Hear some of the best stories on Medium, straight from the authors who wrote them. On each episode of Medium's flagship podcast, we invite an author to the studio to perform a recent story they wrote for Medium and then talk with us about it. Hosted by journalist Manoush Zomorodi and writer Kara Brown, Playback features insightful, first-person stories on timely topics affecting the world today — and then gives you the story behind the story from the writer.
"The Edge of Adulthood"
The final episode of Medium Playback's first season is about those who are just peering into the adult years that lay ahead. Right now, teenagers face a deeply unstable future — but maybe that's always been the case. Journalist Alyssa Giacobbe was one of the nine reporters who interviewed 46 teenagers for the collection The Edge of Adulthood. The results are both intriguing and familiar. This episode includes the original audio from four interviews Alyssa conducted so that you can hear from each teen, in the moment.
17-year-old Albuquerquan Juan Rubel Martinez was a high school dropout before finding ACE Leadership High School, which provides him with a more supportive, alternative form of education. Mckenzie Marquez, also 17, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and is waiting for the results after her second round of treatment. Dylan Fontaine, a computer enthusiast, battles depression. Finally, Texan Lucy (whose name was changed for the interview to protect her identity) is an abortion patient whose parents still think she’s a virgin. Each teenager is formidable and forward-looking, but have real worries that weigh on them as they fight for their futures.
Douglas Rushkoff: "Survival of the Richest"
This week’s Playback gets into the psyche of some big-money overlords — the ones who can’t make it to Mars with Elon, anyway. In his wildly popular story “Survival of the Richest,” researcher Douglas Rushkoff starts off writing about an invitation he received last year to give a keynote speech to some wealthy investors at a deluxe private resort. On the face of it, they wanted Douglas’s advice on how to escape environmental collapse. But quickly, he realized that these one-percenters just shy of the .01 percent really sought an escape — and reliable protection from — human beings. Listen to the author read his story and then chat with host Manoush Zomorodi about apocalypse preparation and the history of digital technology’s relationship with individualism.
Ben Blum: "The Lifespan of a Lie"
This week's Playback features an investigative showdown. Journalist Ben Blum looks into the reality of the most famous psychology study to ever be conducted, The Stanford Prison Experiment, and makes some shocking discoveries himself. Embedded in Blum's story, you'll hear clips from his interviews with psychologist Philip Zimbardo and participants, as well as real archival audio from the experiment Blum uncovered in his reporting. The experiment became famous for the finding that people can be influenced to do horrible things by their environment — or “powerful situational forces” — and not through their own malicious intent. In "The Lifespan of a Lie," Blum looks back into the cracks and fissures of the methodology and speaks with participants who claim they were just playing along rather than expressing real fears and desires while locked up. Who's telling the truth? You'll hear the author read his story and chat with host Manoush Zomorodi about the lasting societal impact of the experiment and the troublesome behaviors it has helped to excuse.
Kristi Coulter: "Enjoli"
This week, Playback is a throwback, but the story timeless. Society is fine-tuned for hardworking women — executives, moms, daughters, creatives, and yogis alike — to get drunk. In “Enjoli,” writer and former Amazon employee Kristi Coulter constructs a diary that turns into a radical reframing of what a “having it all” culture actually looks like: socially accepted forms of alcohol dependence in overspent women. “I’m newly sober and dog-paddling through the booze all around me,” Kristi begins. The story, which went viral when it was published on Medium two years ago, is full of sharpness, tenderness, hilarity, and real anguish — and not just for Kristi’s own experiences, but also for the realities of the “24-hour women” around her, prodded and medicated with wine and cocktails every color of the rainbow at every moment of the day.
Jonathan Parks-Ramage: "Jesus, Mary, and Joe Jonas"
Episode three is all about Jesus Christ and his superstars. In his piece “Jesus, Mary, and Joe Jonas,” writer Jonathan Parks-Ramage discovers Reality L.A., an evangelical Christian church that attracts the lost kids of Hollywood with top 40-like ballads and an attractive promise of love and absolution. Unfortunately, the gospel is not so sweet for Jonathan — the hip-seeming church is truly conservative, and non-belief, abortion, premarital sex, and gay sex will each earn you a one-way ticket to hell. Unofficially, we’re calling this episode “Fundamentalism, but Make It Fashion.”
After performing his essay, Jonathan sits down with host Kara Brown to talk church. The two discuss the moving experience of worship, how Reality L.A. is inseparable from its dogma, the unsustainability of gay repression, and the importance of spiritual people finding a god who loves them for who they are.
Roxane Gay: "What Fullness Is"
For the first episode of our first-ever podcast, there was only one guest we had in mind: bestselling author Roxane Gay. Her powerful and devastatingly honest essay “What Fullness Is” is one of the most read stories on Medium this year. In the piece, Roxane discloses her decision to undergo bariatric surgery — from the instant in her car when she made up her mind, to the painfully awkward moment with the nurse post-surgery, to her fears about how her fans might respond. It’s the type of story that stays with you for months: “I was an unruly body for him to fix, nothing less, nothing more,” she writes. After reading her story, Roxane discusses the aftermath of the surgery with our host, Kara Brown.
Medium you’re the best!
Medium is always my read during commute now there’s a Podcast and I’m super excited!
Suggestion: wished you guys had a viewer discretion before the podcast. The stories are amazing!
Enjoy podcast can’t tolerate the background music.
Excellent interview with Roxane Gay
and I loved hearing her read her essay.