For this extra-special bonus episode, I'm delighted to welcome Lemn Sissay to the podcast. Lemn is a poet, author and broadcaster whose memoir, My Name Is Why, is one of the most moving I have ever read. In it, he writes about his childhood - the son of Ethiopian parents who was wrongly given up for adoption as a baby and fostered by a white, working-class family in Lancashire. At the age of 12, he was told by his adoptive family that they would be putting him in a children's home and would never contact him again. He spent the next five years in a succession of brutal institutions during which he had a mental breakdown. In these dark times, the light of his poetry began to form.
It is astonishing, then, that Lemn is such a gloriously expansive interviewee. You know when people talk about good energy? Lemn has good energy by the bucketload. There is not a trace of bitterness in his demeanour, in spite of what he has been through, and he's unafraid to be vulnerable and honest, even though his early life was a succession of betrayals.
He joins me to talk about his failure to belong to the family he spent his life searching for, his failure to marry or have children (Lemn is the first male guest to have chosen this as a failure, which in itself is pretty fascinating), why he gave up drinking and his failure to be the poet he wishes he could be. Along the way, we talk about the power of human resilience and what family really means. Oh, and his dislike of cauliflower.
This is a deeply inspiring and humbling interview. You might want to have the tissues ready.
The How To Fail Live tour is almost over. SNIFF! There are limited tickets left for Belfast with Sinead Burke (14th November) and Gateshead (8th December). Dublin with Amy Huberman (15th November) has SOLD OUT! Thank you! These events are not recorded as podcasts so the only way to be there is to book tickets via www.faneproductions.com/howtofail
The Sunday Times Top 5 bestselling book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day, is out now and is available here.
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My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay is out now, published by Canongate, and available to order here
This BONUS SPECIAL episode of How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is sponsored by Sceptre, publishers of The Scriptures by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. This is the complete Fleabag. Every word. Every side-eye. Every fox. Out now. Available from Waterstones, online, and all good bookshops.
Elizabeth Day @elizabday
Lemn Sissay @lemnsissay
Sceptre Books @sceptrebooks