Episode 133: Raina León, “Solstice in Solidified Sugar”

Raina Leon

Writer Raina León joins the GrottoPod this week as part of our summer reading series to share her piece “Solstice in Solidified Sugar.” León is a full professor of education at Saint Mary’s College of California, only the third Black person (all women) and the first Afro-Latina to achieve that rank there. She is a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, Cave Canem, CantoMundo, and Macondo. She is the author of three collections of poetry: Canticle of Idols, Boogeyman Dawn and sombra: dis(locate), and the chapbooks profeta without refuge and Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self.

Episode 132: Rachel Levin Wants You To Eat Something!

Rachel Levin

Food writer Rachel Levin continues our GrottoPod reading series in a special Shabbat episode. Listen in as she reads from EAT SOMETHING: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews, co-written with Evan Bloom, co-founder of Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen in San Francisco. Levin, a Writers Grotto member, is also the author of Look Big: And Other Tips for Surviving Animal Encounters of All Kinds, and is a contributor to the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Wall Street Journal.

Episode 131: A.H. Kim’s ‘A Good Family’

Today on the GrottoPod we’re kicking off our summer reading series, bringing you readings from Writers Grotto members. Today we’re featuring Ann Kim, who reads from her brand-new novel, A Good Family, available now. Ann Kim (writing as A.H. Kim) was born in South Korea and immigrated to Ohio as a toddler. She went to Harvard College and Berkeley Law School and is a practicing attorney. She is the proud mother of two sons, cancer survivor, community volunteer, and member of the Writers Grotto. She lives in San Francisco with her husband. A Good Family is her first published novel.

Episode 130: Kevin Smokler’s ‘Vinyl Nation’

Kevin Smokler

Kevin Smokler is an author, documentary filmmaker and event host based in San Francisco. Today on the GrottoPod, he discusses his documentary, Vinyl Nation: A Deep Dig into the Record Resurgence, which debuted digitally on what would have been Record Store Day 2020 (April 19) in partnership with 200 independent record stores across the United States. Smokler is also the author of Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School and Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ’80s Teen Movies. For more info on how to see the film, go to the “Vinyl Nation” website: https://vinylnationfilm.com.

Episode 129: Taneum Bambrick’s Bold Poetry

Taneum Bambrick

Taneum Bambrick’s book, Vantage, is a fictionalized account of the poet’s time spent working as the only woman on a garbage crew. Using unforgettable images, Bambrick tackles issues such as class, gender, and environmental degradation without sentimentality. Sharon Olds called the book “a work of art which also functions as a call, as if from under the ground, a cry from water and air.” Join a chat with Bambrick about the complexities of writing about gender and class and the craft of depicting violence, and hear the poet read several of the poems from her award-winning collection. 

Episode 128: Historian Yan Slobodkin on the Current Moment

Yan Slobodkin

Yan Slobodkin is a historian of modern Europe, with a focus on French colonial and transnational history. He stops by the GrottoPod this week to discuss his current book project—a history of famine in 19th- and 20th-century North Africa, West Africa, and Southeast Asia, and its relationship to changing ideas of scientific control, political obligation, and humanitarian ethics—and its relevance to the current coronavirus pandemic. (You can find his recent Slate op-ed, “Famine Is a Choice,” here.)

Yan received his Ph.D. in history from Stanford University and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at The Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of the Knowledge at The University of Chicago.

Episode 127: Beth Lisick and ‘Edie on the Green Screen’

Beth Lisick’s debut novel, Edie on the Green Screen, is about a Bay Area Gen-X rebel, an “It Girl” in the late ’90s who faces her own obsolescence in 2010s San Francisco. It is fundamentally about how we manage change, and the change our world has experienced since this story’s inception only makes Edie and her travails more relevant to the moment. Join a chat about Lisick’s self-described “crabby bartender,” her myopia and troubled awakening, and the challenges of maintaining sanity as the pillars of your ego crumble. Lisick, co-founder of the Porchlight Storytelling Series, a wickedly entertaining live event that’s lit up SF and other cities for 18 years, breathes new life into some of the city’s best lost niches, characters, and scenes.

Episode 126: International Literature

What can international literature teach us about our collective past, present and future in these chaotic times? In the latest GrottoPod Gabfest, producer and Grotto fellow Rita Chang-Eppig talks to Jesus Francisco Sierra, Mathangi Subramanian and Olga Zilberbourg about the appeal of international literature, its necessity in our increasingly connected world, and our favorite authors and books, including Akram Aylisli’s Farewell, Aylis! (translated by Katherine E. Young), Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman, Wendy Guerra’s Revolution Sunday (translated by Achy Obejas), and Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge (translated by Stephen Snyder). 

Over the course of the conversation, our guests briefly touched on a number of other books, including:

  • Look at Him by Anna Starobinets, translated by Katherine E. Young
  • A Life at Noon by Talasbek Asemkulov, translated by Shelley Fairweather-Vega  
  • The Gypsy GoddessWhen I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife, and Exquisite Cadavers, all by Meena Kandasamy.
  • Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag
  • My Life in Trans Activism and The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi
  • Women Without Men by Sharhnush Parsipur
  • Leonardo Padura: The Man Who Loved DogsHeretics, Havana Gold, Havana Black, Havana BlueHavana Red
  • Guillermo Cabrera Infante: Infante’s Inferno, Three Trapped Tigers
  • Roberto Bolano: By Night In Chile, The Third ReichAmulet, The Skating Rink

Celebrate International Day of the Book (April 23) by dipping into some of these titles!

Episode 125: Telling the Stories of Stuff

Lisa Hix and Hunter Oatman-Stanford of Collectors' Weekly.

For the better part of a decade, Lisa Hix, Hunter Oatman-Stanford, and GrottoPod co-host Ben Marks have been writing about antiques, vintage items, and collectibles at CollectorsWeekly.com. As a rule, these writers have tended to shy away from articles about the prices of objects or the celebrities who collect them, tried-and-true angles for journalists working the collecting beat. Instead, they’ve used antiques and collectibles as windows into our culture, each with its own surprising story to tell. In response, publications as varied as The New York Times, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and Elle have linked to articles at Collectors Weekly. In today’s episode of GrottoPod, Marks interviews his colleagues to discuss just a few of these stories—you can read hundreds more at Collectors Weekly.

Episode 124: Bonnie Tsui and ‘Why We Swim’

Bonnie Tsui

Take the plunge into an episode on all things aquatic with Bonnie Tsui, whose new book, Why We Swim, dives into swimming history while offering poetic contemplation on the nature of this physical pursuit. The incredible characters in this book—including an Icelandic fisherman who defied death in the ice-cold sea, a Bay Area-based open water marathoner Kim Chambers, Olympic sprinting phenom Dara Torres, and practitioners of the Japanese nihon eiho tradition—provide the jumping off points for this discursive chat between Tsui and co-host Susie Gerhard.