For our discussion of Hari Kunzru’s White Tears, we return to the question: can America overcome its sin of racism? Or will our collective inability to deal with the consequences of our actions win the day? If you have not read this novel, beware – this podcast it mostly spoilers! We dive into the themes Kunzru explores in this complex novel, relish the strong prose, and question the role of cultural memory and American identity.
To listen to the Bedrosian Book Club discussion of White Tears click the orange arrow in the Soundcloud player here -or you can download it and subscribe through ApplePodcasts, Soundcloud, or Google Play
Featuring Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro (), Aubrey Hicks (), and David Sloane ()
The narrator of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist may be unreliable as he tells his American experience before and after 9/11 with an unknown American dinner guest, but we wonder if he is any more unreliable than the voice inside all of us. We discuss the East/West conflict, the relationship between fundamentalism and nostalgia, the narrator’s reluctance and fundamentalism, the narrator’s love of America and Erica, as well as puzzle over the ending as we delve into this deep and short novel.
To listen to the Bedrosian Book Club discussion of The Reluctant Fundamentalist click the orange arrow in the Soundcloud player at the top of this post. Or you can download it and subscribe through iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play
In part 2 of our discussion of Cop in the Hood by Peter Moskos, we discuss the notion of discretion in the legal system – by police all the way to prosecutors & parole/probation boards. We think about discrimination in enforcement made possible by discretion. We think about conflicts of interest in investigations of police misconduct – especially in relation to the war on drugs. How should we move forward?
We ask how to define “good” policing, as we discuss sociologist Peter Moskos’ Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District. What expectations do we put on police officers? How do police departments measure success? What should we measure for success? What does “law and order” mean? Do police receive the right kind of training to deliver the service communities want them to provide? How does Baltimore differ from Los Angeles? We also discuss the epic policy failure of the War on Drugs and the idea of legalization.
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
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.