Our geeks read and discuss new and classic works in the policy field – both fictional and non. Social justice, technology, policy agendas, governance, economics … we cover it all and more.
In Colson Whitehead’s award winning novel The Underground Railroad, Cora, daughter and granddaughter of slaves, flees her plantation after a horrific punishment. She heads out with a fellow slave Caesar, who takes her to the underground railroad – in this novel, a real RR. She is passionately pursued by Ridgeway, a slave catcher while she experiences the horrors of American racism and the courage of the RR personnel. The book compares a mythological Southern narrative of slavery with Cora’s truths and Ridgeway’s version of the “American imperative.” Beautifully written, full of horrific incidents, the book reminds us of the power of racism, the government’s complicity in its implementation and persistence, and reminds us freed African Americans carried with them the legacy of violence, oppression, suppression, and more violence whether from the police, physicians, or any other institution.
To listen to the Bedrosian Book Club discussion of The Underground Railroad click the orange arrow in the Soundcloud player here – or you can download it and subscribe through iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play
Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir by J. D. Vance about family; about Appalachia, hillbillies, and the American white underclass in the rural and semi-rural interior of the United States. Vance relates his traumatic, poverty stricken upbringing to the larger social problems in both his hometown and the larger population. Through his personal struggles, he raises questions of personal responsibility and role of government in communities.
The novel is a fascinating exploration of the meaning of ethnicity, modernism, memory, and community in which we are reminded of the many ethnicities that make up America, but also their amalgamation into a secular American society with few gods. As multiple characters remind us, America is a hard place to be a god. This is a quintessential American novel from a quintessential British storyteller – it’s a sprawling road trip into the vast highways and byways of the American landscape, it’s a horror novel, a mystery, a romance, a western, a fantasy, and ultimately a look into the heart of America.
This podcast features Caroline Bhalla, Raphael Bostic, Lisa Schweitzer, and David Sloane
In White Trash: The 400-year Untold History of Class in America, historian Nancy Isenberg traces white poverty and class from the earliest British settlements through to the 21st century. What she finds is that the mythology of social mobility and classlessness of American Exceptionalism is just that, a myth. By taking a deep dive into a sub-class of Americans, Isenberg hopes that Americans can face a truth about the enduring poverty on inequality that has shaped the American consciousness. That not only do we have classes, but these classes have been built by policies going back to the very reason British citizens came to the colonies. Our discussion of the book looks at where this history contributes to our current political conversation and where it could have been more focused to tell the story in a more cohesive way.
Featuring Aubrey Hicks, Anthony Orlando, Lisa Schweitzer, and John Sonego
Featuring Caroline Bhalla, Raphael Bostic,Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, and Richard Green
Junot Díaz made his debut with Drown, ten interconnected short stories in 1997. These coming-of-age stories grant the reader a brief glimpse into the lives of immigrants, their lives in poverty in the Dominican Republic through migration to life on the edges in New Jersey. “Diaz evokes a world in which fathers are gone, mothers fight with grim determination for their families and themselves, and the next generation inherits the casual cruelty, devastating ambivalence, and knowing humor of lives circumscribed by poverty and uncertainty.”
This episode features a discussion of David Ulin’s Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles. A transplant to Los Angeles from New York, Ulin’s long essay/memoir is a meditation on moving through and defining his relationship with the sprawling diversity that is the City of Angels. The book begins with an essay on how walking can be a way to discover the city (any city or town) through serendipity.
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s recent works, both fiction and non, are award winning. The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize in the fiction category. Less than a year later, USC Professor Nguyen’s nonfiction book Nothing Ever Dies is on the National Book Awards shortlist. The two were written together over the last 13 years or so, are part of Nguyen’s exploration of the underlying issues of war and the aftermath of war on those countless affected. The themes in both the novel and the nonfiction that follows it are vital to explore when thinking of public policy & governance in a global world.
Wade Graham’s latest book Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World is ostensibly about the architects the seven big ideas that have shaped contemporary cities across the world. Our discussion centers on whether Graham has fulfilled that mission or whether he’s trapped in the confines of an under 350 page book for this massive introduction to urban planning and city history. The answer may lie in the reader rather than the book, listen to the conversation for a lively jaunt through recent architectural history.
This month’s book is both poetry and criticism, Citizen: An American Lyric. Rankine’s piece is a revolution. A political, a poetic, complex revolution in 169 pages. We look at it through an unusual lens – what should we take away from works of art as we think about governance in America?
This episode of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast features a conversation on Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine.
We discuss the role ideology and politics have played in the court and the role rule of law plays in our constitutional republic. This was taped in the summer, so this is not a conversation on the Gorsuch nomination, rather it is background discussion on the role of the judicial branch and the role of ideology within the branch.
“To succeed in the new economy … Southern California has to face its mistakes over the last 30 years.” The claim is that the Bay Area has been “better” at doing business than we have in SoCal. The book makes the claim that San Francisco has succeeded where Los Angeles has failed over the last 30 years.
Experts from USC discuss the merits and faults of this comparison of the two regions, and what qualities might make one region “better” than another.
This podcast features *spoilers – so, please listen after you’ve read the book unless you are okay with hearing about major plot details and the ending of this amazing novel.
Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife looks at our use and manipulation of water and water rights in the US and brings us to an ultimate conclusion. In a Southwest decimated by climate change, with the Colorado River a trickle, local and state governments in the Southwest are employing any means necessary to secure water rights. Following several main characters in a desperate search for recently discovered senior water rights for the city of Phoenix. Is #PhoenixRising or is #PhoenixDownTheTubes? NPR, All Things Considered called the novel, “A noir-ish, cinematic thriller set in the midst of a water war between Las Vegas and Phoenix. . . . Think Chinatown meets Mad Max.” Join us as we discuss the plausibility of this near-future Phoenix and the dire straits it’s characters find themselves in.
Evicted is written by Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Matthew Desmond. It is being hailed as a “landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America.”
In this engaging, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond follows families in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story their lives as they move through the cycle of eviction.
This fascinating book imagines what it means to be empathetic within the institutional violence of our system and the violence humans can commit against each other. Listen to our discussion about power and the necessity of protest within our democratic structure, and how protests should, and can, peacefully engage to solve the world’s “wicked problems.”
In this edition of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast, Center Director Raphael Bostic interviews David Treuer, the author the book Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life. Part memoir, part history, Treuer writes about reservations within the boundaries of the United States. This book should be an essential read for all Americans. Find out why Treuer decided to write the book, some challenges he faced along the way, and what might be coming next.
In this edition of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast, we’re taking a look to the past. We read Peggy Noonan’s 1990 memoir, What I Saw at the Revolution. This is a political memoir for those who don’t usually read political memoirs. This book is a testimony to the power of language in politics. Noonan was a speechwriter for President Reagan, in both of his terms. This is a portrait of life in Washington, D.C. as well as both the Reagan and Bush administrations. She has a critical eye for the mechanisms of political speech writing. She describes the pull between the policy wonks, the writers, and the politicians. Join us for a conversation on the power of language in politics and for a look at how our Federal government works.
We’re continuing our conversation about race in America, with the book Toni Morrison calls “required reading.” Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is ostensibly a letter to his son about growing up a black male in America. This prize winning correspondent of The Atlantic tackles the very big questions of our time.
Featuring Jody Armour, Raphael Bostic, William Resh, and Danielle Williams.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander is one of the most important American books in the last decade. Alexander systematically explores the policy changes from the days of Nixon through the present – exploring how each decision has created and allowed a system which criminalizes blackness, brownness, otherness in way that both creates new racial biases and confirms them by incarcerating millions of young black and brown men (and to a lesser extent, black and brown women).
In this edition of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast, we’re looking at the dystopian novel On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee. Lee’s novel follows Fan, a young woman from one of the labor communities, as she leaves her home in search of her love. In a corporatized future world – where the wealthy fly in helicopters, workers try to compete with robots, and the really poor live in favelas – what becomes of social mobility and the notions of resilience and hope and equality?
We chose the book A Neighborhood That Never Changes, by Japonica Brown-Saracino and explore how nostalgia and authenticity play a role in how people move into and out of neighborhoods. Brown-Saracino studies residents in four different neighborhoods, redefines types of newcomers and how they interact with the standing neighborhood and neighbors. This ethnography, has much to say to people and the places they live.
In this edition of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast, Center Director Raphael Bostic interviews Daria Roithmayr, the author the new book Reproducing Racism: How Everyday Choices Lock In White Advantage. The book gives new language to the ongoing dialogue of racial inequality in America, distilling research from different fields into a highly readable argument that historical actions matter more than current prejudices in locking in inequality. Find out why Roithmayr decided to write this book, what some of the reactions have been, and what’s coming down the pike.
In this edition of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast, we discuss political theorist Benjamin Barber’s book If Mayors Ruled the World. The book outlines Barber’s hypothesis that cities are in better position to solve some global problems. Can cities provide the leadership that nations states used to by mobilizing local civic action and the sharing of best practices between cities?
In this edition of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast, we discuss Joan Didon’s book of essays about history and politics, The White Album. Published in 1979, these essays reflect a time of change here in California and America as a whole. If as she writes in the opening line, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Do we still live by these stories she told? Or is the world a different place now?
In this edition of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast, we discuss The Castle, by Franz Kafka. Three policy profs discussing the great modernist classic … [William Resh missed our taping due to a scheduling snafu] Can fiction inform policy? How does this novel, in particular, stand the test of time and does it represent governmental bureaucracy as it is today?Will K. ever get to the castle, and why should we care?
In this edition of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast, we discuss Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, by Michael S. Roth. The book has been getting a lot of media attention in the higher ed circles, and we think it’s a decidedly important topic, one that impacts governance dramatically. Roth takes an historic look at thought on education in America.
In this edition of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast, we discuss Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing by Didier Fassin. We discuss the nature of policing in both France and the U.S., the universality of how we handle differences, the nature of a world on video, how power and race play out in the police-citizen relationship, and lessons for governance that can be learned from this important work.
In this edition of the Bedrosian Book Club Podcast, we discuss California lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom’s book Citizenville. The book is about how government has not caught up with the ubiquity of smart phones and technology found in the rest of our everyday lives. It is a rallying cry for innovation from within government to revolutionize the way things are accomplished. Newsom argues that technological innovation will both create more efficiency and create a wider public responsiveness.
Do Raphael, David and Sherry share Gavin Newsom’s optimism that technology can easily reinvent government? Find out!
In this inaugural edition of the Bedrosian Book Club podcast, four of our faculty discussed Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, the French economics book on inequality that is taking the world by storm. Already 9 weeks on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller list, the book looks at the history of wealth distribution and predicts worsening inequality. The faculty discuss this 600 page behemoth in two parts.