: I have some really exciting news about this podcast ... but I can't quite tell you about it yet. Just in the meantime, make sure you're following FollowFridayPod on Twitter
and that you're following me on Twitter at @HeyHeyESJ
. As soon as I can share the news, I will. It's really cool.
For now, you're just going to have to be content with one of the best episodes of the show I've ever done. Hope that's cool.
Traci Thomas is the host of The Stacks, and if you don't know her yet, then this interview is going to make you love her. And if you already love Traci Thomas, then you're going to love her even more.
AND if you love Follow Friday, then you should join our lovely patrons over at patreon.com/followfriday
You're listening to the public feed of Follow Friday, which means you're going to get four recommendations from Traci today. But to hear all five of the people we talked about, head on over to Patreon and pledge any amount, starting at just one dollar a month.
: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, the podcast about who you should follow online.
Every week, I talk to creative people about who they follow, and why. This is a guided tour to the best people on the internet, led by your favorite writers, podcasters, comedians, and more. If this is your first episode of the show, take a moment now and please follow or subscribe in your podcast app.
Today in the show is Traci Thomas, the host of The Stacks, a wonderful podcast about books and the people who read them. You can find The Stacks in all the podcast apps, or at thestackspodcast.com
. And you can find Traci on Twitter @bitracial
. Tracy, welcome to Follow Friday!TRACI
: Yay, I'm so excited to be here.ERIC
: I'm so excited to have you here. Well, first off, you recently passed 200 episodes of The Stacks, so congratulations on that. It's amazing.TRACI
: Thank you, it's a lot, it's like four years, but I did a few extra episodes outside of the weeklies.ERIC
: Well before we get into your follow recommendations, because you're a book expert, I need your help with something. I have a lot of books and I am blessed to live near three great indie bookstores, which means that I keep on buying new books faster than I can finish the old ones. So I don't know if this applies to your life as well, but how would you decide what to read? What's your strategy?TRACI
: Oh my gosh. Okay, let's pretend like I don't have to read for work, for the podcast. I like to have a list... I use goodreads.com, and I have a list of all books and I look through what I wanna read and I see what I have on hand. I don't know if you're a very goal-oriented person, but sometimes I'll do challenges for myself where it's like, I'm not gonna buy a book for the month of whatever, and then if I do it, I can buy a book at the start of the next month or whatever.
But I always tell people, you should feel very comfortable putting a book down if you don't like it. I think that gets people tripped up and it's like, you start this book and then you spend three weeks reading something that you don't even like or don't even care what happens in the end. So that's always my advice, and then also I tell people, I also do for myself, I have had a resolution for the last two years to read at least 10 minutes a day every single day.ERIC
: Oh, that's great. So you break it up into smaller chunks so you're just steadily making forward progress with your reading list.TRACI
: Exactly, and I read a lot more than that, but there are days where I only have a little bit of time and I said 10 minutes, but I really mean 10 pages. That's my goal. But I do tell people to just do 10 minutes because they might not have reading for work as I mentioned. So that would be my advice.ERIC
: The reading list is daunting. I look at the bookshelf and the reading list is so long. I wanna read that, I wanna read that, and it can be paralyzing, if you don't have a goal or an incentive like you're saying so that's super helpful.TRACI
: Yeah, and put your phone on airplane mode, that helps.ERIC
: Oh, smart. Now, you say you read a lot for your podcast, for your work, but when you are reading for fun, what is a sure-fire genre of book that you are like, "Yes, I am going to love whatever is in this genre."TRACI
: Okay, my go-to, this is very specific, but I like a book that is non-fiction about a crime and/or cult-type situation. So I don't like true crime like "Johnny murdered Jenny," but I like "Johnny ran a scheme and 20 people died," that is my jam. And I like it when it's written in investigative journalism style.
So Bad Blood, the book that was about Elizabeth Holmes is a favorite. There's a book called Empire of Pain that came out last year about the Sackler family. There's a book I am obsessed with about Jonestown called A Thousand Lives by Julia Shearers, a book about Columbine by Dave Colin that came out 10 years after the Columbine shooting.
That's my favorite little niche, like a crime occurred, but I'm taking revenge or I'm a serial killer, that's not so much my thing.ERIC
: A little bit too basic, yeah. Are there any genres where you've tried it and you're just like, I just can't with this genre, you just can't make it work for yourself?TRACI
: I am not big on horror. I've not tried it too much, I just don't like scary. Which I know sounds crazy given what I just said to you, but I don't like to be scared. I like a thriller sometimes, but I don't like just scary stuff. Same with movies, I'm not going to watch a scary movie with you, never.ERIC
: I think scary books are worse than scary movies because the books, your imagination is filling in all the gory details. In movies, maybe the director is especially good at traumatizing you, but most likely, your brain can do much worse.TRACI
: Yeah, and with books you're spending such a long time. With a movie, maybe you're spending an hour in the actually stressful part. And I don't read super fast, so I will be spending many hours in the scariest parts of books. No thank you, get me out of here.ERIC
: Well let's get out of this horror content and get into some fun people who Traci follows online. You can follow along with us today. Every person she recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at followfridaypodcast.com.
Traci, before the show, I gave you a list of categories and I asked you to tell me four people you follow who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category "someone you have a crush on," and you said Jason Reynolds, who is on Twitter
@JasonReynolds83. Jason is a New York Times bestselling author of novels for young people. How did you start following him?TRACI
: Oh my gosh. So, Jason tweeted that he listened to an episode of The Stacks, our Beloved episode, speaking of horror. And I was like, "Oh my gosh, who is this?" I knew who he was, but I didn't know who he was, and I was like, let me go look up this person. And then I found him and I was like, oh my gosh, what a babe.
And then I started reading his books and I was like oh, okay, not only is he very handsome, but he's also incredibly talented. And then he came on The Stacks and I got to be in the same room as him and he smells really good and he is so nice. And on our episode he talked about how much he loves his mom and how much he loves young people. He's just the dreamiest dreamboat ever. I normally would be embarrassed to talk about a crush, though I have so many, but I'm publicly on record ... if I wasn't married, I would be inappropriately aggressive towards him.ERIC
: Does your husband, does Mr. Stacks know about Jason?TRACI
: Yes. And Mr. Stacks also has a crush on Jason. Everyone I know knows about him. I told my mom she has to be in love with him, everyone, but yes, Mr. Stacks is in love with Jason as well.ERIC
: Good, well at least it's all out in the open there. That's good. To what you're saying about the way he talks about his work, there's this thing he says on his website that I loved. On his about page, it's titled, "Here's what I plan to do: Not write boring books." And he says "There are a lot of young people who hate reading, and I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys don't actually hate books, they hate boredom."
And I love this because I remember being in school, I went to school in the 90s and I somehow absorbed this idea that books were a chore to get through, because they were assigned chapter by chapters as homework. And it took me years to unlearn that attitude. So I suspect maybe it has to deal with the types of books that are assigned, I don't know. Do you run into this in your own work, in your own life?TRACI
: A little bit, yeah. I don't do a ton of young people's books. Though, anytime Jason releases a book, I'm like "Please come back on the podcast anytime you'd like, I'm available day or night." But I do know that for a lot of young people, reading is not fun because the books are boring or, I'm Black and I know a lot of Black people and a lot of the books are by white people. And when you're a kid, you wanna see yourself in a book.
And as a woman, a lot of the books ... like The Catcher in the Rye, it's a no for me, I just don't care about that guy. And so I think that sometimes in school, we're being asked to read books that just don't resonate with us and who we are. And a lot of kids aren't reading contemporary books often. When I was in school, I was also a student in the '90s and 2000s, we weren't reading the books that came out in the '90s and 2000s, we were reading old stuff and that feels boring sometimes, too.ERIC
: I went to a public high school, but it's kind of de facto segregated the way that a lot of public school systems are: Very white, almost no Black people in the school. And so I think the first time we ever read a book by a person of color was ninth grade. It was the biography of Frederick Douglas, and because we had not had a ramp into other types of writers, into non-white writers, I think we just were not prepared to have an interesting conversation, to talk about this great American person. We were not primed, we were not trained over the course of our reading to read a more diverse slate of authors.TRACI
: Yeah, I think that's very common. And what's so great about what Jason does — he is very handsome and he is tall and all of those things, but his passion is writing for young people and writing books that they are gonna love and he loves kids. And that part of him, it oozes out of him. If you ever hear him talk, he's like "I write books that center Black kids, but I write for all kids."
And he's writing these books and he'll talk about going to different schools and how the kids ask him the coolest, interesting questions. He pretty much always wears a black t-shirt, black jeans, a sneaker, maybe a leather jacket, and he has dreadlocks. And he talks about when he goes into these schools, he wants kids to know that success can look like him, too. He purposely doesn't wear a suit or have hair that's considered, I don't know, they have some horrible word that they use for hair for Black people that's "appropriate," I don't even know what they call it anymore.
But he's like, "I'm coming into your school, I'm a New York Times bestselling author, this is what I look like, and this is who I am. And I'm chill, read my books, but also if you hate reading, you hate reading, it's on me to write books that you'll like." And so just all of that is so cool and attractive, not just physically, but he attracts people; he's so magnetic. Can you tell that I'm in love?ERIC
: A little bit, little bit. Like you said, you interviewed Jason Reynolds on your podcast The Stacks, other than how good he smells, what's something else that came out of that interview that surprised you?TRACI
: So Jason's been on the show two different times, technically three times. And so the first time was when we met in person and he smelled good. And what I took from that conversation, he talked a lot about his background as a writer and what we were talking about before, he said he didn't ever really read a book until he was like 18. He didn't realize that he liked reading, but then it dawned on him because he liked reading liner notes from his favorite albums. And he's like "Oh, this is a poem, I actually do like reading." So that was one of the things that stuck out the first time.
And then when he came back later earlier this year we talked a lot about grief. The newest book called Ain't Burned All the Bright and it's about 2020 and about the fires, and COVID, and the George Floyd-inspired protests, that all had to do with sort of this attack on the respiratory system. And so we talked a lot about grief in that conversation and that really stood out to me, because I've been thinking a lot about grief and how a lot of us are grieving and we maybe don't even know it. And we don't know how to process it because maybe we didn't lose a loved one, but maybe we're grieving like a past life or a future version of our life that we thought would be something that it's not.
So all of that sticks out and also he's just such an incredible conversationalist. You talk to people, so you know, not every interview is the greatest, and Jason makes it feel effortless. He's just so open and thoughtful and has such a gift with words that I just sit there and I'm like "Wow, you're perfect. What a dreamboat."ERIC
: Well, that was Jason Reynolds, who is on Twitter
@JasonReynolds83, and you can check out both of his appearances on The Stacks. Let's move on to your next follow. Traci, I asked you to tell me about "someone you don't know in real life, but want to be friends with," and you said Shea and Larami Serrano.
Shae is on Twitter @sheaserrano
and on Instagram @Shea.Serrano
. And Larami is on Instagram @LaramiSerranophoto
. And with this, Shea will be entering the Follow Friday two-timers club since he was previously recommended by Gavin Purcell back in October. But Traci, what has been your experience following Shea and Larami online? Why do you want to be friends with them?TRACI
: Do you follow Shea?ERIC
: I do, I'm a long-to,e follower.TRACI
: Okay, I'll still explain to people who don't. Shea's the frickin' coolest guy on the face of the Earth. He's so cool. He is a sports pop culture writer at The Ringer, previously at Grantland. First of all, he's one of the most talented writers, he writes exactly how he talks, which is incredibly difficult to do for people who don't understand. He writes great pieces and I love that, he has identical twin boys and then a baby. I also have identical twin boys. So I love that about him, though that came later.
He has this group he calls the F**k Outta Here army, FOH. And basically he got all of his followers to give him money for little things, and then he takes the money and donates it to homeless shelters or foster care organizations or food banks or whatever. But he does it in this way that's like, "Hey guys, buy these bookmarks," and then six months later, he's like "By the way, we raised a hundred thousand dollars with these bookmarks, I paid the artist, I took whatever I needed to pay for my rent. And then we donated $80,000 to Dolphins Without Borders or whatever." And you're like, holy s**t, it's just really cool. He just does cool s**t like that and is just so chill about it, and he's hilarious.
I remember exactly when I started following him. He had this tweet that was like, text your friend, your sister, your husband or whatever, "Super Nintendo," and then see what they say. It was a lyric, "Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis..." And people kept sending him screenshots of the responses, and I thought it was so funny. And I just started following him, I don't remember what year it was, but it was the happiest part of my day, whenever it was. And I was like, this is so funny, I have to follow this guy.
He's got a great podcast called No Skips, so I love Shea And then because I love Shea and his wife is Larami and he loves Larami so much, and he's so loving towards Larami. So I was like let me follow Larami and then she's f**king cool, and she builds tables and her and the baby, which is the youngest son, the non-twin, they're really close. And then the baby's really funny and cute, just the whole family is goals for me. Obsessed with them.ERIC
: I think I mentioned this in the episode with Gavin last year, but Shea does — for people who have bought one of his eBooks on Gumroad, he has a secret email list where he will just send out occasional updates on his family. Just funny stories about the twins or the baby or whatever, and it is no joke, one of my favorite email newsletters. It shows up completely unexpected, just in the middle of the day, once every couple months. And his writing as you said, is so damn good, that he makes what could have been a banal story into just incredible entertainment.TRACI
: Yeah, oh my God, I forgot to say he also writes books, and he's got Movies and Other Things, Basketball and Other Things, Hip-Hop and Other Things. And then the first one was The Rap Yearbook, and he also came on The Stacks after movies and other things, and that's a funny story.
I tried to get him on the show, his team was sort of non-committal, but I followed Shea for years and I was like okay, "shoot your shot." So I went to his book event in LA, super pregnant with my twins. And I was like, "Hey, I'm very pregnant with twins, mono di, just like your twins," and he was like "Oh haha," whatever. And I was like "I'm Traci, the host of The Stacks." "Oh, I know who you are," and I was like "Will you come on the show?" He's like, "I'm on a book tour for two weeks, here's my email, send me an email in two weeks, I'd love to do it," and then he came on the show. And he was as cool as I hoped he would be, because he seems like that in light, and on the internet, but you never know, but it seems super genuine and I just love him.ERIC
: Yeah, so he came on to talk about Movies and Other Things, and I think since then, his most recent is Hip-Hop and Other Things.TRACI
: Yeah, Hip-Hop and Other Things came out in 2021 and then Movies was in 2019.ERIC
: Yeah, so if you were having him back on the podcast today, you know, a lot's changed since 2019, what would you want to ask him? What would be the top of your list of questions for Shea?TRACI
: My gosh, I'd probably ask him about the book, duh, but I probably ask him some twin parent things because having identical twins is like its own special kind of parenting hell, so I might ask him about that. And I maybe would ask him about podcasting, because he wasn't podcasting. He might have just started with the Villains Show that I think didn't last very long. So I would maybe ask him about that too, and then I would ask him if he wanted to come to LA and hang out also, just while we're at it.ERIC
: Yeah, I was going to ask, if he called you up and said "Hey, Larami and I were coming to LA, let's do something on Saturday." Where are you going to take them? What are you gonna do with them?TRACI
: Oh my gosh, my favorite restaurant where I take everybody is called Petty Cash, they have the best margaritas, I love it, so I would probably take them there. If it was like everybody, the kids and stuff, maybe we do a beach hang or backyard hang. I just want to kick it, so nothing too serious. I just want to talk to them and have a great hang.ERIC
: Yeah. Before I move on, is there anything else you wanted to say about Larami?TRACI
: So I love Larami because I love that she's got a totally different energy than Shea, so he'll be talking something, then she'll be like "Look at this f***ing guy." But also she went back to school to be a therapist, which I think is so cool because she's like 40 or 41, she's a mom of two 13-year-olds and a 7-year old or something. She was like, you know what, I really wanna do this, I've been wanting to do this, and she went back and she did it.
She's just so badass, but also like Shea, she's not #inspiring, she just is, and it is inspiring. So that's why they both feel like people I wanna be friends with because they don't feel like influencers or like online people, they just feel very normal. And they live in Texas, they're not in LA or New York, they're just doing their own thing. Like the whole thing, I love that they love each other, and I love that they eat at like Wingstop sometimes. It's just so approachable and so regular that it's just really endearing.ERIC
: It's kind of like Jason in a way, where Shea is a many-time bestselling author and all this stuff, and he seems like a regular fun guy, fun hang, he's on Twitter, just encouraging randos in his mentions to shoot their shot and go chase their dreams. I mean, I love it all.TRACI
: Same, same.ERIC
: Well, that was Larami Serrano and her husband Shea Serrano. Larami is on Instagram @LaramiSerranophoto
and Shea is on Twitter @SheaSerrano
We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Traci Thomas from The Stacks.
: Welcome back to Follow Friday. Traci, let's move on to your next follow, I asked you for "someone who makes the internet a better place," and you said Kiese Laymon, who is on Twitter
@KieseLaymon. And Kiese is another new entrant in the two-timer club because after this, you should go listen to the episode with Shima Oliaee for more about him. But Traci, the floor is yours, I want you to tell us about why Kiese Laymon is so great.TRACI
: Wait, before I do that, I have to tell you about Shima's episode. I had made my list and I was like, I'm gonna go listen to some older episodes of Follow Friday, check it out. I go to listen to Shima's and I'm like, did she take all of the words out of my mouth about Kiese?
Kiese and I are friends and I text Kiese and I was like "We're in a fight," and he was like "Why?" I was like "Because you are making everyone feel like they're your best friend, and I thought I was your best friend. And now I'm realizing maybe Shima and I don't even know you, maybe this is all a scam, we're not even friends." And he was like "You need to calm down, we're all friends," but I just was so mad. And I went to my husband and I was like "Mr. Stacks, Kiese's everybody's friend, I thought I was his friend."
Anyway, why does he make the internet a better place? Go listen to Shima's episode, she's gonna say all the things that I should say, but I'm gonna say other things because I don't wanna do a total repeat. He's an incredibly good writer, his tweets, his Instagram posts, his everything.
For most authors and writers, their best s**t is in books and his best s**t is in books. But also, he's putting great s**t into tweets, and I'm like how are you so talented? He also comes at so much with this lens of compassion, revision, love, but also again, not in a very stereotypical way, but he's very rigorous with all of those things. And there's a tenderness and a humor in the way that he approaches what's going on.
I can't think of the exact tweets, but I remember after the Derek Chauvin verdict, I had been really torn about it. And Kiese is a prison abolitionist, and he had written in the Colin Kaepernick anthology that just came out called Abolition for the People. And so I was like, what's he gonna say about this? Because it's hard to be like, "I don't believe that the police or prison should exist" and then also to feel victory because this person murdered someone. You know, it's just a very difficult thing. And he had this great tweet that was like, "I don't believe in any of this, I don't believe in any of that, but I also feel like I'm feeling something."
He's just always approaching the things that are really complicated in a very vulnerable and open way, and then if he hates it later, he'll delete it. He's like, this is part of revision, and I think that's cool too because people don't. People are like, oh I got a thousand retweets, I gotta leave it up. No you don't, you should take it down if it's a bad take or if it could be better or whatever.
So I love that. And I also love — these videos usually disappear, but he does these really funny videos on Instagram where he is just talking about something for like two minutes, but he doesn't understand technology at all, which is also hilarious. His Instagram stories are just like reposts, he's always like "I don't know, did I do it right? I have no idea." But he posts these videos where he is just talking to the audience and he is just like "Man, this is s**t is dumb, blah, blah, blah," and then he deletes it 20 minutes later.
I'm also a huge sports fan and so is Kiese, and so he'll talk about The Lakers, a team that I despise. I'm from Oakland so I'm a huge Warriors fan, and he'll talk about how horrible the organization is. It all makes me laugh and the way that he approaches it is just different. It's like different jokes. He's thinking about the same things we're all thinking about, but in a better way.ERIC
: It's interesting that the way you said that he wasn't sure how he felt about Derek Chauvin, that he was acknowledging, in public spaces, his conflicted feelings about something. I feel like we don't see a lot of that in any form of writing, but certainly not on Twitter, or on social media, where the expectation is the people who are gonna get retweeted, they have a hot take, they have a definitive expert analysis. And so it's really refreshing to have someone who is a deep thinker, or a really smart person just saying "Hey, I don't really know how to feel about this, I got a lot of conflicted feelings about this." Just having someone who's prominent and respected and a talented writer acknowledge, "I don't really know," I think that that's incredibly inspirational to me.TRACI
: I agree. I feel a freedom myself to be less sure because I have seen Kiese practice that publicly. I also wanna say, the other thing that he does that cannot be ignored is that he uplifts so many authors, mostly other Black and Brown authors. He's a professor, so he has students who have books that have come out since he started teaching them like Adam Serwer, who was one of Kiese's students at Vassar. But he's always tweeting about and sharing and telling people about upcoming books by debut authors, and people don't do that a lot in the book world.
People might do it for their friends, but Kiese will legitimately read a book by someone he doesn't know and be like "This was good," and that's really cool. And he'll tell me, he'll be like, yo, are you up on this? And I really appreciate it too because he's a person that I know and trust, and he's constantly putting his energy behind uplifting other people who he thinks are doing good s**t. And if that's not making the internet a better place, I don't know what is.ERIC
: Absolutely. Well, the last thing about Kiese is that you recently had him on The Stacks during a series about banned books, because his acclaimed book Heavy was banned by a school board in Missouri for being "obscene and pornographic." What are some of the things you learned from talking to him and other authors whose books have been banned? I think it's fascinating that we are in this culture war moment where you were able to do this series, we're able to talk to living authors whose books are being censored in this way.TRACI
: Yeah, it was cool. I mean to echo something that Shima said about Kiese, about how he encouraged her a bunch whenever she had an idea, that's the same thing that happened with me with banned books week. I text him on a Saturday and I was like "I have this idea, I think it's really corny and dumb, should I do a week on bannedd books?" And he was like "Yo, that's the best idea you've ever had," and I was like "Okay, ever? I hate you, it's not ever, I feel like I've had other good ideas," but he was like, "Do it!" I'm like "Okay," and he was like "I'm available if you want me on," And I was like "I do, we'll figure out how, but I want you on."
But what's going on is so horrible and it's all connected. So the banned book stuff is connected to the "Don't Say Gay" bill, is connected to all of the anti-trans legislation, is connected to not wanting your children to wear masks in schools, is connected to not having any legislation that protects kids in school from guns, is connected to drinking water in Flint. All of this stuff is deeply connected, but to be able to talk about it with the people who are impacted by it most directly...
So in this series I had on three authors, I had a politician, I had a Virginia state senator, I had a student, I had a teacher, I had a librarian, and people should definitely listen. But it's coordinated, what's happening, and it's having a really horrible impact on Black and Brown students and queer students. But also, it's having a really bad impact on white children because it's telling them that being uncomfortable is something that they shouldn't be and that they shouldn't feel, and that's not correct. School is the place to feel challenged, and to feel uncomfortable, to ask questions, to be brought out of your comfort zone and sometimes to feel a little bit of embarrassment or shame.
I certainly felt that in school, and I would like to think that I'm a better and a more compassionate person because of it. And this idea that white kids or straight kids or cisgender kids should not feel that is so damaging. Yeah, it sucks to have your identity invalidated by your government for sure, and that harm is really real and long-lasting. But I think people also forget that we're harming all the kids, it's not just the trans kid or the Black kid or the Korean kid or whatever. Everybody is getting screwed by this. And the parents! These parents need to know how to talk about this stuff, too. You have a kid, you have a responsibility and you don't get off the hook because Tony Morrison made your kid feel bad about slavery. If your kid is feeling bad about slavery, talk to your kid about it, don't s**t on Tony Morrison, like what's wrong with these people? But anyways, not to scream at you, but here I am, which makes me so heated.ERIC
: You're preaching to the choir, yeah. In my intimidating bookshelf of books I haven't touched yet, I have both volumes of Maus and it's after that got started getting banned, I'm like "OK, it's time."TRACI
: Have you read it yet?ERIC
: Not yet, it's moving to the top of the list.TRACI
: It's a fast read. It's a graphic nonfiction. I'd never read it and I had a copy and read it really quick. I mean it's great, it's really good. Spoiler alert!ERIC
: Everyone says it's great, except for a few people who don't want us to teach the Holocaust, for some reason.
All right, well that was Kiese Laymon who is on Twitter
@Kiese Laymon. We have time for one more follow today. Traci, I asked you for "someone who has stopped posting, but needs to come back," and you said the New York Times podcast Still Processing
, hosted by Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris. And to this, I say hell yes, love this show, it's gotta come back. For people who don't know, explain what Jenna and Wesley do on Still Processing.TRACI
: Okay, so Jenna and Wesley are two Black queer culture and technology writers at the New York Times magazine. And they talk about cultural things in the smartest way possible. It's not an interview show — sometimes it is, but it's not like an interview show, and it's not two friends talking, it's a little more stylized and heightened than that. I don't even know what you call it. It's sort of closer to how they do Code Switch, where they're having a conversation and there is some authentic back and forth, but it's also sort of a mapped-out journey of the episode. And they talk about all sorts of stuff.
I was a big fan of Wesley Morris from his Grantland days, and so as soon as they mentioned the show, I started listening from episode one and it's so good. Their lens again is Black queer journalist, so things skew kind of into of that world, but they have an incredible episode on Beloved and the movie Us, which is so good, the Jordan Peele movie, it's such a great episode.
Early on, they had an episode about immigration, this was right after the Muslim ban. And they had three women on who were somehow impacted by, or could be impacted by, or their families were impacted by the Muslim ban. That was a great episode. They did two episodes on racism, but it was through the lens of anti-Asian racism and different people from across Asian backgrounds and scope. It wasn't like generally Asian, but people were speaking specifically to their experiences as a Filipino or a Korean or a Chinese-American or someone who was mixed or whatever, so that was really cool.
Then they did an episode, my favorite, I think of all their episodes on the movie Parasite and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, and they compared these things. I think the episode is called Wake and it was about woke culture.
So those are some of my personal favorite episodes. But the show is just so good and they have fun, and you can tell they love each other, which is just so sweet. And they did an episode on Kanye that was so great, did an episode on Aretha Franklin after she passed away that was so great. Just thinking of all the episodes, I'm such a super fan. And the thing that I hate the most about the show is that they do it in sort of these seasonal chunks. In the beginning they did a lot and now they do like six at a time and they're due for a reprise. But I think Jenna's on sabbatical and she's working on a book and I think Wesley's working on his book and ... I hate them for it because I want them back in my ears. Though I know that they'll come back and it'll be great and I'm happy that they're working on their things and that Jenna is getting a break, but I'm also like, what about me, Jenna?ERIC
: That's the thing with some of our favorite creators. It's like yeah, we want you to be able to go on vacation, we want you to be able to go write a book, we want you to go enjoy your life, but also feed us constant, deep, trenchant analysis of everything. Like, the Aretha Franklin episode you mentioned, that was far and away, the best summation of why Aretha Franklin mattered. After she passed away and everyone was kind of rushing to mythologize her, to talk about her import, I mean go listen to that episode. There's also one that I think that Jenna did about Michael Jackson's music and conflicted feelings about problematic artists. I mean, there's so much good stuff in the Still Processing feed. So if you have not listened, I think you should go back, you'll not be wanting for content.TRACI
: Yeah, it's so good. And I have to say, when I started my show, I made a list of dream guests that included Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, but also on the list were Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris. And I have had Jenna on the show, and I cried because I was so excited, I was like "I'm so happy you're here," but I still haven't had Wesley. So I'm hoping that his book comes out soon so that I can have him, and I can just tell him how much I love him also.ERIC
: Let me tell you when I started Follow Friday, I also made a list of dream guests, and let me tell you, Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris are also on that list.TRACI
: Yeah, they're dream guests, and Jenna was a dream, and she's so kind and gracious and lovely.ERIC
: Yeah, and I think she and Wesley were really hugely influential to me just as someone who's trying to sort out how I feel about culture and internet culture in specific. Because there's a lot of mainstream cultural analysis that is just like here's the new, funny meme or here's what happened on the most recent episode of The Bachelor. And there's a place for that, I don't dismiss that out of hand, but I love the way that Jenna and Wesley take these things that are happening in our world. And as you said, they chart out a course through thinking through it and around it, if that makes any sense. They really unpack the different layers of cultural phenomena in a way that I think is better than anyone else out there.TRACI
: I agree. It's less like what they're doing, but it's how they're doing it. Everyone's talking about these topics at some point, but they take the time to figure out a way to make it interesting. Like I said, Parasite and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, I don't know a lot of people that are drawing lines between those two things, but they made it work. And I was like right, of course, how come we're not all talking about Parasite in this way?ERIC
: Yeah, exactly, it's a fusion of two things that are a perfect match, but that are not an obvious match.TRACI
: Yeah. Love them. Come back to us!ERIC
: So yeah, if the Times said okay, we've heard your pleas, Still Processing is coming back, what do you want to hear Jenna and Wesley talking about? What topics do you think they should tackle next?TRACI
: I'm sure that they would do a really interesting job talking about what's going on in Russia and Ukraine in a way that would maybe be very different. And maybe what's going on with the African students who are having difficulty getting out, I think there's probably something there. I am personally a huge fan of The Bachelor and I would really love for them to talk about that show and that franchise and what's going on there.
What else? The other thing I like about the show is that they talk about things and it's not always what I'm expecting, and then I walk away loving it. It's like, we're gonna talk about this random thing, and I'm like "OK cool, whatever." And then I'm like crying.ERIC
: 40 minutes later, you just cannot imagine how you didn't know about this thing.TRACI
: Exactly. So I trust that whatever they would do, I would love. There's maybe been like five episodes that were good, but everything else I'm like this is the best podcasting experience of my entire life. And good is like a high praise for me. I'm so critical, so "good" is like an A.ERIC
: Well, that was Still Processing
, a podcast hosted by Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris of the New York Times. It is good or sometimes perfect. Traci, thank you for sharing your follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure our listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?TRACI
: Okay, so you can follow me @bitracial
on Twitter, and you can follow The Stacks on Instagram @thestackspod
, and then on Twitter @thestackspod_
. If you are looking for book recommendations, book reviews, anything bookish, definitely head to the stacks on Instagram.
And then of course wherever you're listening to this podcast, search for The Stacks, it will show up. I've got episodes with all sorts of really cool people. Like we said, 200 plus episodes, so I'm sure at least one book you've read or heard of. And most episodes don't have spoilers, but if there are spoilers, I'll let you know that in the show notes. So yeah, those are the places you can find me.ERIC
: Perfect. And you can follow me on Twitter @heyheyesj
and don't forget to follow or subscribe to Follow Friday in your podcast app. If you like this episode, then check out the past Follow Friday interviews with Gavin Purcell
, Shima Oliaee
, and Franklin Leonard
Follow Friday is a production of LightningPod.fm. Our theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie
. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan
. Special thanks to our Big Fri Patreon backers, Jon and Justin. Visit patreon.com/followfriday
for an extended-length version of this interview, featuring a bonus follow recommendation from Traci.
That's all for this week. This is Eric Johnson, reminding you to talk about people behind their backs … and when you do, say something nice. See you next Friday.