and probably every

day, that the man gets to go off and live his best life and the woman, at least in this story, goes and gets married and raises three children, has a

happy marriage. That's great. But she doesn't get to follow her career love. What did that say to you?

PATCHETT: Right. Well, what's interesting is you just said -- like what you said is exactly right. The man gets to go off and live his best life.

That's what the girls think, because they're in their 20s. But in fact, the life that Duke has as a movie star and as an addict actually isn't

anybody's idea of a best life. And the life Laura has, in which she's happily married and has very fulfilling work and loves her daughters is, in

fact, the best life. And that's what she's trying to explain to her children, that what seems superficially to be the dream may not, in fact,

be the source of happiness.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you -- we've asked you to read a little something from whatever you've decided to choose to illustrate this. Would you mind?


PATCHETT: Yes. And actually, it goes perfectly with this conversation that we're having. There is no explaining the simple truth about life, you will

forget much of it. The painful things you were certain you'd never be able to let go of, now you're not entirely sure when they happened. While the

thrilling parts, the heart stopping joys splintered and scattered and became something else. Memories are then replaced by different joys and

larger sorrows. And unbelievably, those things get knocked aside as well until one morning, you're picking cherries with your three grown daughters,

and your husband goes by on the gator and you are positive that this is all you have ever wanted in the world.

AMANPOUR: So, that is perfectly placed given what we had just been speaking about. And it is really wonderful. And also, I heard that you had

said in one of your interviews that you're essentially finding joy amidst kind of the hellscape that we're living through, many people live through,

you know, now and in the future and in the past, and this does find that joy, which very few novelists actually focus on today.

PATCHETT: Well, the thing is, it's true. And I say this later in the novel, both things are true. There are terrible things going on in the

world. They are reported constantly and we are aware of them. But right next to those terrible things, there are always wonderful things. And the

wonderful things tend to be the things that are very close, the people that we know, our family, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, a lot of

times, there's just a lot of love and joy and connection. And somehow those things aren't taken as seriously. They aren't considered to be literature.

I always said, you know, if I wrote a book about serial killers, people would say, well, that's very realistic. But I don't know any serial

killers. I don't think I do. But if I write about a loving marriage, a loving mother, I mean, things that I experience in my life, people say, oh,

she's a Pollyanna. She just doesn't see how hard the world is. I do see how hard the world is, but it's not just one thing.

AMANPOUR: But actually, I'll pick you up there a little bit because I believe that you have chosen not to have children. So, you're not a mother.



PATCHETT: I'm not a mother, I'm not an actress, I'm not a cherry farmer.

AMANPOUR: Exactly. Exactly. So, it's storytelling. And, I think that's, you know, again, really critical given the sort of larger story that goes

on about how can you write about something you don't know and you haven't experienced?

But so, her relationship with her daughters is obviously fundamental to the book. And here's a little piece from her, Laura, the narrator, struggling

how to tell this story of her young love to her kids. I want them to think I was better than I was. I want to tell them the truth in case the truth

will be useful. Those two desires do not neatly co-exist.

So, is this the truth about happiness in this kind of family or is it the truth about young love and how that turns out and how it's not always a you

think it is and how -- et cetera?

PATCHETT: I think it's a lot about storytelling, and I believe that if you have a story to tell, you tell it differently depending on who you're

talking to. So, you're going to tell your husband one story, your co-worker one story, one version of the same story, a total stranger another version.

That's not about lying. It's about how we package our experience to make it work for our listeners.

And so, Laura doesn't tell everything to her daughters. Nobody tells any one person everything. That's how we communicate.

AMANPOUR: What about Meryl Streep reading it? I do think that's just wonderful. How did you feel? Did you choose her? How does that happen?

PATCHETT: What about Meryl Streep reading it? That was really amazing. So, Meryl's voice was definitely the voice in my head while I was writing this

book. She has three daughters. It's just -- I think that Meryl's voice is probably in the head of every novelist.

And I had met her once 15 years ago. There was a very, very brief period of time where it looked like she might possibly be interested in playing

Roxanne Coss in the movie of my novel "Bel Canto." So, we had met and talked about that. It didn't work out. And yet, it was a very meaningful

encounter and I thought she would remember. And my agent is a woman named Felicity Blunt who's married to Stanley Tucci, who had played Meryl's

husband in "Julie & Julia." And so, I got word to her and sent her a three- sentence description of novel.


And I said, is there any chance you might be willing to do the audio. And she wrote plea back right away and said, oh, that's wonderful. She said,

you're so kind to think of me, which blue my mind. because of course, I think of her all the time.

But the audio is spectacular. I was there for two days of the recording. And to just watch her turn my work into this beautiful three-dimensional

world was a huge gift.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's -- you just lead me to your book store, because when you say, now in my book store, I wonder if that's just always or is it

now when you have a situation where there's so much censorship of books going on, even in Tennessee, ground zero for this struggle over free



AMANPOUR: The legislature just passed a law that makes it a felony for book publishers to sell obscene content in public schools. How is that, A,

affecting you, and B, if it does bleed into literature, which may or may not be public schools?

PATCHETT: So, last night, I was going over a list of books that are banned in Tennessee, and it's interesting, because most of them say removed

pending investigation. And I am making some videos just to speak out on the book store's platform about banned books. And the list was really

staggering. There was a William Steig book, "Brave Irene." I don't know if you know this book.


PATCHETT: But it's about a little girl who delivers a ball gown to a duchess in a snow storm. It was published, I think, probably in the '50s.

Andrew Solomon's book, "Far from the Tree," was on list. I'd like to know who actually on that board to ban books read "Far from the Tree," which I

think is about 900 pages. I'd like to meet the high school student who was reading "Far from the Tree."

It goes on and on. There's just such ridiculousness that we, in Tennessee, are trying to keep children safe from books that people haven't read. I

mean, clearly, if you'd sat down and read "Brave Irene," a picture book about delivering a ball gown to a duchess, you would know that was not

going to harm children. And yet, at the same time, we're not doing anything to keep our children safe from guns.


PATCHETT: So, the idea that we're going to keep our children safe from the picture book or from a 900-page book about different things that can happen

in families with children of different needs, but at the same time, we're not going to do anything about guns in this state, it's ludicrous and an

embarrassment, and more than an embarrassment, it's a crime.

AMANPOUR: I mean, it really does sound completely ridiculous. And also, you've just pretty much answered what I was going to ask, which is, is

there any template? I mean, what is obscene? Are you told what is obscene that has to be banned?

PATCHETT: No. No. You're absolutely not. And that creates a world of self- censorship. And so, people get nervous and think, oh, I don't know if that Jacqueline Woodson novel is going to get me in trouble as a librarian or as

a teacher. And so, I better take it off the list. And it's terrible. And the worst part about it is it is an enormous distraction so that we find

all of our energy going to discussing book banning and not teacher salaries, not making sure that our schools are in good shape and safe for

students. It's the lowest hanging fruit.

AMANPOUR: You know, we realize that the great filmmaker, the Spanish Filmmaker, Pedro Almodovar, at the Toronto Film Festival, gave an

impassioned defense and plea for, you know, other artists who have been literally silenced in jail, like filmmakers who are in jail in Iran and all

over the world, saying, you know, all my work is borne out of the absence of censorship. He is speaking for himself.

How -- you've just talked about self-censorship. How badly do you think this can creep into the wider, you know, new books, not just censoring

those that are out there now, but what people might think before they actually write in this climate?


PATCHETT: Well, I think that that is something that happens. And the interesting thing is it happens from both directions. It's not just the --

what we can think of as conservatives saying, you better not publish a book about LGBTQ issues for middle grade students because that could get

censored. You could also have a situation where someone says, oh, I better not be writing outside of my own experience in any way, because then I

could get canceled. And so, there really is a feeling of censorship coming from both directions.

AMANPOUR: I want to bring you back to more joy, and that is "Tom Lake" as we finish the conversation.

PATCHETT: See, that's why I had to write this book.

AMANPOUR: Yes, yes. Absolutely. Now, we understand.


AMANPOUR: So, is there a master plan, Ann Patchett? You know, are you going to go -- what is your next work? Have you taught about it? Is it

nonfiction? Is it essays? Is it another novel?

PATCHETT: I think that it will probably be another novel. I am on book tour right now. And when people say to me, what are you writing? And I say,

I'm writing my name. I am writing my name in your book right now. That's all the writing. I'm doing boils down to two words, Ann Patchett, and I'm

writing it in books.

But I have a very small idea. And so, when I'm on an airplane or in had a hotel room trying to go to sleep, I've got a novel that I dream about for

the future. That's just for me.

AMANPOUR: That's lovely. And by the way, was there a real-life model for Pete Duke, the -- you know, the ruggedly handsome romantic lead?

PATCHETT: Yes. Every guy I dated in my 20s.

AMANPOUR: Lucky you. Except for how he turned out. Yes.

PATCHETT: Yes. Really, it was great. You know, I went to the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the poets were especially dreamy. They smoked. They drank too

much. They read Proust. They wept. They wandered. And I thought, I can't make this a character a poet, nobody would believe it. But as a young

actor, I think people would.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, indeed. Ann Patchett, thank you so much, indeed.

PATCHETT: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.


AMANPOUR: Yes. Probably a universal-ish experience. Next, six extraordinary trailblazing women. Journalist Loren Grush explores the

stories of America's first female astronauts in her new book, "The Six." And she joins Hari Sreenivasan to discussion the discrimination they faced

and their important legacy.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Loren Grush, thanks so much for joining us.

So, it's 40 years now since Sally Ride became part of the first batch of astronauts selected. We, of course, remember her name because she was the

first female astronaut. But you chose to write a book, "The Six", on the kind of entire first class, if you will. First of all, why?

LOREN GRUSH, AUTHOR, "THE SIX": Well, you kind of said it just there. I feel look most of the American public vividly remembers Sally Ride or at

least knows the name. But maybe most don't know that she was one of six women who came on board as the first class of women astronauts in 1978.

And I was the same way. You know, I felt like -- even as a space reporter, I knew Sally Ride, but I really didn't have the full history of these other

five women. But what I learned from studying them and researching them is that any one of the six of them could have been the first American woman to


So, I kind of loved that, you know, going -- diving back and thinking what ifs, if it had just gone another way. And so, I found that really

interesting. And I thought, you know, their stories are just as unique and exciting and worth sharing. So, I thought it would be a great way to, you

know, shine a spotlight on this great group of individuals.

SREENIVASAN: Yes. And they were incredibly bright women, I think four PhDs, two MDs. I mean, these are -- they're accomplished in their lives

already. What is it about the space program that made them curious and how did they hear about it or want to be an astronaut?

GRUSH: Well, some of them -- you know, I think they're great illustration of how there's really no one true path to space. You know, some of them

dreamed of being astronauts since they were little girls, some did not. You know, they were interested in science or their chosen fields, but then when

they saw that NASA was advertising and actually bringing women into the program, that's when they realized that, oh, I have the right credentials

and I think this might be really something I'd love to do.

So, they all found out about it in various ways because NASA was really keen at the time to make sure that women and people of color knew that they

were opening up the astronaut selection to a wider array of individuals. And so, they all have their unique paths on getting to space, and I think

that's what makes them such a great group is because they are so different and interesting in how they got there.


SREENIVASAN: You know, what's enlightening about your book is not just that you're getting to this six, but there were quite a few women before

them that had continued -- began this fight for equality and continued until it got where they were allowed in.

GRUSH: Yes. So, the book does detail a kind of famous group of women, kind of known as the Mercury 13. It's not the best name for them, but it's a nod

to the fact that they passed the same test that were given to the Mercury Seven astronauts, the first astronauts that came into the program, the male


And they very much wanted to keep training to go to space, but their training was cut short once NASA and the U.S. government really found out

about it, because it wasn't a NASA sanctioned program. And so, they lobbied Congress hard to make sure that they could keep training and to try and

convince them that it was important to send a woman into space along with the men.

But ultimately, at the time, you know, this was the 1960s and we were very much in a heated space race with the Soviets to get to the moon first. And

so, NASA didn't really see it as a priority to send a woman into space. It was really seen as more of a distraction.

And so, ultimately, the Soviets did end up beating us by sending their first woman into space. And when that happened, you know, NASA and the U.S.

just didn't see -- they kind of brushed it off as a publicity stunt.

SREENIVASAN: You know, there's an interesting piece of testimony that you have from a house space committee in 1962, and we're talking about John

Glenn, the astronaut. He was testifying that women would just not be "an essential asset for the space program." He said, "It gets back to the way

our social order is organized." I mean, that must have been an incredible blow to women listening, women in NASA, seeing an astronaut have this

platform and choose to be this dismissive.

GRUSH: It really was. And I think it just kind of illustrates how strong the cultural biases of the time were. I mean, here we had a very famous

NASA astronaut, you know, propping up this sexism, but I think it was pretty normal at the time for a lot of people to think that way, not just

men but women as well.

And so, you know, it just goes to show what these women were up against at the time and how difficult it was for them to fight back against a very

strong patriarchy.

SREENIVASAN: Yes. So, tell me about how they navigated through this. What kinds of training did they have to go through?

GRUSH: Right. So, probably the most exciting part of the training is that they had to stay current in NASA's suite of T-38 jets. So, for the women,

they were not -- some of them were pilots when they came onto the program, but they hadn't flown jets before. And so, they were back seaters. So,

while they would get to, you know, take control in the air of the plane, they couldn't takeoff or land. However, I did speak to a few of their

former colleagues who told me that they did let them take off and land, but only admitted that many years later.

But the majority of their time was spent in the classroom, you know, learning the ins and outs of the new space shuttle, every subsystem, every

component, any time -- if anything broke or any system, you know, went wrong, they had to be able to fix it or to troubleshoot it. And then, also

learning various scientific disciplines. So, the various payloads that they would deploy, you know, they would be studying the stars or looking back at

earth. So, they would study geology and oceanography and astrophysics, which some of the women had already studied pretty extensively before they

come onto the program.

So, there was a lot of information just learning lots of things that they had to retain and recall at the drop of a dime.

SREENIVASAN: You have an anecdote in there about them going to Seattle, I think it was Boeing, and they are kind of introduced to the 747. Tell me

about that.

GRUSH: Yes. So, this story is just great and it really shows just how quickly the women really took to the flying and the controls of an

aircraft. So, while they were training, a group of the women, Judy Resnik, Anna Fisher and Sally Ride flew with three of their male astronaut

colleagues up to Seattle to take -- to visit Boeing, which was working on the 747 that would transport the space shuttle whenever it needed to move

across the country.

And when they were there, one of their Boeing chaperones asked if they wanted to see the plane and fly the plane, and they were thinking it would

be the simulator. But he said, oh, no, let's actually fly the 747. So, they get into the plane. And the Boeing representative asks the women, one of

the women, if they'd like to take off and land, not knowing that they weren't true pilots, you know, they had just joined the program and they

didn't have any experience flying, definitely not a 747. But he thought they were pilots. And so, they offered up, yes, sure, I'll take it for a



And so, each three of the -- the three of them would go on to take off and land. And then, at one-point, the representative asked Sally, hey, so how

many other planes have you been checked out on? And she goes, oh, you know, none. I'm not actually a pilot. And he was -- one of the other astronauts

told me he turned ghost white when he heard that, realizing he had just let some novice pilots fly the plane. But he had no idea. They flew like pros.

SREENIVASAN: So, there was a report that was filed by a woman named Ruth Bates Harris. And most people won't know that she was a black woman who was

originally hired to run NASA's kind of equal employment opportunity office. But she did publish this report about a state kind of diversity in NASA.

What did she find?

GRUSH: So, she found that it was pretty dismal at the time. And this was before the six women came on board. This was in the early 1970s. And

really, she and her co-workers did this report unprompted. They really just wanted to take a look at the state of the agency. And there's a great quote

in that report that really illustrates just how poorly NASA had tried to bring women and people of color into the program at that point.

I don't remember the exact quote off the top of my head but it was something along the lines of, you know, NASA had sent three women into

space. Two spiders and one monkey. You know, it was -- it just really painted a grim picture of diversity at the agency. And then, ultimately,

after that report came out, she was fired and called a disruptive force.

Now, NASA tried to backtrack and say, it wasn't because of the report. But ultimately, that did shine a light on what she had found. And it was

getting to the point where NASA really couldn't hide from this problem anymore. They were getting a lot of questions internally and externally

about why they hadn't brought in women and people of color up to that point.

SREENIVASAN: Were these six women conscious on a sort of daily basis of the increased scrutiny that was on them and how the spotlight was on them?

Because Sally Ride was selected, but it could have been any of them.

GRUSH: Absolutely. So, I think they very much knew how much of a microscope they were under when they were presented to the public for the

very first time at NASA. You know, when they came on board, they were offered up for interviews, the entire class was offered up for interviews,

and this was 35 people that the six women were part of. And the press only wanted to speak to the six women and the astronauts of color who had come

on board. So, they knew how much scrutiny they were under.

And I think a very poignant quote that Sally Ride gave when she first flew, before she flew to space, was that she -- her biggest fear was that she was

going to mess up. And I think a lot is loaded in that statement, which is that, you know, she knew that she would be representing not just herself,

but all of women when she went to space for first time. And I think that's true of anyone from an underrepresented group, is that you are standing for

everyone else that's like you.

And so, she knew that if she messed up, the press were going to write headlines, you know, woman messes up in space, not Sally Ride messes up in

space, but woman messes up in space. But fortunately, you know, they did such an amazing job and they really helped to pave the way for the women

that came after them because they were so adept and capable of what -- of their jobs.

SREENIVASAN: You end the book with the Challenger tragedy in 1986, and Judy Resnik was on that. Why did you think it was important to kind of

bookend the book there?

GRUSH: Well, I think I wanted to give Judy a proper sendoff. And also, I think the Challenger accident really serves as an end of a chapter for this

era of the space program. You know, during the early days of the shuttle, it really was a very celebratory time and there was also kind this idea

that NASA could do nothing wrong.

And so, as the shuttle kept launching, you know, we were adding on payload specialists, we were adding on politicians to flights. And then, obviously,

we famously flew a teacher on the Challenger flight. And before that happened, we were about to fly a journalist. So, you know, it was a very

different time before Challenger flew.

And then, once it did fly, you know, the -- everything changed. You know, the -- NASA had to completely re-evaluate its safety procedures and its

protocols, and it transformed the agency into its new era, a new era for the space shuttle. So, I really see the Challenge accident as the end of a

chapter and the beginning of a new generation for the space program.


SREENIVASAN: You know, jumping kind of forward to today, there are efforts underway to launch a mission that would put the first woman on the moon.

Besides the symbolic significance, what do you think NASA is hoping for with it?

GRUSH: Well, I think we're trying to, you know, correct many decades of, you know, being behind in this area. And I think, you know, the Artemis

program, which you've mentioned, is very unique and that it's the first time that NASA has really made the stated goal of sending a woman and

person of color to the lunar surface. I don't think they've really made that statement for any other of their program. They never dictated who

would -- who they were going to fly. So, that's a really interesting evolution in the space program.

Some might agree with this, some might not, but it does go to show that this is top of mind for the space agency. And, you know, I think it's

interesting because we do have a bit of way to go in terms of reaching true parity. Less than one-sixth of the women -- less than one-sixth of the

people who've gone to space have been women. And women of color, the statistics are pretty abhorrent. You know, we have quite ways to go to

catch up. And so, I think it's really quite inspiring that NASA is making that a goal.

And I think it's also an important lesson that relates back to the six and the first woman who came on board. When the 1977 selection process

happened, you know, the selection board made bringing people of color and women top of mind. They were very clear to when they advertised the program

that they wanted a wider array of people to come on board. And because they made that a priority, it dictated how they advertised and who they

advertised to. And that ultimately led to their success in bringing much more diverse crew of astronauts into the program.

So, it just goes to show that when you make it a stated goal, it makes it much more easier that you will be successful.

SREENIVASAN: You know, in a way, your book is really kind of looking at also the infrastructure of what produced these women in the first place,

and kind of the ripple effects of not just their presence, but what happens in academic, in private and public companies, are there enough mentors who

are women who can support another generation of young women to become astronauts and even much more.

GRUSH: Yes. I would say one of the biggest things that the six were able to do for NASA is to simply pave the way for more women to come after them.

You know, they didn't have mentors that astronauts now have, you know. But ever since the six came on board, you know, they experienced what it was

like to get pregnant while an astronaut. And so, they were able to share their experiences with other women who came on and then, also wanted to get


So, that's ultimately what pioneers help with. They can -- they make the roads slightly easier for the ones who come after them. And I know,

speaking with some of the astronauts today, that they're incredibly grateful for that because they are able to have that history of women

behind them so that they have all these experiences and they have all that support for any of the problems that they might when they're in the field.

SREENIVASAN: What is writing this book mean to you? I mean, you're the daughter of parents who worked at NASA. Why was it important for you to

tackle this topic? You cover space every day. You have for years and years. Why this beat?

GRUSH: Well, I have been covering space now for nearly 10 years. And, you know, centering women's voices is just something that's been very important

to me. I've always wanted to write a book but, you know, I have -- I wanted -- I noticed that a lot of the books about space nowadays do center men.

And you know, it just -- it's illustrative of the fact it's still quite a male dominated industry.

And so, it was really important to me to find a story that centered women in space because it's been very important to me as a space reporter to find

the other women around me. You know, even space reporting is a pretty male dominated field. But as I progressed in this industry, I found more and

more amazing women who report on space as well and find -- having that camaraderie with them has been one of the most, you know, valuable things

in my life. And I imagine for other women in this industry, it's also valuable knowing about the women who came before them and paved that way.

Knowing it's valuable for me and it's inspiring for me too.

And so, that's ultimately what I hope this gives to everyone who's, you know, realizing that they're not alone and that there's others just like


SREENIVASAN: The book is called "The Six." Author Loren Grush, thanks so much for joining us.

GRUSH: Thanks so much for having me.



AMANPOUR: An inspiring tale for women and men around the world.

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