September has just flown by. It’s a month filled with so many holidays for some people, the unofficial end to summer (and the beginning of the Rabbit Season/Duck Season style debate between the pumpkin crowd and the apple crowd.)
We spent the month in the Boiler Room observing holidays and heading Back to the Books, starting with a chance to revisit a podcast episode from last year, an interview with Renee Chambers Liciaga about the performing arts during a pandemic. Renee fascinated us with stories about how she and her crew were able to adapt to the needs of a performance in a pandemic, and tempted us with tales of Andrew as a younger student. His diligence was notable even then, and we all see how he’s absorbed her lessons about the secret of success. Our focus remains on teaching and books as Andrew sits down with the editors of a special edition of the journal Nineteenth Century Gender Studies to talk about collaboration and the effects of the pandemic. There’s a little bonus content to–this journal featured Andrew’s first peer reviewed publication and you can hear him read it for you, too. This month also brought us a meeting between The Professor is In and The Ivory Tower Boiler Room for a conversation about gaslighting, social change, #MeTooPhD and the cult of academia. The episode is so full of information that’s valuable whether you’re actually in academia or not, though, and with such serious issues at the core of the discussion, you also wouldn’t expect as much laughing… and yet that laughter perhaps helps make the information all that much easier to really take in. We closed out the month with a sort of case study of some of the issues discussed during the previous episode when Adam and Andrew spoke to Dr. Michael Nevradakis about finding a fulfilling academic path when everything seems to be stacked against you.
We introduced you to our Featured Writers series this month, too, beginning with poetry from Judy Russ. Our featured writing took on a longer form with an excerpt from Wendy Zuccarello’s novel Chasing Freedom, a tale of suspense, romance and the connections we can make with written words. We returned to poetry with longtime friend of the Ivory Tower Boiler Room, Shi Huiwen, who had previously been an early guest on the podcast. Our final featured writer for September, Dr. Steven Voris, brought us a parable about demanding change versus inspiring change, and showed us how literary artistry can be an important educational pathway.
Our Big Think took a little twist this month when we headed back into our own “books.” A visit to the archives had us taking a second look at what we’ve written about and shared a favorite book-related post. Mary’s recalled her thoughts on writing and humanities, Andrew reflected again on how queer literature helped him to come out, Adam reminisced about discovering his love for editing and the similarities between editing and teaching, and Erika revisited, this time from the perspective of a reader, the Pulse massacre in her adopted hometown of Orlando. As a team of book lovers, I think we all found something that resonated with us when we read about Adam finding companionship with, not just in books.
True Crime Tuesday explored the massive topic of the Virginia Tech Shooting this month. Through Mary’s prose, we explored how racism and inadequate mental health services may have influenced these events. Those weren’t the only considerations, though. Bullying, censorship, and other kinds of violence also come up in the discussion. The Virginia Tech series concluded by turning a lens on some of the mistakes made in responding to the shooting, too.
We took the time to recognize some of the important events of this month, too. In addition to both Andrew’s birthday and Adam’s birthday, we observed the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, and for that, Erika took us through a little bit of her experience on that day but more importantly, how to talk about it with someone whose entire life has happened in a post-9/11 world. We closed out the month with some thoughts for Banned Books Week. Adam and Erika both explored the topic, with Adam exploring questions about whether to ban problematic books or to teach them with proper scaffolding, and Erika pondered questions about who or what we’re really protecting when we ban books.
Perhaps the biggest news this month though, was the launch of our redesigned homepage, which will allow you to more easily navigate to your favorite features like The Big Think and the podcast. You’ll still be able to find our usual slate of compelling stories and fascinating writing on the blog, but you’ll also now be able to find additional writing. You can expect things like Andrew’s exploration of pedagogy and all things Whitman, or Mary’s tales of true crime and other topics, Adam discovering new passions like editing and nurturing writers, and Erika may supplement usual her takes on education and motherhood with a bit of her poetry once in a while.
You’re in for some tricks and treats in October like our first book club meeting, too. We’ll bring bringing you new featured writers, stories and interviews for LGBTQ history month and we can’t forget that this month we’ll also talk about things that go bump in the night. Keep following us here and on social media and tell us about what scares you in the dark…