58 minutes | May 29, 2023
Episode 145: The People’s Tongue
This week, we have a special episode with live music and lively conversation in celebration of the new one-of-a-kind anthology The People’s Tongue: Americans and the English Language. With performances and discussion from Ambassador Carolyn Curiel, senior speechwriter and special assistant to President Bill Clinton and former editorial board member of The New York Times; Paquito D’Rivera, renowned Cuban-American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and composer; Fareed Haque, Pakistani-Chilean-American jazz and classical guitarist and University of Chicago professor; and Ilan Stavans, editor of the The People’s Tongue. This conversation originally took place May 21, 2023 and was recorded live at the American Writers Museum. More about The People's Tongue: A riveting, one-of-a-kind anthology of the diversity, strangeness, and power of American English that features a tremendous array of letters, poems, memoir, jeremiads, stories, songs, documents, and more from Sojourner Truth and Abraham Lincoln to Henry Roth and Zora Neale Hurston, from George Carlin and James Baldwin to Richard Rodríguez and Amy Tan, from Tony Kushner and Toni Morrison to Louise Erdrich and Donald Trump. This volume is a kind of people's history of English in the United States, told by those who have transformed it: activists, teachers, immigrants, journalists, nurses, poets, astronauts, dictionary makers, actors, musicians, playwrights, preachers, Supreme Court Justices, rappers, translators, singers, children's book authors, scientists, politicians, foreigners, students, homemakers, lexicographers, scholars, newspaper columnists, TV personalities, senators, novelists, technology innovators, and a bunch of fanatics. The quest is to understand how an imperial language like English, with Germanic origins, whose spread resulted from the Norman conquest, came to be an intrinsic component of the first and most influential democratic experiment in the world. Edited by internationally renowned cultural commentator and consultant for the OED Ilan Stavans, it is organized chronologically and offers a banquet of letters, poems, autobiographical reflections, op-eds, dictionary entries, stories, songs, legislative documents, and other evidence of verbal mutation. It addresses Ebonics, and Yinglish, Spanglish, and other linguistic concoctions, including sci-fi inventions. In pages in which the story is not only the what but the how, The People's Tongue starts with samples of the English used by the settlers in Plymouth Colony and it ends with President Donald Trump's tweets.
53 minutes | May 22, 2023
Episode 144: Nicole Chung
This week, bestselling author Nicole Chung discusses her new memoir, A Living Remedy, with Nina Li Coomes. The following conversation originally took place May 16, 2023 and was recorded live via Zoom. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about A Living Remedy: From the bestselling author of All You Can Ever Know comes a searing memoir of family, class and grief—a daughter's search to understand the lives her adoptive parents led, the life she forged as an adult, and the lives she's lost. "In this country, unless you attain extraordinary wealth, you will likely be unable to help your loved ones in all the ways you'd hoped. You will learn to live with the specific, hollow guilt of those who leave hardship behind, yet are unable to bring anyone else with them." Nicole Chung couldn't hightail it out of her overwhelmingly white Oregon hometown fast enough. As a scholarship student at a private university on the East Coast, no longer the only Korean she knew, she found community and a path to the life she'd long wanted. But the middle class world she begins to raise a family in — where there are big homes, college funds, nice vacations — looks very different from the middle class world she thought she grew up in, where paychecks have to stretch to the end of the week, health insurance is often lacking, and there are no safety nets. When her father dies at only sixty-seven, killed by diabetes and kidney disease, Nicole feels deep grief as well as rage, knowing that years of precarity and lack of access to healthcare contributed to his early death. And then the unthinkable happens — less than a year later, her beloved mother is diagnosed with cancer, and the physical distance between them becomes insurmountable as COVID-19 descends upon the world. Exploring the enduring strength of family bonds in the face of hardship and tragedy, A Living Remedy examines what it takes to reconcile the distance between one life, one home, and another — and sheds needed light on some of the most persistent and grievous inequalities in American society.
39 minutes | May 15, 2023
Episode 143: The Future of Black
This week, writers discuss their contributions to the anthology The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry. The panel includes editors and contributors Tara Betts, Mallessa James, Len Lawson, Cynthia Manick, and Craig Stevens. Moderated by Eve L. Ewing. The following conversation originally took place May 15, 2022 and was recorded live at the American Writers Festival. More about The Future of Black: The expansion of Marvel and DC Comics' characters such as Black Panther, Luke Cage, and Black Lightning in film and on television has created a proliferation of poetry in this genre—receiving wide literary and popular attention. This groundbreaking collection highlights work from poets who have written verse within this growing tradition, including Terrance Hayes, Lucille Clifton, Gil Scott-Heron, A. Van Jordan, Glenis Redmond, Tracy K. Smith, Teri Ellen Cross Davis, Joshua Bennett, Douglas Kearney, Tara Betts, Frank X Walker, Tyree Daye, and others. In addition, the anthology will also feature the work of artists such as John Jennings and Najee Dorsey, showcasing their interpretations of superheroes, Black comic characters, Afrofuturistic images from the African diaspora.
58 minutes | May 8, 2023
Episode 142: John Scalzi & Michi Trota
Acclaimed science fiction author John Scalzi discusses his recent book The Kaiju Preservation Society and the science fiction genre with fellow award-winning science fiction writer Michi Trota. This conversation originally took place May 15, 2022 and was recorded live at the American Writers Festival. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about The Kaiju Preservation Society: When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls "an animal rights organization." Tom's team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on. What Tom doesn't tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm, human-free world. They're the universe's largest and most dangerous panda and they're in trouble. It's not just the Kaiju Preservation Society who have found their way to the alternate world. Others have, too. And their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.
54 minutes | May 1, 2023
Episode 141: Michael Warr
This week, poet Michael Warr reads and discusses his work, and brings his fellow poets and friends on stage to perform their work. Featured poets include avery r. young, Elise Paschen, Reginald Gibbons, and more. The following conversation originally took place May 15, 2022 and was recorded live at the American Writers Festival.
49 minutes | Apr 24, 2023
Episode 140: The Slippery Slope of Censorship
This week, we’re proud to present a conversation about the slippery slope of censorship and what you can do to preserve your community’s freedom to read. Young Adult and Children’s book author Jarrett Dapier appears in conversation with Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom and Kristin Pekoll, Assistant Director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. Learn more about and get involved with Unite Against Book Bans, a national initiative from the ALA to empower readers everywhere to stand together in the fight against censorship. Open access for all people to books and stories of all kinds is critical to democracy, and we all need to work to ensure everyone has the freedom to read. This conversation originally took place May 15, 2022 and was recorded live at the American Writers Festival. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about the panelists: Jarrett Dapier is the author of the picture books Mr. Watson’s Chickens (Chronicle Books), Jazz For Lunch! (Simon & Schuster), and The Most Haunted House in America (Abrams Kids). Also a librarian, he is the recipient of the 2016 John Phillip Immroth Award given by the American Library Association for his research which uncovered previously suppressed information about the 2013 censorship of the graphic novel Persepolis in Chicago Public Schools. His first graphic novel – Wake Now in the Fire – is based on this research and will be released by Chronicle Books in 2023. Deborah Caldwell-Stone is director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and Executive Director of the Freedom to Read Foundation. For nearly two decades she has supported and advised libraries, librarians, and trustees addressing book censorship and privacy issues in their libraries. She is a former appellate litigator. Kristin Pekoll is the Assistant Director at the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. She is a former youth librarian from Wisconsin and a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan who happens to live in Chicago Bears country. She is the author of Beyond Banned Books: Defending Intellectual Freedom throughout Your Library published by ALA Editions in 2019.
51 minutes | Apr 17, 2023
Episode 139: National Student Poets
Students from the National Student Poets Program discuss their work and the importance of poetry in the lives of young people today. The National Student Poets Program is the nation’s highest honor for young poets (grades 10–11) creating original work. Annually, five students are selected for one year of service, each representing a different geographic region of the country. The Program believes in the power of youth voices to create and sustain meaningful change, and supports them in being heard. Four of the five 2021 National Student Poets joined us for this program: Aanika Eragam, Kevin Gu, Kechi Mbah, and Sarah Fathima Mohammed. The following conversation originally took place May 15th, 2022 and was recorded live at the American Writers Festival. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME About the 2021 National Student Poets: Aanika Eragam is a senior at Milton High School in Milton, Georgia who serves as the 2021 National Student Poet for the Southeast. Through her mother’s bedtime tales of South Indian mythology, Aanika was first exposed to the power of storytelling in connecting her to her cultural heritage, unlocking foreign perspectives, and exploring history. Since then, she’s written poetry and creative nonfiction about culture, family, girlhood, and body image. Aanika serves as the 2021 Atlanta Youth Poet Laureate and the Editor-in-Chief of her high school literary magazine The Globe. Kevin Gu is a Chinese American from Boston and the 2021 National Student Poet of the Northeast. His work has been included in Rattle, The National Poetry Quarterly, Ember Journal, and The Eunoia Review among others. On his off days, he enjoys hunting for underrated boba shops and eating cold watermelon. Kechi Mbah is a senior at Carnegie Vanguard High School and a Houston native. She first found a love for poetry when she stumbled upon a YouTube video of a Brave New Voices slam competition in the fall of 2019 and has been performing and writing poetry ever since. Her poetry explores many avenues from making the known strange to chronicling her experiences as a Nigerian-American and the histories of her people. She currently serves as the 2021 National Student Poet of the Southwest and her work can be found in Blue Marble Review, The Incandescent Review, elementia, and elsewhere. Sarah Fathima Mohammed, daughter of Indian Muslim immigrants, is the 2021-22 National Student Poet representing the West Region, the nation’s highest honor for youth poets. She writes poetry sourced in grief, faith, and longing because, for her people, these emotions are inherited. When she travels back to her hometown in Kumbakonam, India, Sarah sits in circles with girls at the mosque, reading Safia Elhillo and Fatimah Asghar’s anthology of Muslim voices, Halal If You Hear Me. When she is not writing, Sarah loves long morning walks with her family and listening to music by Yuna.
44 minutes | Apr 10, 2023
Episode 138: Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry
This week, poets Angela Jackson, Johanny Vázquez Paz, Faisal Mohyuddin, and Carlos Cumpián read from and discuss their contributions to the recent collection Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry. The following conversation originally took place May 15, 2022 and was recorded live at the American Writers Festival. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME About Wherever I'm At: The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame has partnered with Chicago publishers After Hours Press and Third World Press to produce a definitive collection of poetry by living Chicago poets. "Wherever I'm At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry" features the work of a widely diverse list of over 160 poets and artists all with strong ties to Chicagoland. With a Foreword by noted scholar Carlo Rotello, the new anthology is edited by Donald G. Evans (executive director of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame) who completed the project begun by the late poet-editor-teacher Robin Metz formerly of Knox College. A dazzling array of voices representing many generations of Chicagoans grace the pages of "Wherever I'm At" including essential poets such as Li-Young Lee, Elizabeth Alexander, Stuart Dybek, Angela Jackson, Tyehimba Jess, Sandra Cisneros, Campbell McGrath, Ana Castillo, Maxine Chernoff, Patricia Smith, Edward Hirsch, Kathleen Rooney, Luis Alberto Urrea, Emily Jungmin Yoon, Luis J. Rodriguez, Elise Paschen, Sterling Plumpp, Marianne Boruch, Haki Madhubuti, Rachel DeWoskin, Ed Roberson, Tara Betts, and Reginald Gibbons, to name a few. The list is exhaustive in its diversity and according to editor Don Evans, deliberately so. This anthology also showcases the incredible visuals of an equally talented group of Chicago artists whose work amplifies the poetic musings throughout.
47 minutes | Apr 3, 2023
Episode 137: Amanda Flower
This week, bestselling mystery novelist Amanda Flower discusses her latest multi award nominated novel Because I Could Not Stop for Death: An Emily Dickinson Mystery. In this first book in an all new series, Emily Dickinson and her housemaid, Willa Noble, realize there is nothing poetic about murder… Flower is joined by author and scholar Peter Coviello to discuss her book and Dickinson’s literary legacy. The following conversation originally took place March 26, 2023 and was recorded live at the American Writers Museum.
50 minutes | Mar 27, 2023
Episode 136: Caits Meissner & Nicole Shawan Junior
This week, Caits Meissner and Nicole Shawan Junior discuss their contributions to The Sentences That Create Us: Crafting A Writer’s Life in Prison. They are joined by Alicia Brown. The following conversation originally took place May 15, 2022 and was recorded live at the American Writers Festival. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about The Sentences That Create Us: The Sentences That Create Us provides a road map for incarcerated people and their allies to have a thriving writing life behind bars—and shared beyond the walls—that draws on the unique insights of more than fifty contributors, most themselves justice-involved, to offer advice, inspiration and resources. The Sentences That Create Us draws from the unique insights of over fifty justice-involved contributors and their allies to offer inspiration and resources for creating a literary life in prison. Centering in the philosophy that writers in prison can be as vibrant and capable as writers on the outside, and have much to offer readers everywhere, The Sentences That Create Us aims to propel writers in prison to launch their work into the world beyond the walls, while also embracing and supporting the creative community within the walls. The Sentences That Create Us is a comprehensive resource writers can grow with, beginning with the foundations of creative writing. A roster of impressive contributors including Reginald Dwayne Betts (Felon: Poems), Mitchell S. Jackson (Survival Math), Wilbert Rideau (In the Place of Justice) and Piper Kerman (Orange is the New Black), among many others, address working within and around the severe institutional, emotional, psychological and physical limitations of writing prison through compelling first-person narratives. The book's authors offer pragmatic advice on editing techniques, pathways to publication, writing routines, launching incarcerated-run prison publications and writing groups, lesson plans from prison educators and next-step resources. Threaded throughout the book is the running theme of addressing lived trauma in writing, and writing's capacity to support an authentic healing journey centered in accountability and restoration. While written towards people in the justice system, this book can serve anyone seeking hard won lessons and inspiration for their own creative—and human—journey. The Sentences That Create Us includes contributions from Alexa Alemanni; Raquel Almazan; Ellen Bass; Reginald Dwayne Betts; Keri Blakinger; Jennifer Bowen; Zeke Caligiuri; Sterling Cunio; Chris Daley; Curtis Dawkins; Emile DeWeaver; Casey Donahue; Ryan Gattis; Eli Hager; Ashley Hamilton, PhD; Kenneth Hartman; Elizabeth Hawes; Randall Horton; Spoon Jackson; Mitchell S. Jackson; Nicole Shawan Junior; Yukari Iwatani Kane, Shaheen Pasha, and Kate McQueen of The Prison Journalism Project; Piper Kerman; Lauren Kessler; Johnny Kovatch; Doran Larson; Victoria Law; Jaeah Lee; John J. Lennon; Arthur Longworth; T Kira Mahealani Madden; J. D. Mathes; Justin Rovillos Monson; Lateef Mtima, JD; Vivian D. Nixon; Patrick O'Neil; Liza Jessie Peterson; Wilbert Rideau; Alejo Rodriguez; Luis J. Rodriguez; Susan Rosenberg; Geraldine Sealey; Sarah Shourd; Sarah Shourd; Anderson Smith, PhD; Derek R. Trumbo Sr.; Louise K. WaaKaa'igan; Andy Warner; Thomas Bartlett Whitaker; John R. Whitman, PhD; Saint James Harris Wood; Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor of Ear Hustle; and Jeffery L. Young.
56 minutes | Mar 20, 2023
Episode 135: Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr. and Christopher Benson
This week, Reverend Wheeler Parker, Jr.—Emmett Till's cousin, best friend, and the last surviving witness of the night Till was lynched—discusses his book A Few Days Full of Trouble with co-author Christopher Benson. The following conversation originally took place March 16th, 2023 and was recorded live at the American Writers Museum. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about A Few Days Full of Trouble: The last surviving witness to the lynching of Emmett Till tells his story, with poignant recollections of Emmett as a boy, critical insights into the recent investigation, and powerful lessons for racial reckoning, both then and now. In 1955, Emmett Till was lynched when he was fourteen years old. That remains an undisputed fact of the case that ignited a flame within the Civil Rights Movement that has yet to be extinguished. Yet the rest of the details surrounding the event remain distorted by time and too many tellings. What does justice mean in the resolution of a cold case spanning nearly seven decades? In A Few Days Full of Trouble, this question drives a new perspective on the story of Emmett Till, relayed by his cousin and best friend—the Reverend Wheeler Parker Jr., a survivor of the night of terror when young Emmett was taken from his family's rural Mississippi Delta home in the dead of night. In a hypnotic interplay between uncovered facts and vivid recall, Rev. Parker offers an emotional and suspenseful page-turner, set against a backdrop of reporting errors and manipulations, racial reckoning, and political pushback—and he does so accompanied by never-before-seen findings in the investigation, the soft resurrection of memory, and the battle-tested courage of faith. A Few Days Full of Trouble is a powerful work of truth-telling, a gift to readers looking to reconcile the weight of the past with a hope for the future.
47 minutes | Mar 13, 2023
Episode 134: Deborah Cohen
This week, historian and author Deborah Cohen discusses her book Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took on a World at War. Cohen is joined in conversation by Daniel Greene, President and Librarian at the Newberry Library. The following conversation originally took place at the American Writers Festival on May 15, 2022 and was recorded live. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: A prize-winning historian's "effervescent" (The New Yorker) account of a close-knit band of wildly famous American reporters who, in the run-up to World War II, took on dictators and rewrote the rules of modern journalism. They were an astonishing group: glamorous, gutsy, and irreverent to the bone. As cub reporters in the 1920s, they roamed across a war-ravaged world, sometimes perched atop mules on wooden saddles, sometimes gliding through countries in the splendor of a first-class sleeper car. While empires collapsed and fledgling democracies faltered, they chased deposed empresses, international financiers, and Balkan gun-runners, and then knocked back doubles late into the night. Last Call at the Hotel Imperial is the extraordinary story of John Gunther, H. R. Knickerbocker, Vincent Sheean, and Dorothy Thompson. In those tumultuous years, they landed exclusive interviews with Hitler and Mussolini, Nehru and Gandhi, and helped shape what Americans knew about the world. Alongside these backstage glimpses into the halls of power, they left another equally incredible set of records. Living in the heady afterglow of Freud, they subjected themselves to frank, critical scrutiny and argued about love, war, sex, death, and everything in between. Plunged into successive global crises, Gunther, Knickerbocker, Sheean, and Thompson could no longer separate themselves from the turmoil that surrounded them. To tell that story, they broke long-standing taboos. From their circle came not just the first modern account of illness in Gunther's Death Be Not Proud—a memoir about his son's death from cancer—but the first no-holds-barred chronicle of a marriage: Sheean's Dorothy and Red, about Thompson's fractious relationship with Sinclair Lewis. Told with the immediacy of a conversation overheard, this revelatory book captures how the global upheavals of the twentieth century felt up close.
47 minutes | Mar 6, 2023
Episode 133: Natalie Y. Moore
This week, Natalie Y. Moore discusses her play The Billboard with J. Nicole Brooks. As a play and a book, The Billboard is a cultural force that treats abortion as more than pro-life or pro-choice. The following conversation originally took place at the American Writers Festival on May 15, 2022 and was recorded live. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about The Billboard: The Billboard is about a fictional Black women's clinic in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood on the South Side and its fight with a local gadfly running for City Council who puts up a provocative billboard: "Abortion is genocide. The most dangerous place for a Black child is his mother's womb," spurring on the clinic to fight back with their own provocative sign: "Black women take care of their families by taking care of themselves. Abortion is self-care. #Trust Black Women." The book also has a foreword and afterword and Q&A with a founder of reproductive justice. As a play and book, The Billboard is a cultural force that treats abortion as more than pro-life or pro-choice.
39 minutes | Feb 27, 2023
Episode 132: Clarence Lusane
This week, political scientist Dr. Clarence Lusane discusses his book Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy. He is interviewed by journalist Arionne Nettles. The following conversation originally took place February 23, 2023 and was recorded live via Zoom. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about Twenty Dollars and Change: Twenty Dollars and Change places Harriet Tubman's life and legacy in a long tradition of resistance, illuminating the ongoing struggle to realize a democracy in which her emancipatory vision prevails. America is in the throes of a historic reckoning with racism, with the battle for control over official narratives at ground zero. Across the country, politicians, city councils, and school boards are engaged in a highly polarized debate about whose accomplishments should be recognized, and whose point of view should be included in the telling of America's history. In Twenty Dollars and Change, political scientist Clarence Lusane, author of the acclaimed The Black History of the White House, writes from a basic premise: Racist historical narratives and pervasive social inequities are inextricably linked--changing one can transform the other. Taking up the debate over the future of the twenty-dollar bill, Lusane uses the question of Harriet Tubman vs. Andrew Jackson as a lens through which to view the current state of our nation's ongoing reckoning with the legacies of slavery and foundational white supremacy. He places the struggle to confront unjust social conditions in direct connection with the push to transform our public symbols, making it plain that any choice of whose life deserves to be remembered and honored is a direct reflection of whose basic rights are deemed worthy of protection, and whose are not.
55 minutes | Feb 20, 2023
Episode 131: Will Jawando
This week, activist and author Will Jawando discusses his book My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist’s Memoir of Race, Family and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole. He is joined by Ambassador Carolyn Curiel. The following conversation originally took place May 15th, 2022 at the American Writers Festival and was recorded live. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about My Seven Black Fathers: Will Jawando tells a deeply affirmative story of hope and respect for men of color at a time when Black men are routinely stigmatized. As a boy growing up outside DC, Will, who went by his Nigerian name, Yemi, was shunted from school to school, never quite fitting in. He was a Black kid with a divorced white mother, a frayed relationship with his biological father, and teachers who scolded him for being disruptive in class and on the playground. Eventually, he became close to Kalfani, a kid he looked up to on the basketball court. Years after he got the call telling him that Kalfani was dead, another sickening casualty of gun violence, Will looks back on the relationships with an extraordinary series of mentors that enabled him to thrive. Among them were Mr. Williams, the rare Black male grade school teacher, who found a way to bolster Will's self-esteem when he discovered he was being bullied; Jay Fletcher, the openly gay colleague of his mother who got him off junk food and took him to his first play; Mr. Holmes, the high school coach and chorus director who saw him through a crushing disappointment; Deen Sanwoola, the businessman who helped him bridge the gap between his American upbringing and his Nigerian heritage, eventually leading to a dramatic reconciliation with his biological father; and President Barack Obama, who made Will his associate director of public engagement at the White House--and who invited him to play basketball on more than one occasion. Without the influence of these men, Will knows he would not be who he is today: a civil rights and education policy attorney, a civic leader, a husband, and a father. Drawing on Will's inspiring personal story and involvement in My Brother's Keeper, President Obama's national initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color, My Seven Black Fathers offers a transformative way for Black men to shape the next generation.
52 minutes | Feb 13, 2023
Episode 130: Ashley C. Ford and Eve L. Ewing
This week, acclaimed writers Ashley C. Ford and Eve L. Ewing discuss Ford’s memoir Somebody’s Daughter. One of the most prominent voices of her generation debuts with an extraordinarily powerful memoir: the story of a childhood defined by the looming absence of her incarcerated father. The following conversation originally took place May 15th, 2022 at the American Writers Festival and was recorded live. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about Somebody's Daughter: Through poverty, adolescence, and a fraught relationship with her mother, Ashley C. Ford wishes she could turn to her father for hope and encouragement. There are just a few problems: he's in prison, and she doesn't know what he did to end up there. She doesn't know how to deal with the incessant worries that keep her up at night, or how to handle the changes in her body that draw unwanted attention from men. In her search for unconditional love, Ashley begins dating a boy her mother hates. When the relationship turns sour, he assaults her. Still reeling from the rape, which she keeps secret from her family, Ashley desperately searches for meaning in the chaos. Then, her grandmother reveals the truth about her father's incarceration...and Ashley's entire world is turned upside down. Somebody's Daughter steps into the world of growing up a poor Black girl in Indiana with a family fragmented by incarceration, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. As Ashley battles her body and her environment, she embarks on a powerful journey to find the threads between who she is and what she was born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.
47 minutes | Feb 6, 2023
Episode 129: Elie Mystal
This week, legal analyst and author Elie Mystal discusses his book Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution, with professor Ivy Wilson. This episode is presented in conjunction with the AWM's special exhibit and content initiative Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice. The following conversation originally took place May 15, 2022 at the American Writers Festival and was recorded live. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution Allow Me to Retort is an easily digestible argument about what rights we have, what rights Republicans are trying to take away, and how to stop them. Mystal explains how to protect the rights of women and people of color instead of cowering to the absolutism of gun owners and bigots. He explains the legal way to stop everything from police brutality to political gerrymandering, just by changing a few judges and justices. He strips out all of the fancy jargon conservatives like to hide behind and lays bare the truth of their project to keep America forever tethered to its slaveholding past. Mystal brings his trademark humor, expertise, and rhetorical flair to explain concepts like substantive due process and the right for the LGBTQ community to buy a cake, and to arm readers with the knowledge to defend themselves against conservatives who want everybody to live under the yoke of eighteenth-century white men. The same tactics Mystal uses to defend the idea of a fair and equal society on MSNBC and CNN are in this book, for anybody who wants to deploy them on social media. You don't need to be a legal scholar to understand your own rights. You don't need to accept the "whites only" theory of equality pushed by conservative judges. You can read this book to understand that the Constitution is trash, but doesn't have to be.
37 minutes | Jan 30, 2023
Episode 128: Richard Bradford
This week, professor and author Richard Bradford discusses his book Tough Guy: The Life of Norman Mailer, the first biography to examine Mailer's life as a twisted lens, offering a unique insight into the history of America from the end of World War II to the election of Barack Obama. Bradford is interviewed by AWM Program Director Allison Sansone. The following conversation originally took place January 20, 2023 and was recorded live via Zoom. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about Tough Guy: The Life of Norman Mailer Twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, firstly in 1969 for The Armies of the Night and again in 1980 for The Executioner's Song, Norman Mailer's life comes as close as is possible to being the Great American Novel: beyond reason, inexplicable, wonderfully grotesque and addictive. The Naked and the Dead was acclaimed not so much for its intrinsic qualities but rather because it launched a brutally realistic sub-genre of military fiction—Catch 22 and MASH would not exist without it. Richard Bradford combs through Mailer's personal letters—to lovers and editors—which appear to be a rehearsal for his career as a shifty literary narcissist, and which shape the characters of one of the most widely celebrated World War II novels. Bradford strikes again with a merciless biography in which diary entries, journal extracts and newspaper columns set the tone of this study of a controversial figure. From friendships with contemporaries such as James Baldwin, failed correspondences with Hemingway and the Kennedys, to terrible - but justified - criticism of his work by William Faulkner and Eleanor Roosevelt, this book gives a unique, snappy and convincing perspective of Mailer's ferocious personality and writings.
38 minutes | Jan 23, 2023
Episode 127: Brooks E. Hefner
This week, professor and historian Brooks E. Hefner discusses his book Black Pulp: Genre Fiction in the Shadow of Jim Crow, a deep dive into mid-century African American newspapers, exploring how Black pulp fiction reassembled genre formulas in the service of racial justice. Hefner is interviewed by journalist Evan F. Moore. The following conversation originally took place May 15, 2022 at the American Writers Festival and was recorded live. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME About Black Pulp: Genre Fiction in the Shadow of Jim Crow In recent years, Jordan Peele's Get Out, Marvel's Black Panther, and HBO's Watchmen have been lauded for the innovative ways they repurpose genre conventions to criticize white supremacy, celebrate Black resistance, and imagine a more racially just world—important progressive messages widely spread precisely because they are packaged in popular genres. But it turns out, such generic retooling for antiracist purposes is nothing new. As Brooks E. Hefner's Black Pulp shows, this tradition of antiracist genre revision begins even earlier than recent studies of Black superhero comics of the 1960s have revealed. Hefner traces it back to a phenomenon that began in the 1920s, to serialized (and sometimes syndicated) genre stories written by Black authors in Black newspapers with large circulations among middle- and working-class Black readers. From the pages of the Pittsburgh Courier and the Baltimore Afro-American, Hefner recovers a rich archive of African American genre fiction from the 1920s through the mid-1950s—spanning everything from romance, hero-adventure, and crime stories to westerns and science fiction. Reading these stories, Hefner explores how their authors deployed, critiqued, and reassembled genre formulas—and the pleasures they offer to readers—in the service of racial justice: to criticize Jim Crow segregation, racial capitalism, and the sexual exploitation of Black women; to imagine successful interracial romance and collective sociopolitical progress; and to cheer Black agency, even retributive violence in the face of white supremacy. These popular stories differ significantly from contemporaneous, now-canonized African American protest novels that tend to represent Jim Crow America as a deterministic machine and its Black inhabitants as doomed victims. Widely consumed but since forgotten, these genre stories—and Hefner's incisive analysis of them—offer a more vibrant understanding of African American literary history.
40 minutes | Jan 16, 2023
Episode 126: Leonard Moore
This week, author and professor Leonard Moore discusses his book Teaching Black History to White People. Moore is joined in conversation by Laura McEnaney, Vice President for Research and Education at the Newberry Library. The following conversation originally took place May 15th, 2022 at the American Writers Festival and was recorded live. AWM PODCAST NETWORK HOME More about Teaching Black History to White People: Leonard Moore has been teaching Black history for twenty-five years, mostly to white people. Drawing on decades of experience in the classroom and on college campuses throughout the South, as well as on his own personal history, Moore illustrates how an understanding of Black history is necessary for everyone. With Teaching Black History to White People, which is "part memoir, part Black history, part pedagogy, and part how-to guide," Moore delivers an accessible and engaging primer on the Black experience in America. He poses provocative questions, such as "Why is the teaching of Black history so controversial?" and "What came first: slavery or racism?" These questions don't have easy answers, and Moore insists that embracing discomfort is necessary for engaging in open and honest conversations about race. Moore includes a syllabus and other tools for actionable steps that white people can take to move beyond performative justice and toward racial reparations, healing, and reconciliation.