Welcome to Season Two of the Lit Matters Podcast. We kick off this new adventure with a beautifully crafted novel about the mythology of family, of the power of story telling, of overcoming oppression through perseverance—Victor Villasenor’s Rain of Gold. Chris is joined by Dr. Angelica Loera Suarez, the President of Orange Coast College, to discuss this remarkably rich, incredibly lyrical novel and their own journeys of family through the lens of story.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Explore, and explore, and explore. Be neither chided nor flattered out of your position of perpetual inquiry.” If you’ve spent your life always asking that all important question—“Why”—then, this is the episode for you. Lucky Episode number 13 sees Chris joined by the multi-talented Phil Simpkin to discuss Ralph Ellison’s American classic, Invisible Man. Phil is the lead singer/lead guitarist for the highly successful Reggae band The Simpkin Project, as well as a Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Orange Coast College.
Books discussed during this episode:
- Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
- The Republic by Plato’s
- Herman Melville’s Moby Dick
- Cervantes’ Don Quixote
- Notes From the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Check out Phil’s amazing music at The Simpkin Project and his other musical suggestions on Spotify, Amazon Music, or other places where you download tunes:
- The Simpkin Project
- The Abyssianians
- The Gladiators
- Burning Spear
One of my favorite lines in Kate DiCamillo’s Newbery Winning children’s story, The Tale of Despereaux, is “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell a story. Make some light.” Today, Pat Burns, the Executive Director and Co-founder of the Orange County Children’s Book Festival, one the largest in North America, joins the Lit Matters podcast to shine a bright light on the importance of reading, story-telling, and the power of the written word for children. Pat discusses not only her own journey to becoming a reader, but also the impressive guests who have graced the festival’s main stage: Kobe Bryant, Jamie Lee Curtis, Buzz Aldrin, Kristen Bell and so many more.
Many of the highlights of last year’s Virtual Festival can be viewed at https://www.kidsbookfestival.com/ along with the interview I did with the Library of Congress’ Ambassador for Young Peoples’ Literature, Jason Reynolds, the two time Newbery medalist and best-selling author, Kwame Alexander, and U.S. Congresswoman Katie Porter. The link for this interview is found on the Festival Webpage or at https://youtu.be/CejQEtO2zG8
A list of some of the books discussed this episode:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s What Color is My World: The Lost History of African American Inventors
- Buzz Aldrin’s Reaching for the Moon
- Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, Swing, and The Undefeated
- Kristen Bell’s The World Needs More Purple People
- Kobe Bryant’s The Wizenard Series: Season One and Legacy and the Queen
- Jamie Lee Curtis’ Big Words For Little People and Today I Feel Silly
- Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down, Miles Morales Spiderman, and Look Both Ways
- Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are
Are you looking for direction in this madcap world?
Are you trying to figure out “Who are you?”
To search for answers to some of these questions, we are joined by Derrick Fernando, a High School and College English teacher and the host of the American L_it! Podcast. For Episode 10 of the Lit Matters Podcast, we dive headfirst, whole-heartedly—into the rabbit-hole that is Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I’m mad. Derrick is mad. We are all a little mad…or we wouldn’t be listening to this podcast. So, join us in Wonderland.
Derrick’s show, American L_it! can be found at: https://www.podbean.com/podcast-detail/zhywa-14040b/American-L_it%21-Podcast
Additionally, The British Library has a wonderful retrospective of Alice, the influences that helped shape the text, and the impact Carroll’s masterpiece has on our world. Visit the collection online:
“To feel/Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural/Beauty, is the sole business of Poetry”—Robinson Jeffers’ “The Beauty of Things”
For Episode 9 of the Lit Matters Podcast, Chris is joined by California State University of Long Beach Professor, George Hart to discuss one of California’s most important…and forgotten poets, Robinson Jeffers. Stone-mason, naturalists, scandalous recluse, and foreboding prophet of “Inhumanism,” Jeffers composed so many beautiful poems while overlooking the majestic power of the Pacific Ocean and building a three story tower of granite by hand.
Suggested Works by and About Robinson Jeffers:
- The Wild God of the World: An Anthology of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Albert Gelpi
- Jeffers’ 1948 New York Timesarticle, “Poetry, Gongorism, and a Thousand Years” at https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1948/01/18/96585266.html?pageNumber=170
- Robinson Jeffers’ Cawdor and Medea: A Long Poem after Medea
- Robinson Jeffers: Selected Poems
- Professor George Hart’s Inventing the Language to Tell It: Robinson Jeffers and the Biology of Consciousness
Information on visiting Robinson Jeffers’ Carmel, California home, Tor House can be found at https://www.torhouse.org/
In Episode 8 of the Lit Matters Podcast, Chris plans for his next career after talking to professional writer/bookstore operator Amber Reed about Homer’s classic epic poem, The Iliad. Chris and Amber put on their team Troy jerseys and discuss which of the Greek warriors is the absolute WORST and Patroclus’ thighs! This is such a fun conversation about a three thousand year old classic that is perhaps even more relevant today than when it was written.
Other works discussed on this show:
- The Iliad, translation by Robert Fagels
- The Orestia Trilogy, translated by Robert Fagels
- Virgil’s The Aeneid
- Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome
- Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lavinia
- Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles and Circe
The Almeida Theatre full reading of The Iliad at https://almeida.co.uk/iliad-digital
“Oyez, Oyez, Oyez.” Step right up and listen to Episode 7 of the Lit Matters Podcast, as Chris interviews (live and in-person) Dr. Jeremy Shermak, a Professor of Journalism and Media Studies and Orange Coast College. Chris and Jeremy discuss Thomas Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guild to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations as well as the state of journalism in 2021, climate change, proper news literacy, and even baseball. If you’ve felt overwhelmed by the tsunami of “alternative facts” and information bombarding you daily….this is a must listen episode.
Also, check out some of these fascinating books and writers discussed in this episode:
- Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat
- Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls
- The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain
- The Legendary Harry Caray: Baseball’s Greatest Salesman by Don Zminda
- The Dodgers: From Coast to Coast by Vin Scully and Tommy Lasorda
- George Will’s A Nice Little Place on the North Side: A History of Triumph, Mostly Defeat, and Incurable Hope at Wrigley Field
- Tom Brokaw’s A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope
Episode Six of Lit Matters dives into the “undiscovered country” that is Hamlet as Chris chats with Ken Parker, a Professor of English at Orange Coast College, and “a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.” Chris and Ken continue a conversation about Shakespeare’s masterpiece that has been ongoing for decades, along with a discussion of music, inspiring teachers, and tiny trains. This episode is a “knavish piece of work,” and so much fun.
If you are looking for other incredible stories influenced by or adapted from Hamlet, check out:
Maggie O’Farrell’s 2020 National Book Award Winning novel, Hamnet
Tom Stoppard’s hilarious Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
David Wroblewski’s Edgar Sawtelle
The Dead Father’s Club by Matt Haig
John Updike’s Gertrude and Claudius
For Episode # 5 of the Lit Matters Podcast, Chris is joined by Dr. Flavia Ruzi, a Professor of English at Orange Coast College, to discuss Octavia E. Butler’s prophetic vision of the near future, The Parable of the Sower. If the goal of Lit Matters is to build up a collective bookshelf of books that can help change the world, then this novel and this discussion is one you need to hear. Remember:
All that you touch You Change.
All that you Change Changes you.
The only lasting truth Is Change.
For listeners in the Southern California area, here is a fascinating “personal geography” of Pasadena sites connected to Octavia E. Butler: https://lithub.com/finding-octavia-butlers-pasadena/
You might also want to join the Octavia E. Butler Literary Society at https://oebsociety.wordpress.com/