175 episodes

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. A podcast from The American Scholar magazine. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

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Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. A podcast from The American Scholar magazine. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

    #174: Hope Against the Storm

    #174: Hope Against the Storm

    So many tropical storms and hurricanes hit Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles that native residents talk about them as if they’re family members: “Who broke that window—Rita? Gustav? It wasn’t Katrina or Ike.” Rising sea levels and increasingly volatile storms bring other, no less harmful consequences, too: groundwater salinization, disappearing wetlands, decimated wildlife and fishing. The choice for people and animals in these places is stark: retreat or die. In her book, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, environmental reporter Elizabeth Rush tells the stories of the life-altering changes happening right now in our own back yards. This episode originally aired in 2018.


    Go beyond the episode:
    - Elizabeth Rush’s book, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
    - Episode page, with a slideshow of Elizabeth Rush's photographs from the book
    - “The Marsh at the End of the World,” an excerpt from the book, published in Guernica
    - Read an excerpt from Rush’s previous work, Still Lives from a Vanishing City, on disappearing homes in Yangon, Myanmar, in Granta


    Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.


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    Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

    • 20 min
    #173: Oh, Cruel Stagolee

    #173: Oh, Cruel Stagolee

    Stagger Lee is “The Baddest Man in Town,” as poet and critic Eric McHenry writes in our Spring 2021 issue. The man behind the myth—“Stack” Lee Shelton—was a real person, who did many if not most of the things ascribed to him in song (except, perhaps, go down to hell and take over for the devil). The bar, the hat, the gun, all have become mainstays of African-American folklore in the 120 years since Lee made his debut in song. McHenry joins us on the podcast for a look into the life and legend of Stagger Lee, which he exhumed through newly digitized newspaper records and troves of archival recordings—including the conversation between an elderly St. Louis musician and a 1970s graduate student that plucked Lee from a rich oral history tradition and back into the written record.


    Go beyond the episode:
    - Read Eric McHenry’s essay “The Baddest Man in Town”
    - Compare the oldest known lyrics (from 1897) to Mississippi John Hurt’s definitive 1928 version—or Nick Cave’s depraved one
    - Listen to our Spotify playlist of selected Stagger Lee renditions (here is the Beck cover mentioned)
    - Read this primer on murder ballads, which can be found in all sorts of musical traditions, from African-American songs like “Stagger Lee” that are arguable precursors to gangsta rap to white Appalachian songs that drew on a Scots-Irish tradition
    - Country murder ballads most often had women victims—which has led some female country musicians to flip the script


    Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.


    Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • Acast


    Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

    • 37 min
    #172: The Cherry Blossom Evangelist

    #172: The Cherry Blossom Evangelist

    Wild, blossoming cherries are native to many diverse lands, from the British Isles and Norway to Morocco and Tunisia. But they’re most associated with Japan, where the sakura is the national flower. These days, though, you’ll find blossoming cherries everywhere, on practically every continent. For that, we must thank a lot of dedicated botanists, who braved world wars and long sea voyages—and endured repeated failures—to spread the sakura around the world. But there’s one naturalist in particular we can thank: Collingwood “Cherry” Ingram. Journalist Naoko Abe joins us on the podcast to share how this English eccentric saved some of Japan’s most iconic cherry blossoms—from the spectacular Great White Cherry to the pink Hokusai—from extinction. This episode originally aired in 2019.


    Go beyond the episode:
    - Naoko Abe’s The Sakura Obsession
    - If you’re in Washington, D.C., you need not visit the (closed) Tidal Basin to view the cherries—here is a map trees blossoming all over the city
    - The National Park Service created a guide to the cherry blossom varieties in the city
    - Smithsonian’s list of the best places to see cherry blossoms around the world


    Cherry varieties discussed:
    - Taihaku / Prunus serrulata taihaku / Great white cherry
    - Somei-yoshino / Prunus x yedoensis / Tokyo cherry


    Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.


    Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • Acast


    Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

    • 20 min
    #171: Our One-Click World

    #171: Our One-Click World

    In the past year of the pandemic, Amazon has added more than 500,000 jobs, mostly in its various warehouses. During the same period, more than 20,000 of its frontline workers tested positive for Covid-19. Their boss, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, saw his net worth rise by $67 billion. Amazon’s shadow extends beyond the warehouses, though, to the cardboard factories that supply its packaging, the local stores it’s crowded out, and the affordable housing that’s flipped to luxury condos near its headquarters. In his new book, Fulfillment, ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis uses Amazon as a frame to chronicle the widening gap between winner-take-all-cities and the regions left behind.


    Go beyond the episode:
    - Alec MacGillis’s Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America
    - Read his piece in The New York Times, “Amazon and the Breaking of Baltimore”
    - German novelist Heike Geissler worked at an Amazon fulfillment center to make ends meet—and wrote about the brutal experience in her novel Seasonal Associate
    - Learn more about the high-stakes fight for a union at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama; ballots are due for the first-ever warehouse-wide union vote by March 29


    Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.


    Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • Acast


    Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

    • 23 min
    #170: Women at War

    #170: Women at War

    Women in wars on land and sea, whether queens or foot soldiers, rarely get their due—yet their lives are at least as interesting as their male counterparts’, not least because they had to leap through so many hoops to fight. Historian Pamela Toler wants us to know their names, and her book Women Warriors is a global history covering everyone from the Trung sisters, who led an untrained, 80,000-strong Vietnamese army against the Chinese Empire, to Cheyenne warriors like Buffalo Calf Road Woman, who knocked General Custer off his horse. There are at least a hundred killer screenplay ideas lurking in the history books—if only we bothered to look. This episode originally aired in 2019.


    Go beyond the episode:
    - Pamela D. Toler’s Women Warriors: An Unexpected History
    - Read an excerpt about the Russian First Women’s Battalion of Death
    - Read Toler’s piece for us on Peggy Hull, the first woman accredited as a war correspondent by the U.S. military
    - Learn about the lady pirates time forgot, including one who gave birth in the middle of a sea battle (and still won) and Cheng I Sao, who negotiated a sweet retirement package with the Chinese government when the Navy couldn’t take her out
    - And meet Njinga, the West African queen who fended off the Portuguese (start at minute 21:30)


    Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.


    Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • Acast


    Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

    • 23 min
    #169: How to Be a Grown-Up

    #169: How to Be a Grown-Up

    Once upon a time, you turned 30 and you already had it all: a spouse, a house, a job, and a passel of kids. But even before the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on our lives, thirtysomethings’ expectations for their own lives were changing, both by choice and by necessity. Today, they’re getting married later if at all, having fewer kids, taking on more debt, and moving back in with their parents. Is economic upheaval and inequality the primary force behind these shifts? And why do traditional landmarks like getting married still exert such a pull on our psyches? Journalist Kayleen Schaefer conducted hundreds of interviews with researchers and millennials across the country to understand how this generation is redefining adulthood.


    Go beyond the episode:
    - Kayleen Schaefer’s But You're Still So Young: How Thirtysomethings Are Redefining Adulthood
    - One landmark millennials do seem to be hitting? Burnout. Read Anne Helen Petersen’s essay “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation”
    - Read Paula Marantz Cohen’s essay “This Side of Paradise,” or Edward Hoagland’s “A Country for Old Men” about the final landmark one traverses: seniority


    Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.


    Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • Acast


    Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!
    Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

    • 25 min

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