An Interview with Leon Decosta Dash.

Abstract from Interview

1:24 Professor Dash is uncertain about exactly how he came to be on Booknotes, but he was contacted by Brian Lamb or someone on the C-SPAN staff about being on the program and agreed.

2:19 Dash did not prepare for Booknotes because had been interviewed by Brian Lamb before.

3:15 It was very clear to Dash that Lamb had read the book thoroughly and asked well thought out questions because of it.

4:11 Dash thinks that the strength of the hour-long format is that it helps the viewer to truly understand the book.

5:32 Lamb’s interviews were the most extensive of any he has experienced. This was because most interviewers, on radio and television, had clearly not read the book. This greatly changed the interview experience for the author.

7:47 It has been Dash’s experience that at least a portion of the viewing public is interesting in methods and procedures from authors. This is especially true in his case as an oral historian, as people frequently ask about his process, questions, and ability to get subjects to speak candidly.

16:34 Dash was not surprised by biographical questions being asked by Lamb because this is a fairly standard practice, in his experiences, to see how the author’s experience relate to the subject matter.

17:30 Dash was not surprised by Lamb’s questions. But he was surprised by the delivery of the questions because the delivery made him uncomfortable. This is because he felt that Lamb was not being a “neutral” interviewer, but rather that Lamb had a harsh view of Rosa Lee’s experiences.* Following the interview Dash was made especially uncomfortable because Lamb made a comment to an African American camera technician following recording. This all was somewhat unsurprising to Dash because of the controversy that surrounded this book at the time. (*Rosa Lee is the subject of Dash’s book.)

25:04 Dash watched the program both before and after his own appearance. Even though he did not have a great experience on the program, which Dash attributes to the subject matter of his book and an overall lack of context, he felt that all the other programs he saw all went well.

29:48 Dash thinks that the Booknotes collection could help to show which nonfiction books were highly thought of.

33:35 There was not a difference in sales after appearing on Booknotes.

36:00 Since Booknotes, Dash has worked on an unsuccessful documentary on disability and is now working on a book on ethnicity in America.

39:58 Dash thinks that the program has had a lasting impact on society because of the high quality of the program and questions. Dash laments that the program was stopped and questions why Lamb ended the program.


Misha Griffith (Oral Historian), “An Interview with Leon Decosta Dash.,” One Book. One Author. One Hour., accessed September 19, 2017,



Dublin Core


An Interview with Leon Decosta Dash.


Misha Griffith (Oral Historian)


26 June 2014


Leon Decosta Dash is interviewed as part of the Booknotes Oral History Project on 26 June 2014. Mr. Dash discusses his appearance on C-SPAN's Booknotes program on 10 November 1996, where he discussed his book "Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America."


Booknotes (Television program)
Lamb, Brian, 1941-
C-SPAN (Television network)


Booknotes Oral History Series. R0143 Box 01 File 12.


George Mason University Libraries


Copyright held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries.