Every Sunday at midnight, a new episode of “Our Moment: A Literary Podcast” is released, and Exquisite Williams turns a new page with her book club.
Williams, an LSU senior majoring in communication studies and English creative writing, started the book club podcast as part of a new media project for a screen arts class.
“It's like halfway a school project and halfway a passion project because I’ve always wanted to do it,” Williams said.
A self-proclaimed reader by trade, Williams loves talking about books. She finds it especially important to uplift the voices of diverse characters, so she uses her podcast to celebrate books that center characters of color by authors of color.
“Reading is the first way a lot of kids learn about the world — reading and TV — and if they learn by reading experiences different from them, they can sort of begin to empathize with those around them,” Williams said. “It's important, and if anybody will read these books and develop more empathy for just a stage in life that they've never had to deal with, then that'd be great.”
For the first season of “Our Moment: A Literary Podcast,” Williams is highlighting “Legendborn,” a contemporary fantasy with a twist on Arthurian legend written by Tracy Deonn. The book follows Bree Matthews, a 16-year-old who recently lost her mother in an accident. In an effort to find an escape, Bree begins attending a residential program at the University of North Carolina, but on her first night on campus, she witnesses a magical attack.
“This book made me slow down, which is very rare,” Williams said.
Since discovering “Legendborn” earlier this year, Williams has read the book at least five times, and she owns close to as many copies of it. She has digital copies of the book on Audible and her Kindle, she owns an unopened physical copy with the cover still intact, and then there’s the copy she uses during her podcast.
Dogeared, highlighted and full of notes written in pen, Williams brings this copy with her to every recording session in the Speakeasy sound booth in LSU’s Communication across the Curriculum’s Studio 151.
Williams said when she sits down to record her podcast, she pictures what her audience might be doing while listening. She said a lot of unexpected backend work goes into a podcast, like long hours of editing.
For frontend preparation, Williams said she goes with the flow. She thinks about her favorite scenes from the book, the most important themes and how they can apply to listeners in everyday life.
Williams also chairs an in-person book club with the Ogden Honors College Black Honors Initiative. The club is currently reading “Legendborn” as well, so Williams draws on conversations and thoughts from those meetings when she’s preparing to record.
Since not everyone can be in-person to talk about books with her, Williams said doing another book club over audio is a way to create shared, yet accessible moments celebrating books and each other.
“We're taking time together and it's ‘Our Moment,’" Williams said. “The reason that we have books is to kind of explore or create these shared experiences."
Williams has had listeners from all over the world, including Germany, Jamaica and Spain. Jason Buch, an LSU English professor who teaches Williams’ new media class, is among “Our Moment’s” wide range of listeners.
“Exquisite found a subject that excites her and that she believes deserves a spotlight, and that enthusiasm comes through in each episode,” Buch said. “It is also a great way to combine traditional media and new media, delivering the podcast through platforms like YouTube or Spotify, while also encouraging reading and exploring an author that her listeners might not otherwise be exposed to.”
Highlighting authors who may not be getting enough attention is one of Williams’ primary goals. She seeks to find and explore authors whose writings make up a new literary canon.
“My overarching goal is that people start engaging with the book and start seeing that the only works of literature are not just classics,” Williams said. “The books we have now are also, like, important in regard to what we read and how we see the world.”