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The Lift Up

The Lift Up

By Tamara Crawford and Vina Orden
A monthly transatlantic conversation hosted by Tamara Crawford and Vina Orden about books, writing, identity, and representation, centered on marginalized voices and stories.
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S2 E8 SABRINA & CORINA: Writing a Place for Oneself
In this episode, we discuss Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine; a collection which evokes a powerful sense of place in these stories set in Fajardo-Anstine's hometown of Denver & in southern Colorado, centering the lives of Latinas of Indigenous ancestry. Through the mostly working-class women characters, Fajardo-Anstine explores personal & collective histories; intergenerational trauma & resilience; issues of class, race, & queerness; feminism and sisterhood; & agency & transformation in spite of powerlessness & adversity.
November 03, 2021
S2.E7 ISLAND QUEEN: Bringing Hidden Histories to Light
In time for Black History Month in the UK, hosts Tamara Crawford and Vina Orden discuss Vanessa Riley’s epic historical fiction novel Island Queen. Island Queen is based on the life of historical figure Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, who was born enslaved in 1756, managed to free herself and her family, became a transnational entrepreneur, and rose to be among the most wealthy and politically powerful people in the Caribbean. Through Dorothy's personal story of love, loss, trauma, defiance, perseverance, survival, and legacy, readers also learn a larger history of Dutch, Spanish, French, and British colonialism in the West Indies; the resistance movements and revolts led by enslaved peoples in Haiti, Grenada, Barbados, and Jamaica throughout the 18th and 19th centuries; and the lesser-known story of free Black women in the Caribbean, some of whom were successful entrepreneurs like Dorothy.
October 06, 2021
S2. E6 THE MERMAID OF BLACK CONCH: Cultural Collisions / Convergence
The Lift Up is excited to be back after our brief summer break with Season 2, Episode 6, featuring Monique Roffey's genre-bending novel The Mermaid of Black Conch! On one level, The Mermaid of Black Conch is a story of an unlikely romance between an ancient Taino woman-turned-mermaid and a modern-day Caribbean fisherman. But it is a much larger story too—about colonial history and its social and economic legacies; interactions and relationships that cross racial, ethnic, cultural, and class lines; and notions of womanhood, sisterhood, and the ways women fight against gender norms and expectations and manage to thrive despite a culture of misogyny.
August 11, 2021
S2. E5 THE SEEP: What it means to be human
As we’re trying to see our way out of the pandemic, The Seep proves a timely read. It’s a story about social transformation brought about by an alien entity The Seep, which seeks to ameliorate human suffering—poverty; sexual & gender as well as racial and ethnic discrimination; death—in exchange for information about what makes humans “human.” Which begs the question, if our struggles & complexities are eliminated in a utopia, can we still call ourselves human?
June 02, 2021
In time for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in the US and the launch of a campaign to establish East and South East Asian (ESEA) Heritage Month in the UK, hosts Tamara Crawford and Vina Orden discuss Pilipino American writer Lysley Tenorio's novel The Son of Good Fortune and Māori writer Patricia Grace's reissued classic Potiki. Both Tenorio and Grace write against invisibility, having been raised on the Western canon but never encountering stories or characters that resembled their own experiences and cultures. Potiki, a story about the Māori community protecting its land against developers attempting to seize it, and The Son of Good Fortune about a young Filipino who discovers he’s undocumented, both challenge dominant notions about who gets rights to land and human dignity—issues very much in the forefront of public discourse today.
May 12, 2021
S2. E3 NIGHT SKY WITH EXIT WOUNDS / THE TRADITION: American Beauty | American Violence
Both with National Poetry Month around the corner, and with the anti-Black & anti-Asian violence going on in the US, it is timely that The Lift Up had chosen these two poetry collections to discuss: Ocean Vuong‘s Night Sky With Exit Wounds, and Jericho Brown‘s The Tradition. Both poets explore the concurring states of beauty and violence in their own unique experience of America and the body in relation to place, personal and collective histories, and being in the moment.
April 07, 2021
S2.E2 BREASTS AND EGGS: Reclaiming our bodies and ourselves
In recognition of Women’s History Month in the US and in the lead-up to International Women’s Day on March 8, hosts Tamara Crawford and Vina Orden discuss celebrated Japanese writer Mieko Kawakami's Breasts and Eggs, her first novel to be translated into English. It is an intimate portrait of the lives of contemporary urban, working-class women that also boldly interrogates social and cultural mores around womanhood and sexuality—from internalized white beauty standards, to expectations of marriage and motherhood, to imposter syndrome and creative ambitions.
March 03, 2021
S2.E1 RED AT THE BONE: The selves we inherit & invent
This New York Times Bestseller and Notable Book of the Year (2019) is a story of two families told from the perspectives of various family members. It examines class, gender roles, queerness, and the intersections between personal & collective history, in this case the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 and the Great Northward Migration of 6 million African Americans from the rural American South to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West.
February 03, 2021
Episode 7 - Hurricane Season: On breaking the silence & impunity around femicide
In this month's episode - our final episode for Season 1 - hosts Vina Orden and Tamara Crawford discuss Fernanda Melchor’s English-language debut novel, Hurricane Season, which explores the misogyny and rampant violence against women and trans people that goes unnoticed and unmentioned in society. For transcripts, links to things mentioned on the show, and other bonus material, please visit our blog (
November 04, 2020
Episode 6 - THE CITY WE BECAME / FRIDAY BLACK: On the choices & futures we make
It's sci-fi month on The Lift Up! Hosts Tamara Crawford and Vina Orden discuss The City We Became, the latest novel by award-winning author N. K. Jemisin, and Friday Black, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's debut short story collection. Both writers create hyperreal versions of American society, imagining what it might look like when communities either succeed or fail to come together against the evils of our time—from racism and xenophobia, to police violence, to gentrification, to overconsumption and unfettered capitalism. Thanks to listener and friend of the pod Camille, who suggested Jemisin, specifically her must-read Broken Earth trilogy! For transcripts, links to things mentioned on the show, and other bonus material, please visit our blog (
October 07, 2020
Episode 5 - THE GOOD IMMIGRANT: Resisting myths & creating possibilities
In this month's episode, hosts Tamara Crawford and Vina Orden discuss both the UK (2016) and US (2018) editions of The Good Immigrant, a collection of essays edited by Nikesh Shukla (both versions) and Chimene Suleyman (US version). The 46 contributors to both editions have roots in China, India, Iran, Kashmir, Pakistan, Malaysia, South Korea, Algeria, Egypt, Eritrea, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Argentina, France, Ireland, Northern Cyprus, Turkey, and other places around the world. They explore and challenge the idea of "the good immigrant" by writing about struggles; the multiplicities in their identities; re-connecting with one's culture or finding one's identity; examining whiteness or white adjacency; colonial and post-colonial traumas; respectability politics; being invisible; representation in popular culture; publishing and the problem of the "single story," among many themes. Additional credit for this episode goes to Nick Kirk for helping with research on the historical timeline around immigration policies in the UK. For transcripts, links to things mentioned on the show,  and other bonus material, please visit our blog (
September 02, 2020
Episode 4 - PATSY: A Journey to Love & Freedom
In this month's episode, hosts Vina Orden and Tamara Crawford talk about Nicole Dennis-Benn's sophomore novel, Patsy, which explores the story of a young Jamaican woman who leaves her daughter behind to chase the love of her life and the American Dream in Brooklyn, NYC, and who finds herself charting a different course as the reality of her undocumented immigrant experience sets in.
August 05, 2020
Episode 3 - THERE THERE: On the violence of silence & the privilege of culture
Hosts Tamara and Vina discuss Tommy Orange's 2018 debut novel, There There, which delves into the lives of twelve "urban Natives" from Oakland who grapple with their personal and collective histories, identities, and relationships. As Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4, we thought it all the more important to remember (in the words of one of the characters Dene Oxendene), "for Native people in this country, all over the Americas, it's been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there."
July 01, 2020
BONUS Interview with Gina Apostol, Part 2
In Part 2 of our interview with the writer Gina Apostol, whose novel Insurrecto was featured this month on The Lift Up, we discuss gate-keeping in the publishing industry; the economics of writing; and the importance of doing the work that’s within your desire, even—or especially if—it does something to counter the system.
June 24, 2020
BONUS Interview with Gina Apostol, Part 1
Writer Gina Apostol joins hosts Tamara and Vina for a conversation (in two parts) about her fourth novel, Insurrecto, as well as football (or soccer, to American listeners); the Pilipino as a hyper-postmodern hyper-human; and the importance of activism and long-term organizing for meaningful social change.
June 17, 2020
Episode 2 - INSURRECTO: Histories, realities, & other confusions
In the lead-up to Philippine Independence Day on June 12, hosts Tamara and Vina discuss Gina Apostol's Insurrecto, exploring the forgotten Philippine-American War through the mediated lenses of Pilipina translator Magsalin and American filmmaker Chiara Brasi.
June 03, 2020
Episode 1 - Allow Us to Introduce Ourselves
Who are Tamara and Vina, and why did they start The Lift Up? Listen to find out more about your hosts and their motivations in starting this monthly literary podcast...
May 13, 2020
The Lift Up - Trailer
Welcome to The Lift Up -  a transatlantic conversation about books, hosted by Tamara Crawford and Vina Orden.
May 06, 2020