Episode 22: Sarah Hoiland on bikers, women and media

IJMS screen shotIn July 1947, a large group of motorcyclists – part of a “Gypsy Tour” rally – either descended upon or delighted Hollister, CA, with their presence, depending on who’s telling the story. This is the Rashomonesque tale that Sarah Hoiland tells in her recent article “Impromptu Fiesta” or ‘Havoc in Hollister’: A Seventy-Year Retrospective” in the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies. It’s a compelling story about motorcycle culture, media sensationalism and women’s dis/empowerment. Beth Harpaz, editor of CUNY SUM, wrote a synopsis of the particulars of the event and Sarah’s research journey.

In this episode, Beth returns as guest host to talk with the author. Sarah Hoiland is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Hostos Community College in the Behavioral & Social Sciences Department. As a feminist ethnographer, she is researching the historical and contemporary representations of women within the male dominated world of motorcycle club subculture. Her forthcoming book, Righteous Sisterhood: Constructing a Feminist Biker Identity in a Misogynist Subculture, is sure to be a great ride.

Follow @SarahHoiland

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Episode 21: Edgardo Sanabria-Valentin reflects and refracts STEM student success



If there are soulmate equivalents for jobs, Edgardo Sanabria-Valentin has found his. After earning a Ph.D. from NYU-School of Medicine (he studied the mysterious persistence of the H. pylori bacteria in the human digestive tract), he moved to Boston for a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Harvard Medical School and then gave the biotech industry a whirl for a few years. But fate intervened and presented an opportunity to work with PRISM (Program for Research Initiatives in Science and Math) at John Jay where he is able to share his valuable knowledge with students interested in entering STEM fields. In his five years at John Jay, he has garnered awards, grateful students and alumni, multi-faceted career satisfaction and a homegrown kombucha starter.

To learn more about the mechanisms and impact of the unique PRISM program, read this article co-authored by Edgardo’s colleagues, including Anthony Carpi and Nathan Lents. If you’re looking for a worthy cause for your holiday or end-of-year giving, consider supporting PRISM. Here’s how.

Follow @Edgardo_PhD and @JJCPRISM.

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Episode 20: Debra Caplan on remembering and visualizing Yiddish theater

Yiddish Empire coverListening to Debra Caplan’s description of the Vilna theater troupe in early 20th century Lithuania, I was rapt, imagining myself a century ago with my ear up to an old-timey radio. Debra is an Assistant Professor of Theater in the Dept. of Fine and Performing Arts at Baruch College, and the stories in her book Yiddish Empire: The Vilna Troupe, Jewish Theater, and the Art of Itinerancy (U Michigan Press, 2018) do warrant a dramatic retelling, given the stark juxtaposition of the grueling conditions under which the actors worked and their astounding success and popularity.

The stories Debra shares about researching, writing and publishing the book are quite vivid, too. As co-founder of the Digital Yiddish Theater Project, Debra, along with other Yiddish theater scholars, has been using digital humanities in the study and preservation of Yiddish theater for several years. For this book, she overlays a modern tool on her old timey subject matter that constitutes an entire project of its own. “Visualizing the Vilna Troupe” is a fascinating and highly ambitious data visualization that looks like a beautiful uber-Spirograph.

This interview was conducted by our CUNY colleague, Beth Harpaz, the editor of SUM, the web site that showcases CUNY research. You may have heard Beth when she was on the other side of the microphone in Episode 18. Beth has journalist chops and podcast passion and is the ideal interlocutor to share her excitement about Debra’s book. You can read Beth’s SUMmary here.

Bonus book + podcast endorsement: Check out Beth’s interview with Lisandro Pérez, Professor of Latin American and Latina/o Studies at John Jay, where they talk about his recent book Sugar, Cigars, and Revolution The Making of Cuban New York. It was the inaugural podcast presented by CUNY’s Gotham Center for New York City History in partnership with New Books Network. (Have you noticed we’ve got the raw data for a Spirograph of our own incorporating the entities mentioned in this post?)

One last thing: Should this subject matter get you in the mood, Debra and Beth highly recommend the production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” in Yiddish and directed by the legendary Joel Grey, which runs through Dec. 30 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan.

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Episode 19: Jason Tougaw: Touching Brains

Tougaw book cover 2Tougaw book cover

Jason Tougaw is many things – a writer, a teacher, a faculty member, a DJ. But is he his brain? The we-are-our-brains vs. we-are-not-our-brains debate is one of the many complex and compelling topics we discuss in this episode. His recent memoir, The One You Get: Portrait of a Family Organism (winner of the Dzanc Nonfiction Prize) is in itself a complex and compelling story that I recommend to anyone who fancies memoirs, neuroscience, California in the 1970s – or anyone who was ever a child. The title is a lyric from a certain sitcom theme song from the ‘70s-’80s, and if you’ve already guessed what it is, you’re a fellow traveler to whom I am passing along the ear worm. It’s the ideal title for this book in many ways. This past April, Jason’s book The Elusive Brain: Literary Experiments in the Age of Neuroscience  was published by Yale University Press (and is next in my reading queue). The phrase “touching brains” comes from an article Jason wrote for Modern Fiction Studies in 2015 and is a useful one, along with his title word “elusive,” that hints at the mysterious relationship between the tangibility of the brain (the organ) and the intangibility of the self.  It’s all a little bit philosophy and a little bit New Romantic.

Don’t miss Jason’s online column in Psychology Today.

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Episode 18: Beth Harpaz: From 50 states to the CUNYverse


SUM_LogotypeAfter 35 years in newsrooms, Beth Harpaz now refers to herself as a #recoveringjournalist. Fortunately, she’s convalescing at CUNY where she continues to put her finely honed research, reporting and writing skills to use in a new environment. She is the content editor for SUM, a new website showcasing CUNY research. She’s also the author of Girls in the Van: Covering Hillary (2001), Finding Annie Farrell: A Family Memoir (2004) and 13 Is the New 18: And Other Things My Children Taught Me–While I Was Having a Nervous Breakdown Being Their Mother (2009). Her work as travel editor for The Associated Press earned her the 2018 bronze award for travel journalist of the year from the Society of American Travel Writers and another SATW award for a podcast about visiting all 50 states. She has a contagious energy both in person and in her writing. If you even dip into any of her books, you can kiss the rest of your day goodbye. You’ve been warned.

Follow Beth at @literarydj and SUM at @sum_research

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Episode 17: Bridgett Davis on writing, research and The Numbers

Fannie_Davis_coverHaving a conversation with Bridgett Davis was an instance of one of my absolute favorite things to do – talking about writing. It’s a rare opportunity to have the time to do so, especially with someone so accomplished who also loves talking about writing (and research!). Bridgett is a multi-faceted writer/creator. She’s a journalist, essayist, novelist and filmmaker. She’s also a professor and a mom and the director of the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program. Her newest book, The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers (Little, Brown, January 2019) adds memoirist to her list of genres. It’s a compelling and touching tribute to her mother and to the business that supported her family for decades. It’s also a fascinating portrait of the significant role The Numbers played in the lives of African Americans in the mid-twentieth century.

This marks the start of Season Two for Indoor Voices. Stay tuned for another year of interesting, well-curated voices from CUNY. We’re grateful to our listeners and for continued support from John Jay College’s Office for the Advancement of Research.

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Episode 15: The pursuit of sadness

The Moral Psychology of Sadness book cover

Anna Gotlib is an assistant professor (associate, as of Fall 2018 – congrats!) in the philosophy department at Brooklyn College. The title of her most recent book, The Moral Psychology of Sadness (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), got my attention immediately. With so much crushing propaganda from the happiness industrial complex, this subject seemed like a gentle, honest oasis. (During our conversation, we were reminded of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile.”) And indeed, Anna and her co-contributors (seven in addition to her editor’s intro and her own full chapter), celebrate the rich opportunities for intellectual exploration within this complex and overlooked emotion. She shares her reasons for choosing the topic and makes a strong case for allowing space – philosophical as well as social – for sadness, especially in American culture where frank discussions of sadness are generally frowned upon. Sadness can foster self-learning, give one’s life fuller meaning and quiet what Buddhists call the chattering monkey mind.

This is the final episode of Season One of Indoor Voices, and in the spirit of sadness as a paradoxically forward-looking and motivating emotion (read the book, you’ll see), we look forward to Season Two beginning in Fall 2018. Having produced at least ten more episodes than we anticipated, we are rather pleased with ourselves and also grateful to our supporters (especially John Jay’s Office for the Advancement of Research) and our listeners. Happy summer! Don’t worry, be sad!

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Episode 14: Barbara Gray on news research and the Queen of the Underworld


Photo of Sophie Lyons
Sophie Lyons is the subject of Barbara Gray’s forthcoming biography.

When Barbara Gray began her job directing the Research Center at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, she was only half a block from her previous job where she had been director of news research for The New York Times. The physical proximity is not at all incidental (the J school has forged a strong network with many of the city’s biggest media outlets), and the job overlap is significant (she brings loads of relevant expertise to her academic post). The skills that she advocates for, shepherds and teaches at CUNY have always been crucial to journalism, but they are especially critical in the digital information realm and even more essential – for everyone –  in the current news production and consumption culture. She talks about what she calls this “triage situation”; the importance of context, history and detail in reporting; the value of “failing up”; and her multi-faceted role as veteran news researcher, teacher and reference librarian.

As if that weren’t enough to fill a plate and an episode, there’s more. Barbara’s writing a biography of 19th century grifter-turned-philanthropist, Sophie Lyons. She talks about the genesis of the project, her research process and gives us a sneak peak of Sophie’s fascinating life.

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Episode 12: Uncovering hidden stories

Linda Villarosa with The Campus editors
Linda Villarosa (center) with editors of The Campus Magazine, the oldest student-run publication within CUNY.

Linda Villarosa always knew she would be a writer, but when she was a little girl in Colorado, she probably couldn’t imagine that something she wrote would have a direct impact on New York State taking measures to address a critical life-and-death issue. She writes effective and affecting stories (read some of them here), directs the journalism program at City College and is a proud alumna of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. You’ll be inspired by her embrace of new challenges and complete lack of writing angst.



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Image courtesy of City College

Episode 11: Cereal and Hostful Confessions

In this guest-free episode, Steve and Kathleen take a break from highlighting CUNY scholars and aim the mic at themselves, indulging in some hostful repartee. It begins and ends with cereal (or serial), and in between, listeners are treated to perhaps more information than is necessary about their hosts. Revelations include ambiguous criminal activity, secret ethnic lineage, and obsessions with NYC MTA material culture, handedness and the aforementioned cereal. Steve also lifts the curtain on his status.

Following the admirable model of actor Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast, we offer a post-recording fact check/errata/clarification. If you’re reading this before you listen, you’ll get an idea of the curiosities in store:

  • Kathleen’s vest was not addressed to her, as she knows better than to open mail not addressed to her. But the packing slip clearly indicated that the company had sent her the item in error. It turns out that she did nothing illegal. The moral question remains.
  • Steve was referring to the new ABC sitcom “Alex, Inc.” that is based on the origins of Gimlet Media, not a small replica of Jim nor a mini gym, as Kathleen was envisioning.
  • CUNY can boast three Guggenheim fellows this year.
  • We dismissively referred to the wildly popular podcasts Serial and S-Town.
  • Steve occasionally enjoys professional development at varying speeds via Udemy.
  • MTA motormen (correct term seems to be train operator) vs. conductors: who does what?
  • It’s the pothos plant, which goes by many other names, that Kathleen feels confident will thrive even in a subterranean workplace devoid of natural light.
  • Ancestry DNA results include a category called “low confidence regions” which, despite its benign name, has the potential to damage identities and/or families.
  • Steve descends from the Romaniote, according to Steve and his still harmonious family.
  • On sluggers and handedness.
  • A dream deferred on London’s Brick Lane.
  • It turns out you don’t have to make do with a variety multipack of breakfast cereals. Homogeneity, like most things, is available online!

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