These are the podcasts and books we’re glued to right now.
“The Shadow King” by Maaza Mengiste
Maaza Mengiste’s novel The Shadow King is deeply rooted in history. The story is set against the backdrop of Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, and the male characters in the novel are preparing for battle against the Italians. Still, as villages rally their men, the main action revolves around Hirut, a quiet orphan who works for Kidane, an officer serving Emperor Haile Selassie, and Kidane’s often cruel and unpredictable wife, Aster. The novel starts with the quotidian moments in Hirut’s life: her day-to-day chores and her struggles with Aster. However, as the war inevitably erupts, Hirut and Aster form an unexpected partnership and set to work mobilizing women in the effort—and the novel blooms into an exploration of the role of women in the Ethiopian conflict and a restoration of their untold stories. Mengiste’s writing is beautiful and she intersperses fictional storytelling with swatches of carefully observed research, which helps explain why the book deservedly made it on the shortlist for the 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction. –Julyssa Lopez
“Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity” by Paola Ramos
As you know, the use of “Latinx” is frequently debated. In this book, Cuban-Mexican American author and Vice News correspondent Paola Ramos explains the “x” addendum as more than just a gender-inclusive adaptation. She offers that in its evolution to circumvent the limitations of the Spanish language’s masculine/feminine binary, it has unified Latines to amplify their voices and the political issues affecting their communities.
In Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity, Ramos’ journeys through Latinx communities in the U.S. and captures a snapshot of diverse identities and personal stories that connect to contested political topics from immigration, to farmworkers’ rights, trans identity and safety, to reproductive justice, gun violence, mental health and more. While at times the long list of topics feels like an inventory that yearns for more context, they are brought alive through the heartfelt and often heart-wrenching narratives of the people she encounters. Ramos adeptly paints an intricate portrait of varied complexities and unique perspectives that encompass Latinidad. In dissecting the multidimensional tapestry that differentiates people glossed as Latinx, Ramos advises policymakers to take a more nuanced and less monolithic approach to politics and policy-making when considering the needs and interests of the Latinx communities.
“This Latinx movement is about being able to take a look out a window and notice both sides of the view,” Ramos explains, “the right and the left; the present and the past; what lies here and also all the way there. It’s about not being afraid to take that look.” –Michaela Vargas Caro
The Tamarindo podcast with Brenda Gonzalez and Ana Sheila Victorino is always a joy to listen to but their latest episode was a thought-provoking exploration of identities within the Latinx community. The discussion was sparked by a recent episode of NPR’s podcast Code Switch where they focused on the use of the terms “BIPOC” and “POC”. I appreciated how Ana Sheila, as a Mexican woman, shared how she was taught to embrace her European roots more than her Indigenous ancestry and how whiteness in Latinidad has always been celebrated so she believes the “i” in BIPOC is important to elevate the Indigenous community. Though she shares that she doesn’t identify as Indigenous as that’s not her lived experience, she believes it’s important to center the Indigenous community as their erasure is prevalent and common. Brenda also talks about anti-Blackness and anti-Indigenous beliefs within Latinx culture and how Latinidad in the U.S. is not a monolith. By unpacking these different identities often put under the umbrella terms “BIPOC” and “POC” they share how the terms are useful but can also be problematic for some. It’s a worthwhile episode that will ideally lead to important conversations centered on identity and Latindidad. –Virginia Isaad
“The Get Up” podcast
When my 5:45 a.m. alarm goes off each morning, I’m able to get through routine morning tasks but, because I work from home, it’s not always easy to transition from these sunrise activities to an 8-hour workday. Over the past few weeks, however, I’ve been getting a much-needed dose of energy from The Get Up, a new daily morning show from Spotify.
Launched on October 22, The Get Up resembles traditional radio morning shows: it’s led by hosts and combines news, pop culture and music. Differentiating from these classic programs, though, The Get Up’s segment breaks include songs that are personalized to the listeners. Sleepyheads can tune in anytime after its 7 a.m. ET release and the hosts participate in hilarious feel-good activities that force listeners to activate their brain—and be happy about it.
The New York-based co-hosts, which include Peruvian-Colombian video producer Kat Lazo, journalist Speedy Morman and Spotify’s Xavier ‘X’ Jernigan, have a sibling-like relationship that offers the right amount of laughs, play, info and warmth in the A.M. Among news briefs and critical conversations on a range of topics, like toxic positivity, the trio humorously try to stump one another in trivia and transmit some necessary love and compassion through our speakers. –Raquel Reichard