Monday, June 3, 2013

Who am I? and other ruminations

Well, loyal readers, I have a confession to make:  I have done very little reading of late.  And, quite frankly, I am not sure I am going to finish a book very quickly in the near future.  I just feel so restless at times when I'd normally be reading.  I will pick up a book and then put it down, turn on a TV show and then lose interest, feel a little lonely at home but not want to go out, go out and then not be sure what exactly I want to do... I don't know what it is, but hopefully I shake it soon!

BUT, what I am still doing is listening to podcasts, mostly because they require much less of a time commitment than reading does.  So I thought I'd bring you another entry in my occasional series on podcasts.  Do you guys like when I do this?  Does anyone actually listen to the podcasts, or do I at least pique your interest?  I'd be interested to know - please give me some feedback :-)  To be fair, I'll probably continue the series whether you guys like it or not.  I think the reading posts will be slower for the next several months but I want to keep in the habit of writing on the blog.  AND - well, these podcasts are seriously fascinating and I think you should give them a try.

This episode has a theme!  IDENTITY.  Maybe I'm just becoming more aware of it now because it's of personal interest to me, but I feel like recently, Americans have been doing a lot of soul-searching to define who they are as individuals and how they fit into a larger group.  And, due to America's very complex history with race, this can be a very difficult experience.  Here are three podcasts that all relate to identity, fitting in, and being true to yourself.



State of the re:union

State of the Re:union - Black as We Wish to Be
I had never even heard of this show before, but this episode was absolutely amazing.  It blew my mind.  I highly recommend a listen, whether you are American or not.  The pain of feeling on the outskirts and attempting to fit in is something everyone can relate to, if not in exactly the same way.
  
State of the Re:union "has set out to explore how a particular American city or town creates community, the ways people transcend challenging circumstances and the vital cultural narratives that give an area its uniqueness."  The show highlights one town or city each week.  The most recent episode was about East Jackson, OH, a tiny town in the Appalachian foothills that started as a Sundown Town and now has a population of people who look very, very white but identify as black.  Why is that important?  And why does it really matter to anyone else?  A few quotes from the episode:
"We were always told we were Black.  We didn't look black.  So, for a lot of people in East Jackson, they have a choice now... The choice means a lot.  It's something that we weren't allowed to choose before.  And now that we have that choice, I think it gives us a little bit of liberation."

"When you first told me about East Jackson, I thought it was crazy for people who looked white to claim to be black.  I mean, why not just be who you are?  But then I realized they are being who they are, every single one of them.  Each person has taken a lifetime of experiences and crafted an identity that feels true to them.  And who am I, who is anyone, to judge that?"
radiolab.org

Radiolab - Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl

You may remember how much I love the show Radiolab.  This episode is a bit different than the norm, but it's fascinating.  For those of you who enjoyed Louise Erdrich's The Round House and found it eye-opening regarding crimes committed on Native American reservations, I think you'll find this episode really, really important.
This is the story of a three-year-old girl and the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court case Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is a legal battle that has entangled a biological father, a heart-broken couple, and the tragic history of Native American children taken from their families.
When producer Tim Howard first read about this case, it struck him as a sad but seemingly straightforward custody dispute. But, as he started talking to lawyers and historians and the families involved in the case, it became clear that it was much more than that. Because Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl challenges parts of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, this case puts one little girl at the center of a storm of legal intricacies, Native American tribal culture, and heart-wrenching personal stakes.

this american life

This American Life - Tribes
Another one of my favorite podcasts, this time Ira & Co. spent a whole hour on identifying with a group, and the repercussions that come with those decisions.  A Native American tribe that is kicking members out, a man with an Asian fetish, a woman who really, really like whispering.  As Ira Glass would say, stay with us and you'll hear some truly fascinating stories. 

And that's all for this podcast roundup!

38 comments:

  1. Ooh thanks Aarti! I had gotten out of the habit of listening to podcasts, but I really do enjoy them - so yay for recommendations. Now dowloading them.

    Tanya Patrice
    Girlxoxo.com

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    1. Oh, I am so glad! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. And thank you for visiting :)

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  2. I find that podcasts are like magazines, in that they're so interesting and I get excited about them, but they pile up WAY too fast so I just end up feeling like I'm falling behind.

    But I really related to your first paragraph. In fact, I thought the post title had to do with that! I've had trouble finding time to read, trouble with motivation, trouble getting into books. This slump has been so long, I'm finding it's messing with my identity as a reader.

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    1. I can understand your thoughts on podcasts. I have an A-List and those are the ones I make sure to listen to all the time and hopefully stay on top of those.

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  3. Thanks for this! I love podcasts and often listen to them at work when I'm doing a repetitive task.

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    1. I do them at home while doing dishes or cooking. This last weekend I was all caught up so just did NPR live and that is how I found state of the reunion :)

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  4. So cool to see This American Life on here. It is one of my favorites and really the only non-SFF podcast I listen to (though I don't keep up with it as regularly as I would like). It is always a learning experience to listen to that show.

    As for other podcasts, I try somewhat successfully to keep up with The Coode Street Podcast, Writing Excuses, SF Squeecast, and Sword and Laser. There are several others I would like to try out.

    As for reading, I have only finished on "book" in the past two months. I've been reading so many short story e-mags and individual online short stories for various posts/assignments that I haven't gotten much for me reading done. I'm in the process of trying to get past that right now.

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    1. I am glad so many other people are having trouble with reading! I mean, not happy, but thankful that I am not the only person :)

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  5. There must be something going around because I've been a restless reader too lately.
    I rarely listen to podcasts, but these ones all sound interesting.

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    1. Maybe it is the change in the weather?

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  6. *hugs* Being restless is a bummer. I hate that feeling. Hopefully, it goes away soon. Thanks for the links. It's been a long time since I've listened to a podcast. I'm going to see if I can upload these to my phone.

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    1. I think you would really like the first two in particular!

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  7. I heard that TAL! I thought the part about whispering was fascinating -- what a weird thing to exist! And how good that the internet exists so people who have that condition (if it is a condition) can feel pleasantly relaxed whenever they want.

    I'd never heard of the first podcast you highlight, but I'm bookmarking it to listen to it later this week.

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    1. I totally agree about the whispering! So bizarre, but also cool.

      I just discovered state of the reunion and am now addicted to it. I have listened to like, seven episodes since Sunday. It is really, really good!

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  8. I am 100% with LibraryHungry here; I love the *idea* of listening to podcasts, and then just... fall so, so far behind it's scary.

    Also totally understand the restlessness. Hope it settles for you soon. It can be almost scary when one gets into a state like that -- it feels like it's never going to end.

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    1. Aw, it is kind of like a TBR pile after a while- it is what it is, and you just try to plug away with it.

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  9. I'm always intrigued by podcasts and thus fully support more of these posts. :)

    That being said, all three of these look like they're hosted by men. All of the other podcasts I've seen recommended so far are ALSO hosted by men. Where are the women?! Am I just overlooking them? Am a total podcast newbie.

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    1. I had a really long reply and it is gone! I agree most podcast hosts (at least, of the shows I listen to) are male. But tons of female contributors on TAL, Radiolab, Planet Money, etc. and stuff you missed in history is hosted by two women (though I preferred the previous two women who hosted before these).

      The splendid table is hosted by a woman. As is the Diane Rehm show. And SOTRU is hosted by a black male, which is rare in public radio. But again, I am talking more about NPR than about podcasts.

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    2. Oh no! Bad internetz! ;)

      Thnx for answering me & throwing out a few suggestions! I did notice the host of SOTRU was black, which made me excited (um, excited in the 'yay! someone who's not white in the media! way). I just recently found our local NPR station, but every time I'm in my car and turn it on, it seems like it's just annoying as hell people calling in to drone on about things that are ridiculous/boring/pompous/etc. so I always give up. Clearly, I should try listening to it online instead, especially since I'm usually only in my car once or twice a week. lol

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    3. Eva, I listen to a bunch of podcasts, and after reading your comment, I realized that none of them have a female host, but several have panel hosts which include women, such as the Slate Political Gabfest and Pop Culture Happy Hour. I did use to listen to Stuff You Missed in History Class, and that was hosted entirely by two women.

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    4. Ack, forgot to say in my comment that I did see that Aarti mentioned Stuff You Missed in History, and was just repeating that recommendation.

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  10. Interesting - I rarely listen to v-blogs, or v-logs (whatever they're called) or podcasts because I get frustrated while watching....usually wanting to watch a comedy or get to reading. But the podcasts you've listed sound interesting.

    Being bi-racial, (myself) while looking white skinned (though I don't think I have normal 'caucasion features - such as a nose, mouth, etc) I never felt like I fit in with any specific group either. My mom is from Central America, we have spanish indian or rather Indigenous ancestry (though a small degree), and no one is sure about our "white" side of the family. Were they Scottish? Irish? mutt? who knows? We don't.

    But even in my own family - I was the ONE white skinned kid with blue eyes, while my siblings all have that easily browned olive tones and very brown eyes. So even though I feel more comfortable around darker skinned people - I don't feel a real part either. doesn't help that our mom never taught us spanish but we tended to pick up a bit of an accent growing up with her. lol. America - and I'm sure a lot of other countries, have such a mix of people that I wonder how many of us feel a bit disconnected as far as culture and grouping goes. Probably a lot of people are now going through this.

    I was even surprised when I visited my mom's country to meet relatives - most of them are varying degrees of brown and then there's a whole family that have blonde hair and green eyes. It's weird. My own kids - two of them came out with very kinky hair, the kind that forms into stiff tight ringlets... and they all have pale skin and blue eyes. We're just a huge pot of mixes. :)

    Going to go visit some of your links now.... and thanks! :)

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment, Mardel. So personal, and so great to know more about you. Identifying as a race is a tricky thing- just because you look a certainly way, does that make you qualify only as that one thing? And what about all the baggage that goes along with it? And what if you identify with a minority of your makeup more than the majority? Does a certain percentage qualify you, like in the Radiolab podcast's 1% Native American point?

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  11. My favorite podcast is BBC4 Melvyn Bragg's "In Our Time". Love it! In reference to identity, mmmmmmm, I just think being kind and as honest as possible is a good way of being yourself and if everyone around you did the same then the group identity would be one of kindness. In the words of that great man - I have a dream ..."

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    1. Thanks for the podcast recommendation! As to the identity question, I don't think it is always that easy. It can be quite hard to be honest if what you think about yourself is different than the way other people see you. I hope we can some day get to the being kind and not caring about the rest, though!

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  12. I get that sometimes, nothing works, and you can feel you want to do something worthwhile with your time but nothing seems to be worthwhile. Just let it happen, when it ends you'll quite likely end up in a raring to go frame of mind :)

    Thanks for these links and the descriptions. I don't listen to podcasts often, but I'll check out the written material on the subjects.

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    1. I hope I get out of this funk soon!

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  13. I hear you about not being able to read. For me, it's mostly been about a lack of time, but when I'm super busy doing a lot of heavy-duty brain work, sometimes I struggle to focus and read. So I'm spending a zillion years finishing Disorderly Knights, which I adore, but am not pushing myself to finish.

    As for the podcast, that Radiolab episode about killed me. What a dilemma! State of the Re:Union is not on my podcast list, but my local NPR station airs it, and I often get to listen, and it is very good.

    And I wanted to answer Eva's question about podcasts hosted by women.

    There's Pop Culture Happy Hour, which I adore, hosted by Linda Holmes. The rest of the panel members are men, but they frequently bring on women as guests.)

    On Being with Krista Tippett--I'm not a fan but it exists and has a strong following.

    Ask Me Another hosted by Ophira Eisenberg is actually a game show, but it's fun.

    Stuff You Missed in History Class has two women as hosts--or it used to, I haven't listened in a while.

    Fresh Air with Terry Gross is available as a podcast.

    Books on the Nightstand is cohosted by a man and a woman.

    That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are others.

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    1. I know! I don't know how I feel about the Radiolab situation, either. I mean, I tend to side with the Native Americans, but I also completely understand why that couple wants its daughter back. But the girl also seems fairly happy with her dad. Who is barely Native American and seems to have gotten by on a technicality. But if he is accepted as a member of a nation, then who am I to judge? I don't like the idea of only a certain percentage of your make-up being of X race qualifies you to identify that way as it gets into that slippery ground of America's disturbing ways of defining race in the past...

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    2. Thnx Teresa! I tried Books on the Nightstand, but it was too contemporary, publicity-focused for my tastes. Will look into the others!

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    3. I can't believe I forgot about one of my very favorites: On the Media, cohosted by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield. It's deliciously meta, if you're interested in media issues. It's also, oddly, a good way to keep up with the news, since it's all about how recent news is being reported.

      I agree about BotN. It's a good podcast, but not what I want.

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    4. Ooh, On the Media sounds fantastic! Added it to my favorites so it will update for me every week :-)

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    5. There are a couple of spec fic podcasts around which are hosted by women, but they are very much about the spec fic scene with a fairly strong focus on the Australian scene. One is Galactic Suburbia. I will add more when the names come back to me!

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  14. Books are my escape at the moment. As soon as my school year ends, I will dive into a pile of books. But I do like the idea of podcasts, and I'm always happy to find a great author interview or interesting program to listen to. I also love to read your thoughts on the podcasts, even if I never get to actually listen to the podcasts!

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  15. I could have wrote your intro. I am also feeling restless with everything... Instead of podcasts I actually went the audiobook route, but ultimately it is the same reasoning. I honestly should listen to more podcasts. I got into a habit earlier in the year, but sort of fizzled... Must remedy that!

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  16. Love podcasts! Will definitely look these up. Thanks!

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  17. I tend to listen to podcasts when I have tasks at work that don't require a lot of brainpower, but now my position has changed and I don't have a lot of those tasks anymore. However, I've listened to some of my favorites while doing housework. Anyway, I have listed to that State of the Re:Union episode and it was so fascinating, just how people think of racial identity. Did you hear the SOTRU episode about Tucson? I really liked that one as well. And TAL is just such a dependable show - I almost always get engrossed by it.

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  18. I was listening to a lot of podcasts a few months ago - all day, every day - but I had to stop for a few reasons. Now I haven't listened to one in months, but I am back on the audiobooks. Maybe I should use gaps between audiobooks to listen to a couple of podcasts.

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