Summary: Nerdette is a safe space for nerding out about all the things you're watching, reading, and encountering IRL. Interviews with your favorite (or soon-to-be favorite) authors, artists, astronauts, and more.
Dana Czapnik has always been drawn to wanderers and wonderers, the kind of fictional characters who are always contemplating who they are and the world around them. But aside from the work of Virginia Woolf, Czapnik said she hasn’t come across many female characters who get those kind of opportunities. “That was one of the things that I was thinking of when I was working on this,” Czapnik says of her new novel, The Falconer. “That I wanted to write a female character who has the space to just be and wonder.” Salman Rushdie called The Falconer "a deeply affecting tale of a young woman coming of age in a man’s world." The book has been favorably compared to The Catcher in the Rye. And the main character, 17-year-old Lucy Adler, is "a much better person than Holden Caulfield," according to Nerdette's own Greta Johnsen. Czapnik talks with Greta all about the book, the nuances of feminism, and nostalgia for the 1990s.
The Nerdette team recently moved next to the crew at Sound Opinions, WBEZ’s long-running rock n’ roll talk show. We bring that up because last year that team reviewed Dessa’s latest album, “Chime,” and not only did they call it “brilliant,” they called Dessa “a renaissance woman in the truest sense.” That’s because Dessa is a rapper, singer, author, poet, and whiskey co-creator. And she even participated in an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”-type procedure in an attempt to remove memories from a painful relationship. Greta talks to Dessa about all of that. And we listen to some of the amazing tracks on “Chime.”
How does one ask their employer for more money? The short answer, according to Refinery29's Lindsey Stanberry, is just do it. "It’s hard. And it’s not fun," Stanberry tells Greta this week. "I mean, you just have to ask." It's a new year. And now — RIGHT NOW — is the time to get your finances in order. So we're talking with a financial expert who's going to tell you to know your numbers, to know your worth, and — most importantly — to get out there and get that money. Stanberry is the author of "Money Diaries: Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About Your Finances... And Everyone Else's." She's also the work and money director at Refinery29, an online magazine. She's full of invaluable tips for taking charge of your money situation. So get excited: You're about to be the boss of your bank account.
The year is at its end. And in 2018’s honor, Greta talked to four people who’ve made some amazing things about their favorite thing of the year. Make sense? It’s kind of like a miniature phone tree but for books, music, and TV. Or like a binder’s worth of homework dumped on you hours before the end of the semester. (You're welcome!) Here are our guest professors: Celeste Ng, author of the 2017 novel Little Fires Everywhere Curtis Sittenfeld, author of a 2018 collection of short stories titled You Think It, I’ll Say It Dessa, a singer, rapper, and writer responsible for both an album called Chime and a memoir called My Own Devices in 2018 Jenny Han, author of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, which became a smash-hit Netflix movie To make things as easy for you over-achievers as possible, you can find a list of all their recommendations here.
Nerdette host Greta Johnsen has a rare genetic disease that CRISPR might be able to fix. As a four-year old in Juneau, Alaska, Greta was diagnosed with an eye condition known as "Best disease." That name is somewhat of a misnomer in that "Best disease" causes premature macular degeneration — but curiously it happens to be among the best diseases for experimenting with CRISPR, a genetic engineering tool that can be used to edit DNA. CRISPR has been in the news a lot lately (Google it) so we're rebroadcasting this very special episode, one that follows the story of Greta, her father, and Dr. Bruce Conklin, a scientist who's currently developing a CRISPR system to inject into some Johnsen family eyeballs. Plus, you can't have a conversation about experimental gene editing without discussing the ethical implications of making irreversible changes to human evolution. “We’d be permanently altering the course of evolution if we decide that we think it’s OK to edit human embryos," says Megan Hochstrasser, a science communications manager and CRISPR expert. "Is that something we want to be able to do as a society?” That's a great question. Let's talk about it.
In a curious twist, venomous, killer sea snails are helping scientists make some incredible biomedical advances. Dr. Mandë Holford is the head of the Holford Lab in New York City, but her line of research often means she’s taking nighttime scuba dives in seas and oceans across the globe. “Yes, a snail can kill you,” Holford tells Greta. “But a snail can also help you! In various, various ways. And that’s what our lab is investigating: The power of these snails and the venom that they have to transform organisms and to transform lives.” Holford is also an associate professor in chemistry at Hunter College and the Graduate Center at City University of New York, with scientific appointments at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medical College. She tells us how snail venom can help relieve pain and treat cancer, how she’s giving back with a line of science-based board games, and how it feels to be on a “Top 100” list that includes Beyoncé.
A little while after Glory Edim created an Instagram account under the name Well-Read Black Girl, she said she started getting a lot of messages from young women thanking her for creating a space that offered reflections of themselves. “It’s not only just an Instagram account, but people don’t see themselves reflected in their libraries, in their bookstores, in everyday conversation,” Edim says on Nerdette podcast. “The common theme is: People don’t feel fully heard. And I’m doing my best to change that.” Well-Read Black Girl has since become a wide number of things, including a collection of essays, a Brooklyn-based book club, and an online community “that celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature and sisterhood.” Edim spoke with Nerdette host Greta Johnsen (and special guest host Arionne Nettles!) about how she got to where she is and what she’s still trying to accomplish. Music: This episode features music from The Marching 100, Florida A&M's precise and innovative marching band.
Barbara Kingsolver says her new novel, ‘Unsheltered,’ is “my love letter to millennials.” “Today’s problems can’t be fixed by yesterday’s people,” she tells Greta. “They’re going to be fixed by tomorrow’s people.” Kingsolver is the author of several award-winning books, including ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ and ‘The Bean Trees.’ ‘Unsheltered’ is set both in the run up to the 2016 presidential election and in the aftermath of the American Civil War, and she says it’s about “how people behave when it seems like all the old rules have stopped working.” Kingsolver tells us about the end of the world, why she's still optimistic, and what it's like to narrate the sex scenes when she records her own audiobooks. (“You just try to get through it all in one take”). She also answers one of Greta’s more poignant questions: “Are we just %#&!ed?”
Samin Nosrat is the chef behind ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat,’ a book and a new Netflix series of the same name. She’s also a proponent of articulating your dreams. "I do think taking a little bit of time, a couple times a year, to articulate your goals and your dreams and your desires is helpful because it helps orient you toward them," Nosrat says. She also tells Greta about the culinary value of those four primary elements, the importance of embracing your cooking mistakes, and she gives great homework!: Write down your goals in a manifestation journal, "Even if they change or don’t come true, that’s fine. It’s just nice to have a record."
Hey! Today we're talking with Jodie Whittaker! She is the first woman to play the lead role in the long-running, time-travel-based BBC television series Doctor Who. You'll hear her tell Greta the story of how she got the role, how so many lovely Doctor Who fans have reacted to her casting, and why she thinks her character’s gender, “more so than probably any other role I’ve ever played, is irrelevant.”
If you were bored by Homeric epics and Greek mythology in high school and college, Nerdette highly encourages you to reconsider. “There is a reason these stories have lasted for 3,000 years,” said Madeline Miller, author of Greta’s favorite book of 2018, a novelization of The Odyssey called Circe. “[These stories] are incredibly insightful about human nature,” Miller said. “Culture has changed and the way we go to war has changed, but the stories we tell about war and about loss and grief – even things like post-traumatic stress disorder – the Greeks understood all of that.” Miller said she novelized the story of Circe, a witch from The Odyssey who turns men into pigs, because she wanted more freedom to explore the character. “There were things I couldn’t answer in papers that I wanted to answer in a different way,” she said. Miller talked with Greta about the book, what makes literary canon, and more about turning men into pigs.
Aileen Rizo was working as a math consultant at the Fresno County Office of Education when she discovered a recently-hired male colleague was being paid significantly more than her for the same work. Aileen had more experience and education than this colleague. What then began as a fight for herself quickly turned into a fight for equality for women everywhere. Aileen talked about the tough decisions she's made for herself and her family on a recent episode of the WBEZ podcast The Trouble. On this week’s Nerdette, you’ll hear that exceptional episode of The Trouble in full, followed by a conversation between Shannon Cason, host of The Trouble, and Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen. Plus, a suggestion for you, dear listener: Ask for a raise.
From Murphy Brown to Kidding to Doctor Who and more, New York Times TV critic Margaret Lyons reveals the shows she’s excited about.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois is one of only 52 women to ever serve in the Senate. There are currently 23 female senators, which is an all-time high. “There are not enough women,” Duckworth tells Nerdette host Greta Johnsen. “We’re 20 percent of the Senate. That’s it. That’s wrong. We’re 51 percent of the population, yet 20 percent of those who make the laws that govern our lives.” Duckworth also recently became the first sitting U.S. senator to have a baby while in office when she gave birth to her daughter Maile on April 9. She tells Greta about motherhood, political polarization, and her interesting personal obsession: extreme couponing.
... Well, technically it's Pysc 157. This week Nerdette host Greta Johnsen speaks with the professor responsible for the most popular class in Yale University's 316-year history. Laurie Santos created a course called "Psychology and the Good Life” and about 1,200 students quickly enrolled in it. Put simply, the course teaches students how they can be happier. “The good news is that we can do it,” Santos tells Greta. “The bad news is that like all good things in life, it takes a lot of work.” First, listen in as Santos gives us three main recommendations (1. Socialize; 2. Prioritize time over money; and 3. Remember you're too blessed to be stressed). Then, take the course yourself! It's free online via Coursera.