Cheryl Strayed, also known as Sugar, says writing taught her how to give advice. In this moment of uncertainty, she’s setting aside advice-giving in favor of wisdom-seeking and turning to the writers who have long inspired her for courage and insight.
'I Release You, Fear'
Cheryl Strayed talks with the poet Joy Harjo about beauty, prophecies and listening to your spiritual council. Joy tells the story of being named the 23rd poet laureate of the United States, and opens up about leaving home to attend a Bureau of Indian Education boarding school in the 1960s. "For the first time, I was in a circle of relatives,” Joy says, “a circle of other students like me who were natives, who had been through a lot of the same stories.”
‘There’s a Quiet All Over the World’
Cheryl calls Billy Collins, a former poet laureate of the United States, at his home in Florida. The two reflect on the collective silence — and slowness — that has befallen the world, and they discuss the unexpected comfort in memorizing poetry: "You really internalize this series of lines and bring it into yourself. And it's a part of you then," Billy says.
'Whatever We Have, We Have to Work With It.'
Cheryl calls Alice Walker, the poet and novelist, at her home in Mendocino, California. They talk about ancestors, solitude and the time it takes to heal.
Cheryl asks Alice about remembering her dreams, and the two discuss suffering and resilience — via the late boxing world-champion Muhammad Ali.
‘This Terrible Thing Is Happening, but the World Goes On.’
Cheryl calls Judy Blume, the beloved young-adult novelist, at her home in the Florida Keys. The two talk about raising teens, losing religion and decades of writing it all down.
‘You Don’t Take Dictation. You Find the Truth.’
Note: This episode contains descriptions of suicide and sexual violence.
Cheryl phones Amy Tan at her home overlooking Sausalito Bay in California. The two compare notes on family, grief and the long arc of resilience.
'Joyful Participation in a World of Sorrows'
Cheryl calls Pico Iyer, the travel writer and novelist, at his apartment in Japan. Pico tells the story of losing his home to a forest fire in the early ’90s, and the unexpected lessons in that loss.
Cheryl asks Pico about his travels with the Dalai Lama, and the two discuss coming to grips with impermanence, via the fleeting beauty of a cherry blossom.