Lisa Ko is the author of The Leavers, a novel which won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and will be published by Algonquin Books in May 2017. Her writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, The New York Times, Apogee Journal, Narrative, O. Magazine, Copper Nickel, Storychord, One Teen Story, Brooklyn Review, and elsewhere. A co-founder of Hyphen and a fiction editor at Drunken Boat, Lisa has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the MacDowell Colony, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, Writers OMI at Ledig House, the Jerome Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, the Van Lier Foundation, Hawthornden Castle, the I-Park Foundation, the Anderson Center, the Constance Saltonstall Foundation, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center. Born in Queens and raised in Jersey, she lives in Brooklyn.
LIVE 3/13/17 5pm Eastern: I am very excited to speak with linguist, writer and scholar John McWhorter about his new book Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America’s Lingua Franca. You can listen to the conversation live or download the episode from itunes.-Heidi Durrow
It has now been almost fifty years since linguistic experts began studying Black English as a legitimate speech variety, arguing to the public that it is different from Standard English, not a degradation of it. Yet false assumptions and controversies still swirl around what it means to speak and sound “black.” In his first book devoted solely to the form, structure, and development of Black English, John McWhorter clearly explains its fundamentals and rich history, while carefully examining the cultural, educational, and political issues that have undermined recognition of this transformative, empowering dialect. Talking Back, Talking Black takes us on a fascinating tour of a nuanced and complex language that has moved beyond America’s borders to become a dynamic force for today’s youth culture around the world.
RECORDED 3/10/17: I loved talking with my friend and award-winning author Adrian Miller about his second book: The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: African-Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washingtons to the Obamas. You can listen to the interview here or download the episode from itunes. -Heidi Durrow
James Beard award–winning author Adrian Miller vividly tells the stories of the African Americans who worked in the presidential food service as chefs, personal cooks, butlers, stewards, and servers for every First Family since George and Martha Washington. Miller brings together the names and words of more than 150 black men and women who played remarkable roles in unforgettable events in the nation’s history. Daisy McAfee Bonner, for example, FDR’s cook at his Warm Springs retreat, described the president’s final day on earth in 1945; he was struck down just as his lunchtime cheese souffle emerged from the oven. Sorrowfully, but with a cook’s pride, she recalled, “He never ate that souffle, but it never fell until the minute he died.”
A treasury of information about cooking techniques and equipment, the book includes twenty recipes for which black chefs were celebrated. From Samuel Fraunces’s “onions done in the Brazilian way” for George Washington to Zephyr Wright’s popovers, beloved by LBJ’s family, Miller highlights African Americans’ contributions to our shared American foodways. Surveying the labor of enslaved people during the antebellum period and the gradual opening of employment after Emancipation, Miller highlights how food-related work slowly became professionalized and the important part African Americans played in that process. His chronicle of the daily table in the White House proclaims a fascinating new American story.
Adrian Miller takes readers on a journey through the stories of African American men and women who have cooked, shopped, and prepared drinks for U.S. presidents through American history. By putting the largely forgotten stories of these men and women together, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet restores to their careers the high profile and respect they deserve.–Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt, author of A Mess of Greens
“For food history and presidential history buffs alike, both entertaining and illuminating.”
“An intriguing glimpse into the inner workings of the White House kitchen and the chefs who have made its wonderful cuisine possible.”–Library Journal
Adrian Miller details the many subtle and not-so-subtle contributions of African American culinary professionals to the food history of the White House. The people, black and white, in The President’s Kitchen Cabinet come across as real, engaged, and accurately placed in their own history, and the White House is refreshingly portrayed as a living institution that has changed dramatically over time.” –Leni Sorensen, founder-director of the Indigo House Culinary History and Rural Skills Center
“With humor and scholarship, Adrian Miller has written an essential and uplifting exposé, ensuring that another group of overlooked African American culinary professionals is remembered and celebrated for its contributions to American foodways.”
—Toni Tipton-Martin, author of The Jemima Code
“The President’s Kitchen Cabinet brings history alive by tracing the people and foods that appeared at White House events large and small, personal and formal. The research is impeccable, the stories are vivid and thrilling, and the food detailed and delicious. If you love the history of our nation’s first home as I do, you will devour this book.”
— Bill Yosses, former executive pastry chef at the White House and coauthor of The Perfect Finish
ADRIAN MILLER BIOGRAPHY
Adrian Miller is a graduate of Stanford University and Georgetown University Law School. After practicing law in Denver for several years, Adrian became a special assistant to President William Jefferson Clinton and the Deputy Director of the President’s Initiative for One America. The President’s Initiative for One America was the first free-standing White House office in history to examine and focus on closing the opportunity gaps that exist for minorities in this country. The One America office built on the foundation laid by the President’s Initiative on Race by promoting the President’s goals of educating the American public about race, and coordinating the work of the White House and federal agencies to carry out the President’s vision of One America.
After his White House stint, Adrian returned to Colorado and served as the General Counsel and Director of Outreach at the Bell Policy Center—a progressive think tank dedicated to making Colorado a state of opportunity for all. In 2007, Adrian became the Deputy Legislative Director for Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. By the end of Gov. Ritter’s first term, Adrian was a Senior Policy Analyst for Gov. Ritter where he handled homeland security, military and veterans’ issues. Adrian was also Governor Ritter’s point person on the Colorado Campaign to End Childhood Hunger which significantly increased participation in the summer food and school breakfast programs.
Adrian is currently the Executive Director of the Colorado Council of Churches. He is the first African American and the first layperson to hold that position.
Adrian is also a culinary historian and a certified barbecue judge who has lectured around the country on such topics as: Black Chefs in the White House, chicken and waffles, hot sauce, kosher soul food, red drinks, soda pop, and soul food. Adrian’s book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time was published by the University of North Carolina Press in August 2013. Soul Food won the 2014 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship. His next book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas will be published on President’s Day, February 20, 2017.
LIVE 2/13/17 5pm Eastern: I am excited to talk with Maria Olsen who is a children’s book author and now has a new non-fiction book: Not the Cleaver Family–The New Normal in Modern American Families (Tate Publishing, 2016).Don’t miss my talk with her.-Heidi Durrow
Maria Leonard Olsen is a biracial woman whose parents were forbidden by law to marry in their home state of Maryland in the early 1960s. She is the mother of two children, a lawyer, journalist, radio talk show host (WPFW fm 89.3 in Washington, D.C.) and author of the children’s book, “Mommy, Why’s Your Skin So Brown?” Maria graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law, served in the Clinton Administration’s Justice Department, fostered newborn babies awaiting adoption, and has been on the boards of Children’s National Medical Center BOV, the Catholic Coalition for Special Education, GirlsUp and the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Washington. She has written for The Washington Post,Washingtonian, Bethesda Magazine, Parenting, BabyTalk and Washington For Women. She lives in Fairhaven, Maryland.
RECORDED 2/6/17: I had a great talk with award-winning writer Amina Gautier. Her short stories are simply stunning and she now has three award-winning collections. Listen in livehere or download the episode on itunes.-Heidi Durrow
Amina Gautier is the author of three award-winning short story collections: The Loss of All Lost Things, which won the Elixir Press Award in Fiction, Now We Will Be Happy, which won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, the USA Best Book Award in African American Fiction a Florida Authors and Publishers Association Award Gold Medal in Short Fiction, and was Long-listed for The Chautauqua Prize in Fiction, and At-Risk, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and received an Eric Hoffer Legacy Award and a First Horizon Award. Gautier has published a record number of short stories.
More than eighty-five of her short stories have been published and her fiction appears in African American Review, African Voices, Agni, Antioch Review, B&A: New Fiction, Cicada, Chattahoochee Review, Colorado Review, Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Glimmer Train, Iconoclast, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Nimrod, North American Review, Notre Dame Review,, Pindeldyboz, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, Quarter After Eight, Red Rock Review, River Styx, Salt Hill, Shenandoah, Southeast Review, Southern Review, Southwest Review, Storyquarterly, Studio Magazine, Sycamore Review, Timber Creek Review, Today’s Black Woman, Torch, and Yemassee among other places. Gautier’s work has been extensively reprinted, appearing in All About Skin! Women Writers of Color, Best African American Fiction 2009, Best African American Fiction 2010, Discoveries: New Writing from The Iowa Review, New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best, 2008, The Notre Dame Review: The First Ten Years, The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Contemporary Women Writers on Forerunners in Fiction, 25 Provocative Women Writers and Voices.
Gautier has been the recipient of the Crazyhorse Prize, the Danahy Fiction Prize, the Jack Dyer Prize, the William Richey Prize, the Schlafly Microfiction Award, and the Lamar York Prize in Fiction. She has also received grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her fiction has been supported with fellowships and scholarships from American Antiquarian Society, The Besty Hotel, Breadloaf Writer’s Conference, Callaloo Writer’s Workshop; Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers; Hurston/Wright Foundation Writer’s Workshop, Kimbilio, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, Key West Literary Seminars; MacDowell Colony; Prairie Center of the Arts; Ragdale Foundation, Sewanee Writer’s Conference, Ucross Foundation; Vermont Studio Center and Writers in the Heartland.
RECORDED 10/24/16: I loved talking to Ginger about her debut novel! I had the pleasure of reading it while it was still in manuscript form. It’s a fun and engaging read and I know you’ll love it too. Listen to the interview here or download it from itunes.-Heidi Durrow
This is what I had to say when I finished reading the final draft a few months ago:
“Funny, smart and compulsively readable! Ginger McKnight has a hit on her hands. And Terry McMillan fans can rejoice that they can add a new favorite writer to their list!” —Heidi W. Durrow New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
Ginger McKnight-Chavers is an author and an attorney with over twenty years of experience in the areas of arts/entertainment, corporate transactions and nonprofit law. A native of Dallas, Texas, she earned a B.S.F.S in International Economics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School. Her first novel, In the Heart of Texas will be released by She Writes Press in Fall, 2016. She was a recipient of the Kathryn Gurfein Writing Fellowship at Sarah Lawrence College and a 2015 resident at Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, CA. She has published several essays, short stories and articles, is a consultant/writer for Blue Nation Review and currently blogs for The Huffington Post and The TexPatch. Prior to embarking on her writing career, she practiced corporate and entertainment/media law at the firms of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York City and as an in-house attorney at Black Entertainment Television, Inc., Warner-Lambert Company and Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. She is a member of the Friends of Education of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, serves on the Board of Summer on the Hill and serves on the Advisory Boards of the Ron Brown Scholars Program and Luminous Visions/Latino Playwrights. She is a member of the City of New York Bar Association, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Junior League of New York City, Jack & Jill of America, Westchester County Chapter, The Girl Friends, Inc., Brooklyn Chapter, and the Women’s Leadership Forum of the Democratic National Committee. Her hobbies include running, tennis, swimming, reading, travel and Soul Cycle.
In the Heart of Texas
By Ginger McKnight-Chavers
Pitched as “a poor man’s Halle Berry,” forty-one-year-old soap star Jo Randolph, has successfully avoided waiting tables since she left Midland, Texas at eighteen. But then, in the span of twenty-four hours, Jo manages to lose her job, burn her bridges in Hollywood, and accidentally burn down her lover/director’s beach house—after which she is shipped home to Texas by her agent to stay out of sight while she sorts out her situation.
RECORDED 10/4/16: You really don’t want to miss this! I interview the talented and best-selling author Mat Johnson about his latest novel, Loving Day, now out in paperback. Listen to the show here or download the episode from itunes.-Heidi Durrow
This is what people are saying about Mat Johnson and his book Loving Day:
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK | NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MIAMI HERALD AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY San Francisco Chronicle • NPR • Men’s Journal • The Denver Post • Slate • The Kansas City Star • Time Out New York | From the author of the critically beloved Pym (“Imagine Kurt Vonnegut having a beer with Ralph Ellison and Jules Verne.”—Vanity Fair) comes a ruthlessly comic and moving tale of a man discovering a lost daughter, confronting an elusive ghost, and stumbling onto the possibility of utopia.
“Exceptional . . . To say that Loving Day is a book about race is like saying Moby-Dick is a book about whales. . . . [Mat Johnson’s] unrelenting examination of blackness, whiteness and everything in between is handled with ruthless candor and riotous humor. . . . Even when the novel’s family strife and racial politics are at peak intensity, Johnson’s comic timing is impeccable.”—Los Angeles Times
RECORDED 10/3/16: Don’t miss my conversation with award-winning writer Lori Tharps about her latest non-fiction book Same Family Different Colors. Lori has been a leading voice in conversations about racial and cultural connection and difference. Listen to her talk about this much-needed book and the much-needed conversations it is sure to spark! Listen here or download the episode on itunes.-Heidi Durrow
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she left the Midwest in search of an authentic life experience beginning with four years at Smith College. (Technically, one of those years was spent studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain.). After graduating from Smith, with a B.A. in comparative education and Spanish, Tharps spent two years working on Madison Avenue at one of New York City’s top-ten public relations agencies. While there she worked tirelessly writing press releases and organizing press events for a certain candy company, powdered soup distributor and a well-known maker of dry toast. After realizing she’d never succeed as a PR executive, Tharps entered Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and has been writing her way through the world ever since.
After graduation from Columbia, Tharps was a staff reporter at Vibe magazine and then a correspondent for Entertainment Weekly. She has written for Ms., Glamour, Suede, Vogue Black, Caribbean Life, Grid Philadelphia,and Essence magazines. She has also written for The Columbia Journalism Review, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, The and . Her work can also be read in the anthologies, Young Wives Tales: Stories of Love and Partnership (Seal Press), Naked: Black Women Bare All About their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips and Other Parts (Perigee), Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine (FSG) and Women: Images & Realities. A Multicultural Anthology (Avalon). Tharps is the author of two works of nonfiction – Hair Story:Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America (St. Martin’s Press) and Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain (Atria) – and the novel, Substitute Me(Atria).
Currently Tharps lives in Philadelphia with her husband and three children and she is working on a new book exploring the role of skin color politics in American families. Tharps doesn’t have a dog, but if she did, his name would be Otis. She has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. Tharps is (almost) fluent in Spanish and can say I love you in seven languages.
RECORDED 9/12/16: Don’t miss my conversation with Hasanthika Sirisena, author of The Other One, an award-winning short story collection. Hasie is one of my favorite writers and one of my most favorite people and we had a wonderful conversation about her writing and work, and how to keep yourself going when pursuing the writing life. Tune in here or download the episode from itunes.-Heidi Durrow
Hasanthika Sirisena’s essays and stories have appeared in The Globe and Mail, WSQ, Narrative,The Kenyon Review, Glimmer Train, Epoch,StoryQuarterly, Narrative and other magazines. Her work has been anthologized in Best New American Voices, and named a distinguished story by Best American Short Stories in 2011 and 2012. She is a recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. In 2008 she received a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award. She is currently an associate fiction editor at West Branch magazine and is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Susquehanna University.