Podcast Preview

We ask our podcast-guests their favorite excuse for having writer’s block. But this ‘excuse’ might actually rise to the level of a genuine reason.
Description: An orange cat lying across a keyboard, probably because Erika wants to use the keyboard to write something.

Friday is here once again. To our readers and listeners who celebrated Rosh Hashanah this week, we wish you L’Shanah Tovah–a sweet new year.

Tomorrow’s podcast is one that any teacher, writer or editor will want to listen to… whether you’re a “teacher” in the traditional sense or not. Andrew sits down with editors of the special pedagogy issue, “Teaching to Transgress,” of the open-access journal Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies. As a public humanities organization, we aim to bring you accessible literary and artistic content, and this week’s round table is an exciting discussion about the overlap between pedagogy and scholarship. It’s also about the influence COVID on how we teach and learn, and create communities. The panelists really turn a lens on the collaborative effort of journal editing, with a particular focus on nurturing scholarship and empowering writers. 

Speaking of empowering writers, Andrew’s article in this issue is his first peer-reviewed publication!

The discussion may leave you considering how to carry forward the lessons we’ve all learned during this pandemic–about teaching, about collaboration, and about what community means.

Leave yourself time this weekend too, to check out Andrew’s article, which you can read. If you prefer an audio version, Andrew is recording a version, which will be available as a bonus episode.

Our guests were so wonderful during the round table, and then, all three also took the time to answer our guest questionnaire. It’s always so much fun to share these with you–we never know what we’ll discover or what secrets might lurk in the list of books that are less than loved.

Three panelists makes this feel a little like the old Dating Game, so here are the answers from…

Panelist Number 1, Dr. Doreen Thierauf

1. What are you listening to, reading, watching?

I’ve been listening to some blues and indie lists on Spotify. The best books I read this summer were short story collections: Karen Russell’s Orange World, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black, and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees. When I’m not re-watching Star Trek shows on an eternal loop (currently mid-Voyager again), I like sci-fi and genre-bending shows like Raised by Wolves, Kevin Can F**k Himself, or The Good Place.

2. Do you like to cook? What is your favorite thing to make?

I really dislike cooking, but I’m a reasonably decent baker. My favorite thing to make from scratch is pie, preferably blueberry or apple.

3. What is something you have read and loved, and wish more people would read?

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. If as many people had read and taught it when it first came out in 1993 as they do today, we might have had a better chance of averting climate change and immiseration caused by austerity politics. It’s a prophetic book which, nevertheless, has come too late.

4. Did you grow up with video- or computer-games? What were/are some of your favorites?

Absolutely. I played The Sims like crazy when it first came out and got back into it with each new iteration. Right now, I’m playing Dyson Sphere Program which is seriously addictive. Another PC game, almost as good, is Stellaris. GTA V and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey are my favorites on PlayStation.

5. You’re taking a sick day from work. What movie are you putting on?

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley. I will die on this hill.

6. What’s your favorite excuse for why you have writer’s block?

“I’m a perfectionist!”

7. What’s a book everyone says you should read, but you either read it and hated it or haven’t read it.

There was some hype around Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun this year, but I didn’t think the novel was all that great. It has many of the same themes as his previous work, especially Never Let Me Go–and NLMG did it better.

Panelist Number Two, Dr. Shannon Draucker
(with one of the best reasons ever for having writer’s block)

1 .What are you listening to, reading, watching?

 This summer, I’ve loved Fiona Mozley’s Hot Stew, Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H Mart, Ravel Leilani’s Luster, and Vivek Shraya’s I’m Afraid of Men. In terms of TV, I’ve recently binged Never Have I Ever (Part 2), Ted Lasso, Shrill, and All Creatures Great and Small (a cozy British show about a veterinary practice in Yorkshire). Next, I’m planning to watch It’s a Sin on HBO, about the early days of the AIDS epidemic in London.

2. Do you like to cook? What is your favorite thing to make?

I cannot cook at all (my family and friends joke that I can barely boil water!), but I am super passionate about food. Luckily, my partner is a wonderful baker and cook, and I am happy to be a sous-chef and taste-tester. I love to eat, explore new restaurants and bakeries, and learn about food through books and TV shows. (I often find myself listening to chefs’ memoirs, like Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter and Padma Lakshmi’s Love, Loss, and What We Ate. I also loved Netflix’s recent docuseries High on the Hog, based on Jessica B. Harris’s book of the same name, about the history of African American cuisine and the African roots of American cooking.)

3. What is something you have read and loved, and wish more people would read?

I am so lucky that my job allows me to share some of my favorite novels—like Toni Morrison’s Sula—with my students and to encounter their favorite texts as well. I think bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress should be required reading for all educators.

4 .Did you grow up with video- or computer-games? What were/are some of your favorites?

I did not, actually! I was more of a Barbie doll girl (who somehow grew up to be a gender studies professor!)

5. You’re taking a sick-day from work. What movie are you putting on?

The 1994 Little Women (the one with Winona Ryder as Jo).

6. What’s your favorite excuse for why you have writer’s block?

“My puppy needs a belly-rub/walk/snuggle!”

7 .What’s a book everyone says you should read, but you either read it and hated it, or haven’t read it.

Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend— I love the prose, and the characters are wonderful, but I just could not get that into the book for some reason! I was also lukewarm about Sally Rooney’s Normal People; I found the novel engaging, but didn’t share the same enthusiasm as many other readers. 

And of course
Panelist Number 3, Dr. Kimberly Cox

1. What are you listening to, reading, watching?

Right now, I’m reading Maria Dahvana Headley’s new translation of Beowulf (so fun!), P. Djéli Clark’s The Haunting of Tramcar 015, Warriors of Legend by Jay Novak and Sushil K. Rudranath, and a bunch of sci-fi novels for an independent study. Right now, the big series I’m watching are Ted Lasso, Kevin Can F**k Himself, and Lucifer.

2. Do you like to cook? What is your favorite thing to make?

Love to cook! Salad and salmon are my favs. Homemade vinaigrette, herbs from the garden, and the broiler make it super quick and crazy delicious. 

3. What is something you have read and loved, and wish more people would read?

Honestly, I’m not sure. My literary love is fleeting. I invest heavily in books when I read them, but then it dissipates as my interests shift. I also tend to be more of a “follow-your-own-reading-passion” type of person. I do feel fairly confident that anyone (particularly those unfamiliar with the Minato ward of Tokyo in the 90s) who loved Sailor Moon, whether the manga or one fo the anime series, would probably find some interesting tidbits in Warriors of Legend

4 .Did you grow up with video- or computer-games? What were/are some of your favorites?

Yes, both! I loved Chip’s Challenge in middle school. Then, the Sonic the Hedgehog, Donkey Kong, and Mario game series were pretty foundational. My sister and I did have lots of fun playing Resident Evil 4 when we got older, haha!

5. You’re taking a sick-day from work. What movie are you putting on?

Movies…hmm…probably John Wick (the first one…the latter two have been…disappointing) or Spy, which fills a very specific comedy void for me.

6. What’s your favorite excuse for why you have writer’s block?

“My brain hurts.” 

7. What’s a book everyone says you should read, but you either read it and hated it, or haven’t read it

Wuthering Heights, and, to be fair, as a Victorianist, it’s a staple. I’ve tried. Really I have. I started reading it twice. Once I set the book down and lost it. Then, I got so irritated I couldn’t make myself read further. So, I thought, audiobook! Which worked, for a bit, but the version that I legit checked out through my library app was missing the last third of the book. Wtf, right?!?! When I finally forced myself to finish it, I hated it just as much as I had at the beginning. I appreciate it for what it does and understand that the characters aren’t intended to be traditionally likeable—critical articles were hugely helpful in processing my range of responses, haha!—but I’m just not a fan. (I also have lots of negative feels from the last time I read the Harry Potter series, but I talked at length about that in another podcast, lol! It’s different reading them as an educator rather than student.)


While you’re waiting for the new episode and for the audio recording of Andrew’s article, here’s what the team has been paying attention to this week…

Mary is still working her way through Becky Cooper’s We Keep the Dead Close, both as an audio book and a physical book. Her review is sure to be thorough and detailed. We will definitely include it on a Friday for you. And as so many other millennials are, she’s still bawling after watching the video posted by Steve Burns of Blue’s Clues. For those who may not be familiar, or who may not realize the impact that Blue’s Clues had, there’s some good commentary available here, too.

This week, Andrew has been reading Lavelle Porter’s The Blackademic Life to prepare for Lavelle’s interview, happening today (Adam joined as Andrew’s co-host). Andrew has also really enjoyed digging into some of his course readings like Lavelle Porter’s “Should Walt Whitman be #Cancelled” and Whitman’s “Calamus” cluster, and is about to begin Mark Doty’s “What is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life.”

Andrew’s been really loving listening to Diana Ross’ “If the World Just Danced” on repeat (it’s so empowering and energizing!)

In the audiobook universe, Andrew finished Dorinda Medley’s “Make It Nice” and a BBC performance of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca (he can feel Halloween right around the corner).

Although he hasn’t been able to start a new tv show, because of his schedule, Andrew did enjoy watching the 2019 film “Bad Education” (featuring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney).

Adam’s reading this week has, not surprisingly, been similar to Andrew’s. Lavelle Porter’s The Blackademic Life figured prominently, as did some of the works Lavelle referenced, such as the novel The Quest of the Silver Fleece by W. E. B. DuBois. But Adam has also been sneaking glances at Robert Caro’s The Power Broker. Who would have thought that a thousand-page book about municipal budget committees would be a page-turner? It’s almost not fair. As far as TV, Adam has finally gotten to the part of Buffy Season 6 where things get properly dark, so if anyone has some words of sympathy or wisdom…

Adam’s accustomed writing music, Bach’s B-Minor Mass, faced usurpation this week from Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George, 18th Century Europe’s only Black composer (also a famous fencer, horseback-rider, and virtuoso violinist. Yes, really). Saint-George has regularly entered the listening-rotation of late, but writing is hard and Bach’s Mass is seriously habit-forming. C’est la Vie.

Erika continued watching cartoons this week and checked out Ridley Jones on Netflix. It’s a children’s cartoon, about a six year old girl who lives in a treehouse inside a museum and whose mother and grandmother are responsible for taking care of the museum. Fabulous characters like a dodo bird, a space monkey, a coiffure-obsessed, non-binary bison, (“They’re just…Fred,:) and mummy family consisting of two dads (voiced by Andrew Rannells and Chris Colfer,) and a princess named Ismat (O.M. Ra) who sometimes just wants to be a regular kid make for a lot of fun, and nods to dad jokes (“mummy dad jokes”) and a nod to Indiana Jones are just some of the things that made the show fun to watch. Continuing the cartoon theme, Erika also started watching Steven Universe this week, which she somehow never saw when it first aired. She’s also watched the new Matrix trailer…a few times. A few.

It was back to Bach this week, too, for Erika. This time the English Suites got her through the writing she was stuck on, and when those were over, it was the always-enjoyable Goldberg Variations. It was also a week to take a shorter trip back in time and pull out Midnight Oil. She says, “A little activist music always seems to go along with days like Labor Day.” 

Just for fun, there’s also this clip of Madeline Kahn and Grover… because she’s awesome and who doesn’t love Grover? Adam shared it this week while doing some editing for the team and it’s been stuck in Erika’s head, along with the Buffy Sainte-Marie music she was listening to after Adam mentioned her last weekend. (Coincidentally, Erika was first introduced to Buffy Sainte Marie on Sesame Street, where she appeared for several seasons.)

When not bemoaning her missing copy of Strunk and White this week, (which has now been acquired as a digital copy, although a new paper copy will appear on the bookshelf at some point) Erika went through her book collection to search out things to recommend in a discussion about literature of HIV. She ended up revisiting a copy of Andrew Holleran’s Chronicle of a Plague Revisited:AIDS and its aftermath. She’d wanted to start Sheeryl Lim’s Brown Boy Nowhere, but that was set aside–when your hands hurt too much to hold a book, you find other things to do. Sometimes that means resorting to cartoons as a distraction.

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