Image of Michelle Nijhuis

Beloved Beasts – Ep 87 with Michelle Nijhuis


A vibrant history of the modern conservation movement―told through the lives and ideas of the people who built it.

In the late nineteenth century, as humans came to realize that our rapidly industrializing and globalizing societies were driving other animal species to extinction, a movement to protect and conserve them was born. In Beloved Beasts, acclaimed science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the movement’s history: from early battles to save charismatic species such as the American bison and bald eagle to today’s global effort to defend life on a larger scale.

She describes the vital role of scientists and activists such as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson as well as lesser-known figures in conservation history; she reveals the origins of vital organizations like the Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund; she explores current efforts to protect species such as the whooping crane and the black rhinoceros; and she confronts the darker side of conservation, long shadowed by racism and colonialism.

As the destruction of other species continues and the effects of climate change escalate, Beloved Beasts charts the ways conservation is becoming a movement for the protection of all species―including our own.

Michelle Nighhouse is a project editor at the Atlantic, a contributing editor at High Country News, and an award-winning reporter whose work has been published in National Geographic and the New York Times Magazine.

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Roya Hakakian

A Beginner’s Guide to America – Ep 86 with Roya Hakakian

A stirring, witty, and poignant glimpse into the bewildering American immigrant experience from someone who has lived it. Also, a mirror held up to America.

Into the maelstrom of unprecedented contemporary debates about immigrants in the United States, this perfectly timed book gives us a portrait of what the new immigrant experience in America is really like. Written as a “guide” for the newly arrived, and providing “practical information and advice,” Roya Hakakian, an immigrant herself, reveals what those who settle here love about the country, what they miss about their homes, the cruelty of some Americans, and the unceasing generosity of others. She captures the texture of life in a new place in all its complexity, laying bare both its beauty and its darkness as she discusses race, sex, love, death, consumerism, and what it is like to be from a country that is in America’s crosshairs. Her tenderly perceptive and surprisingly humorous account invites us to see ourselves as we appear to others, making it possible for us to rediscover our many American gifts through the perspective of the outsider. In shattering myths and embracing painful contradictions that are unique to this place, A Beginner’s Guide to America is Hakakian’s candid love letter to America.

Roya Hakakian is the author of two books of poetry in Persian and numerous essays and articles in leading publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post and NPR.

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Rosalind Miles

The Women’s History of the Modern World – Ep 85 with Rosalind Miles

The internationally bestselling author of Who Cooked the Last Supper? presents a wickedly witty and very current history of the extraordinary female rebels, reactionaries, and trailblazers who left their mark on history from the French Revolution up to the present day.

Now is the time for a new women’s history — for the famous, infamous, and unsung women to get their due — from the Enlightenment to the #MeToo movement.

Recording the important milestones in the birth of the modern feminist movement and the rise of women into greater social, economic, and political power, Miles takes us through through a colorful pageant of astonishing women. The women range from heads of state like Empress Cixi, Eugenia Charles, Indira Gandhi, Jacinda Ardern, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to political rainmakers Kate Sheppard, Carrie Chapman Catt, Anna Stout, Dorothy Height, Shirley Chisholm, Winnie Mandela. Also included are STEM powerhouses Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Rosalind Franklin, Sophia Kovalevskaya, Marie Curie, and Ada Lovelace, revolutionaries Olympe de Gouges, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Patyegarang, and writer/intellectuals Mary Wollstonecraft, Simon de Beauvoir, Elaine Morgan, and Germaine Greer. Women in the arts, women in sports, women in business, women in religion, women in politics—this is a one-stop roundup of the tremendous progress women have made in the modern era.

A testimony to how women have persisted — and excelled — this is a smart and stylish popular history for all readers.

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Joshua Kemble

Mental Illness and Graphic Novel as Memoir – Ep 84 with Joshua Kemble

Josh thought he was living the artist’s dream. The young, ambitious comic book creator had a hip Portland apartment, an affectionate fiancé, and his whole life ahead of him. Until the night he finds himself on Burnside Bridge, willing himself to jump. How did he get here? Two Stories is a confessional graphic memoir that grapples with questions of faith, mental illness, depravity, and, ultimately, redemption in a fallen world.

Here’s a great trailer for the book:

Joshua Kemble is a full-time art director, freelance illustrator, and Xeric Award-winning cartoonist. His illustration clients have ranged from Scholastic to Random House. Joshua was born in 1980 in Tarzana, California, and grew up in the Antelope Valley. He received his BFA and MFA in Illustration from California State University of Long Beach and resides in Lancaster, CA, with his wife and fellow artist, Mai S. Kemble, and son Benjamin. He has taught college art courses in design and illustration, and co-hosts both The Artcasters and 48-Hour Art Check. You can see Josh’s work at www.joshuakemble.com.

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Corey Sobel

Don’t Judge a College Athlete by Their Cover – Ep 83 with Corey Sobel

The Redshirt challenges tenacious stereotypes, shedding new light on the hypermasculine world of American football. Over the course of their first year playing for a Division One college football program that is willing to win at all costs, roommates Miles Furling and Reshawn McCoy are forced to choose between their true selves and the selves that have been imposed on them by the game.

Corey Sobel’s debut novel, The Redshirt, was published by the New Poetry & Prose Series at the University Press of Kentucky on October 13, 2020. The Redshirt is a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and is one of NPR’s Favorite Books of 2020. Sobel also has non-fiction published by or forthcoming from The Wall Street Journal’s book section, Esquire, Largehearted Boy, and HuffPost, and he edits the column “Music for Desks” at Epiphany Magazine.

Corey was born in Colorado and spent his childhood moving around the United States with his family of seven. He attended Duke University on a football scholarship and has since researched HIV/AIDS in North Carolina and Kenya, documented wartime human rights abuses on the border of Burma and Thailand, and served as a researcher for international development organizations around the world. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their dog and cat.

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Ilan Stavans, by KEVIN GUTTING

A Mayan Creation Story – Ep 82 with Ilan Stavans

Popul Vuh: A Retelling is an inspired and urgent prose retelling of the Mayan myth of creation by acclaimed Latin American author and scholar Ilan Stavans, gorgeously illustrated by Salvadoran folk artist Gabriela Larios and introduced by renowned author, diplomat, and environmental activist Homero Aridjis.

The archetypal creation story of Latin America, the Popul Vuh began as a Maya oral tradition millennia ago. In the mid-sixteenth century, as indigenous cultures across the continent were being threatened with destruction by European conquest and Christianity, it was written down in verse by members of the K’iche’ nobility in what is today Guatemala. In 1701, that text was translated into Spanish by a Dominican friar and ethnographer before vanishing mysteriously.

Cosmic in scope and yet intimately human, the Popul Vuh offers invaluable insight into the Maya way of life before being decimated by colonization-their code of ethics, their views on death and the afterlife, and their devotion to passion, courage and the natural world. It tells the story of how the world was created in a series of rehearsals that included wooden dummies, demi-gods, and eventually humans. It describes the underworld, Xibalba-a place as harrowing as Danta’s hell-and relates the legend of the ultimate king, who, in the face of tragedy, became a spirit that accompanies his people in their struggle for survival.

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Perween Richards

Stories From a Syrian Refugee – Ep 81 with Perween Richards

Drawn from her experiences of growing up as a young woman in the ‘world’s largest prison’—Gaza—Nayrouz Qarmout’s stories in The Sea Cloak (translated by Perween Richards) stitch together a stirring patchwork of perspectives exploring what it means to be a Palestinian today. Whether following the daily struggles of orphaned children fighting to survive in the rubble of recent bombardments, or mapping the complex tensions between political forces vying to control Palestinian lives, these stories offer a rare insight into one of the most talked about but least understood cities in the Middle East. Taken together, they afford us a local perspective on a global story, always rooted firmly in that most cherished of things, the home.

Perween Richards is a literary translator of Arabic-language stories. She attended translating classes at City summer school in London in 2016, and was one of the two winners of the school’s annual translation competition, sponsored by Comma Press. She was awarded an English PEN Translates grant to translate The Sea Cloak.

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Cover of You Ought To Do A Story About Me

You Ought To Do A Story About Me – Ep 80 with Ted Jackson

You Ought To Do A Story About Me: Addiction, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Endless Quest for Redemption is the heartbreaking, timeless, and redemptive story of the transformative friendship binding a fallen-from-grace NFL player and a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist who meet on the streets of New Orleans, offering a rare glimpse into the precarious world of homelessness and the lingering impact of systemic racism and poverty on the lives of NOLA’s citizens. 

Author Ted Jackson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and the author of YOU OUGHT TO DO A STORY ABOUT ME, an unlikely tale that began thirty years ago when a homeless man boasted about playing in three Super Bowls. The story was true.

Beginning in 1984, Ted started photographing assignments for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and globally, exploring politics, environmental issues, conflict and the indomitable human spirit. He has appeared on CBS, ABC, CNN, Fox News, NBC and NPR. He and his wife live in Covington, Louisiana.

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Alison Rosenblitt

E.E. Cummings And The Great War – Ep 79 with Alison Rosenblitt

An incisive biography of E. E. Cummings’s early life, including his World War I ambulance service and subsequent imprisonment, inspirations for his inventive poetry.

E. E. Cummings is one of our most popular and enduring poets, one whose name extends beyond the boundaries of the literary world. Renowned for his formally fractured, gleefully alive poetry, Cummings is not often thought of as a war poet. But his experience in France and as a prisoner during World War I (the basis for his first work of prose, The Enormous Room) escalated his earliest breaks with conventional form?the innovation with which his name would soon become synonymous.

Intimate and richly detailed, The Beauty of Living begins with Cummings’s Cambridge upbringing and his relationship with his socially progressive but domestically domineering father. It follows Cummings through his undergraduate experience at Harvard, where he fell into a circle of aspiring writers including John Dos Passos, who became a lifelong friend. Steeped in classical paganism and literary Decadence, Cummings and his friends rode the explosion of Cubism, Futurism, Imagism, and other “modern” movements in the arts. As the United States prepared to enter World War I, Cummings volunteered as an ambulance driver, shipped out to Paris, and met his first love, Marie Louise Lallemand, who was working in Paris as a prostitute.

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Christian B. Miller

Our Moral Character – Ep 78 with Christian B. Miller

We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as decent people. We may not be saints, but we are still honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy. Author and philosopher Christian B. Miller argues in his new book, “The Character Gap: How Good Are We?” that we are badly mistaken in thinking this. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story: that we all have serious character flaws that prevent us from being as good as we think we are – and that we do not even recognize that these flaws exist. But neither are most of us cruel or dishonest.

Instead, Miller argues, we are a mixed bag. On the one hand, most of us in a group of bystanders will do nothing as someone cries out for help in an emergency. Yet it is also true that there will be many times when we will selflessly come to the aid of a complete stranger – and resist the urge to lie, cheat, or steal even if we could get away with it. Much depends on cues in our social environment. Miller uses this recent psychological literature to explain what the notion of “character” really means today, and how we can use this new understanding to develop a character better in sync with the kind of people we want to be.

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