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LARB Radio Hour

The Los Angeles Review of Books Radio Hour is a weekly show featuring interviews, readings and discussions about all things literary. Hosted by LARB Editor-at-Large Kate Wolf, Managing Editor Medaya Ocher, and Gender and Sexuality Editor, Eric Newman.
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LARB Radio Hour
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Now displaying: Page 1
Sep 18, 2020

Author Sigrid Nunez, who won the National Book Award for 2018's The Friend, joins Kate and Eric to talk about her new novel, What Are You Going Through, which focuses on the narrator's close relationship to a friend with a terminal illness. The work revolves around witnessing the lives and needs of others; intertwines with themes of friendship, mortality, bravery, and even transcendence, amidst the commonplace.  The conversation touches on how we contend with death in our society, and in relation to the pandemic. Nunez discusses contemporaries who have inspired her as they faced their mortality.
Also, Joni Murphy, author of Talking Animals, returns to recommend Matthew Goulish's 39 Microlectures in Proximity of Performance.

Sep 11, 2020

Yaa Gyasi’s latest novel, Transcendent Kingdom, takes on family and the gulfs of diaspora experience through an intimate narrative of a neuroscientist trying to come to grips with her brother’s drug overdose and her mother’s crippling depression. Gyasi joins us to reflect on the different ways in which faith and science attempt to answer the unfathomable and inchoate, and talks about the addiction narrative, so often seen through the lens of white, rural poverty. Gyasi also describes a friendship that led her to fascinating impasses in what remain fundamental mysteries in the neuroscience research on addiction.
Also, Kelli Jo Ford, author of Crooked Hallelujah, returns to recommend David Heska Wanbli Weiden's highly acclaimed first novel, Winter Counts.

Sep 4, 2020

Hosts Kate and Medaya talk to Kelli Jo Ford, author of the new novel, Crooked Hallelujah, a multi-generational story about Justine — a mixed-blood Cherokee woman — and her daughter Reney. Kelli Jo Ford, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, discusses her love of landscape, her childhood, and how she has come to consider about faith, even in the most difficult of times.

Also, Melissa Faliveno, author of the collection of essays Tomboyland, returns to recommend Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon.

Aug 28, 2020

Hosts Kate, Eric, and Medaya are joined by renowned Chinese writer Yan Lianke, whose latest book is the memoir Three Brothers, about his childhood growing up during the Cultural Revolution. Calling in from Beijing, Yan discusses his life as a writer, being banned and censored in his own country and how he thinks literature can influence politics. Nicole Liu translates from the Chinese.

Also, Nicole Liu recommends Fleche, a book of poetry by Hong Kong author Mary Jean Chan.

Aug 21, 2020

Co-hosts Kate and Medaya are joined by writer Joni Murphy, whose new novel, Talking Animals, takes place in a fictional New York City, populated entirely by animals. Joni discusses why she chose an alpaca and a llama as her protagonists, and how animals might allow us to talk about climate change, politics, and culture differently. 

Plus, Akwaeke Emezi, author of The Death of Vivek Oji, returns to recommend Sacrament of Bodies by Nigerian poet Romeo Oriogun.

Aug 16, 2020

Hosts Eric and Medaya are joined by the writer Awkaeke Emezi, whose new novel The Death of Vivek Oji, explores the life and death of a young transgender person, Vivek, who is discovering and navigating his identity in contemporary Nigeria. We talk with Akwaeke about what inspired this story, their own life and childhood in Nigeria, and how they think about work as an “artist and writer based in liminal spaces”, as they put it.
Also, Aminatow Sow, co-author of Big Friendship, returns to recommend Nessa Rapoport's new novel Evening.

Aug 8, 2020

Eric and Melissa Faliveno, author of Tomboyland, parse the history of the tomboy, its queer geographic and temporal character, as part of a broader discussion about how gender remains a wonderfully incoherent experience for so many of us, yet one that social and cultural norms is forever trying to fit into neat, rigid boxes. As she reflects on her debut collection of essays, Faliveno talks about bisexual erasure, not feeling “queer enough,” her love of roller derby, and the essay as a beautifully flexible genre.
Also, Ann Friedman, co-author of Big Friendship, returns to recommend Kathryn Scanlan's touchingly human and poetic Aug 9 - Fog.

Aug 1, 2020

Authors Aminatou Sow and Ann Friendman join co-hosts Kate and Medaya to discuss their exploration of their friend, and close adult friendships in general, Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close. The discussion opens up with Aminatou and Ann telling the story of their friendship, how they met, bonded, grew inseparable, and have remained emotionally-so through trials, tribulations, and major life changes. The conversation then addresses how close non-romantic adult friendships, particularly among women, remain a difficult fit in contemporary America - even as bonding among women is given lip service throughout much of mass culture - and, as Aminatou and Ann testify, the upside to Big Friendship is immeasurable.
Also, Frank B Wilderson III, author of Afropessimism, returns to recommend USC Assistant Professor Zakiyyah Iman Jackson's new book Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World.

Jul 23, 2020

Mieko Kawakami, whose poignant and pointed debut novel Breasts and Eggs is this season’s LARB’s Book Club selection, joins Medaya Ocher and Boris Dralyuk to discuss her career as a musician, poet, blogger, and author, the challenges facing women around the world, the state of Japanese literature, and the wonders of translation.
Also, Eric Cervani, author of The Deviant's War: The Homosexual Vs. the United States of America, returns to recommend James Baldwin's classic Giovanni's Room.

Jul 18, 2020

This week, co-hosts Eric and Medaya talk to professor, writer, and revolutionary, Frank B. Wilderson III, whose latest book, Afropessimism, is a work of memoir and theory. Wilderson defines Afropessism, the ways it has been misrepresented and how it can shape our understanding of contemporary justice. Wilderson also recounts his childhood and how he became an Afropessimist.
Also, writer and translator Joyce Zonana returns to recommends Betty Smith's classic from the 1940s, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Jul 11, 2020

This week, Medaya speaks with acclaimed filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda about his new film, The Truth (La Vérité), starring French film screen legends Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. Kore-eda discusses complicated family dynamics, the relationship between art and truth-telling and what brought him to France. In our second interview, Kate and Medaya are joined by scholar and translator Joyce Zonana, who discusses her translation of Henri Bosco’s 1946 novel Malicroix. This is the first time the French novel has been translated into English.

Jul 4, 2020

Author Eric Cervini Cervini explains Frank Kameny's legacy as a complex figure in the history of the LGBTQ struggle, as he discusses his new book The Deviant's War with Daya, Kate , and Eric. Kameny was a trailblazer for civil rights yet also a person deeply committed to an assimilationist vision of queer equality, one that often sidelined people of color as well as trans and gender-nonconforming members of the community. In the wake of Bostock vs. Clayton County, the landmark Supreme Court case that firmed up protections against employment discrimination for LGBTQ workers under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Cervini discusses how Kameny would have seen this moment in history and how his early work demonstrates at once the decades of struggle that have brought the freedoms of our moment as well as the road we still must travel.
Also, our own Eric Newman explains how he came to read Robert K Massie's magisterial biography of Catherine the Great; and why he'd recommend it to anyone.

Jun 26, 2020

The new documentary Disclosure captures the history of trans representation in Hollywood and mainstream media, with particular attention to the ways in which racism and misogyny influence the portrayal of those who transgress society’s gender norms in order to live their truth. In a wide-ranging discussion, Director Sam Feder and Laverne Cox, star of Orange is the New Black, talk with Medaya and Eric about what has been gained in recent years as well as the challenges ahead as transgender stories, writers, directors, and performers take center stage.
Also, Percival Everett, author of Telephone, returns to recommend Laurence Sterne's classic Tristam Shandy, as well as Michael Winterbottom's recent film adaptation: Tristam Shady: A Cock and Bull Story.

Jun 22, 2020

Co-hosts Kate and Daya join acclaimed writer Percival Everett to discuss his new novel, Telephone, which was published in three different version simultaneously. Kate, Daya and Percival discuss playing with the novel form, his greatest fears and our current political moment.

Jun 14, 2020

Ottessa Moshfegh, one of America's most celebrated young writers, joins Kate and Daya to discuss her third novel, Death in Her Hands. Ottessa completed the book before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has an uncanny resonance with this unique historic moment as it grapples throughout with issues of isolation. When, in the interview, Ottessa declares "being in isolation and not going crazy is a lot of work," she is speaking about her book's protagonist; but she could just as well be talking about anyone in the world during these days of Shelter in Place. Throw in a deftly crafted murder mystery, a central character reckoning with her own mortality and disappointing life as she begins to find clues and piece together the puzzle, and a dog in the lead supporting role - and it's pretty clear that Ms. Moshfegh has written a psychological thriller for our times.
Also, Juli Delgado Lopera, author of Fiebre Tropical, returns to recommend House of Impossible Beauties, Joseph Cassara's vibrant debut novel set in Harlem's gay ball scene in the 1980s.

Jun 7, 2020

In light of the nation-wide public uprising that followed the murder of George Floyd, we return to Patrisse Cullors, author of When They Call You a Terrorist: a Black Lives Matter Memoir. At the 2018 Lambda LitFest, Patrisse spoke with host Eric Newman about her activism, the philosophy that undergirds #BlackLivesMatter and how queer writers and activists from the 1960s and 1970s continue to shape her political vision and practice. While Cullors celebrates recent victories against police brutality and the prison system in Los Angeles, she also gives the audience inspiration for fighting back on what was then the eve of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

May 31, 2020

Juli Delgado Lopero, author of Fiebre Tropical, joins Eric and Daya. Juli shares how their debut novel draws on their experiences growing up in a strong, matriarchal family, moving from Colombia to the U.S. as a teen, and grappling with the unevenness of coming to queer consciousness beyond the cliche coming out narrative. As we close out the show, they share how drag has been a consistent and profound source of joy and creativity in their lives and public performances.
Also, Wayne Koestenbaum, whose latest collection of essays is Figure it Out, returns to recommend two novels by Magda Szabo, The Doorn and Katalin Street; as well as two works by Pierre Guyotat, Coma and In the Deep.

May 24, 2020

Kate and Medaya talk to the critic and writer Olivia Laing about her new collection of essays Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency. The three discuss the role of art in dark times, Olivia’s environmental activist youth and what she turns to during a crisis. Then, Lucy Ives joins the hosts to discuss the legacy of the artist, architect and writer Madeline Gins, whose work was recently collected into a comprehensive reader titled The Saddest Thing is That I Have Had to Use Words.

May 17, 2020

One surefire way to lift yourself out of the shelter-in-place doldrums is to engage with someone whose enthusiasm for life and literature is more infectious than any coronavirus. Wayne Koestenbaum joins Kate, Eric, and Daya to discuss his new collection of essays Figure it Out; what ensues is a conversation with exuberant inspirations at every turn. Share this one with your friends, it will renew their faith in living the literary life.
Also, Cathy Park Hong, author of Minor Feelings, returns to recommend two foreboding works of recent literature (as if to counterbalance Wayne's optimism): C Pam Zhang's novel How Much of These Hills is Gold; and Joyelle McSweeney's new book of poetry Toxicon and Ariadne.

May 10, 2020

Writer, editor, and poet Cathy Park Hong joins Medaya Ocher for a dialogue about her new book Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, which is a blend of memoir, history, and cultural criticism that investigates what it means to live as an Asian American women and artist in America. Cathy and Daya learn that they shared some quirky experiences in their youth: wearing inappropriate t-shirts and how they struggled to conquer the english language. Cathy also explains her resonant eponymous concept, "Minor Feelings," which is introduced in an essay on Richard Pryor's hilarious/tortured/sublime "Live in Concert."
Also, Samantha Irby returns to give an advance recommendation for Raven Leilani's novel Luster, which is scheduled for release this summer.

May 3, 2020

This week we bring you two tales of lore from the olden days of Queer LA. First, Kate, Daya, and Eric are joined by Sharp and Durk Dehner from the Tom of Finland Foundation to tell the story of the legendary gay artist Touko Valio Laaksonen, who immigrated to Los Angeles, on the occasion of Tom's 100th birthday. Then, Rachel Mason drops by to talk about her documentary Circus of Books, which recently debuted on Netflix, about the legendary porn bookstore in Southern California that was owned and operated by Rachel's parents.

This is the tenth episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.

Apr 26, 2020

Feeling nostalgic for social anxiety? Go public vicariously with Samantha Irby! You may not conquer your fears, but you'll laugh so much you'll be happy about them. Samantha joins Kate, Eric, and Medaya to talk about her new collection of comic essays Wow, No Thank You, her experience writing for Hulu's hit series Shrill, TV writer's rooms in general, and Hollywood's one constant: fake kindness. The wit is accompanied by wisdom throughout; and, in a plague year, there's added resonance to Samantha's themes of making peace with the body and how not to feel alone.
Also, Rufi Thorpe, author of The Knockout Queen, returns to recommend Lynn Strong's Want, fever dream of a novel about contemporary American economic anxieties, which will be released this summer.

Apr 19, 2020

This week, writer Rufi Thorpe joins Eric and Medaya to discuss her latest novel, The Knockout Queen. Rufi, Eric, and Medaya talk about love and violence in American culture, as well as our failed systems of justice. They also discuss RuPaul’s Drag Race, and the beauty of friendships, which brings one of our hosts to tears.
Also, Felicia Angeja Viator, author of To Live and Defy in LA, returns to recommend Hari Kunzru's novel White Tears.

Apr 11, 2020

This week, we're joined by Felicia Angeja Viator, author of To Live and Defy in LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America. Eric, Kate and Medaya talk with Felicia about the rise of gangsta rap in Los Angeles, the sounds and culture that defined the era, the artists and performers who rose to stardom, and how we still see the effects of that sound in music today.
Also, artist Harry Dodge, author of My Meteorite, returns to recommend Crudo A Novel by Olivia Laing.

This is the ninth episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.

Apr 4, 2020

What better way to break out of the stay-in-place doldrums, and reflect on this transformational moment, than to consider the role of the random in the creation of the new with one of our most brilliant shape-shifters, artist Harry Dodge. Kate, Medaya, and Eric speak with Harry from four different locations across Southern California on the occasion of the publication of his first, already-heralded, book, My Meteorite. Harry talks about what motivated him to write, how he arrived at a form that interweaves memoir-like accounts with extended philosophical reflections - and, of course, the content of those reflections. The imagination of Harry Dodge is an exciting place; and your random encounter with this podcast just might inspire new approaches to our new reality.

Also, Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness, calls in to recommend The Gift by Barbara Browning.

This is the eighth episode in our series on LA and Southern California writers, artists and filmmakers. This episode of the LARB Radio Hour is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council.

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