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Building a library for a better life

Danielle Henderson.Maile Knight

As she recounts in her memoir, “The Ugly Cry: How I Became a Person,” TV writer Danielle Henderson grew up Black in a mostly white town under the wing of a foul-mouthed, ferocious grandmother. Henderson also wrote “Feminist Ryan Gosling,” a book based on her popular blog. Her TV credits include “Maniac,” “Divorce,” and “Difficult People.” She cohosts the podcast “I Saw What You Did There.” Henderson left Los Angeles for her hometown of Warwick, N.Y., where she now lives with her grandmother. “The Ugly Cry” is now out in paperback.

BOOKS: What have you been reading recently?

HENDERSON: Tove Ditkevsen’s novel “The Copenhagen Trilogy,” which was riveting. I read “Mike Nichols: A Life” by Mark Harris. I don’t tend to read books about TV or movies but I was interested in Nichols because I love so many of his movies. I’m rereading Raven Leilani’s novel “Luster” because I tore through it the first time. Every few years I go back to Paris but during the pandemic I haven’t been able to travel so I’ve been reading Elaine Sciolino’s “The Only Street in Paris” and Joan DeJean’s “How Paris Became Paris.” I loved Zakiya Dalila Harris’s “The Other Black Girl”; I’ll be the show runner for Hulu’s TV adaption. It’s cool to turn a book that I love into another media.

BOOKS: How do you read as much as you do?


HENDERSON: I only allow myself an hour a day on social media, which I think is a failed experiment. First thing in the morning I read for an hour or two instead of scrolling on my phone. I also only read one book at a time. That’s how I read a book every couple of days.

BOOKS: Did you move many books from LA?


HENDERSON: Yes. The beauty of buying this house is that I have a library. It’s my prized room where I read. I have a big, black velvet chair with gold details. It’s my throne. Whenever my friends come over they ask if I’m going to put in more chairs and make it a sitting room. No. Just one chair. This is just for me.

BOOKS: Do you have any prized possessions in your library?

HENDERSON: It’s a prized possession and a family possession, which is strange because my family doesn’t have many of those. When my brother was born my great-grandmother gave him a copy of Alex Haley’s “Roots.” When I was born she added my name to her inscription. It’s a first edition and very well loved and read.

BOOKS: Were there other readers in your family?

HENDERSON: No. My grandma had the same two books on her shelf my whole life. Shirley MacClaine’s “Out on a Limb” and Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket.” That’s what happens when you grow up in poverty. You don’t have money for books or time to take your kids to the library because you have two jobs. I was surrounded by people who were in survival mode.

BOOKS: What kind of reader were you as a kid?

HENDERSON: My grandmother loved comedy so we watched stand-up on HBO. So I loved to read books by George Carlin, like “Brain Droppings,” and other comedians who I loved. I always gravitated toward nonfiction. I needed something to point toward. I wanted a bigger life than the one put before me.


BOOKS: Do you look for humor in your reading now?

HENDERSON: I do. I love Samantha Irby’s essays. I loved Kevin Wilson’s “The Family Fang” and Austin Grossman’s “Soon I Will Be Invincible.”

BOOKS: What other genres do you like?

HENDERSON: I love comic books and graphic novels. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “Bitch Planet” is fantastic. The series is set in the future when the unruly women of society get rocketed to another planet where they are forced to fight to entertain the bougie women on Earth.

BOOKS: What’s on your upcoming stack?

HENDERSON: I have Kiley Reid’s “Such a Fun Age.” I’m a little protective of myself. I generally avoid books about the misery of the Black experience. We are still in that so I don’t find any comfort in reading about it. But there is a big comedy bent to this novel. I can handle that.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author, most recently, of “Rescuing Penny Jane” and she can be reached at amysutherland@mac.com.