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Critical Literary Consumption

Critical Literary Consumption

By Anna Nguyen
Join Anna Nguyen for a podcast that asks us to reflect on our reading and analyzing practices. Interviewing writers, authors, and academics, we'll discuss: what does it mean when we cite a text or when we activate the text? Are we giving authors the agency or do we take for granted the concepts we use?

Find me on Instagram and Twitter @anannadroid .
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Narratives of Empire and Inheritance (with Asako Serizawa)

Critical Literary Consumption

Mapping As Revision of Life Stories (with Belinda Huijuan Tang)
Belinda Huijuan Tang recollects how emotionally resonant family stories inspired her debut novel A Map for The Missing and connects the gaokao (the standardized college entrance exam) with the years 1977, 1982, and 1993 as major historical and cultural moments in China. In the episode, Belinda also discusses the ideal of education as upward mobility, the politicization in education, and how the idea of citizenship can change in the course of one’s life.
September 01, 2022
Poetry, Migrancy, and Domestic Life (with Eileen Chong)
Eileen Chong reflects on her eight poetry collections and the multiple worlds that arise out of relationships, language (translating, speaking, food, numbers), and domestication, women’s labor, and her migration from Singapore to Australia. In tracing her writing trajectory (specifically, “translating” degree program requirements between countries), she discusses how her poems capture a moment in time, how she rewrites memories and narratives, and co-creation as praxis between reader and poet.
August 08, 2022
(Dis-)Orientalism in the Academy (with Elaine Hsieh Chou)
In this interview about her electric debut novel Disorientations, Elaine Hsieh Chou discusses her inspiration for writing a fictional account of academia. She traces how the storyline and characters changed as she followed the many publicized controversies in academia (sexual assault, white scholars claiming and faking marginalized identities). She also addresses whiteness and white logic, burnout culture in academia, and the anachronistic recitation of “the death of the author”.
July 20, 2022
Mythologies as Communally Owned Stories (with K-Ming Chang)
In both Bestiary and the upcoming story collection Gods of Want, K-Ming connects Victoria Chang’s practice of “language first, then ideas” with her own playfulness in writing and digression as storytelling. She also elaborates on myths and mythologies as communally owned stories and her own aims of rewriting them to recenter intimate matriarchal and matrimonial diaspora.
July 08, 2022
“The Body as a Series of Questions” (with Susan Nguyen)
In her debut poetry collection, Dear Diaspora, Susan Nguyen examines how the physical and social body is a site where language, diaspora, and the image of the American Dream are resurrected through questioning. In the conversation, we return to this idea of language in translation, whether language(s) can be shared, the preservation of language, and how sensorial imagery helps supplement what cannot be contained.
June 27, 2022
Anti-Colonial Practices as Research Methods (with Dr. Max Liboiron)
Dr. Max Liboiron (Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John’s, NL) discusses their book Pollution is Colonialism, CLEAR, science and technology studies, and how not to reproduce colonialism in the lab and beyond. They make nuanced distinctions between Western science/dominant science, community peer review/academic peer review, and universalism/place-based, distinctions which if recognized can support anti-colonial action.
June 16, 2022
Unreliable Narrators, Knowing and Unknowing (with Soon Wiley)
Soon Wiley simultaneously deconstructs and critiques the mystery plot in his debut novel When We Fell Apart. In thinking about the two different perspectives as told through the two narrators, Soon reflects upon unreliable characters, their testimonies, lived experiences, and spatial and geopolitical spaces (specifically between Seoul and the United States).
June 01, 2022
Indigenous Internationalism, Indigenous Futures (with Dr. Nick Estes)
Dr. Nick Estes (University of Minnesota) discusses the writing of his book, Our History is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance and critiques ahistorical narratives told through the Western framework of time. In the interview, he also gives important overviews on Indigenous internationalism and futures, how law is interpreted, and shares upcoming writing projects.
May 23, 2022
Reclamation Project: A Preview of Enjoy Me Among My Ruins (with Juniper Fitzgerald)
Juniper Fitzgerald talks about her upcoming book, Enjoy Me Among My Ruins published by Feminist Press. Viewing her story as a reclamation project, she talks about playing with structure and writing against the progressive linear timeline by sharing fragments of her experiences as a sex worker, an academic and a mother, the significance of Lolita, journal entries, and letters to Dr. Scully.
May 03, 2022
Countering the Borderlands for New Origin Stories (with Ariana Brown)
Ariana Brown discusses the genealogy of her debut full-length poetry collection, We Are Owed. Reflecting on her research on Texas history, what was taught in the classroom, studying the archives of slavery, anti-blackness, and how to avoid the tendency to be nostalgic for a heritage country, Ariana considers a different origin story that moves beyond the concept of Borderlands, nations, and nation-states.
April 22, 2022
Absences and Things Left Unsaid (with Jennifer Huang)
Jennifer Huang discusses their debut poetry collection, Return Flight, and how it is a sort of travelogue on diaspora as they reflect on the idea of home, their departures and returns, and research on Taiwanese martial law. In the interview, Jennifer connects additional themes of languages, what cannot be said or translated, erasure as form, Taiwan and the United States, food, and ancestral altar tables.
April 07, 2022
The Concept of a Person and Care Work in Undocumented Motherhood (with Dr. Elizabeth Farfán-Santos)
Dr. Elizabeth Farfán-Santos previews her upcoming book, Undocumented Motherhood: Conversation on Love, Trauma, and Border Crossing, a creative text based on her research on the health impacts of political, racial, and medical exclusion of undocumented immigrant communities in the United States. In the interview, she shares the genealogy of the project, the limits of theoretical language that obscures human stories and complexity, and the concept of a person and care work. 
March 30, 2022
Craft and Life Writing: On Work, the Model Minority Myth, and Covid (with Weike Wang)
Centering Weike Wang’s essay, “Notes on Work” published in The New Yorker, we discuss how her views on work in Chemistry and Joan Is Okay intersects with the model minority myth, craft writing/workshopping, and her experiences as both a doctoral student in an epidemiology program and an MFA student. Wang also shares why she revised Joan Is Okay to include Covid and whether her future writing projects will allude to the ongoing pandemic.
March 15, 2022
Disaporic Languages of Migration, Food, Nature, and Colonial Histories (with Nina Mingya Powles)
Poet and author Nina Mingya Powles (Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai and Small Bodies of Water) shares how language learning and playing with texts are a core focus of her written work, which examines critical placemaking and geographies, food, the natural world and climate change, migration, and colonialism. In this illuminating conversation, Nina reflects on her ongoing research process in colonial structures and her “in-betweenness” in multiple and complex spaces.
March 04, 2022
Thinking Across Texts, Thinking Across (Inter)disciplines (with Dr. Katherine McKittrick)
Dr. Katherine McKittrick (Queen’s University) talks about interdisciplinarity, citations and footnotes, geographies, curiosity, and radical storytelling through creative texts. In the conversation, we discuss her two monographs, Dear Science and Other Stories and Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle, as they connect to broader conversations about Black Studies, critical race theory and biological essentialism, and the relationship between poetics and the sciences.
February 21, 2022
Poetic Lab Notebooks and the Artistic Lives of Scientists (with Jenny Qi)
Jenny Qi reflects on the process of grief and how her scientific and artistic lives merged in her debut poetry collection Focal Point. Jenny, who wrote much of the book during her Ph.D. program in cancer biology, thinks about life in the lab, the language and communication of science, different disciplinary writing genres/methods, the emotional immediacy in poems, and trying to make sense of the world.
January 24, 2022
Fever Dreams: Subconscious, Poetic Experimentation (with Kelli Stevens Kane)
Poet, playwright, and oral historian Kelli Stevens Kane is the author of Hallelujah Science. Kane shares her process of writing and structuring her debut poetry collection as a time capsule, and how the themes and visions of science are imagined in experimental and numerical language, in the body, in fever dreams, and in nature. We also discussed the complementary aspirations of science and oral history, rather than the conventional (and “modern”!) view of them as opposites.
December 28, 2021
Writing Intergenerational Trauma Through Food Memoir (with Grace M. Cho)
Grace M. Cho (College of Staten Island, CUNY) discusses her hybrid text Tastes Like War: A Memoir (a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction) and how her framing of memories and the geopolitical context of her mother’s life are sociological investigations. Topics discussed include the biological gaze on schizophrenia, writing to uncover unspeakable and unknowable traumas, hearing voices as an experience that gives insight into the past rather than a symptom of pathology, and food as a form of resistance in her mother’s life.
December 07, 2021
Writing About Food: Somewhere Between “Theorizing and Imagining” (with Sun Yung Shin, V.V. Ganeshananthan, and Roy G. Guzmán)
I discuss the anthology What We Hunger For: Refugee and Immigrant Stories about Food and Family and its motivations with editor Sun Yung Shin and two contributors, V.V. (Sugi) Ganeshananthan and Roy G. Guzmán. Sun Yung was inspired by an article written by Viet Thanh Nguyen, who wrote about “narrative plentitude” in response to a world of “narrative scarcity”, and how they conceived of the project as a way to think about the everyday person who might happen to write about food. Following Sun Yung’s call, Sugi and Roy reflect on their own essays, how centering Minnesota is not merely a local perspective, and the collapse of academic and creative writing in what Roy calls “somewhere between theorizing and imagining”.
November 18, 2021
Empiricism, Collaborative Research, and Accountability (with Dr. Jelani Ince)
Dr. Jelani Ince (University of Washington) shares thoughts on research and how he sees it as both a form of collaboration and a way to be held accountable, avoiding the reproduction of harm and exploitation. In the conversation, he reflects on his past research on communities and social movements, his role as a professor during this critical moment for educators in the university, what is good data, who determines what is good data, and much, much more.
October 30, 2021
Reflections on Racialized Organizations in Society (with Dr. Victor Ray)
Dr. Victor Ray (University of Iowa) discusses his academic work and theory of racialized organizations, the connection between empirical sociology and social theory, the racial politics of citations, and the current debates on critical race theory. He ends with a nod to scholars who also write for the public, for the possibility of provoking society to reflect on itself.
August 05, 2021
Reclaiming Language, Reclaiming the Body (with Khalisa Rae)
Poet and journalist Khalisa Rae discusses her beautiful debut poetry collection, Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat, which examines race and racism, temporality, geography, ancestry, spirits and ghosts, language, body, trauma, and the genre and craft of poetry. She shares that specific poems reference particular people and topics as a way for her to contend with the current social moment and to foster a critical perspective through poetry, and calls her collection a mixture of prose and poetry or poetry in verse.
July 13, 2021
Traveling Across Concepts, Countries, and Kitchens (with Ming-Cheau Lin)
Ming-Cheau Lin is the author of the cookbook Just Add Rice: Stories and Recipes By a Taiwanese South African and memoir Yellow and Confused: Born in Taiwan, Raised in South Africa and Trying To Make Sense of It All. We discuss her two texts, with particular emphasis on displacement, relocation, and unlearning, how language and references travel, the difficulty of translating to both white communities and our families, and how her cookbook was a primer for introducing Taiwnese food and culture in South Africa.
June 21, 2021
Beyond Carceral Imaginaries and Logics (with Dr. Tamara K. Nopper)
Dr. Tamara K. Nopper, a sociologist, writer, editor, and data artist, discusses her scholarly work, public essays, and editing of Mariame Kaba's We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice. In this conversation, we reflect on social media and (alternative) data in a scored society, the language of abolition and racial justice, and the possibility of imagining healthy public policy that attends to community needs and not criminalization.
May 24, 2021
Disordered Science (Studies) In Society (with Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein)
Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (University of New Hampshire) discusses her experience writing her book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred and offers wonderful insights on being a theoretical physicist and Black feminist scholar. We situate her book and arguments in academia and in a broader society that reveres science despite its limitations.
May 07, 2021
Nuance as Antithetical to Binaries (with Deesha Philyaw)
Deesha Philyaw, author of the story collection The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, discusses the simplicity of binaries and proposes nuance as an alternative. The concept of nuance is a running theme throughout, as Deesha and I examine the growing interest of reading Black authors in the current climate, the lack of moralizing judgments in her nine stories, the interaction between the church and religion, science, and self-understanding, and the sociality of food.
April 05, 2021
Narratives of Empire and Inheritance (with Asako Serizawa)
Asako Serizawa, author of The Inheritors, and I talk about her approach in writing and ordering her story collection which spans multiple centuries. In the process, we situate themes of colonization and recolonization in the context of nationalism, American empire, postcolonialism, and science and technology as critical narrative building.
March 15, 2021
The Social World of the Book Review (with Dr. Phillipa Chong)
In Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times, author and sociologist Dr. Phillipa Chong (McMaster University) asks us to consider the labor of book reviewers, when the review has changed alongside “traditional” institutions of the newspaper and print media. The question of inclusion and representation (in literature and in the actual book reviews) remains despite the new “institutional uncertainty” landscape.
February 18, 2021
The Matter We Call Food (with Dr. Kyla Wazana Tompkins)
Dr. Kyla Wazana Tompkins (Pomona College) and I discuss her monograph, Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century, and explore the ongoing binaries of exploring food as a topic of academic investigation: subject/object, personal/disciplinary; humanities/sciences, and materialism/humanism. She expresses the possibilities of new materialism in her second book, which continues to look at “the matter we often call food”.
January 22, 2021
Book Reviews as Dialogue (with Dr. Rosemary Deller)
Dr. Rosemary Deller, book review editor for London School of Economics Review of Books, and I talk about the analytical book review, its purposes, the editorial process, and the possibilities of better academic peer review. 
December 17, 2020
Affect and Other Turns (with Dr. Ashley Barnwell)
Dr. Ashley Barnwell (University of Melbourne) discusses her new book, Critical Affect: The Politics of Method, which I reviewed for the London School of Economics Review of Books. Extending her reflections on the academic turn to affect, we also discuss the pedagogical practice and ethics of critical reading.
November 19, 2020
Abundance and Revision (with Kiese Laymon)
I talk methods, community, and the blurring of authorial and personal selves with Kiese Laymon, author (Heavy, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America) and Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi. We address Laymon's concepts of abundance and revision, and citations as capital in academic and narrative writing.
October 01, 2020