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Rhody Radio episode transcription has been been made possible by the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries, which is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.


Rhode Island Stories with Michael Fine, MD

A photo of Michael Fine, MD, a white man with a beard and glasses smiling for a formal photo next to the book cover for "Rhode Island Stories," his collection of short stories. Rhody Radio logo banner at the bottom of the image, featuring the text "Rhody Radio" next to an illustration of the state of Rhode Island wearing headphones.

Zach Berger: [00:00:00] You're listening to Rhody Radio, Rhode Island Library Radio Online.


Hello, I'm Zach Berger adult services librarian at Cranston Public Library. For today's episode of Rhody Radio, I'm very pleased to bring you this presentation by Michael Fine, MD, who joined the library on January 11th, 2022, to read from his newest book, Rhode Islands Stories. Which I'm pleased to say provides marvelous insight into some very unique personalities and situations in our home state. Dr. Fine served in the cabinet of governor Lincoln Chafee as director of the Rhode Island Department of Health from February 2011 until March 2015. Before that, he was the medical program director at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections.

He was a founder and managing director of Health Access RI, the nation's first statewide organization making prepaid reduced fee for service primary care available to people without employer-provided health insurance. Currently, Dr. Fine is the chief health strategist for the City of Central Falls, Rhode Island. Throughout his career, Dr. Fine has been an advocate for communities, healthcare reform, and the care of underserved populations worldwide for 40 years. His experiences across the globe have enabled him to craft numerous short stories, novels, and healthcare policy books about how we can change the world by empowering caring for and educating one another.


Michael Fine: Thank you all for being here tonight. Thanks to the library for hosting this and for continuing to exist as a library. I try to get to every Rhode Island library once a year, [00:02:00] because I think libraries are the real cornerstone of democracy. We really need them and they do something that is unlike anything else that happens in the United States. They provide a public service around information, knowledge, and even wisdom and make it open and available to everybody, which is spectacular. If only we had a healthcare system that worked the same way and a couple of other things as well, but I'm grateful for the libraries that we have and for the Cranston Library in particular.

I've got to confess that I'm not doing much medicine or healthcare anymore. I'm mostly writing fiction. I'm writing fiction intentionally, not just because I'm lazy. Hopefully, I'm not that busy, but I'm writing fiction because I think it's the only way to address problems that I think we all confront and confront together and which have no other clear or obvious way to address. I started thinking about this actually after 911.

You may remember that right after 911, we had about three weeks where we really were paying attention to each other. We were really thinking about each other, taking care of each other and it felt suddenly like we were one people again. In that period, when it felt like we were one people again, I suddenly realized that we weren't feeling very much like one people anymore and that began to worry me.

Because I began to think that if we didn't behave like one people and if we didn't think of ourselves as one people, that put us on the pathway to conflict, to questions about democracy, and perhaps even to civil war. Now, I remember when I was growing up, I think many of us think of the time of our growing up as a lucky time. I was lucky in my own way as many of us were. I grew up at [00:04:00] a time when we did feel like one people more or less. Though some people were way more advantaged than others in that time. It's hard to look back and see that and admit to it, but it was true.

Even, so I think even those of us who had to struggle thought of this nation as a nation of expanding justice commitment to democracy, and of perhaps irrational hope. If there was one thing that marked us as a people, it was this endless irrational hope now that the future could be better than the past. The notion of us being one people was actually quite real. I don't know if anybody's seen the new movie about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and their relationship, but in the movie, there is somebody who plays a writer.

One of the writers on the show, who says, what is to me is an extraordinary thing, which is that now with our zillions of different channels and ways of looking at television and different internet access options through YouTube and so forth, if there is ever a movie or a television show that garners 10 million views, it's a huge deal in a nation of 330 million people. It becomes the biggest event of its kind. Apparently, the academy awards now get about 8 million.

This writer said during the time when I love Lucy was on television every, I think, it was Thursday night at 7:30 or eight or 8:30. I don't remember exactly the time. There would be 60 million Americans watching it all at the same time in the same place. Watching the same thing and having a shared experience. There were probably a similar number who watched [00:06:00] Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights, I think at seven o'clock, but it might have been eight. We had these shared experiences.

The nation probably knit together as one people to a large extent during the Second World War when men, mostly, from many different walks of life served together in Europe or in Japan or near Japan. There would be men from-- somebody who was a Cherokee from North Carolina, somebody who was Italian from San Francisco, a Jewish guy from Brooklyn, an African American guy from South Carolina, all serving together in one unit. Though I'm not sure that Black Americans were actually that integrated into the service yet, but everyone else served together.

That gave everyone a sense of common experience. We created these bands of brothers, of guys who thought of each other as the people who had their back and whose back they had. Who were going to live and die together and took care of each other. It broke down any assumptions or biases they had about who those guys were. They were the folks in their unit and they were the most important to them. We did have this amazing period of being one people and at the same time, we had a number of writers who were all alive at the same time. Who functioned as the moral compass to some degree and certainly the moral conscience of the nation. William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck, James Baldwin, and Allen Ginsburg were all alive at the same time.

[00:08:00] Their business in many ways was to represent the nation in its moral conscience. To be that conscience, to be that consciousness of who we were as a people, and to be that consciousness of what I call irrational hope. They were referencing the writers of Europe, of a previous generation, some were American, but many European. Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Leo Tolstoy, and Charles Chesnutt, a relatively unknown, but great American short story writer who some have called the American Chekov, Chekov himself, Balzac, Dostoevsky, de Maupassant, and a number of others, who had the same role of bringing together the people of Europe with a moral imagination and helping those folks be one people.

Now flash forward to today, we have a different moment. In order for democracy to work, I think you need three conditions. One is agency. The notion that what I do matters. The second is equality. The notion that we are all on a pre-equal footing when we come to petition the government or try to sort out how to solve society's challenges, and the third necessary condition is imagination.

I think we have to be able to imagine the inner lives of other people and understand that those other people though different or who may have different ideas are morally equal and exist on the same footing that we exist so we can negotiate our decisions together. That's what we need, but now we are experiencing some threats to those ideas. First, I think we're beginning to see democracy itself devalued by some. [00:10:00] Thinking that the opinions of one group or another are somehow more important or more valuable than anybody else.

We've been segmented by marketing in a very difficult way. We used to exist in communities of people who were interdependent, who took care of each other and took care of the land on which they lived. Now, we've been broken down into groups based on what someone wants to sell us. We have begun to believe that online communities are the same thing as real communities, people with shared interests, who may have shared interests, but are different from other people see themselves somehow alike, even though they may live in totally different places, and have no relationship to one another.

That has replaced the time and energy people put into being together as a community, and doing things together, and taking care of each other. We've seen an enormous concentration of wealth. That really undermines the capacity of each person to exercise their agency equally, it means that some people get listened to more intensely than other people, because of the way they can represent themselves in a legislature or in front of an executive branch. Part of that is we have seen growing income inequality with others really struggling to survive.

Finally, we've been sorted, what my friend, Bill Bishop calls The Big Sort, so that we tend to live now with people who are like us in some way or another. We often don't live with experience or know people from different backgrounds, different cultures, with different experiences, or different ideas. Those [00:12:00] threats, I think, are real, and they make the existence of a common life a little harder to get at.

What's the solution? Well, they're probably a zillion, but the solution that I know and think about is the way the imagination itself can and should be used to build a common life. I started writing these crazy short stories and novels, which aim to tell the stories of many different people from many different places and many different backgrounds, to make sure that all of us understand that the other people in our culture have an inner life, and understand the richness and the complexity of that inner life so that when we come to the table and interact with others, we do it as interacting with equals, with agency so that we can make democracy stronger.

In many ways, it is fiction, poetry, music, art, theater, and the other arts that seem to me to have the most potential to tap into the imagination, and give us the ability to see ourselves as one people again, and the ability to see ourselves as one people is likely to be our greatest strength. We have in the last two years experienced this terrible pandemic, which many of us think we've experienced as terrible because of our divisions.

In the United States, our public health processes performed the most poorly, among the most poorly in the world. We have the highest number of deaths in the world. We have a very high percentage of cases, particularly now, but way too many deaths, [00:14:00] and way too much division. We've been like people in a bad divorce, fighting over every tiny little thing, over masks, over vaccinations, over social distancing, over schools opening or closing, over bars and restaurants opening or closing, over everything we can possibly think about, we have fought about.

That's been frustrating, but it's been more than frustrating. It has been dangerous. We have lost over 800,000 Americans, probably 20 times the number of people who would have died if we had done what other countries did and approached this as one people. That to me means we have to work much much harder on the piece of being one people and the opportunities to do that through libraries, through fiction, through novels, and short stories, and listening to other people's stories, so we understand the value and importance of each of those other people. We make democracy stronger in that process.


This is from Rhode Island Stories. It's a story called The Prisoner of Ideas. No man or woman can be trusted, thought Sonia Cano, but this one certainly is something of a distraction. I fall into the same rabbit hole every time. They piqué my interest one day, the next thing I know it’s two years later and I hear their voice coming out of my mouth, their thoughts are in my brain, and suddenly I realize that what I’m saying and thinking has nothing to do with what I actually think, or what I actually feel, and then I bolt.

There was nothing special about the house on Congress Street and Sonia didn’t give a damn about gentrification. [00:16:00] It was a triple-decker, like every other house in Central Falls. Sonia bought it because it was cheap and because the numbers worked. You get two tenants, they pay the rent, the rent covers the mortgage, and you live for free. Or, better than free, to be honest, because you can charge all sorts of expenses to the house and make that income invisible to the tax man, even though it comes in as cash every month. Why would a woman not buy a house?

To Babatunde, Sonia’s house represented everything that was right and wrong with America, everything that was right and wrong with democracy, and everything that was right and wrong with Sonia herself, although before Babatunde came into her life, Sonia had never seriously considered that there was anything wrong with her at all. Sonia thought she was done with relationships, just done, once and for all, and so she went back to college to finish her degree.

She had three excellent children, each more interesting than the next, who were finally now old enough so that they didn’t need their mother’s attention every second. She had her sisters and brothers whose difficulties provided plenty of distraction in her life, the office ran like clockwork, there were plenty of people answering the phones, and Sonia had a list of per-diems, mostly college kids and Uber drivers she’d ring up at the last moment if one of her regulars called in sick.

The last two men had given her children and were steady enough to do their share when she needed someone to drive a child to school or to pick up from soccer, but they had both fallen off the wagon one way or the other, one to another woman, one to beer and other women, but she had learned something from being with each of them and had no regrets. Her relationship with Sophia had become so complicated that it was too much to think anymore about it.

Now it is my time, Sonia thought. "I’ll finish college one course at a time. [00:18:00] Then I’ll go to law school at night. The lawyers in my office don’t have any better sense than I do. They just got to this country first and make a whole lot more money for doing a whole lot less work than I do." Then there was Babatunde, who Sonia hadn’t counted on meeting. Poor beautiful Babatunde, the adjunct professor, and poet, the man who would be a student for the rest of his life, who was pretty, brilliant, full of soul, and would never earn a living.

What did she see in him? "They are building a new train station in Pawtucket," Babatunde said. Gentrification. The rich will be coming from Boston by train. They will buy up all the property. Property values will go through the roof. Taxes will go up. You and your kids, you won’t be able to live in Central Falls anymore. Central Falls will be for millennials. They will destroy our communities. Where will our people go? How will our people live? There was something about Babatunde’s blue brown dark skin and beautiful brown eyes that Sonia could not stop thinking about. It made no sense, but oh, how that man had soul.

The first time they met for coffee, it was to discuss her paper on Chaucer. Babatunde was earnest and polite. He focused on her usage and her construction, not on her ideas. "Outline," he said. "Think out what you want to say first, then say it. Short direct sentences with active verbs and no adverbs. Don’t copy someone else’s style. You don’t need to sound important. Just say what you think and be yourself." "I don’t write well in English," Sonia said. "I think in English but Spanish style, maybe a little flowery, maybe a little overblown, like a woman who wears too much make-up."

"You are hiding, buried under words and sentences," Babatunde said. "English thinking is cool, not hot," Sonia said. Babatunde raised his eyes to meet hers for the first time. [00:20:00] "Chaucer is quite hot," Babatunde said. "But I understand what you mean. Yoruba thinking is also different, complex, textured, elegant, full of hidden meanings, and English thinking has none of that richness. I’m sorry this course is so Eurocentric. You might prefer the Latin and Central Americans: Garcia-Marquez, Clarice Lispector, Octavio Paz, Isabelle Allende, Roberto Boleno, Laura Esquivel, Neruda, and even Vargas-Llosa, that capitalist, and Garcia-Lorca. Yes, Garcia-Lorca.

Read them in Spanish, I think, except Lispector who you'll have to read in translation from Portuguese, and is very difficult but worth the effort, but read the women first." "I don’t have time to read," Sonia said. "Because of children, my house, and work. I pray I can get through the reading and papers for this course, but my writing and thinking, I have no time for this. It takes so much time. "That is why I, as a teacher, have office hours," Babatunde said. "To teaching. To make it simpler for you write." "Can I send you my papers in draft form?" Sonia said. "Better yet, send outlines first," Babatunde said. "We will meet once a week."

Once a week, soon, became more than that, but then an unexpected difficulty came between them. Babatunde came to the house to have dinner one night with Sonia and her children. Sonia went all out at arepas, chicken, beef, chicharron, morcilla, costilla, tostones, fried yucca with cheese, not that she was cooking to impress, of course. She only wanted to show Babatunde she was good at something, that her clumsy sentence construction and poor word choice didn’t represent the full range of her knowledge and ability.

Babatunde didn’t eat much but Sonia’s kids loved him anyway. He had a poet’s appreciation for childhood, and he became a child [00:22:00] again as soon they sat down to dinner. He popped his cheek, in and out, when Sonia poured out wine. He made fun of Sonia by speaking first in pig Latin and then in Middle English. He went from saying easplay asspay ethay altsay to Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote The Droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote, and he made Sonia translate for them, and then say the next four lines of the prologue, and then made Yolanda say the next two lines, and Hector say the next two lines, and he even got little Jasmine, who was only eight, to say a line.

Before long Sonia’s kids were actually listening to the whole prologue, to the Canterbury tales and loved every word and every note of what sounded like music, and Sonia could feel those kids falling in love with Babatunde’s soul the way she had. They had fathers, who were good men, but Babatunde was just on a different plane of being. Sonia felt somehow thrilled to be alive. Later, when they were together, when Sonia teased Babatunde about not eating much, it came out that Babatunde was a vegetarian, and couldn’t eat much of what she made and served.

He had an elegant way of telling her that. He didn’t say anything about what he would or wouldn’t eat. He just talked about how much he liked the arepa and the yucca, about how much he liked reciting Chaucer to her children, and how much he liked watching them eat the rice and beans. She understood. "Next time there will be more vegetables," she said. "I make mean maduros," she said. "And a fantastic lentil soup." Sonia couldn’t believe it when Babatunde told her he wouldn’t ever come back to her house again.

"My children loved you," she said. It was a Friday, and they were in his office at RIC, in the tiny little cubicle they gave adjuncts, which was jammed with books and papers, a desk, a desk lamp, shelves, and two chairs, one [00:24:00] on each side of a desk. "I loved your children. They have life and energy, and a mother with heart and imagination," Babatunde said. "But your house is in the danger zone for gentrification, and I can’t go back there.

When I was with you I could hear the cries of the people who will be dispossessed, the people who have come to Central Falls from all over the globe, from Honduras and El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, from Cape Verde and Liberia and Nigeria and Mali, after tremendous suffering and who are about to be forced to flee again, just after they reconstituted their lives. It is too much pain to bear."

"The train station isn’t built yet," Sonia said. "They haven’t even broken ground." "That's not the point," Babatunde said. "The capitalists and the materialists are rising out of the bowels of the earth, coming up from the lower depths, swarming and getting ready to pounce. First, they buy up the old brick mill buildings on Clay, Pine, and Barton Streets. Then they buy up the triple-deckers and make them over into housing for Brown and RISD students.

Our people, who already have to take two buses to get to work, will now have to take three buses. They will have to move to Johnston, West Warwick, and Danielson where they are not wanted, where there are no others like them, where no one else wants to live. We must rise up. The time to stop the process is now. The souls of displaced children are already calling out."

"Please tell me exactly how your not coming to my house is rising up?" Sonia said. "Do you expect me to sell my house and displace my children today for something that may or may not happen in five years? You are saying something else. You are saying my children and I are not good enough for you. I may not write English well, but I understand what you are saying loud and clear."

Then Babatunde got on his knees [00:26:00] in front of Sonia, his hands locked together, and he bowed his head in prayer. The door to the cubicle was open. Someone might see. "I am saying that we will take this on together. I pray for your forgiveness. To me, ideas have souls. Some are the congealed pain of our history, the history of the oppressed, and some days I feel that pain in the very center of my being, but you, you are my liberation. In you, I see the beauty of all our people, the story of people who were cast down but find in themselves the strength to rise up, the seeds that germinate in cool darkness and push their way up through dirt and decay into the light."

What can a woman say to a man like that? Babatunde’s words made her skin tingle. Sonia leaned over and kissed Babatunde on the forehead. She took his clasped hands in hers, lifted him from his knees, and stood up herself. Then she closed the door. After that, every Friday night when she didn’t have to work the next morning, her sister Claudette, who had two little kids of her own, came to stay with Sonia’s kids, so Sonia could be with Babatunde at his place in North Providence.

He lived over a butcher shop, next to a lemonade stand, in a place that was in the middle of nowhere, a place that would never be gentrified because no one in their right mind would ever want to live there, still, that place was fine for one night a week, and Babatunde somehow made Sonia’s soul glad and let her body be at peace. She took the summer off. There wasn’t any rush. The plan had always been to take one course at a time. Her kids needed her attention in the summer. It was going to take her six or seven years to finish her degree anyway.

Some days work just didn’t matter that much. It was better to load the kids in the car in the late afternoon and drive to the beach, to Horseneck or East Matunuck, where you could slip through after the traffic [00:28:00] had come and gone, and then park for free. It was the same beach after six, that it was in the morning when traffic filled Route 4 and the $15-hour car parking lots were jammed with cars. The same lime green sea grass moving in waves with the wind, the same tawny white sand still warm on your feet from the day’s sun but not too hot to walk on, the same glorious ocean, which was still ready to snatch you away from yourself, lift you, twirl you around mercilessly and throw you wherever without restraint.

Sonia registered for the fall semester in August. Disappointing as it was, she just didn’t need another English course for pre-law. Best to find a course that met twice a week and late in the afternoon, but that wasn’t too dry, and where she might learn something she actually needed to know. Political Science 201; The Development of American Democracy. Political Science 202; American Government. Philosophy 205; Introduction to Logic. Economics 200; Introduction to Economics. History 201, US History to 1877. Too many choices. Babatunde said he’d help with her writing whatever she chose, and he forgave her for her choice, Economics 200, but he brought her a new book to read every time they were together, and talked about the papers he was grading for English 207, American Literature Beginnings to the Present.

He hated teaching Dreiser and Steinbeck but he loved Whitman, Emily Dickenson, Richard Wright, William Carlos Williams, Amiri Bakara, Allen Ginsberg, and Martin Espada. Hope, Babatunde said. America is hope, however irrational, and the inappropriate expectation of justice in a world where no justice has ever existed. Sonia found herself waking at 3:00 AM, and reading the [00:30:00] books Babatunde brought at first, "But I don't have time for this," Sonia thought. I need to be on alert, on my game all day long.

Still, there was something about the summer's heat that was disquieting, that woke her and forced her awake. Forced her awake to read. Something she couldn't quite put her finger on. Something that kept eating at her. Even so, Sonia's brain stayed in gear all day long, and even when in a late afternoon meeting, she felt her eyelids get heavy, "I can do this," Sonia told herself, "I must resist." She'd stand and command more attention by standing, even as she brought herself back from the brink.

One Monday, at the end of the summer, when the lights were still hot and the drone of air conditioners drowned out the rumble and groan of the trucks on Route 95, Sonia awoke again in the middle of the night and dressed. There was no light in the sky. She checked on the children who were still sleeping. "17 minutes there," she thought, "17 minutes back. I can be back in my house and back in my bed before 6:30, but I must know."

She drove to North Providence. There is an unusual piece in the city before dawn in the summer, nothing moves. Everyone is sleeping. Everything is blue, gray, and brown as if standing in a fog. No one looks, no one sees and no one knows. There is enough light to see what you need to see. You can learn what you need to learn before anyone knows you've been there and gone. Babatunde's beat-up old blue Saturn was parked at the curb sandwiched between other old cars, Fords and old Toyotas, Kias, and step vans. The tired cars of the poor, cars that spend every night on the street.

The light in Babatunde's kitchen was on. "What have I learned?" Sonia wondered. "Only that his car is here and his kitchen light is on. Nothing else." She parked in front of a fire hydrant across the street [00:32:00] and sat for a few minutes, then she drove home. It was raining the next night when Sonia awoke, a wind-driven rain without thunder or lightning that spattered and clicked on the glass window panes. The children were sleeping.

Sonia dressed and hurried out. She eased the front door closed, so the door nestled and did not slam. The lock closed instead of clicked loudly. She guided the screen door back onto its frame so it didn't bang. Then she drove to North Providence in the rain. She couldn't see much of course. The wind-blown rain brought darkness, made her headlights murky, and made the tree branches hanging over the road into angry spirits that wanted to smother Sonia, her car, and the road itself.

Sonia didn't see Babatunde's car at first, dread sadness, despair and anger. The emotions that had been waking her grabbed her throat, eyes, kidneys, and the pit of her stomach, but then as she drove past the house to find a place to turn, she saw the blue Saturn parked half a block away from the butcher's shop. When she turned and parked in front of the fire hydrant again, she saw that the light was on in Babatunde's kitchen, partially obscured by the branches and leaves of a big maple that were swaying with the wind and the rain.

Sonia awoke Wednesday night, but she stayed home. She paced inside her bedroom for an hour until her feet got cold, so she made herself a cup of coffee. She sat in front of a window at her kitchen table and stared at the pink final siding of the house next door. "This is craziness," she told herself, "What am I doing? I don't own the man. I'm not even sure I want him. He wants his space, I want my space. There is nothing to be learned from going over there in the middle of the night. I can't change him. I can barely control myself," but she woke again Thursday night with the same panic, dread, sadness, despair and anger she had been waking with for weeks.

She drove to North Providence, the kitchen light was on, [00:34:00] but there was no car. She drove slowly down the street, two and three times. Then she circled the block once and then circled it again. There was no car. There were no open parking spaces in front of Babatunde's house, but there were plenty of open parking spaces on the street that ran parallel to Babatunde's street. His car was nowhere to be seen.

She drove further up the street and circled the blocks on both sides of the street and parked behind Babatunde's block. She parked again in the space in front of the fire hydrant, and then she collapsed. You couldn't tell by looking at Sonia that anything was different, but inside her, everything was different as if her soul was made of sugar or salt that had poured away through a funnel, spilling onto the ground until there was nothing left inside. Her breath got short.

She sobbed once as she put her head in her hands, but she held onto the world, nonetheless. "I am stronger than this," she thought. "I will not cry," and then she drove home. The old blue Saturn was parked in front of the house on Congress Street. Babatunde was asleep inside it, a book on his chest. He jumped when Sonia wrapped on the window. He appeared confused, his eyes unfocused. He didn't know where he was, how he had gotten there, or even who Sonia herself was. He found his glasses, which were sitting on the top of his head, and put them on. Sonia didn't wait for him to roll down the window.

She marched around the car and tugged on the handle of the passenger door, which was locked, two or three times until Babatunde understood enough about where he was, who she was and where they were to unlock the door, which she opened, and then she came inside the car. "What are you doing here?" Sonia said. "It is five o'clock in the morning." "I fell asleep," Babatunde said. "That is apparent," Sonia said, "You are sleeping in a car in front of my house, on my street in my city. It is five o'clock in the morning, you [00:36:00] did not answer my question. What, just what, are you doing here?"

"Why are you angry?" Babatunde said, "I just left your house. Your car was not parked in front of your house. You have other interests it appears," Sonia said. "I am parked in front of your house," Babatunde said, "on your street, in your city, not anywhere else. I saw you across the street from my house in my city, every night, parked in front of the fire hydrant when I got up to right, and then you didn't come last night so I came here to see for myself, to surprise you and perhaps to talk, but then I fell asleep." "You refused to come to my house," Sonia said, "You have ideas about gentrification and the dispossessed."

"Those are just ideas," Babatunde said, "and not particularly good ones after all, so I came here tonight to surprise you." Sonia paused and suddenly she could see and feel something she hadn't seen or felt before. These were not particularly beautiful words or particularly beautiful ideas, but once again, her skin was tingling. "Would you like to come in for coffee?" She said, "it's almost time for breakfast." What thrills Sonia most today is not who lives where. What thrills Sonia most today is knowing she has someone close who listens.

Sometimes she writes papers for class and Babatunde edits those papers. He doesn't give her ideas. He helps her say what she believes instead of hiding it behind words. Sometimes Sonia slips into one of Babatunde's classes toward the end of the class period. She doesn't come to protect her investment by walking out with Babatunde arm and arm. She comes only to hear what he has to say and to listen to the beauty of his ideas, which are just a little less beautiful than his rich and imaginative soul.

Babatunde comes with Sonia on Saturdays in spring. She coaches soccer. He sits in the stands and [00:38:00] reads or sometimes talks to the parents of other players about immigration, gentrification, justice, and democracy, but most other times he keeps his ideas to himself and he's pleased how much he is learning about unconditional love. The world now seems full of life and hope despite its many difficulties, the end.


A little different perspective on the world, perhaps?

Zach: I loved in that story, how the unexpected appearance of Babatunde in front of Sonia's house just turns everything around.

Michael: Yes, yes, yes, yes. I love them both as people. I feel like I know them both as people and I love that they're complex and their lives aren't simple, but they find a way to connect anyway, which is most spectacular.

Zach: This has been wonderful. It was wonderful to hear you read that story. I'd read it on the page, but to hear you read it brought a whole new sense of vitality to it, so thank you very much for that.

Michael: Thank you all for being here and thanks again to Zach and to the library for doing this and for everything else you do, which is so important to all of us.


Zach: I encourage you to get your hands on Dr. Fine's books. You can purchase titles on his website, There are also copies available through the public library, but there is a waiting list for them, so that tells you something about the popularity of the book. Links to Dr. Fine's website and the library catalog can be found in the show notes. Thanks for listening to Rhody Radio, please rate and review Rhody Radio wherever you get podcasts.

If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be honored if you would share it with a friend. Rhody Radio [00:40:00] is proud to be a resident partner of the Rhode Island Center for the Book and is brought to you by library staff and community members all around the Ocean State. When you're listening to Rhody Radio, you know, you're listening to something good.



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