162 episodes

Author, essayist and journalist Meghan Daum has spent decades giving voice—and bringing nuance, humor and surprising perspectives—to things that lots of people are thinking but are afraid to say out loud. Now, she brings her observations to the realm of conversation. In candid, free-ranging interviews, Meghan talks with artists, entertainers, journalists, scientists, scholars, and anyone else who’s willing to do the “unspeakable” and question prevailing cultural and moral assumptions.

The Unspeakable Podcast Meghan Daum

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.7 • 704 Ratings

Author, essayist and journalist Meghan Daum has spent decades giving voice—and bringing nuance, humor and surprising perspectives—to things that lots of people are thinking but are afraid to say out loud. Now, she brings her observations to the realm of conversation. In candid, free-ranging interviews, Meghan talks with artists, entertainers, journalists, scientists, scholars, and anyone else who’s willing to do the “unspeakable” and question prevailing cultural and moral assumptions.

    Grief Is The Thing With Feathers: Sloane Crosley on friendship, loss, mourning, and Flaco the owl.

    Grief Is The Thing With Feathers: Sloane Crosley on friendship, loss, mourning, and Flaco the owl.

    This week, I’m talking with author Sloane Crosley. Best known for her humorous and existentially probing essays, Sloane’s latest book is a departure of sorts. Grief Is For People, a memoir, covers the year in her life following the death of Russell Perreault, a veteran of book publishing who’d been her boss before becoming her closest friend. A month before Russell’s death, Sloane’s apartment was burglarized by a jewel thief, turning her into an amateur detective as she attempted to retrieve family heirlooms while reckoning with loss across several dimensions.
    Sloane worked as a book publicist for many years before being an author herself, and in this conversation, she talks about how office culture has changed over the last decade, especially in the wake of #MeToo, and what it was like to work with famous authors like Joan Didion and Sandra Cisneros in the final glory days of publishing. Meghan and Sloane also explore the phenomenon of collective grief over animals that become symbols of something much larger: for instance, the response to the death a few months ago of Flaco, the Eurasian owl that got out of a zoo enclosure and flew around upper Manhattan for more than a year, captivating not just the New Yorkers who saw him in real life but people all over the world following his whereabouts on social media.
    GUEST BIO
    Sloane Crosley is the author of two novels and three essay collections, including the bestsellers I Was Told They’re Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number? Her new book is the memoir Grief Is For People. She lives in New York City.
    You can buy her new book here.
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    • 43 min
    How Did Comedy Lose Its Humor? Arielle Isaac Norman on taking back the jokes.

    How Did Comedy Lose Its Humor? Arielle Isaac Norman on taking back the jokes.

    This week, Meghan welcomes Arielle Isaac Norman, an Austin-based comedian who has opened for Louie C.K., Bobcat Goldthwait, Tim Dillon, Joe DeRosa, Eddie Pepitone and Maria Bamford, among others. Arielle, who describes herself as a “politically non-binary lesbian,” has a new YouTube special, Ellen DeGenderless, in which she discusses gender identity, sexuality, pronouns, social issues, and pop culture. This conversation covers all of those topics and more — including Arielle’s friendship with Louis CK and her thoughts about his sexual behaviors and resulting cancelation.
    GUEST BIO
    Arielle Isaac Norman is an Austin-based comedian. Her new special, Ellen Degenderless, is now streaming on YouTube. Find her on Instagram at @ellendegenderless and on YouTube or Spotify at Politically Non-binary.
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    • 47 min
    Is Therapy Making Us Crazy? Abigail Shrier on what's really driving the "mental health crisis" among young people.

    Is Therapy Making Us Crazy? Abigail Shrier on what's really driving the "mental health crisis" among young people.

    This week’s guest is journalist Abigail Shrier. In her new book, Bad Therapy: Why The Kids Aren’t Growing Up, she delves into why so many children, teens, and young adults have received mental health diagnoses over the last few decades. Is it because society is finally recognizing emotional suffering? Or is it because society has become irrationally fixated on the idea of suffering? Abigail says it’s the latter, and in this conversation, she talks about how mediocre clinicians, flawed research, overzealous prescribing of medications, and, above all, a cultural obsession with trauma and emotional injury are causing unnecessary misery.
    GUEST BIO
    Abigail Shrier’s new book is the best-selling Bad Therapy: Why The Kids Aren’t Growing Up. She is also the author of the best-selling 2020 book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, which was named a “Best Book” by the Economist and the Times of London and has been translated into ten languages.
    She holds an A.B. from Columbia College, where she received the Euretta J. Kellett Fellowship; a B.Phil. from the University of Oxford; and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
    You can pick up a copy of Bad Therapy here.
    Read Abigail’s Substack here.
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    • 33 min
    Has Literature Canceled Itself? Sherman Alexie on reading, writing, and book banning.

    Has Literature Canceled Itself? Sherman Alexie on reading, writing, and book banning.

    If you were in middle school or high school in the last couple of decades, there’s a good chance you were assigned Sherman’s classic young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, an epistolary novel with cartoon illustrations about a native teenage boy growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation who decides to attend a nearly all-white high school. The book is semi-autobiographical. Sherman grew up on that reservation in the 1970s and 80s and is a member of the Spokane Tribe. He is also arguably — or perhaps inarguably — the most significant native American writer of the last 30 years. Not only did The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian win the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, among other prizes, but his 2009 book War Dances won the 2010 Pen/Faulkner award for fiction, and his 1993 story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven was adapted into the popular and highly acclaimed film Smoke Signals.
    Best of all (for me, anyway), Sherman is teaching a class for the brand-new Unspeakeasy School Of Thought. It’s in a brand new genre: Writing Your Cancelation Story.
    In this conversation, Sherman talks about his career, his 2018 “cancelation event” (or at least its aftermath) and offers his thoughts on the state of writing and publishing, not least of all the recent incident wherein editors at the journal Guernica retracted an essay when the Twitter mob and its own staffers deemed it harmful, even “genocidal.”
    GUEST BIO
    Sherman Alexie is a poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist, memoirist, and filmmaker. He’s published two dozen books, including The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and was listed by the American Library Association as the Most Banned and Challenged Book from 2010 to 2019. He’s won the PEN-Faulkner and PEN-Malamud awards, and he wrote and co-produced the award-winning film Smoke Signals, which was based on his short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.
    Visit Sherman’s Substack.
    Check out his upcoming course here.
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    • 1 hr 9 min
    How 'The Coddling' Became A Movie: Ted Balaker and Courtney Moorehead Balaker turn a foundational book into a film

    How 'The Coddling' Became A Movie: Ted Balaker and Courtney Moorehead Balaker turn a foundational book into a film

    On podcasts devoted to free speech and so-called heterodox discourse, the 2018 book The Coddling of the American Mind is probably mentioned more frequently than any other. Written by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and legal scholar and Greg Lukianoff, who now heads the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), it is effectively the bible of the Heterodox crowd. And now it’s a movie. My guests are husband and wife filmmaking team Ted Balaker, who directed the film, and Courtney Moorehead Balaker, who produced it.
    In this conversation, they discuss how they took a book about ideas and turned it into an engaging, poignant, and often very funny movie about mental health and how it intersects with higher education and campus life. They relay the stories of many of the young people featured in the movie and talk about the process of finding them. They also discuss how the movie ended up on Substack, where it’s making history as the first film to stream on that platform.
    You can watch the film here.
    GUEST BIO
    Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, former think tank scholar and network news producer.  He co-founded Korchula Productions, a film production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining, and Free Minds Film, which uses workshops and project-specific consultations to teach independent filmmakers how to reach large audiences. Ted produced the feature film Little Pink House and is the director of The Coddling of the American Mind, based on The New York Times bestselling book by Greg Lukionoff and Jonathan Haidt and the very first feature documentary presented by Substack.
    Courtney Moorehead Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, adjunct professor of acting, and co-founder of Korchula Productions, a film production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.  She also co-founded Free Minds Film, which uses workshops and project-specific consultations to teach independent filmmakers how to reach large audiences. Courtney wrote and directed Little Pink House, which stars Catherine Keener as Susette Kelo, the blue-collar woman whose fight against eminent domain abuse went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
    Want to hear the whole conversation? Upgrade your subscription here.
    HOUSEKEEPING
    📝 The Unspeakeasy now has writing classes! Learn more here.
    ✈️ Unspeakeasy Retreats: See where we’re going to be in 2024!
    🥂 Join The Unspeakeasy, my community for freethinking women.
    🔥 Follow my other podcast, A Special Place in Hell.

    • 36 min
    The Linguistic Confusion Of Gender: Philosopher Alex Byrne on how we got into so much trouble

    The Linguistic Confusion Of Gender: Philosopher Alex Byrne on how we got into so much trouble

    Paid subscribers get full access to my interview with Alex Byrne.
    The first half of this episode is available to all listeners. To hear the entire conversation, become a paying subscriber here.
    Philosopher Alex Byrne spent most of his career innocently studying subjects like epistemology and metaphysics. But a few years ago, he became interested in — wait for it —  gender, and he became a “dissident” scholar just for exploring foundational questions. His book Trouble with Gender, covers a lot of ground. But above all, it wrestles with the linguistic confusion of gender. What does the word even mean? What did the philosopher Judith Butler (whose 1990 book Gender Trouble kicked off decades of debate and cognitive distortions) mean when she said sex was different from gender? What about social scientists like Anne Fausto-Sterling, who came up with the idea that there are five sexes? In this interview, Alex discusses all of that and more, including how the UK acquired the nickname "TERF Island,” whether “auto-androphilia” is a real thing, why autogynephilia isn’t technically a fetish, and why Oxford University Press changed its mind about publishing the book. (Their loss!)
    GUEST BIO
    Alex Byrne is a professor of philosophy at MIT and the author of Trouble With Gender which you can order here.
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    • 41 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
704 Ratings

704 Ratings

Sam loves apps ,

Meghan Daum for President!

In an alternative universe Meghan Daum garners the interest of young men and women, the world’s problems are solved, and Kardashians work at TJ Max. That’s a world I would like to live in.

newsjunqui ,

Generational Differences

So interesting - I actually took notes. Twenge speaks with authority, is backed by data & she’s no nonsense.

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Michael Powell

Excellent work with Eli Lake

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