Welcome to Liberating Libraries, a podcast project presented by the Conspiracy of Equality. In this show, we talk about the fiction we’re reading and how it is informing, poking at, inspiring, or enabling our social justice work. We don’t delve deep ‘into the text’, but we use the work of our faves (like Octavia Butler, Marlon James, Zadie Smith, Ursula le Guin, Isabelle Allende…) to work through ideas and imagine the worlds that could be.
Tash Aw's We, The Survivors (2019) is all about exploitation and the toll of development on workers. Vladamir Lorchenkov's The Good Life Elsewhere (2008) looks at workers who have been made useless and disposable. They're two sides to the same capitalist system, and they show us some important things in this moment when work (especially the underpaid 'essential' kind that's keeping us alive) and hope are on our minds.
Fantastic interview with Tash Aw.
Max Haiven on the Crisis of Imagination
We're back in 2020 with a look at one of the authors who inspired this whole project: Octavia Butler. In this brand new episode we return to and build on our very first discussion of her amazing works Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998). This time we add our reflections on one of her most famous, and most intense, novels, Kindred (1979). A powerful voice in science fiction, speculative fiction, and Afrofuturism, Octavia Butler should be read by anyone interested in transformational and liberatory movements.
For more about what Butler can mean to movements today, check out the anthology Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction from Social Movements
Link to discussion on the unfinished Parable of the Trickster:
Ever wonder what it's like to hear us talk about books we DIDN'T like? Best and worst reads off our shelf in 2019, and some discussion of plans for upcoming episodes (pleasure, work, and African and Indigenous Futurisms).
Books we talk about:
The Old Drift (Namwali Serpell) Spring (Ali Smith) Mean Spirit (Linda Hogan) The Marrow Thieves (Cherie Dimaline) The Sympathizer (Viet Thanh Nguyen) Cities of Salt (Abdelrahman Munif) Berlin (Jason Lutes) Gold Fame Citrus (Claire Vaye Watkins) American War (Omar El Akkad)
And the ones we don't recommend:
El Murmullo de las Abejas (Sofia Segovia) and The Book of Joan (Lidia Yuknavitch)
How should we feel and share our feelings in times of rising fascism? In this episode we tackle this question by looking at stories about life in German and Italy before and during WWII. We examine the three part graphic novel Berlin (2018) by Jason Lutes and Natalia Ginsburg's memoir of Mussolini's Italy, Family Lexicon (published in Italian in 1963, translated to English in 2017). These books helped us unpack things like resilience, language, community, and despair in a different way, something we hope can benefit others in contemporary movements.
We had to truncate our long conversation, so here are some of the resources we used to gather information on the history of fascism and its relationship to the rise of alt-right, nationalist, and white supremacist movements today.
Leave a rating or review on your podcasting app, or find us on Instagram at liberating.libraries to send us a comment!
A short repost of an episode from last year. Zadie Smith is one of our favourite authors, so we had to cut this one down A LOT! Here we're talking about her most recent novel Swing Time. You can find the full original version on our website, liberatinglibraries.org.
We've been excited about this one for a while! An episode looking at two epic tales of dispossession, transformation, and the development of contemporary capitalism. Putting together John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and Abdelrahman Munif's Cities of Salt, we're talking about fiction that explores economic transformations and the upheavals of resource extraction, with a focus on relationships to land and the emergence of workers' struggles.
In other news, you can now follow us on instagram @liberatinglibraries. Leave us a comment there!
An episode we recorded in 2018, but remains as timely as ever. Looking at Mohsin Hamid's books The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Exit West to talk about breathing life into historical moments, and writing with human dignity.
A repost of one of our first episodes looking at A History of Seven Killings and The Book of Night Women by Marlon James. CONTENT WARNING: contains descriptions of graphic violence, oppression, and sexual assault.
In this episode we look at Scarborough (2017) by Catherine Hernandez and Brother (2017) by David Chariandy, two powerful novels that bring voice to a diverse and chronically underfunded community in Canada. Both set in Scarborough, Ontario, they use intimacy and bureaucracy to show the workings of Canadian forms of power, structural racism, and economic inequality in ways not often seen in the historically white and middle-class Can-Lit (Canadian Literature). Through their work, we're invited to ask who gets to determine what a community looks like, whose stories are told, and when and how does survival happen.
REPOST: An episode from 2018 about the work of Ursula K Le Guin. We talk about the books The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Word for World is Forest (1972), delving into her inventive and radical ideas on how we approach 'the other' and build trust. This episode was recorded a few months after Le Guin's death, in the wake of losing a giant in science fiction and liberatory imagination.
RE-POST: While we work on our next episode, we're re-releasing some of our earlier stuff. This is a re-edit of a discussion we had in 2018 about the books Birdie by Tracy Lindberg and The Break by Katherena Vermette. We explore reading these fabulous Indigenous women as settlers in Canada/Turtle Island, what this does in the larger picture for decolonization, and how to connect fiction to our responsibilities as settlers and treaty people.
Content Warning: Both books deal with trauma and violence against women and indigenous peoples and land. We don't discuss the plots in too much depth, but the material is still heavy to deal with.
This was recorded a few months after Gerald Stanley was acquitted of the murder or Colton Bouchie and the purchase by the Trudeau government of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, both of which heavily shaped our discussion.
Here are some additional resources to expand what we talk about here:
Here's part 2 in the series, all about John Steinbeck!
About: In this series, we talk about authors who mean a lot to one of us, and less to the other, and explore how our reading styles can draw us to very different kinds of writing. Most people find certain kinds of stories and storytelling more compelling than others, and that’s okay. It’s important to distinguish between the practice of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and seeing the value of reading things you might not normally think of, and those moments when you find deep connections with the way a particular author writes. Styles are political and they’re personal. It doesn’t mean every book is good, or that styles can’t be problematic; rather, it shows how ‘this author’s style doesn’t grab me’ can be a really productive moment for delving into your own politics as a reader.
Part 1 in a 2-part series. We talk about authors who mean a lot to one of us, and less to the other, and explore how our reading styles can draw us to very different kinds of writing. Most people find certain kinds of stories and storytelling more compelling than others, and that’s okay. It’s important to distinguish between the practice of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and seeing the value of reading things you might not normally think of, and those moments when you find deep connections with the way a particular author writes. Styles are political and they’re personal. It doesn’t mean every book is good, or that styles can’t be problematic; rather, it shows how ‘this author’s style doesn’t grab me’ can be a really productive moment for delving into your own politics as a reader.
This series is structures in two interviews. Part 1 talks about the poetic politics of Dionne Brand, and Part 2 looks at the work and legacy of John Steinbeck.
Also check out this piece referenced in part 1: Words of (Dis)Comfort: On the Luxuries and Limitations of Reading While White
This episode asks how is contemporary fiction incorporating (or not) the present realities of climate change and can it provide avenues for building a response to climate crisis? To do this we look at two recent books about post-climate change dystopia - American War by Omar El Akkad and Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins. We also bring in essays by Amitav Ghosh from his book The Great Derangement and reflect on his claim that "the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination".
Welcome to our relaunch of Liberating Libraries by the Conspiracy of Equality. In this podcast we examine how fiction informs us as activists concerned about fostering empathy, justice, kindness, and equity.
In this episode we discuss where this project came from, who we are as people trying to become better readers, and some of the early reads that started our journeys into fiction.
For more on us, and our previous episodes visit liberatinglibraries.org
Music by Ketsa available at the Free Music Archive or at ketsamusic.com