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Interview with U.C. Davis School of Law Professor and "Abortion and the Law in America" Author Mary Ziegler; Interview with U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello; Interview with "James" Author Percival Everett. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 12, 2024 - 13:00:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.

Arizona becomes a flashpoint for America's reproductive rights battle, as a 106-year-old law bans almost all abortions. I'm joined by Mary Ziegler, an

expert on the law, history and politics of this issue.

Then one year of civil war in Sudan. I speak to Tom Perriello, the U.S. Special Envoy to the country about what the world must do to end the


And --


PERCIVAL EVERETT, AUTHOR, "JAMES": It was his business to tell the story of the white youth, and it is my business that tells the story of a black



GOLODRYGA: Author Percival Everett tells Walter Isaacson why he's taking on Mark Twain by reimagining Huckleberry Finn.

Also, ahead, 26 years since the Good Friday Agreement. We look back at Christiane's interview with the leaders who helped bring peace to Northern


Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Arizona has become ground zero for America's battle on reproductive rights. The U.S. vice president, Kamala Harris, is in the state today, arriving hot

on the heels of a decision by the Supreme Court there to hold up a civil war era law banning nearly all abortions. A law Republican legislators then

fought to protect.

She is also going to send a clear message that a second term for Donald Trump means more bans, more suffering. A line we can probably expect to

hear more of as an election season heats up.

For his own part, the former president said that the Arizona ruling goes too far. But that's a stark contrast to Trump's previous campaign for the

presidency, where he repeatedly promised to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion legal across the country. Something he made

good on by installing several conservative justices on the federal Supreme Court bench during his term.

So, what happens now, and how will this development impact women in Arizona and across America? Joining me now on this is law professor and author Mary

Ziegler. She's an expert on the history and politics of abortion.

Mary, you're the perfect person to have on for this discussion. As an expert on the history of the law, I would imagine you yourself were equally

shocked to hear the ruling announced this week in Arizona. I mean, just the draconian measures that it takes, bringing us back to literally a judge who

wrote it, having been appointed by President Abraham Lincoln at the time. Just first, your professional reaction to that news.


think once Roe v. Wade was overturned, we knew that a lot of these zombie laws were on the books, and it was just a matter of time before a state

Supreme Court let one of them go into effect.

So, I think it's both hard to believe that Arizona, which is obviously a divided kind of purple swing state, is being governed by a law from before

the Civil War, that, you know, by its terms, for example, says you cannot perform an abortion if a woman is going to suffer permanent impairment of a

major bodily function or infertility, by its terms you're not allowed to intervene in those cases. That is shocking to me as a person, but as

someone who studies this it seemed kind of inevitable after it was overturned.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, the only exceptions are the life of the mother, rape and incest are not included here and the decision the thought behind this

decision by this very conservative Supreme Court is that with Roe no longer the law of the land that the statute is now enforceable, the statute, from

the 1800s.

What do you make -- I mean, is that too cute by half, given the concern -- despite the conservative nature of this court, for a State Supreme Court to

come to that conclusion?

ZIEGLER: Well, and the argument in the case legally was actually pretty narrow. Planned Parenthood was arguing essentially that the state

legislature, which had passed a 15-week ban, wanted 15 weeks to be the policy and that they had sort of intended to override this 1864 law, and

the State Supreme Court didn't buy that argument.

There could be other arguments you could make. For example, we've seen litigators across the United States arguing that an abortion ban like this

would violate a state guarantee of equality or privacy or a right to life, and we may see additional challenges to the law in the Arizona Supreme

Court. But I think that the problem for us, as far as the Arizona Supreme Court is concerned, is that these are justices who are subject to re-



These are unlike the U.S. Supreme Court justices who have lifetime appointments. And if one of these justices were to lose their attention

election, they would be replaced by from a list of nominees by the governor who in the case of Arizona is a Democrat.

So, whatever the legal rationale for this ruling, the justices who joined the majority, I think, put themselves in the political crosshairs come


GOLODRYGA: Yes, and the court put this ruling on hold and then sent it down to the lower court for additional arguments on the law's

constitutionality. So, this case has not ended as of yet.

That having been said, I mean, it came 24 hours after the former president finally issued his policy and took a stance on his views on abortion by

saying that it's up to the states and that that should be the end of the discussion. Here's what he said.



beginning all about bringing the issue back to the states pursuant to the 10th Amendment and states' rights. It wasn't about anything else. That's

what it was. We brought it back to the states and now lots of things are happening and lots of good things are happening.


GOLODRYGA: So, then, after this decision in Arizona, he went out and said that it was too far. Kari Lake who had supported this law beforehand then

once it actually was handed down said that she didn't support it. I mean, this really puts Republicans in a bind in a sense all of these years with

their attempts to overturn Roe finally happening. It's as if the dog finally caught the car and the consequences are quite significant.

And the fact that, in his view, it should be done piecemeal up to the states is creating a lot of havoc. And obviously, at the end of the day

it's women and their families and their doctors who are paying the ultimate price.

ZIEGLER: Yes, I mean, I think one of the things Former President Trump has done, too, is he's had former Trump campaign officials making promises,

essentially, that Trump is going to revive another zombie law called the Comstock Act from 1873, just a little after this Arizona law, and use it as

a nationwide ban on abortion.

When you ask the Trump campaign about whether they're going to do that, the Trump campaign doesn't answer the question, and says that president --

Former President Trump is a supporter of states' rights. So, we're kind of in a scenario where patients and doctors don't know how these laws are

going to be interpreted. And we don't know what Former President Trump would do if he's given a second term, because his former officials are

saying he actually has this backdoor ban that doesn't require Congress. His campaign isn't weighing in one way or another.

So, we're kind of all in the dark about what a second Trump administration would mean, whether it would mean more of the status quo, which has been

kind of this state-by-state chaos, or if it would mean some kind of effort to have a nationwide zombie law like Arizona's imposed on states with

protections for abortion rights and states that don't have protection for abortion rights. Because, you know, the Trump campaign just isn't

explaining which of those positions is right, right, won't answer these questions directly.

GOLODRYGA: There are some Republicans like Lindsey Graham that say that the president -- the former president is just wrong on this, there should

be a federal law with a 15-week ban. From your perspective, just the likelihood that you think something like that could actually happen.

ZIEGLER: Well, I think the likelihood of Congress passing anything like a 15-week ban is pretty much zero, which is why in part I don't think it made

sense politically from Trump's standpoint to endorse a ban that's never going to pass.

I think that's why you've seen the sort of smarter conservatives like the groups in the Heritage Foundation and Project 2025 saying the only way

we're going to get a nationwide ban is through a law that's already on the books that we're reinterpreting or reinventing as a ban. The odds of

congressional action I think are very low.

GOLODRYGA: And what about Alabama? Because we see the tentacles of this extending far beyond just abortion, it's even into IVF and areas where now

an embryo is viewed as a live person. And we saw the chaos that ensued following that. Republicans and Democrats have really benefited over the

years from IVF. There was an attempt perhaps to codify that in Congress. That didn't happen. I mean, that's just one example.

Do you expect more in other states, if not IVF, than other unintended consequences from the overturning of Roe?

ZIEGLER: Yes, absolutely. So, the U.S. anti-abortion movement was not focused on taking down Roe. It was focused in a bigger picture way on the

recognition of the idea that embryos and fetuses are persons with constitutional rights. And that was kind of the thrust of the Alabama

ruling. It was a little narrower, it was that embryos had rights just under the context of wrongful death. But the court's reasoning was much broader

and suggested that embryos and fetuses just had rights across the board full stop.


If that's right, that raises lots of other questions, not just about IVF. So, for example, if many conservatives believe that common contraceptives

like the birth control pill or the morning after pill are abortifacients, that would violate fetal rights. If fetuses and embryos have rights, we've

seen some in the anti-abortion movement asking why they can't punish women and other abortion seekers, because of course, women and other abortion

seekers are punished for other homicide offenses.

There are a lot of other possibilities here because if an embryo or a fetus is a person, they're a person for all purposes, like all contexts, all the

time, not just the context of abortion. So, I think we'll have to stay tuned, but this is sort of a Pandora's box in many ways.

GOLODRYGA: A Pandora box has created a patchwork of different scenarios and laws in various states. If we can put up a graphic of the United States

just in terms of what we've seen following the overturning of Roe, you have 21 states that ban abortion or restrict the procedure earlier in

pregnancies now than the standard that had been set and had the law of land by Roe, 14 states have full bans in almost all circumstances, two have bans

after six weeks.

We know on Monday, Florida's Supreme Court allowed a six-week ban to go soon into effect, but voters will get to weigh in on that issue in the

fall, and there is hope that the same will be the case in Arizona. With abortion on the ballot now, do you see this as a potential game changer and


ZIEGLER: Potentially, right? So, ballot initiatives have been significant so far, all of them that have on ballot since Dobbs have passed. We've seen

several in places like Michigan and Ohio create pretty broad reproductive rights that trumped some laws on the books. Michigan too had an older law

that was undone potentially by this ballot initiative.

The reason it isn't a perfect fix necessarily is, one, not every state has a mechanism for voters to initiate this kind of measure. And two,

conservatives are already aware of this and are trying to find backdoor ways to get a federal ban that would override any state protections, which

is where this Comstock Act idea comes in.

Essentially, Jonathan Mitchell, who represented Former President Trump in his disqualification case before the Supreme Court, said to "The New York

Times," you know, we don't need a ban because we have the Comstock Act. The Comstock Act can be interpreted as a ban, that overrides whatever

protection voters put in place in their own states.

So, I think the ballot initiatives are incredibly important, definitely a possible game changer, but not without potential pitfalls.

GOLODRYGA: We know, obviously, that there are real-life consequences and impacts from these laws, primarily women and families who don't have the

resources to travel to another state. The fact that they even have to speaks volumes.

But let's just give one example. There's Kate Cox. She sued in Texas for the right to obtain an abortion after she learned that her fetus had a rare

genetic disorder. She eventually had to leave the state for care. Listen to what she told NBC News about the impact of that.


KATE COX, SUED TEXAS FOR THE RIGHT TO AN ABORTION: There's still -- we're going through the loss of a child. There is no outcome here that I take

home my healthy baby girl, you know. So, it's hard, you know.


GOLODRYGA: Can you talk about the emotional trauma and toll that this is having on women, on families? And it's very simple to just say this is

people who are looking for an abortion full stop. I mean, a lot of these women have suffered unimaginably. They may want to continue to have

children in the future and now can't because of the risks that they take by leaving, by seeking care elsewhere. Just give us some of that.

ZIEGLER: Yes. I mean, I think one of things we've seen is that when you have an abortion ban in place, the meaning of abortion isn't clear. States

are not using medical definitions. And in part, what that means is that people with wanted pregnancies who are experiencing pregnancy complications

or stillbirth or miscarriage are finding themselves unable to get treatment too because physicians don't want to lose their medical licenses, they

don't want to go to prison for anywhere between, you know, five years up to life in prison in states like Texas where Kate Cox was located.

And the upshot of that is people are being turned away and experiencing complications that, you know, affect their health, their future fertility

in their lives. The other upshot is that physicians don't want to deal with these scenarios, right? They don t want to be faced with patients like Kate

Cox, where they're being forced to choose between their liberty or their medical license on the one hand and denying needed care on other.

So, we began to see a flight of physicians, especially obstetricians and gynecologists from states with these kinds of prohibitions, particularly in

rural areas that were already underserved. And that too has these knock-on effects for people seeking obstetric and gynecological care because they're

having a harder time finding a position to treat them at all, even when they're not experiencing these pregnancy complications.


So, one of the things we've seen is that these bans affect people who are seeking abortions, to be sure, but also people who aren't, right? People

who may be experiencing anything else related to pregnancy.

GOLODRYGA: Mary Ziegler, we appreciate the time and your expertise. Thank you.

ZIEGLER: Thanks for having me.

GOLODRYGA: We turn now to a brutal conflict overlooked by most of the world. Next week, it's hard to believe, Sudan marks a year of civil war, a

conflict that has seen some 16,000 people killed and more than 8 million displaced since last April. That's when heavy fighting first broke out

between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, also known as RSF.

Well, next week, ministers from across the world will gather in Paris to raise money for those impacted by the disaster. The United Nations has

called for $2.7 billion in aid, of which it's only received some 6 percent so far.

So, how great is the need one year in and what can be done to make the world pay more attention? Joining me now on this is Tom Perriello, the U.S.

special envoy for Sudan. Tom, welcome to the show from Washington, D.C.

First, give us just a status update on where things stand in Sudan. Who, if anyone, is in control of that country right now?

TOM PERRIELLO, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SUDAN: The situation inside Sudan is truly horrific. We have fighting that's actually escalated just in the last

day, in the last few weeks. We have both sides using starvation as a weapon of war. We see countless cases of sexual abuse against women and girls,

forced recruitment. This is a situation where a civil war is really bordering on a failed state at this point, and we need to do much more both

to protect those inside.

But even where Sudanese are able to escape and make it to the Chad refugee camps, for example, where I was a week ago, even there, we haven't gotten

enough humanitarian aid to be able to provide full nourishment. So, we have kids going hungry and being malnourished in a spread of disease. And

meanwhile, the world has put almost no attention on this crisis.

So, on this anniversary, it is so important for the world to step up and give the kind of support that is needed for the scale of this crisis.

GOLODRYGA: And you mentioned scale. This is the world's largest displacement crisis. Nearly 1.8 million refugees, as you said, have now

escaped to Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan. Why is this not getting the attention that it deserves from the world?

PERRIELLO: Well, we know that it isn't. And certainly, some of that has to do with race and other factors. But there's been -- even before October

7th, we were not seeing attention on this war. From enough quarters, the U.S. has played a strong leadership role both on the humanitarian side and

pushing for a negotiating platform earlier in the Jeddah process and now. But we see tens of millions who are displaced and on the run.

And this is quickly becoming a regional crisis as these refugee populations grow, as more actors come into the conflict, negative actors, including

foreign fighters being recruited from across the Sahel. So, first and foremost, this is a humanitarian disaster but it's also a strategic threat

at this point, and that's where we see a little bit of hope in the amount of increased diplomatic energy from key African partners, multilateral

partners, and others in the region who understand we are hurdling to a situation that is truly out of control and we need to get people to the

peace table and give the Sudanese their future back.

GOLODRYGA: You recently said the scheduled talks for April 18th in Jeddah will not happen, why not?

PERRIELLO: Well, we are already in the process of negotiating. The Saudis have agreed to host the Jeddah talks again with a more inclusive set of

actors, key actors, including African counterparts and others in the Gulf. We hope that they will set a date for that very soon, but we're not waiting

for those talks to be increasing our diplomatic pressure.

Every day and our visits to key capitals and our conversations with partners, we know that now is the time to be negotiating, and we are. And

this is a question of political will. And if the actors inside don't have that political will to form peace -- we know this the Sudanese people do,

and we need enough of our partners from around the region to come together to be able to compel that deal.

Just five years ago the Sudanese people threw off the Bashir regime, inspired the world with the youth and women-led movement to demand a

democratic future. And here, five years later, we see these two fighting forces stealing that future from the people, they want it back, and we

should stand with them.

GOLODRYGA: There are competing interests here now, obviously, as you mentioned, among international players. The, U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia,

the UAE, and Egypt for more influence, really, in the country at this point.

Egypt has historically supported the SAF, the UAE siding with the RSF. Do you think that that's actually complicating the situation more than it is


PERRIELLO: We definitely have some key actors who have made this situation far worse. We have seen the Egyptians leaning into peace efforts recently

and bringing some of the belligerent actors together, and we think that's constructive.


But others that are arming and fueling this conflict not only are doing great harm to themselves in the eyes of Sudanese people, at this point it's

something that is creating instability that will harm everyone. Nobody in this region will benefit from this becoming a more protracted, a more

ethnic, and a regional war, which is where it is headed. And everybody can benefit from a stable Sudan that's back in civilian hands with a bright

future that can benefit -- have many positive benefits for the whole region.

Now is the time for those who have been fueling the conflict to join us as partners in peace. We appreciate that some of those efforts from the

Egyptians and others can contribute into the Jeddah process that we hope will come together in the coming weeks and that the gathering of donor

nations in Paris on the anniversary will also significantly increase the humanitarian support that we need instantly in order to try to get food and

medicine to those who desperately need it.

GOLODRYGA: Put some faces, put some real-life stories and impact to this devastating situation right now. I mean, as we've said, 16,000 people have

been killed, 18 million people face acute food shortages. us, give us the reality on the ground with this impact.

PERRIELLO: So, I was recently at the border in Chad, and as you see, hundreds of women and children fleeing across the border. They're asked why

is it that they've come into Chad. And the answer in every interview was hunger. It was a lack of food.

Then you go into the camps and you're meeting with young women who faced repeated rape and sexual assault from the RSF and others inside, and they

talk about not only experiencing these horrors, but then when they finally escape, they assume that the world has heard about it and been outraged by

it. And what they see is silence. They see that in too much of the western world, in the African press, the Gulf areas.

And that's why, I think, one of most important things we can do now is show that we are seeing them, that are hearing them, and we're responding with

both humanitarian aid and pressure to end the war.

We have a generation of young Sudanese that are just doing incredible, courageous, innovative work with these emergency response rooms, finding

ways through creating cash apps and local kitchens to get support into areas that under horrific conditions. They are not giving up on their

neighbors. They're not given up in their country.

And so, in addition to the almost soul-crushing horrors that you hear, you also see a resilience and a courage that I hope everyone in the world will

see and be inspired to join and find ways to support the Sudanese people.

GOLODRYGA: Well, I have more news organizations that will be conducting interviews like this with you because it's so important for the world to be

covering this, for them to see these images and to know how many actors are now involved that don't have the interest of the Sudanese people, of these

children, their futures, and they have their own interests really at stake.

And that brings me to Russia. What, if any, role is Russia playing now? The Wagner Group, obviously, Yevgeny Prigozhin's private army, in the past, had

supported the RSF in this civil war. He is no longer alive, and it looks like there's been some reconstituting of the Wagner Group. What is the

situation right now as it involves Russia in their role?

PERRIELLO: Well, one of issues is that in western part of country, there has been an enormous amount of gold and a lot of that gold trade has gone

out to and benefited both the UAE and Russia. And that has led to a history with the RSF, which also was a paid mercenary force for the Emiratis in the

war against Yemen. And I think people have -- countries have taken advantage of a situation in which those trades were not going through

legitimate means.

But I think at this point, they are playing with fire. I think this is a situation in which the fighting is getting to a level of not just intensity

but complexity in terms of foreign actors that really does risk stability that will cost all of those involved.

So, we think it is important for foreign actor to step back from fueling this conflict and become a big part of the peace process or at least do no

harm. We also see an increased reporting of a foreign fighters from across the Sahel fighting with the RSF and other reports, and I think that this is

a time for cooler heads in the region to prevail and say that, this not a place where we can afford a failed state of the scale of 50 million people

in a key strategic area of Sahel.

And also, the solution here is possible. The Sudanese people have told us the future they want. They fought for it peacefully five years ago. And

getting back on that path is the situation, again, that can have great benefits.


But what's important here with this anniversary is not just that the world tunes in for one day. This needs to be a constant escalating level of

attention and support from around the world. The U.S. has certainly stepped up in a major way. It's an issue that's got strong bipartisan support in

Congress to be engaged in supporting the people of Sudan, and we want to see more partners join us in that process.

GOLODRYGA: Quickly, how optimistic are you about the day after plan in the future? I mean, perhaps there is a bit too much naivete after the ouster of

al-Bashir, after his dictatorship, multi-year dictatorship in the country, that there would be more tranquility and peace. Clearly, that's not the

result right now. How optimistic are you that there will be a foreseeable lasting peace at some point sooner rather than later?

PERRIELLO: I think if we can get negative actors to get out of the way, the Sudanese people have a very bright future ahead of them. I think they

already did a lot of the work, and no country, including our own, gets it right the first time in terms of building out democratic institutions.

And so, learning from that and continuing to invest over many years in stronger democratic institutions through this constitutional transition

that needs to be restored and beyond. And we need -- the Sudanese people are very clear that they want an army. They want a strong, professional,

integrated, and accountable army. And so, those are institutions that need to be grown and strengthened over much time.

So, we need the world to tune in now and pay much more attention, and then not stop paying attention if we're lucky enough to get a deal. So, hope --

I take hope from the young people and the women that I talk to who have no choice but to hope, because it's their families, it's their life, it's

their future. And we can't but hope that they can have just the minimum level of dignity and security that we would all want for our own families.

GOLODRYGA: And sadly, hope is not enough, and that is why people like you are doing all you can to raise the attention of the world on this crisis.

Tom Perriello, thank you for joining us. Please come back.

PERRIELLO: Thank you for covering this.

GOLODRYGA: Well, now, our next guest is making a splash in popular culture. The work of Percival Everett was plunged into the spotlight when

his novel, "Erasure," hit the big screen in the movie adaptation, "American Fiction."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at what they publish. Look at what they expect us to write. I just want to rub their noses in it.

Deadbeat dads, rappers, crack. You said you wanted black stuff. That's black, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see what you're doing.


GOLODRYGA: Biting satire of racial stereotypes in the literary world, "American Fiction" took home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Well, now hard on the heels of its success, Everett is back with a new book, this time setting his sights on a deeper look at literature itself.

"James" is a reimaging -- re-imagining of "Huckleberry Finn," usurping Mark Twain's protagonist to put Jim, Huck's enslaved sidekick at its center.

Everett joins Walter Isaacson to discuss how he gave the iconic character a powerful new voice.


WALTER ISAACSON, CO-HOST, AMANPOUR AND CO.: Thank you very much. And, Percival Everett, welcome to the show.

PERCIVAL EVERETT, AUTHOR, "JAMES": Well, thank you for having me.

ISAACSON: Your latest novel, you've done almost a couple of dozen of them, but this one is really powerful. It's a retelling of the story of

Huckleberry Finn, done from the eyes of Jim, the runaway slave, and it's gotten amazing reviews. I think "The New York Times" said it should come

bundled with the Mark Twain's novel. Tell me, you think Mark Twain could have done it?

EVERETT: Well, Mark Twain was telling the story of Huck, of an adolescent, a white youth, that sensibly represents a young America, but he was not

equipped to write Jim's story. So, I -- and I don't fault him for this. That's not the novel he set out to write, and a novel he was ill-equipped

to write.

ISAACSON: You know, you -- from the very title of the book, "James," to the wonderful closing of the book, it's all James, not Jim, even though the

white people in the book call him Jim. I love the closing, because they asked him, are you the runaway Jim? He says, I am James, and then they say

James what? And he says, just James. How important was that concept to you that he owned his name, James, like that?

EVERETT: Well, naming is an important business. We name our children. We name places that we get there first. It represents not only a certain power

over the world through which we move, but it's a marker of our agency.

ISAACSON: He's the most literate of all characters I've read about. I mean, he sneaks into a library, I think, in order to read Rousseau and

Voltaire channels, the great writers like that. And there's a wonderful line in the book or passage, if you don't mind me reading it, which is when

he's on the raft with Huckleberry Finn. And he wants to read, but he's afraid of white people seeing him read, I think.


And he says, I really wanted to read. Though Huckleberry was asleep, I could not chance his waking and discovering me with my face in an open

book. And then I thought, how could he know I was actually reading? I could simply claim to be staring dumbly at the words and wondering what in the

world they meant. How could he know? At that moment, the power of reading made itself clear and real to me. If I could see the words, then no one

could control them or what I got for them.

That seems almost a theme of this book. Explain that to me.

EVERETT: Reading is perhaps the most subversive thing we can do. And it is simply because no one knows what the words are doing to us. No one can see

how they come into us, what we bring to a text. Perhaps the second most subversive thing is writing, but reading is certainly subversive.

And this is the reason that fascist regimes resort to burning books almost immediately. It's a fear of not only literacy, but of information,

knowledge, and control of the language. It's an attempt to deny participation in the society, in the culture. You know, it persists now in

a class way where there are many people who want as uneducated a voting body as they can have. Critical thought is important for a vibrant and

progressive culture.

ISAACSON: There's something very striking in the book, which is he's so literate, as I say, he channels Rousseau and Voltaire and others. And yet,

when he speaks to whites, he speaks in the dialect. He speaks in the dialect sort of exactly like Mark Twain did. And it's weird because he kind

of understands that he has to do that to sort of pretend not to be literate.

EVERETT: Well, yes, the slaves in the novel and no doubt in history had to comply with the expectations of behavior that whites had of them.

Otherwise, they were threatening. So, in "James," he actually instructs the children about not only what the language they called slaves, the language

that the white people expect to hear, but the behavior and the -- allowing their oppressors to feel superior to them.

ISAACSON: You think that's still an issue today?

EVERETT: Well, it was an issue well into the 20th century, certainly, with Jim Crow and violence. And given certain circumstances with black youth

dealing with police, you would expect people to worry about how they're going to be treated by what they say. It's sad, but probably true.

ISAACSON: There's a scene where James joins a minstrel troop, and he ends up wearing blackface over whiteface to disguise himself as a white man

passing as a black man. Tell me about this concept of shape-shifting and how -- why you wove it in so thoroughly into this book.

EVERETT: At the beginning of the 20th century, anthropologists acknowledge that the notion of race and racial difference is not legitimate. It does

not exist. However, in our culture, this construction, this bogus construction, continues to be a defining feature not only of people, but of

the way we behave towards each other.

So, I'm constantly fascinated by the fact that we have a construction that is, again, completely bogus, but it defines so much and is so powerful.

ISAACSON: In Mark Twain's book, and correct me if you think I'm wrong here, he turns Jim's suffering into sort of a noble virtue, that he becomes

almost the magical negro, I think was the word that, you know, some famous critic used. And you don't seem to do that. You seem to show that his

suffering hardens him in a certain way. Is that right?


EVERETT: Yes, I certainly resist that trope of the magical negro, the inscrutable, mystic, the exotic. James is a real person.

ISAACSON: There's a line when you're doing that, you say, where does a slave put his anger? Why don't you answer that for me if you could?

EVERETT: Well, much of the frustration that James feels is the fact that he must suppress his true feelings in order to navigate the world. He must

suppress his true feelings and his true character to have his family safe. I think that was probably the most damaging and the most tragic feature of

the institution of slavery.

ISAACSON: You say that James or Jim, as he's called in the Mark Twain novel, has to suppress his true feelings. Let's start with the Twain novel.

Does Jim like Huck?

EVERETT: Well, yes. And Jim is protective of Huck. In fact, Jim is the only character that really surfaces as father figure for Huck in "The

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

ISAACSON: And what about in your novel? What do you think James feels about Huck?

EVERETT: He's -- well, he certainly has protective feelings for no other reason than that Huck is a child. He's a father, he has a daughter, and he

feels that it's his place as an adult man, even though the world is not viewing him as such to protect this youth.

ISAACSON: You said of Twain that his humor and his humanity affected me long before you even became a writer. Tell me how Mark Twain affected you.

EVERETT: Well, curiously, it wasn't through Huck Finn, and certainly not through Tom Sawyer now, but I didn't much have any affection for. But in

life in the Mississippi and roughing it, Twain is ironic, and his humor arises from his irony through his observations about people. And he's

always generous with people.

He's never -- he is sometimes harsh, but his affection for the people who are moving through the world that he's writing about is always present, and

I take that too hard.

ISAACSON: The most famous or greatest scene in Mark Twain's version of Huckleberry Finn is that moment where Huck is thinking of writing a letter,

turning in Jim. He knows Jim's a runaway, and he knows -- or Huck thinks he know, that's he supposed to turn Jim in. I think he writes a letter. And

then he tears it up. And he realizes, he says -- well, I think his phrase is, you know, well, then, I'll just go to hell and do it.

In your book, do you have a similar sort of scene in which, ain't I doing something wrong, Huck asks James? Am I supposed to know what good is? And

James says, if you had to have rule that tell you what's good, then you can't be good.

How did you address this, you know, world-famous scene of Huck deciding not to turn in Jim and then doing it in your own way like this?

EVERETT: Well, in order to write this novel, I had to, in a way, forget it. And my way of doing that was I read Huck Finn 15 times in row. I would

finish it and start again. And that was to create a blur of story. I read it until I was sick of it, until like actually couldn't recall anything

clearly. Then I haven't looked at it since then. Then, I started writing.

And what I able to do with that exercise was the world became real to me and not the text. And so, the word generates the situation. That's a

pivotal moment in Huck Finn because it has to be. This is where these characters are being led. And likewise, as I inhabit this world, I had to

come to some point like that myself. And because I wasn't wed to the text, it was a function of the story that I was telling.

ISAACSON: Tell me how your own personal background played into your own heritage. I think starting with your grandfather winning a coin toss to go

to Mahari Medical College, growing up in Texas, South Carolina. How did that influence your perspective?


EVERETT: Well, it helped that I'm familiar with the south. I grew up where the Civil War started, Columbia, in South Carolina. I don't know if it

affected me in a way that made the telling of the story easier, but I feel comfortable with some of the characters that I've had to write in this


ISAACSON: You appear in some of your novels as yourself, even by name you appear as yourself as an English professor. Do you, in some ways, think you

appear in this book as James?

EVERETT: Well, I think there's a little bit of the writer and every character in a work. But no. As much as I might try to have fun in some

works and show up and sort of make fun of myself, finally, it's not me.

ISAACSON: You know, I've read Huckleberry Finn, maybe not as often as you have, but pretty often, and I always get a bit stymied, because I think

it's a pretty good book and then I get halfway through and it seems to kind of degenerate a bit. You know, Tom Sawyer appears, the plot sort of

dwindles out.

Did you have that same impression when you were at Huckleberry Finn and you'd take such a much stronger way to end the book?

EVERETT: Well, again, it being James' story and the gravity of everything being amplified because of the danger present for him in the world that,

turn as necessary. Twain's novel, as much as I like it, and I have to back up and say that I didn't write "James" to express some kind of

dissatisfaction with Huckleberry Finn. If anything, I flatter myself by thinking that I'm in conversation with Twain with the story.

But when Twain was writing it, he stopped in the middle and came back to it several years later. And you can feel that demarcation. You can feel that

there's a change in rhythm. And for any number of reasons, the novel might have suffered the switch. One of them being that it's a mercenary move. Tom

Sawyer was his money-making character in a previous book, and he was famous for needing money.

But also, During the years of reconstruction, I think, as I've learned recently, Twain was no doubt moved by the spinning world in which the freed

enslaved people must have found themselves in and the kind of terror they were facing. And if you look at it, I suppose the game that Tom Sawyer is

subjecting James to is much like the world that the three (ph) blacks inhabited.

ISAACSON: You say you wrote this almost out of an homage to Mark Twain, but also out of a conversation, as if you're having a conversation with

Mark Twain. Tell me, what are you trying to say to explain back and forth? What is that conversation?

EVERETT: It was his business to tell the story of the white youth, and it is my business to tell the story of the black man. And again, I flatter

myself to think that maybe we work together in some way to do that.

ISAACSON: It does make a perfect combination, as so many of the critics said. Do you kind of hope that maybe in the future a lot of people will

read these two books together?

EVERETT: Of course. To have my work associated with Twain in any way, I think, is flattering. And also, I think -- I don't think one needs to read

Huck Finn to read my novel, but I think it adds a layer of meaning that's important.

ISAACSON: Percival Everett, thank you so much for joining us.

EVERETT: Thank you for having me. It's been great.


GOLODRYGA: And finally, this week, Northern Ireland celebrates 26 years of peace as it marks the anniversary of the historic Good Friday Agreement

that brought an end to decades of violence known as the Troubles.

So, as war continues to devastate nations around the world from Sudan to Gaza, Northern Ireland offers us hope that peace between neighbors is


Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell was instrumental in helping broker that agreement, speaking this time last year with words more

pertinent than ever.



GEORGE MITCHELL, BROKERED GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT: We are living in fractured times. We need you. We need your ongoing patience, stamina, and

perseverance. We need people who believe, who know that the possible does exist within the impossible.


GOLODRYGA: It remains a diplomatic triumph for the United States, as President Bill Clinton played a critical role in negotiations alongside

Senator Mitchell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. But it was, of course, the people of Northern

Ireland and its leaders who bravely chose peace.

On last year's anniversary, Christiane traveled to Belfast to speak with Clinton, Blair, and Ahern, for a peacemaker's reunion. Here's some of that



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome, President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair, Prime Minister Ahern. We're calling this the

reunion of the peacemakers, and I just wonder just to start with reflections. First with you, Mr. President, of just what it means for you

to be together, to be here 25 years later with all the principles.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I think we were all privileged to be where we were when we were, and privilege to do our part to get this

done. They actually had to sign the agreement. You know, I was just cheerleader, sort of, and gave them to George Mitchell, which was the gift

of a generation. So, I think we're proud. I hope we are.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Blair, this was something that wrecked many British governments before yours.

TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: But I was lucky in having a group of people in Northern Ireland, leaders who are prepared to lead and

do difficult things. I had an Irish Taoiseach, an Irish prime minister that had -- you know, we were coming to the end of the 20th century, and you

needed people with a kind of 21st century mentality of the world, and he had that.

And then, President Clinton was saying that he was a cheerleader, but he was actually much more than that. He was also an intervener at crucial

points in the negotiation. So, we were lucky. It was just one of -- like it's one of these things. You think -- I think it's -- it was a combination

of circumstances, but the individual leadership of people at that particular moment was crucial in delivering it.

AMANPOUR: And, Prime Minister Ahern, was it that mostly the alignment of the stars, so to speak, in terms of leadership? Was it also about the

people on the ground?

BERTIE AHERN, FORMER IRISH PRIME MINISTER: Yes. The parties and people on the ground both, I think from our point of view, and to have the president

United States being genuinely interested and Bill to give time and to stay up at night, I mean, we're -- you know, we are a small country and, you

know, the things you don't expect. And I was just so lucky that Tony and I got on so well. He gave us an enormous amount of time.

I know you have a 100 other items on this list and, you know, I realized that every prime minister is busy, but when I looked at my agenda against

his agenda, and he was prepared to come here, spend days here weeks here, hours and, you know, time and time again. And people talk about 1998, but

we went down to 2007 and the same commitment you gave, Tony, and that was an extraordinary commitment.

AMANPOUR: George Mitchell has said -- I can't remember the figures, but it was -- I know hundreds and hundreds of hours and days of negotiations that

finally led to yes, but it may have gone the other way. Can you recount and reflect on how difficult actually? I mean, it sounds like, you know,

everybody is ready to do it, but actually, it was very difficult to get the Good Friday Agreement.

BLAIR: If you're going to make a peace process, well, you've got to be prepared to talk to everyone, right, and I remember when we first -- when I

became the first British prime minister actually to sit down with the Sinn Fein people. And, you know, this was, you know, horribly controversial at

the time when people thought you're going to -- Gerry Adams have been prevented -- there was a law in the U.K. that prevented him appearing on

U.K. television.

And I don't think we could have got this off the ground if we hadn't been prepared to talk to everyone. And then, there really is this thing about

the people being prepared to act in a way that isn't politically conventional.

So, 30 years, the Irish Taoiseach -- I mean, he could have stuck in a fairly traditional Irish position on everything, but he didn't. And that --

we each kind of liberated each other. So -- and then, when it comes back to what you and President Clinton we're just talking about, it became easier

for him to intervene constructively when it looked like everyone was being involved, and there was a seat at the table for everyone.


And then, Mowlam moves at that time, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, actually visited loyalist prisoners who are from the other side

engaged in terrorist activity. And that again was something that a lot of people -- you know, they really recoiled from, but I don't -- the whole

point about a peace process, you're never going to get anywhere unless everyone is prepared to take risks for peace.

And you either spend your political capital or you hoard it. And for all sorts of various reasons people decided to spend it. And I think for those

politicians in Northern Ireland who, after all, we're the ones that had to take the most difficult decisions, those are the people here.

I think they were exhausted. But they also -- there was something about the moment and the circumstances that made everyone think, OK, come on, you

know, we're approaching a new millennium, we're really going to carry on with people killing and fighting each other in a European country in the

21st century? There was that as well, that kind of feeling that change had to come and then, with the people who are prepared to be agents of that


AMANPOUR: So, you've all talked about, you know, expanding this model around the world, and there have been so many -- enough successful

diplomatic achievements that have lasted. Bosnia, although that froze the conflict and the aggressors seek to gain what they wanted to in the

beginning by other means. Kosovo, you intervened in. And to this day, it's peaceful and independent and democratic.

Unfortunately, the Middle East, which you definitely all have had a lot to do with. I read that David Trimble, the -- obviously, the unionist leader

at the time, his deputy said that he took this Good Friday Agreement to Ramallah, showed it to Yasser Arafat, who was the head of the Palestinian

authority, and said, this is your blueprint for success. And we know that it happened in Colombia. We saw the government of Colombia make peace with

-- you know, with their militants and militias, the FARC.

President Clinton, right now, the people who cheered on the death of the peacemaker, Yitzhak Rabin, are in government and there's nowhere to -- it

seems like there's nowhere to go, and what do you think? I mean, when you look at this blueprint, why do you think it hasn't worked elsewhere? For

instance, let's just take the Middle East.

CLINTON: Well, the difference is -- and a bit, let's just start with the Middle East. Tony spent years working on this.


CLINTON: But they started with a different model. I mean, when we signed the Middle East Peace Agreement in '93 --

AMANPOUR: The Oslo Accords.

CLINTON: -- on the south lawn of the White House, everyone's assumption was that they had to work for a two-state solution and they would argue for

a few years about what to do with the unresolved issues and what to do with the line drawing. But that the Israelis wish to remember remain a majority

Jewish state, but to be at peace with their Palestinian neighbors who would have their own state, if we could work out the myriad questions that had to

be worked out. So, we started with a different model.

They started with the model here that they could share the future and that they had not enough land to fight over and they had to work together. So, I

think the real question is the Middle East is now waiting for somebody to answer the now what question. Because I still believe that people

everywhere would prefer to work together than be at war.

AMANPOUR: And Prime Minister Ahern, finally, Gerry Adams, when this was signed, said that it's just a bridge towards a United Ireland. Is that what

it is? Is that's what's going to happen? Do you see that happening in your lifetime?

AHERN: I think what will continue on, it's the balance between union with the U.K. and unity within the island, and those two separate traditions

will continue to peacefully put forward their case. And Brexit, I think, has heightens the debate as far more debate you can go to university now

anywhere in the island, but they're not debating something about unification one way or the other, but it's been done peacefully and it's

been done open. I think it's still a long way off.

There's a clause in the agreement that said there can be plebiscites every so often. We haven't had one in 25 years because we haven't got stability

of institutions. My view is simple enough, until there is stability of the institutions, it's stupid to have a referendum.

And secondly, the preparatory work is only starting. It's only starting in academic life at the moment. So, it's a long way off, but the aspiration

will continue. But there's two separate exasperations to stay close to the U.K. As part of the U.K., an aspiration for United Ireland.


So, I think those two issues or they're the identity issues, but the Good Friday Agreement remembers that you can be British, you can be Irish, you

can be both, I think that serves as well for now. But it would be continued to be challenged.

AMANPOUR: President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair, Prime Minister Ahern, thank you all very much, indeed.

CLINTON: Thank you.

AHERN: Thank you.

CLINTON: Thank you.


GOLODRYGA: And 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 New York.