Inclusion Ride-or-Die


6/7/19 - We’re talking about legal efforts to extend the MeToo conversation beyond firing men who behaved badly. And we’re exploring policies that can actually foster more inclusive work environments. Plus, we talk to the co-author of the inclusion rider, attorney Kalpana Kotagal.

Transcript below.

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Producer: Gina Delvac

Hosts: Aminatou Sow & Ann Friedman

Theme song: Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn

Composer: Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs.

Associate Producer: Jordan Bailey

Visual Creative Director: Kenesha Sneed

Merch Director: Caroline Knowles

Editorial Assistant: Laura Bertocci

Design Assistant: Brijae Morris

Ad sales: Midroll



Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.

Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.

Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman.

Aminatou: Hi Ann Friedman!

Ann: It's that time again!

Aminatou: Spring books, baby! We been reading.

Ann: Ugh, we're always reading. I love it. We have so many incredible authors on the show today so we should get right into it. On this week's agenda we are talking about books: poetry with Ali Liebegott, graphic memoir from Mira Jacob.

Aminatou: Gina talked to Xuan Juliana Wang about her short story collection.

Ann: And essays by Briallen Hopper.

[Theme Song]


Aminatou: So first up, Ann, you talked to very good pal of the podcast Ali Liebegott about her brand spanking new poetry collection The Summer of Dead Birds.

Ann: [Laughs]

Aminatou: This is my NPR voice.

[Interview Starts]

Ann: Ali thank you for being on CYG!

Ali: Thank you for having me!

Ann: Your book made me feel all the feelings.

Ali: Sorry. [Laughs]

Ann: No! I think it's very good. I mean don't apologize for making me feel feelings.

Ali: I feel like it's a work of emotional terrorism to put this book in the world.

Ann: I mean did it feel like emotional terrorism to write it?

Ali: Well most of the writing in the book was done ten years ago at least and so it was sort of happening as I was going through these situations and so it was very -- it was almost like trauma writing, you know? Where it was just a processing. But it's been very weird to revisit those emotional things over a decade later, you know?

Ann: So did you pull out some old notebooks and go back in?

Ali: No. You know, recently I watched that Marie Kondo show.

Ann: Uh-huh?

Ali: I have boxes of journals from my whole life and I thought I don't want them anymore.

Ann: [Gasps]

Ali: I know. It's very controversial! I'm at least reading what's there before I get rid of it.

Ann: Wow.

Ali: And if there's something in there that I don't want to get rid of I don't.

Ann: And do you set aside the whole notebook and keep it? Or do you just tear out that page?

Ali: Tear out the pages.

Ann: [Gasps]

Ali: I found like right when I graduated high school I wasn't out to the world yet but I was all bubbling up and it was so interesting to go back to that. It was like basically you need to drop out of community college and stop taking algebra and move to San Francisco and be a writer. And I was so proud of myself for kind of knowing to trust that intuition at that age in a way. I was surprised that I had that much intuition when I went back to read the journals.


Ann: You didn't remember it coming up?

Ali: I do but I always feel like I remember things wrong, you know? And it was very interesting to feel like that was how I remembered it and it's true. It was right there in the journal scrawled in mental hospital handwriting. [Laughs]

Ann: [Laughs] Okay, so I suppose it's a good thing to say that this is a book of poetry.

Ali: Yeah. It's a long . . . I call it a long poem.

Ann: It's interesting, I was going to actually ask about that category because not that poetry can't be narrative but it feels exceptionally narrative compared to a lot of poetry that I've read which is one thing I really liked about it.

Ali: Thanks. I mean are you a poetry reader?

Ann: You know I think it's actually I resist it sometimes.

Ali: Yeah.

Ann: But I don't understand how you can be someone who loves words and not love poetry. It's so pure.

Ali: I feel like people have a block against poetry like I have a block against quinoa.

Ann: [Laughs]

Ali: Like if you serve me quinoa and I take a bite I'm okay with it.

Ann: Uh-huh.

Ali: But the thought of it just makes me want to die, you know? And so I think a lot of people have that. Because a lot of people say "Oh, I don't like poetry but I liked your book."

Ann: Hmm.

Ali: It's just an interesting we learned the wrong way about poetry back in the day or it's this mysterious thing or it's this boring thing or it's in this language that no longer is relevant, you know?

Ann: Right. Yeah, your language is extremely relevant and maybe you can talk a little about the way you chose to divide it up and the way the sections are.

Ali: Sure. So it's in four parts and I've always since I began writing, when I worked on some homes, I always published them as a chap book as a way to kind of mark progress. So in some ways the sections of the book were probably all chap books at some point but the first section was my ex, we took care of her mom when she was dying and that whole kind of long section was sort of about doing home hospice for her, you know? And that . . . I don't usually read from the first part which I think is it called winter? I think it might be called winter.


Ann: Yeah, the first one is called winter.

Ali: And then it's also weird to write a book and then never remember what's in the book which happens all the time.

Ann: Well technically the book is now part of your past and if the past is easy to forget then . . . [Laughs]

Ali: You know I had a therapist at the time say, you know, very few lesbian relationships survive the death of a mother. And I don't know if that's because she was a lesbian therapist and that's why she said . . . I don't know if other relationships do or don't, you know? I don't know. And so I was living, after I was sort of breaking up with that relationship, I was living in my art studio and I was living with my dog at the time, this insane dalmatian I had named Rorschach.

We were just walking all the time and it's really interesting because this was all pre-cell phone and I think a lot about if I was going to go through a divorce right now I don't think I would have the same kind of relationship to the grief because I think I would be distracted by scrolling through Instagram or, you know, doing stuff online. There's just like . . . but at the time I just literally was like living in this art studio and walking around the neighborhood for hours with this dog. So that's the second section.


Ann: And I have to ask, so reading this I feel like this book really helped me understand people who love pets in a new way. [Laughs] And I . . . was Rorschach your first pet?

Ali: Rorschach was not my first pet.

Ann: Okay.

Ali: But she was my first -- you know, she was a very . . . when I moved from San Francisco to New York in 1994 I was like leaving a different relationship and I was like going to go to New York and become a new person, you know, as that happens.

Ann: Wait, did that happen?

Ali: I didn't. It turns out, Ann, wherever you go there you are.

Ann: [Laughs] Wait, are you a therapist? Sorry.

Ali: Yes. I don't take insurance though. [Laughs] But it was like I got this dog right before I moved to New York which is maybe the dumbest thing a person can do, but this dalmatian . . . so she really -- and she lived to be 16 years. So, you know, I moved there when I was like 22 so she really witnessed that period of your life where you're like you grow up.

Ann: Intense identity formation.

Ali: Totally.

Ann: Yeah.

Ali: And she was my companion and as she got older I was really worried about her dying. I couldn't imagine not having her, you know? And she lived -- the day after her 16th birthday she died which is insane for a dog to live that long.

Ann: But you just love unstable animals.

Ali: I love a lot of unstable things, Ann. [Laughs]

Ann: I mean that's what this book is kind of about!

Ali: Yes it is.

Ann: When you love unstable things so fiercely.

Ali: Yes.

Ann: And also fear death.

Ali: Yes.

Ann: How do you live?

Ali: You become a poet I guess. [Laughs]

Ann: You are 100% a poet. I'm wondering about, okay, so you returned to something that you presumably had written down right after this period of death and grieving and breakup. Were you able to emotionally return to that place as you now? Or did it feel different? You know, were you writing to yourself back then?


Ali: No, this was -- I wrote this in real-time.

Ann: You didn't edit or adjust it at all?

Ali: I mean yes, in some ways actually it was structural, actually, the adjustments. There were -- in my first book I had written letters to this boy I had met in a cave so I was trying to use that same format but with letters to my sliding scale therapist. And ultimately I was like I don't think that's . . . I think it's distracting in this as opposed to -- I just wanted something starker.

Ann: Got it.

Ali: So the editing was really whittling.

Ann: Hmm.

Ali: And also just sort of like moving pieces, you know? I was really trying to figure out how to end the book and with the book end with Rorschach still alive because the whole book is fearing her death, you know?

Ann: Right. So I guess maybe I should ask that question in a different way because I had made an assumption -- clearly wrong -- that you went back in and tinkered a little.

Ali: No.

Ann: So what is it like for you now to read it? Or talk about it.

Ali: It's awful. I just was thinking I don't think I want to do it anymore. There's like certain pages I can't read because I get . . . like the first couple readings I cried which I wasn't expecting to. I don't know, I'm so out of touch with how I'm feeling. [Laughs]

Ann: Me too.

Ali: It's like of course I would start crying! It's basically opening something that you have . . . and even when I got the galleys I was not in an emotional -- I didn't read the book when they sent it to me after it was finished. I looked at it, you know? But I didn't go in there. And I literally just like -- I remember leaving work and then going to do my reading at Skylight and just sort of encountering it emotionally on the page and then the next day I had a reading in San Francisco at City Lights. And City Lights I was a real mess. I hadn't even started reading and I was sobbing and I was like oh, I feel like I look like a crazy person here. I probably did but it didn't . . . I mean what can you do?


Ann: Wait, you mean you were emotionally affected by an experience of grief and mourning that you had yourself? You're a human?

Ali: But how many readings have you gone to where someone just doesn't even start reading and just sobs? [Laughs]

Ann: Okay, that -- it is true. It is true that I haven't been to readings that begin with sobbing.

Ali: It began that way, yeah. How it all began. [Laughter] But what are you going to do?

Ann: There's this line in the book where you write "I want to choose the cancers in my book."

Ali: Yeah.

Ann: I read that as someone who is also a writer as -- and I'm totally talking about myself right now -- the way that I get to kind of pick and choose what boxes I'm going to open or what painful things I want to go back to. But hearing you say that it seems like, I don't know, is that how you meant it?

Ali: I don't know. It's interesting you ask about that line because there's three deaths in this book right? There's the death of the relationship, there's the death of my ex's mom, and there's the fear of the impending death of the dog, you know? And I feel like cancer especially, like a sudden terminal cancer, is like . . . it could happen to any of us right now. We know that intellectually but then when it happens it's like uh, so . . . I don't know, it's just such a -- I don't know what kind of language we can use on Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: You can use any language you want.

Ali: Really? It's such a mind fuck.

Ann: You can definitely say mind fuck on this podcast.

Ali: [Laughs] So it's like that thing of to say I want to choose the cancers in my book, like in some ways it doesn't make any sense at all because if you're choosing the cancers in your book then the cancers are probably related to people you know and love. You know what I mean? So I think I don't know exactly what that line was trying to get at. It was wanting kind of some sort of emotional clarity which it's like wanting to be able to control the things we have zero control over, you know?


Ann: I want to know if writing poetry is something that you do as part of a practice all the time, like regularly?

Ali: Well it's changed. I really in the last ten years have had this thing where I like to go to a visual arts show and write a poem there, like in relationship to the visual arts. So I have these weird things that I do do sometimes, like I'll never go to a museum or a show without the intention of writing a poem while I'm there, you know? When I worked at the grocery store in San Francisco I did this series which now I'm like really proud of that was called Shifts and I published it in a chap book. I would come and go and this job was great because you could come and go but if you went too long you had to work 90 days before you got back on the health insurance. So I was going to do this project where -- and I used to run this writers retreat in Mexico and so we'd be gone sometimes then you'd get kicked off the health insurance. So Shifts was going to be one poem every day for 90 days until I was back on the health insurance.

And the poem started at the register with the first thing that I rang up. So it's like whatever you came through my line with, you know? And I did it. I did it for like I think 33 days and then I could just feel kind of like just this natural end to it, you know?

And some of the poems I like a lot. Sometimes I'll do weird things like that. I've written poetry sporadically since I've been in Los Angeles. It comes from I think a different place than fiction, you know?

Ann: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I guess that's sort of what I was asking about. I know you're also a visual artist. You painted the image that's on the cover of the book.

Ali: Yeah, I was so grateful they let me do that.

Ann: And I have to assume this is Rorschach?

Ali: That's Rorschach. She would be upset with how she was rendered there.

Ann: [Laughs]


Ali: That's sort of like the last page of the book. We went -- every year for her birthday we would go on a road trip. She never wanted to go on the road trip but I would make her go and it was often like the desert in summer. It was just like a hundred bad ideas but we went to Carlsbad Caverns from San Diego in I remember it was near Labor Day and her birthday was May 28th. We went to this Motel 6 outside of Carlsbad Caverns and had a birthday party for her and that's what that painting is off.

Ann: Aww. Ali, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Ali: Ann, thank you! America read a poem already.

Ann: Listen, we're doing our best.

Ali: I know. You really are. [Laughter]

Ann: One poet a year.

[Interview Ends]

Aminatou: Ugh, Ali, the best!

Ann: We love Ali.

Aminatou: Ali's amazing. We love Ali.

Ann: I'm so excited for this next one. Amina you interviewed Mira Jacob about her graphic memoir that we both loved, Good Talk.

[Interview Starts]

Mira: My name is Mira Jacob and my book is called Good Talk.

Aminatou: Mira, we're so excited to have you on CYG today.

Mira: I'm very excited myself, thanks.

Aminatou: Can you talk a little about why you wanted to create a memoir that was told through your conversation rather than told through your own narrative perspective?

Mira: Yes, absolutely. So usually I would actually go toward a narrative perspective because I'm a writer and do think oh, sentences are my tool and they're sort of my ally. But what was happening in that moment -- so my son is brown. I am brown. My husband is white. My son lands somewhere between us in the color spectrum. And he was obsessed with Michael Jackson which I know means a really different thing now but in 2014 meant he had the dances, he had the moves, and he was asking a lot of questions. And his questions, some of them were really funny like "What is LaToya?"

Aminatou: [Laughs] I love -- little kids ask the best questions.


Mira: What is a LaToya? And did he lose his other glove? Which I was like of course you would think that. But then some of them were really painful. So he was asking "Did Michael Jackson -- what did he like being better? Being brown or being white?" Oh, because I should back up and say that what happened was we got him the albums, the Michael Jackson albums.

Aminatou: Of course.

Mira: Not realizing that if you leave a six-year-old alone in a room with a turntable and these enormous Michael Jackson albums he comes out with questions like "What color is Michael Jackson? Is he brown or is he white?"

Aminatou: The man in the mirror. [Laughs]

Mira: And so when he said that I was like oh, you know, he's black. He started brown and he sort of turned white, and he goes "He turned white?" And I said yeah. And he goes "Are you going to turn white?" I was like no.

Aminatou: Wow.

Mira: He said "Am I going to turn white?" I was like no. He goes "Daddy?" And I was like "Daddy's already white." "But was he always?"

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Mira: So then we went from that question to are white people afraid of brown people? Which by the way he asked at the York Subway stop in this very chipper voice. The train stopped, it opened, and he yelled "Are white people afraid of brown people?"

Aminatou: [Laughs] And scarred an entire subway car.

Mira: Yeah, exactly. The entire car was like [Gasps]. He asked that question and then he asked "Is daddy afraid of us?" And the day he asked that I was like I don't know what to do. Because I understood that we were in this moment in America where we were ramping up to a specific kind of racial violence meaning we were ramping up to the acknowledgment of a specific kind of racial violence that has existed here for a really long time and that I've had the privilege not to be a part of for the most part. My parents were brought here in 1965. They were brought here with laws that actually really favored their coming here and their being sort of nestled into the community. They worked hard but also . . .


Aminatou: Right. I think all of the immigration laws post-civil rights really favored a specific kind of immigrant coming to America.

Mira: Exactly, exactly. And they were among those immigrants. So the reason I decided to draw this book as opposed to write it is because when I tried to write my son's questions, when I tried to kind of position them in an essay, I kept imagining what the comment section would be. And I knew that that comment section was going to be filled with people that judged every sentence leading up to his actual questions. "Oh, she's this kind of mother. Oh, why are they doing this? Where do they live? What do they . . ." And I knew they were going to judge us in a way that I felt was going to make me feel really sick. And it was also specifically that they were going to judge him.

So what I did instead was I drew us on printer paper. I went and grabbed all the Michael Jackson albums from his room, I put them on my dining room table, and then I drew our conversation in bubbles and put them on top of the albums and put us -- and then stood on the dining room table and took pictures of it and then made that into a visual essay. And the minute I did that I was just giving people the feeling of actually eavesdropping on a conversation. I wasn't trying to package it for them. I wasn't trying to make it okay for their ego to take in this information. I was just saying this is what we said. This is what it was. And then they could live with the emotions that came from it.

Aminatou: I love that. How faithful is the book to actual conversation that you've had throughout your life? Are you aiming for a substantive kind of truth? Did you record any of those conversations with the exchanges with family and friends?


Mira: No, I didn't record any of them. And I think in terms of how faithful they are I would say one is they're definitely condensed. I don't put in a lot of the airtime between one question and another. I did try to replicate the ways that conversations can wander off-topic but also you and I are going to have this conversation right now. We're going to leave this room and we're going to remember it completely differently because you're going to take in parts of this conversation in a totally different way than I will. And so in making the book I'm just writing the conversations as I remember them, as my body took them in and metabolized them, because that's how they live in me.

Aminatou: You know, a lot of conversations about especially difficult things with family and friends are usually deemed to be private, so especially when you talk about things like race. I'm wondering if you felt -- you know, how you felt about retelling those stories and if there was any tension around that or if you had to ask for permission for example from some people for telling those stories.

Mira: Okay, so one of the things that happens in the course of this book is we start off with my son's asking questions in 2015 and then we move through an America that ramps up to electing Donald Trump. And in that same moment my in-laws became Trump supporters.

Aminatou: Of course. [Laughs]

Mira: As would happen. And were holding, you know, signs for him and our family communication broke down. These are people who have been part of my life for 20 years. We show up for each other at events. We show up for each other in hospitals. We show up for each other. And I know they love me and yet they were making this decision that was so painful for me that I almost didn't know how to handle it. And I tried to talk to them about it but early on their response was "We don't feel like we need to explain why we're doing this to you. We don't want to talk about this and we're not going to. For our family it's better if we don't talk about this. Let's just all get along."


I think it's really easy to get along if nothing about your life is compromised. I think it's a really easy ask if you can get up every morning and feel safe in this country. If you can get up and tell yourself that your son's going to come home okay it's okay for us to ignore what's happening. But it's not okay if you're on the other end of that. So when you ask "Did you ask for permission to have these conversations?" No. No. Or to write down those conversations? Definitely not. Not because I don't love them and respect them but because all of this violence that happens to us in these situations in mixed-race families, all of it is under the guise of we love you so this shouldn't happen. And all of it is under the guise of we love you and love means we don't discuss these things in public. That's a really convenient way for white supremacy to stay white supremacy, to both give itself the illusion that it is open-minded enough to have a brown daughter-in-law but also vote in violence towards me, right? Like that's insane. And to not talk about it feels like asking me to get hit and not say this hurts.

Aminatou: It's very convenient.

Mira: It's very convenient.

Aminatou: How did you end up communicating about the book with them?

Mira: Yeah. I sent it to them before I published it. And by the way I should say our relationship had grown strained and we're still showing up for each other because they love me and I love them.

Aminatou: Family.

Mira: Yeah, and we're just going to do that. So our relationship had been strained and I sent it to them and I said "This is the book I write and it's about our family and it's about what's happening in America. And I wrote it with a lot of love and I hope you can see that in here."


And they -- you know what? They had it, then a couple weeks later they said . . . my mother-in-law called and said "We read your book. We don't know how to talk about it with you yet but we love you very much." And that to me was like okay, that's what this is going to be. It's both things. Like to pretend that the love isn't there, to be like "That's not enough." I know there are plenty of people that want me to say "That's not enough" because it feels really good to walk away from people in righteous anger. What feels better than that honestly? What feels better than just cutting off the pain and being like I don't have to deal with this anymore?

But those are my son's grandparents and my son is losing so much already in this country. And I don't want him to lose more, so what that means is I hear them say "We don't know how to talk to you about this. We love you." And I say "I love you too."

Aminatou: I have to sit with that. That is so -- you know, it's so much but it's also I think an experience that so many people can relate to in this, you know, you can't be selective about the things that the strain is about, right? To be in any kind of relationship is to have strain and that racial tension is a very specific kind of strain I will say.

Mira: [Laughs] Yes.

Aminatou: When your identity is challenged in that way. But I think that that feeling of we have strife about something, I don't know how to talk to you about it, but I heard you and I'm just going to sit with that, I'm like that's something I can relate to about many, many things that are not as big as race.

Mira: Yeah. I mean that's the other thing why people -- it's funny because when people talk about interracial relationship in this country I think they have a sort of fantasy version, the fantasy version where all the babies are beige. [Laughs]


Aminatou: I mean that's what the fantasy is, right? It's whenever people talk about interracial relationship they're just like think about these exotic, beautiful babies but nobody's talking about the like this shit is hard.

Mira: Yes.

Aminatou: We should get legislation for this to even happen.

Mira: Yes.

Aminatou: And all interracial relationships, or the way that we talk about interracial relationship really centers whiteness in a way that really kind of blows my mind, you know?

Mira: Absolutely.

Aminatou: I was like how can you be in an interracial relationship and still be the dominant kind of conversation? And also some interracial relationships don't even involve white people.

Mira: Exactly.

Aminatou: But that is always the frame. You know, it's always like a white person plus insert someone here.

Mira: You're right. And then there's -- insert someone here. And then the other idea there too is the minute we mix everything turns into love.

Aminatou: I mean have you not seen all those documentaries on the loving family? [Laughter] It's like that's how we solve racism.

Mira: Right.

Aminatou: Is we have to yoke ourselves to white people and everything is chill again.

Mira: Oh yes, of course.

Aminatou: Not that that's actually a very hard thing to do and so much more racism is revealed in that . . .

Mira: Moment!

Aminatou: Moment of -- yeah.

Mira: Yes! And that's the thing that I wanted to get through in this, the fantasy version, then conversely I think there's also . . . let's say I think there are plenty of people. I know because I get a lot of hate mail from them.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Mira: Who think that the minute you marry a white person it's because you hate yourself. And the minute they marry you it's because they want a servant. Do you know what I mean? There's just this real suspicion.

Aminatou: I know. But that's also centering whiteness, right?

Mira: Of course.

Aminatou: In a way where it's like the white partner, that's the person to aspire to.

Mira: Yes, yes.

Aminatou: Like that's the person that sets the standard for what the relationship is.

Mira: Would you like to respond to a bunch of angry emails in my inbox? Because I would really appreciate it. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Please send them. Send them my way. I'm like what are you talking about?


Mira: You know what's so funny? I just did this reading in Minnesota with Tina Chang who has a book of poems out called Hybrida and it was written in the same moment that my book was. And she is Chinese-American and her husband is Haitian I believe and it's . . . and she talks about all of these same dynamics coming up between them and what does it mean to -- like what does it mean to be . . . for me what does it mean to be a sort of model of minority? And what does it mean to have parents who aspire to that? And when that completely breaks down as it has from the day I was out in the world by myself and looking around and being like "I don't think America is what you think America is . . ." [Laughter]

Aminatou: Ugh.

Mira: You know, and what do you . . . and then how do you turn? And how do you kind of have that conversation with yourself and say what is it that I want? What is it that I am doing? What does my power look like? How have I myself interrupted other people's dignity and their lives and their days with my bullshit? How have I done that? How do I get a hold of myself?

Aminatou: You know one of the pressures of being a minority is you kind of don't get to be an individual, you know? You always -- whatever you do is a choice that, you know, it has implications for everybody.

Mira: Everybody.

Aminatou: Everybody that's your color, everybody that's your . . . you just never get to be -- you never get to be like "Hi, I'm Mary Jacob. I did this thing and I did it just for me because of where I am and my own tiny place in history" as opposed to like "I'm making a choice that will impact every single brown person who has ever lived."

Mira: I mean you're saying this and all the ghosts of every disapproving auntie just walked into the room to give us a look. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Yeah. I mean that was the overwhelming feeling that I had. Just, you know, you participate a lot in public life and you are . . . so you get to share your ideas in the world. But I think that a thing that has always -- that I have always admired about you is that you stand really firmly in your individuality, you know? Not saying like "Hi, as a brown person . . ."

Mira: Right.


Aminatou: "Here is what this choice means." And instead like really defining yourself for yourself. And I think that's something that's so powerful for other minorities to see, especially immigrants, because the baggage of immigration is so huge.

Mira: It's -- yes.

Aminatou: It's just like it's a lot. For me I'm the first person in my family in America so if I have children, you know, they will have the baggage of being a first-generation something.

Mira: Of course.

Aminatou: You know? And then I'll be the like disapproving helicopter mom. That's just what's going on, you know? But it's something that in your writing and in your speaking that has always . . . it has always called out to me of like you don't have to carry the baggage of all of your ancestors. But also it's really important to just put your foot down and say "This is me. This is who I am. I'm an individual. I'm one person and I don't have to be defined by all these identities that are being like stuck onto me."

Mira: Right. We give ourselves -- because we . . . well here, I had a student last night who actually asked me this question. So I teach writing as well. Who said "What do you do with the part though where when you write things that are true you feel like you're letting down your people?"

Aminatou: I'm like a white person does not know what that means. [Laughs]

Mira: I know, exactly. And that's almost exactly what I told her. I said you know, it's crazy because we sort of have to present as this monolith and increasingly in this moment, in this political moment, we do. We sort of link arms and we're like "We are the people of color, impenetrable." But in that moment the minute you do that you lose your vulnerability. You lose your introspection. You lose your ability to take something apart and know it fully. You lose all the things that whiteness allows itself just for getting up in the morning and that's baffling, right?

Aminatou: Ooh. It's baffling.

Mira: It's baffling.


Aminatou: I mean one of the things that I was telling you before we started recording is I think the number one lesson I've learned interacting with white people in romantic relationships is that I've just learned that I can want more and I can ask for things very shamelessly.

Mira: Absolutely.

Aminatou: Like that's a thing that I just didn't know that until I was intimate with white people in that way. And the lighter side of this is like well this is why interracial dating is actually great. [Laughter]

Mira: Really helpful.

Aminatou: I'm like your white boyfriend will tell you his salary then your mind will -- like your life will change, you know?

Mira: This happened to me all the time.

Aminatou: But the heavier side of this is we still don't quite have a way of talking about interracial relationship that honors both people in the relationship right? Or even in 2019 that makes it seem not fraught or not . . . that's why I think, you know, starting the book with questions from your son is so powerful because you're like well here's a person who doesn't get to make that choice.

Mira: Right.

Aminatou: Of this person is the result of this kind of relationship and their questions are relevant and their experience is valid.

Mira: And how are we going to answer those questions, right? Because his father and I are going to have really different answers. And I noticed early on that my son was asking me all the questions about race because I'm brown and because he's brown and because on some level he knew that his experience of the world was going to be more like mine.

Aminatou: Mm-hmm.

Mira: And at the same time when this happens it's also really disheartening for me in a way because I also want to ask for the salary you deserve, ask for the things that you want, don't always second-guess yourself, don't feel like you're taking up too much space in this world. I want him to inherit that.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Mira: I want him to inherit the kind of I'm going to take up space in the world.

Aminatou: Yeah. 

Mira: And he's  maybe not going to get that from me as much right?

Aminatou: Yeah.

Mira: And part of me is like run little brown boy. Take it all. Take it all!


Aminatou: [Laughs] You're like just -- you're like let the whiteness jump out and teach you things. I just want to say thank you for writing this book. It will speak to people on so many different levels and I think that it will really bring forward that conversation that people have in private spaces that they're really afraid to expand on. So I just really want to say thank you for that.

Mira: Thank you so much.

Aminatou: And thanks for joining us today.

Mira: Thanks for having me.

[Interview Ends]



Aminatou: Gina talked to Xuan Juliana Wang about her short story collection Home Remedies. Let's listen.

[Interview Starts]

Gina: Can you tell me how you want me to say your name, particularly your first name? Or do you go by Juliana?

Juliana: I mean I go by Juliana only because no one could pronounce my actual name.

Gina: When you were growing up?

Juliana: When I was growing up. I picked Juliana out of a dictionary in second grade and there was only like 20 names so I just picked one.

Gina: You just grabbed it?

Juliana: And then I just let people call me like Julie, Julian, Julia. I don't feel like it's -- it doesn't really matter. But in Chinese you would never say Xuan. You know, you would never say the first name first.

Gina: First, right.

Juliana: You would say Wang Xuan.

Gina: When you think of your name do you think Wang Xuan?

Juliana: Yeah, I think Wang Xuan, yeah, or like [0:40:12] Xuan or something.

Gina: Yeah.

Juliana: But Juliana's like I'll take that as my . . . [Laughs]


Gina: Sure. It's like a . . . that's cool.

Juliana: No, it's just easier for everybody so . . .

Gina: Yeah. Well thanks so much for being on Call Your Girlfriend.

Juliana: Thank you.

Gina: We're here to talk about your book Home Remedies which is a book of stories. I feel like it's really tempting to look at this collection through a lens of identity and that's definitely there about how many different ways there are to be Chinese and what that can mean. One of the ways you do that so well is by dropping us into very specific places and social orders. Like when you take us to LA where I also grew up we visit these very specific suburban neighborhoods. The same is true in Beijing. There's a character who runs from a big career to hide out in what he calls a third-tier city on the coast, or maybe the narrator calls it that, in China. As you were devising these characters and stories where did you start? Did you begin with the person? Did you start with the place?

Juliana: With every story I think I started somewhere different maybe. I have journals. I work from my journals first. I never have a document that has nothing on it. It's always from, you know, an interesting observation or something I've fictionalized and I kind of gather it into one document and try to make sense of it. And if it's really working sometimes everything in your life fits into the story. You know, every person you talk to and the way the light looks that day and what song you were listening to. And then after that I have to put it away and look at it later. But first it's just a matter of trying to tell something that I'm feeling at that moment.

Gina: So maybe we should talk about a specific story because there are so many.

Juliana: Yeah.


Gina: The one I alluded to about the gentleman who moves to a third-tier city on the coast, that's the story of two Olympic divers.

Juliana: Right.

Gina: Where did that begin? What was the idea behind that particular story? It's called Vaulting the Sea?

Juliana: That one is interesting. Yes, called Vaulting the Sea. That one is interesting because I was living in Beijing at the time and I was working as a translator for the Chicago Tribune during the Olympics.

Gina: This was in 2008?

Juliana: Yeah, in 2008. And I was just doing random things during the Olympics like eating Peking duck or going to a sports event, whoever needed a translator. We were somewhere interviewing the US rowing team so they didn't need me, you know? And I remember I was looking at a screen and they were broadcasting these two synchronized divers during an interview and there was not even sound on the screen. It was just the way they looked at each other and their body language. I felt like there was such a . . . like an aching love story there and I wanted to write it, so the idea started there. But I don't know those people so I think I was drawing from my own experience of maybe loving somebody who didn't love me back. And then how I was going to, I don't know, ruin their life? [Laughs] Or the way that somebody would need you but if they don't love you then what can you . . . I don't know, there was some real feeling for me that I wanted to write into the story and I think that's how that story came together.

Gina: You said you're a journaler and kind of like an observer of these different people. What draws you to some of the people that you write? Is it kind of from those observations? Are there also ideas that you're looking to explore? I guess I'm just sort of like wow, where do you come up with this constellation of the second-generation wealthy sons of Chinese party officials and then all the way to the first-generation immigrants in Chinatown? How the hell are you doing all of this?


Juliana: I feel like I'm interested in the kind of person that's on the cusp of change. I started really writing in earnest after I moved to Beijing in my early 20s. Even before that I was writing but then I really felt like there's something about moving to Beijing and living in a foreign country in your early 20s. Growing up in LA I felt like . . . I don't know how to say this nicely. I just felt like I was going . . . I was a nothing. Like I would be fine, like I would get a job and I would live a normal life but I didn't feel like I could stand out in any way and I didn't -- and something about that bothered me.

And what I didn't know until I went back to China and I felt like I was so free to be whoever I wanted. There was no room I was scared to go into. You know, I loved going to art museums. I loved visiting artists' studios and going to shows and just talking to people and looking at people and going -- and being free to move about this world and meeting, you know, Beijing at the time was very exciting. It was right before the Olympics and then right afterwards there were so many expats coming in and leaving and there were so many . . . you know, the people that I met were very mischievous and also drifters. And in Days of Being Mild I wrote about [0:45:25] who are these Chinese people who kind of float to Beijing and there were so many of my friends who were like that. They didn't have residence permits. Like them going to Beijing was the big immigration that my family did to the States. And I think Beijing just gave me so much permission to just be any kind of person and to live an interesting life and I didn't expect that to happen. I wanted to plant those people inside of the readers so you could see them. And yeah, so that's how I'd usually choose characters.


Gina: I had one more question about the arc of how the stories appear in the book. Was that something that you agonized over?

Juliana: A little bit. When I look at this book it took all of my 20s, you know? And a little bit of my 30s.

Gina: Yeah, how old is the oldest story in this collection? From when you started.

Juliana: The oldest story was written in 2008 or something? 2007, 2008.

Gina: And the newest?

Juliana: The newest story . . . I mean I finished the newest story like this summer so I don't know.

Gina: Yeah, yeah.

Juliana: It took a long time.

Gina: Right.

Juliana: In the beginning of my 20s I was really preoccupied with family, what it means to be a family and the breakup of families and chosen families. And in my mid-20s I was concerned about love and I was concerned about heartbreak and disappointment and all of these -- the things all of my friends were talking about. And then by the time I was 30 I realized I had all these philosophical questions about life, about why . . . what is the meaning of everything? So I started to write more speculative and more surreal. And I think all of that, I can see that in the book even though in a sense all the stories are about love and family and time and space. But I can see that in my 20s and it was good to put that on paper so I don't forget.

Gina: What draws you to writing stories? Because some of these I felt like, you know, they're on the longer side. These aren't your quick two to three really dense, dense pages of short fiction that some of us have read in the past. And in a few cases I was like oh, I'm ready to jump into the full novel of the story.

Juliana: Yeah.


Gina: And then you would zip -- like hella lift me out. What excites you about writing stories?

Juliana: Well I love the story form. Before I went into grade school I think I read almost exclusively short stories and short story collections. I started I remember in high school it was like Dennis Johnson's Jesus's Son or something. And I love how intense the form allows you to be. I like that you can plant parallels and nested stories and just the way that stories can end in a completely unexpected way but hen if you read a story the second, the third, the fourth time you can find the seeds that were planted. I love that about it.

So I wanted to be . . . I can't say master but I wanted to learn everything I could about this form. And the collection took me a long time to write and that means I had a long time to draft and also a lot of time to edit and I think with every story I really tried to make the reader feel satisfied with the narrative arc of the story and also I wanted to be emotionally resident and true.

So, you know, I would put it away for like a year then read it again. If I wanted to cry at some part, if there was something still on the line for me, then I knew this was good but the things I thought were silly I needed to fix. Yeah, I tend to love stories that are just narratively-driven and expansive and kind of play with form. I like a story that I can describe to my dad who doesn't read in English. If I can just describe to him the story and he will still enjoy it that means to me that's a success.

Gina: What are you reading right now? Or when you're writing stories do you still read stories? I know some authors have like a -- they can't muddle their voice with other people's writing style.


Juliana: Yeah. I'm . . . so I'm writing a novel right now and I was trying to keep my reading in third person. [Laughs] So I wouldn't shift the form. But there's a lot of good short story collections out right now. I just read Bryan Washington's Lot which I loved. Ted Chiang's new Exhalation just came out and I bought it immediately. And I tend to read stories over and over again, like I love Tobias Wolff stories. Sometimes I'll just read Bullet in the Brain just to get myself, you know, kind of into that kind of language.

Gina: Yeah, it's interesting. I do think there is a sort of machismo white guy vibe that's come into a lot of stories, or stories that those of us who have been assigned . . .

Juliana: Right, right, right.

Gina: Because I think it's not as common to read for pleasure as maybe people read novels or non-fiction.

Juliana: Right. But there's so many good women short story writers and I think life is just interwoven with comedy and tragedy right? You're always crying and laughing all the time. And I think the people that taught me that were like Mary Gaitskill, Lorrie Moore, Amy Hempel, you know, Grace Paley. I think these women have shown me how to kind of laugh at absurdities and the cruelties of life.

Gina: I'm interested in your own life and where you've lived because there are so many really astute observations and I don't know how much of them are from your imagination or really types that you know. Where have you lived and was there anywhere that you traveled to to do research for any of these stories?

Juliana: I think I've lived in every place a story has been set in. I can safely say that.

Gina: Yeah.

Juliana: I like to describe places. I think there's some joy in doing that, getting a place exactly right and bringing somebody there. I grew up -- I mean I moved to LA when I was seven. You know, before that my parents had -- like a lot of people from my generation I was raised by my grandparents for two years then reunited with my parents when I was seven. I remember coming out of LAX and seeing my mom in the international terminal.


And then growing up so many of our family friends were in the process of immigrating, like we were in the process of immigrating. And I came into contact with lots of different people and lots of people from China, family friends, or just vague acquaintances would come and stay with us. And, you know, before they found a job they would talk to me about their lives. And I felt like I didn't want that life to be for nothing. I felt like a deep empathy with them when I was young.

My relationship with immigration is that even though I came when I was seven I always felt like I was just -- I was like one of the adults going through it with them. And so maybe that makes me see other immigrants always in this -- in the light of I want to understand them, maybe because I grew up in a period of such change. When I left China at 7 television turned off at 10 p.m. There was just nothing after that. And five years later it's completely changed. And the backdrop of all this change, it's hard to be a really steady person. And I think with Fuerdai these rich kids driving Maseratis around and everybody's just talking about how they're spoiled and no spending money or whatever, I don't really care about that. I feel like what I care about is I think of their parents who are a little bit younger than my parents who got -- who grew up with no new clothes and nothing. Then now they have this money and they're old. Who do they want to give this to but the person they love the most? They're so -- they're not humanized in the culture. Even if they write those articles in The New Yorker or those documentaries it never . . . I never feel like there's a . . . it's not a compassionate gaze to look at them.

Gina: It's not like the Gossip Girl where we get the full spectrum.

Juliana: No.

Gina: Like even if these are vile characters.

Juliana: Yeah.


Gina: There's the glamour and allure of watching these rich kids move about their very particular world.

Juliana: Yes.

Gina: And that's not really afforded to other groups?

Juliana: No, I don't think that's afforded to this group. And if I could just make them real to a reader then they can be part of the consciousness because they're already a part of our world. It's just then they wouldn't seem so strange.

Gina: Thanks so much for being on the podcast. It was great talking to you.

Juliana: Thank you. Thank you so much.

[Interview Ends]

Ann: Love Gina on the mic.

Aminatou: I know, more Gina please. Always.

Ann: And finally, Amina, you chatted with Briallen Hopper about her collection of essays Hard to Love.

[Interview Starts]

Briallen: My name is Briallen Hopper and my book is Hard to Love: Essays and Confessions.

Aminatou: Briallen, thank you so much for being on Call Your Girlfriend. We are huge fans.

Briallen: I am overjoyed to be here. I'm also a fan.

Aminatou: Well, you know, let's get into the book. The word confession is so heavy. Can you talk a little bit about the title of the book and your relationship to confessional?

Briallen: Yeah. I feel like confession and confessional, it's a kind of stigmatized word that has to do with women sharing their own experience. It's a way to kind of be dismissive I think about a lot of personal writing. So partly I liked just sort of claiming that but I really liked the religious resonance of it too and this idea that for people for whom confession is a religious practice you go, you share the things that are troubling you the most, and then you are -- your burden is lifted and you can proceed on with your life. And I feel like that's part of what sharing these stories is for me as well.

Aminatou: I love the way that you frame that because I think you're really right about the stigma of confessional essays, especially as it relates to women and marginalized people. I had never really thought of it that way as the fact that once you share it the shame is gone and the burden is gone. You talk a lot about religion in this book also and your own upbringing and your relationship to it and I'm wondering if you can kind of walk us a little bit through how your relationship to religion has or hasn't changed?


Briallen: I grew up in a really conservative, evangelical subculture as a woman in a world that didn't really see a lot of room for women to be intelligent or leaders or powerful and how frustrating that was just to feel so profoundly gendered and limited from such a young age.

I left the religious world that I'd grown up in and then when I was in grad school I kind of came back to it. I started going to a church. It was a historically African-American church that had this pastor who was a woman from South Africa who was a refugee who was an anti-apartheid activist who was preaching this entirely different kind of basically feminist activist truth. And I felt a community there and was part of that community for seven years and it just transformed my relationship to religion.

Aminatou: The thing that's really interesting about religion, especially for people who I think lead the same evangelical background that you did, I went to a school that was run by 13 mission boards.

Briallen: Wow.

Aminatou: And so when you write about being a Calvinist I was like oh, that's on the chiller end of the spectrum. [Laughter] Like how damaging can this be?

Briallen: Yeah. They're not really into like feelings or like . . . 

Aminatou: Right? I was always down with the Calvinists. I was like oh my god, God's frozen people. Love them.

Briallen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: A thing that I'm really struck by that you write is that so much of religion is ritual and community and you really expand on that when you write a lot about pop culture in television specifically and how people will seek out that religion and that ritual over and over again.

Briallen: Yes.

Aminatou: And I'm wondering if you can unpack that a little for us.


Briallen: Sure. One thing that I'm really interested in is the way that text can be kind of sacred text that people gather around and connect through and that doesn't have to be like scripture; it can be The Fault in Our Stars or old Hollywood Buddy Davis movies, Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks. Like all of these different texts that are ways of connecting and finding community which feels very religious to me. Like the kind of -- the ritual of returning over and over again to something that you find meaningful and then using it as a way to connect to other people who also find meaning in it and sometimes sharing that experience.

Aminatou: I mean and you write a lot, a lot, a lot about friendship and the kind of -- the central importance it has in your life and really the central importance it should have in everyone's life, right?

Briallen: Yeah. What I wanted to do in this book was to kind of focus more on the ways that friendship is not just as wonderful as other kinds of love but as complicated as other kinds of love. I wanted to look at relationships, like there are a couple of really epic roommate essays in the book about what happens when you actually move in with friends and share a life with them and the complexity of that. You know, my friend Kathy and I, we'd been friends for seven years then being roommates just sort of pushed us to like the brink of insanity.

Aminatou: [Laughs] I mean I guess can I push you a little bit more on that?

Briallen: Sure, yeah.

Aminatou: Why is it so important to discuss that friendship is also a complicated relationship? Because I think we are in this moment where female friendship is very good, TM.

Briallen: Yeah.

Aminatou: And you're supposed to collect them. You're supposed to Instagram all the women in your life.

Briallen: Right.

Aminatou: And so I'm just wondering if you can really articulate why it's important to talk about the complications that come with that particular kind of relationship?


Briallen: I think it's partly that friendship has the power to, when it's uncomfortable, it has the power to transform you. When friendships have been really challenging, when I've found friends to be kind of really mysterious for me, when I've found that our intuitions about something a really different or our temperaments are really different, like those are the moments that have been kind of the hardest to navigate but have also been the moments that have been most important.

Sometimes the difficulty is in the relationship but I think sometimes some of the essays in the book are about external difficulties that aren't about the relationship. There's an essay that's about trying to be a friend to someone who lost her sister and how that's played out over -- it's been over a decade now since her sister died and just sort of thinking about what it means to show up for someone and to understand their grief when you don't fully share it. There's a series of essays that are about care-giving in friendships and I think that's really important because I think we have a pretty -- in US culture there's a pretty narrow idea about how care-giving works and how interdependence works that often doesn't really account for friend networks.

So several of the essays are about my friend Ash and her cancer diagnosis and treatment and then the group of friends who kind of walked with her during that time and showed up for her. And all of us, like two of us were single. Two of us were married and the kind of care team that supported her. All of us had different messages being given to us that there was something kind of like wrong or off or weird about the way that we were all just kind of reorganizing our lives to support her. And I think that never would've happened if, you know, we'd been blood related or dating.

Aminatou: Yeah.


Briallen: But there's something about the friendship bond that people don't . . . they think of it as like a fun thing that's about getting together and drinking wine and having fun. But I think there's something really challenging about the idea that friends can be the people that really are there for each other in life and death situations.

Aminatou: I mean the idea that you're circling around is this idea of chosen family, right? Is friends as not even just a replacement for your family but as your actual family.

Briallen: Yeah.

Aminatou: And practicing the same rituals and again community.

Briallen: Yeah.

Aminatou: Everything is religion. [Laughs] That you would with people that you were blood related or people that you were -- you know, you were marrying or dating right?

Briallen: Yeah. And I think that's something that I've been really trying to think through and to seek out models and to think about how to structure this into my life and to kind of build this kind of family with others. You know, what are the structures whether it's text threads or getting together in person on a regular basis or celebrating real holidays or made-up holidays or just like the kind of commitment to be with people at their worst moment and have them be there for you. What are the things that kind of create this bond that can go on for decade after decade?

Aminatou: Right. I have a friend who always says like -- she's like 80% of friendship is just showing up.

Briallen: Yeah.

Aminatou: And she's like 20% is just snacking and drinking.

Briallen: Yeah.

Aminatou: And I was like you know what? I said that sounds -- the ratio sounds about right so I really believe that.

Briallen: Yeah, that's a good ratio.

Aminatou: I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the concept of hard to love.

Briallen: Yeah.

Aminatou: Your book is one of the rare books that I'm like you know what? Based on the name alone I will read it. Like it could've been Howard Stern: Hard to Love.

Briallen: Yeah. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Or Hillary Clinton: Hard to Love or whatever.

Briallen: Okay.


Aminatou: And I would've 100% picked it up. But I think that you talk about it in a way that is so . . . it just stayed with me for a really, really, really long time so I'm just wondering if you can share that with our listeners.

Briallen: Yeah, thanks. So the story or the title, it was originally going to be called Difficult Women and that's sort of how I had been imagining the book and then Roxanne Gay wrote that book. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Wow, when somebody takes your title.

Briallen: But I ended up with the title Hard to Love. It was around the time that Lemonade came out and you know how there were the poems in-between the songs and one of them was women who are difficult to love? And I was like difficult to love, hard to love, there's something there that really clicked. And I think what I like about it is that it has all of these meanings that are partly it's about being a hard to love person and I feel like everyone is a hard to love person in their own way.

Aminatou: Right, self-defined. [Laughs]

Briallen: Yes. Everyone has their own flavor of being hard to love but also just the idea that love is difficult to do, you know? And if love is . . . if you have a relationship where the love just seems easy it might not be deep love yet. Just wait. Life will happen, it will get more complicated, and that's actually good. And I'm not talking about like, you know, necessarily friend drama but just sort of living through hard things together whether that's kind of like career disappointments or deep loss or medical crisis or . . .

Aminatou: The things life is made of. [Laughs]

Briallen: Just sort of like love is hard. You know, walking through life with people is hard. And instead of thinking about that as the exception just thinking about that as yep, this is it. This is what we're here for.

Aminatou: Man, Beyonc's impact. Always. You never know where she's going to show up. Briallen thank you so much for joining us.

Briallen: Of course.


Aminatou: I think that you've written a really -- like a really searing book and I hope that so many people pick it up to read and I know that I will enjoy it over the years so thank you so, so much.

Briallen: Thank you. It was wonderful to be here.

[Interview Ends]

Aminatou: Ugh, that was great. I love books. I love reading. Readers are leaders, y'all. Everybody knows this.

Ann: What is a book that you've read recently that you loved?

Aminatou: What is a book that I read that I loved recently? Didn't I just tell you two of them? [Laughs]

Ann: More! The people cry out for more.

Aminatou: So this is 100% cheating because it is a galley.

Ann: A.K.A. not published yet.

Aminatou: Right, the book is not published yet but it will be out in July. I read the third installment in Jasmine Guillory's romance series when I was in Mexico, The Wedding Date. And again a truly delightful read.

Ann: Flawless vacation read.

Aminatou: Flawless beginning to end vacation read. That woman is a genius so I'm really excited about it. I think that book is out in July? That was the perfect thing to take on my vacation. What have you read that you like?

Ann: I was lying awake because I finished Susan Choi's Trust Exercise late at night. One of those things where you're like "I'm just going to read a few pages" and I blazed through to the end. Set my brain on fire. I love it. I am like a . . . I would not say I'm a Sally Rooney hater but I kind of doesn't get what the fuss is about. I am fussing about Susan Choi. I love this book so much. I am like yes interpersonal drama. Yes stuff from your teen years following you into adulthood. And the things she does with perspective, I was just like oof, laying awake in bed thinking about it after I read the last pages. So strong recommend for fans of and not fans of Sally Rooney. [Laughs]


Aminatou: [Laughs] Whew. You can find links to all the authors we interviewed in our show notes and you can use the hashtag #CYGBOOKS to tell us what you loved recently on Instagram.

Ann: Ugh, please tell us what you're reading and loving.

Aminatou: Readers are leaders! [Laughs] I would make such a good third grade teacher, like for real. Anyway.

Ann: Wow, bold statement. [Laughter] I'm just like I would never say I'd make a good third grade teacher.

Aminatou: Most -- no, I take it back. I would make a very inspirational third grade teacher but that's about it. Shout-out to all the educators who listen to CYG.

Ann: Shout-out to the actual education professionals who listen to CYG. [Laughter]

Aminatou: I just want to inspire readers okay? At a third grade reading level. Let me have this! We're delirious because we're tired from writing. Hello from Vermont again.

Ann: We're writing our own book.

Aminatou: Right. We're writing our own book which one day maybe someday will read so . . .

Ann: See, this is why I'm like reading -- I'm like I love reading other people's work as a way of being like okay, well this is a standard that I'm never going to reach but let me revel in someone else doing words right.

Aminatou: I know. It's also my favorite answer to when people are like "How's the book going?" I'm like "You know, I'm reading a lot!" [Laughter] That's always my . . . I'm like yeah, there's nothing. It's the best kind of procrastination after just cleaning your house. You're like yes, I'm reading for my mind.

Ann: Oh my god.

Aminatou: Yeah, I'm never going to read more than I'm reading when I'm writing a book. It will never reach this level ever again. I need all the Scholastic sticker tabs or whatever the things are.

Ann: Oh my god.

Aminatou: Okay, this is way off. This is veering way off-base so I think it's time to go back into the writing cave but see you on the Internet, boo-boo.

Ann: See you in the book hole. [Laughter]

Aminatou: You can find us so many places on the Internet:, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, we're on all your favorite platforms. Subscribe, rate, review, you know the drill. You can call us back. You can leave a voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. You can email us at Our theme song is by Robyn, original music composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs. Our logos are by Kenesha Sneed. We're on Instagram and Twitter at @callyrgf where Sophie Carter-Kahn does all of our social. Our associate producer is Jordan Baley and this podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.