Smarty Pants

Share

#228: New Name for an Old Ceremony

Long before the current spate of legislation aimed at transgender people—and long before 1492—people who identified as neither male nor female, but both, flourished across hundreds of Native communities in the present-day United States. Called aakíí'skassi, miati, okitcitakwe, and other tribally specific names, these people held important roles both in ceremony and everyday life, before the violence wrought by Europeans threatened to wipe them out. In his new book, Reclaiming Two-Spirits, historian Gregory Smithers sifts through hundreds of years of colonial archives, art, archaeological evidence, and oral storytelling to reveal how these Indigenous communities resisted erasure and went on to reclaim their dual identities under the umbrella term “two-spirit.”


Go beyond the episode:


Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek and sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Society.


Subscribe: iTunes • Stitcher • Google Play


Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!

More Episodes

9/23/2022

#249: Know Your Earworm

Why does your dad love bluegrass while your sister moshes to hardcore? Why do you still have a soft spot for that cheesy rock ballad you danced to in middle school? The question of why we like the music we like is as eternal as it is maddening. In This Is What It Sounds Like, Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogas offer an answer. Today, Rogers is a cognitive neuroscientist and a professor at Berklee College of Music—but before that, she was Prince’s chief engineer for his 1984 album, Purple Rain, and remains one of the most successful female record producers of all time. She has spent decades learning to listen, and This Is What It Sounds Like is a primer for understanding the concept of our innate “listener profile”—the dimensions of a song that our brains respond to. The book is an invitation to tune into musical self-awareness, and a celebration of the music that makes us feel most like ourselves, whoever we are.Go beyond the episode:This Is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You by Susan Rogers and Ogi OgasListen along to all the songs in the book, including the ones sampled in this episodeJoin the global record pull“Meet the Shaggs” in Susan Orleans’s introduction to one of music’s strangest legendsPreviously in Listening 101 on Smarty Pants: learn how to love operaTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. 
9/16/2022

#248: Baba Yaga Comes to America

Somewhere among the dark forests of Eastern Europe, Baba Yaga, the crinkled crone of Slavic folklore, lurks inside a timber hut atop a pair of chicken legs. She hops through the woods, doing good or evil or just her own thing, depending on whom you ask. GennaRose Nethercott’s debut novel, Thistlefoot, reimagines the folklore of Baba Yaga in a contemporary American setting. Estranged siblings Bellatine and Isaac Yaga are brought together, somewhat unwillingly, by a surprising and mysterious inheritance: a sentient house on chicken legs, named Thistlefoot, who once belonged to their twice-great-grandmother, and with whom they embark on a cross-country puppet tour. But a shadowy figure from a century ago is stalking them, bringing the horrors of the Yagas’ ancestral shtetl with him. Nethercott is a writer and folklorist whose first book, The Lumberjack’s Dove, was selected by Louise Glück as a winner of the National Poetry Series. She joins us to talk about the folktales and history that inspired her latest work. Go beyond the episode:GennaRose Nethercott’s ThistlefootCatch her on tour, with a live puppet show, this fallRead the short story “A Diviner’s Abecedarian”“Vassilissa the Beautiful” is one of the tales featuring Ivan Bilibin’s magnificent illustration in this collection of Russian fairy talesHear more Slavic folklore on our episode about the Snow MaidenTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. The music in this episode is “The Hut on Fowl's Legs,” from Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, performed by the Oslo Philharmonic with conductor Semyon Bychkov.
9/9/2022

#247: The Music of the Ancients

Imagine there’s a place where music exists as it was first created, thousands and thousands of years ago, a place where song and dance still glued communities together across generations. That place exists: Epirus, a little pocket of northwestern Greece on the border with Albania. There, in scattered mountain villages, people still practice a musical tradition that predates Homer. This week, we’re revisiting our interview with Christopher King, an obsessive record collector—and Grammy-winning producer and musicologist—who goes on an odyssey to uncover Europe’s oldest surviving folk music, and spins us some rare 78s.Go beyond the episode:Episode page, with R. Crumb’s original illustrationsChristopher King’s Lament from EpirusBuy LPs, CDs, or MP3s of Chris’s Epirotic collections, from Five Days Married and Other Laments to Why the Mountains Are BlackRead Christopher King’s Paris Review essay, “Talk About Beauties,” about the lost recordings of Alexis ZoumbasListen to A Lament for Epirus (1926–1928) by Alexis Zoumbas on SpotifyTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. Other music in this episode graciously provided by Christopher King.