This week’s episode is here to baste you in literary happiness. We hope you’ve got room on your shelf for some more summer reads, because this week we have three striking writers. They all talk about connection and relationships, between individuals and within a community, but they take us on vastly different journeys in the making. These books will hit you wherever you’re living.
Kiese Laymon on Black Bodies in White America — 1:02
It all started innocently enough. Kiese Laymon — a professor at the University of Mississippi, already had a novel and a very solid essay collection under his belt. He got an idea for a book about his own struggle with food over the years, bouncing up to 319 pounds down to 165. But as he interviewed his mother, grandmother and others involved in his story, he realized that this book was more than just his relationship with body. It was also about the community he lives in and how he is seen (or in some cases not seen) by white America. Laymon’s celebrated memoir “Heavy” unpacks all the food and body issues, his relationship with his mother, and the weight of his experience being a black boy, and later a black man, in America. Laymon talks us through what led to this dazzling memoir and embracing the messiness.
Rosanne Parry Imagines a Backstory for OR-7 —19:24
“A Wolf Called Wander” has spent the past seven weeks on The New York Times best-seller list for middle grade readers. It has little dialogue and tells the story of OR-7, the wolf who made Oregon history, traveling 1,000 miles to become the first wolf confirmed in Western Oregon since 1947. Writer Rosanne Parry was just as captivated as anyone in 2011 when biologists started tracking OR-7’s odyssey from the Wallowas, to the Rogue River Valley and beyond. She tells us how she went about telling a wolf’s story without sanding down his edges and falling into anthropomorphizing. If you’re curious about what’s going on with OR-7, reporter Jes Burns filed a story this week about a collaboration between ranchers and environmentalists to try to keep OR-7’s family, the Rogue Wolf Pack, away from the Mil-Mar Ranch.
Ted Chiang Releases His Second Book in 17 Years —36:53
This summer, readers are getting treated to a major event: a new book from science fiction writer Ted Chiang. His last collection in 2002, “Stories of Your Life and Others,” contained the short story that was later adapted into Academy Award-winning movie “Arrival” (2016). In his newest collection, “Exhalation,” Chiang’s mind-blowing, gorgeously crafted short stories explore how humans confront mystery — both the technological and natural varieties. He gave us a rare interview in June. By the way, in case you’re wondering about the writer to whom Chiang says he’s so deeply indebted, it’s Oregon’s own Molly Gloss. She’s just published a career retrospective, “Unforeseen” and she will deliver the keynote address at the Summer Fishtrap Gathering in Wallowa County next week.