Episode 74: Seeing Rape

John Jay college’s production of Seeing Rape was presented for the 9th year this past April. The production is a series of short plays addressing sexual violence, written by John Jay students and performed by professional actors. Professors Shonna Trinch and Barbara Cassidy are the producer and director, respectively, but as you’ll hear in this episode, everyone, including the student playwrights, takes an active role in putting the whole thing together, logistically and creatively. The plays are written as a final project for an Interdisciplinary Studies class taught by Professors Trinch and Cassidy. I had the chance to talk with the Shonna and Barbara as well as two of the student playwrights, Camila Martinez and Mayada Moussad. They shared their experiences of the joys and challenges involved in the creation and execution of the production, their hopes for the impact of Seeing Rape, and its effect of their own lives. Visit SeeingRape.com for more information about the project.

Shonna has been both a guest and an interviewer on Indoor Voices previously. Check out Episode 46, where I talk with her and Ed Snajdr about their book What the Signs Say, and Episode 53 where she and Ed talk with the authors of Gentrification Down the Shore.

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Episode 73: Nicole Treska’s love letter to her family

The future author of Wonderland

Nicole Treska’s fiction, reviews and interviews have been published in several literary magazines, and her forthcoming memoir, Wonderland, will be published by Simon & Schuster in the Fall of 2023. She is an adjunct professor at City College, as well as a 2010 graduate of City’s MFA in Creative Writing program. In this episode, she talks with her colleague Michelle Valladares, the director of the MFA program, who was a guest here last Fall. They discuss how Nicole’s book came to be, its road to publication, and about the continuing benefits of the MFA program as a student and as an alumna. Wonderland refers to a Boston location as well as the questions that circle around her family’s complicated history. Michelle, an enthusiastic champion of Nicole and her writing, describes the book as “prose poems put together.” Perceptive, that, because the book, which started out as an “assignment” from a friend, was constructed, as Nicole puts it, by “screaming my life into a Word doc.”

Thank you, once again, to Angela Harden, adjunct professor and general manager of CCNY’s WHCR 90.3 FM: The Voice of Harlem, for the use of a quiet studio for recording this conversation

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Episode 72: David Munns on living in space

Far Beyond the Moon: A History of Life Support Systems in the Space Age goes far beyond a prurient – but crucial – interest in the management of human waste in space. In documenting the attempts thus far, the authors, David Munns and Kärin Nickelsen, describe in compelling detail the multi-organism environment that needs to be considered in order for humans to survive in space. In so doing, they illustrate how these efforts are connected to the current climate crisis and the survival of the planet. Full of fascinating history and facts about science fiction, growing crops, gender differences, Biosphere projects, and space toilets, Far Beyond the Moon is an entertaining presentation of provocative ideas that seem well worth the attention of policy makers and billionaires. [FYI, there’s a signed copy available to borrow from the Lloyd Sealy Library; call number TL1500 .M86 2021.]

David is interviewed in this episode by Richard Relkin, John Jay College’s Director of Media Relations. Rich is a not only a fan of sci-fi and sci-nonfi, but a fellow popular culture aficionado. I was impressed by his recently discovered index of his erstwhile magazine, Comic Culture, and am glad he shared it with me so that I could share it here.

More from David:

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Episode 71: Student & professor talk about language

Rebecca Shapiro describes the circumstances – starting with voracious and mischievous reading as a young girl – that led to where she is today, an Associate Professor of English and Linguistics in the English Department at New York City College of Technology. She challenges her students and has a great time with them, a fact to which her former student Estephanie Montero can attest. Estephanie – now a student in the B.A. Program in Speech Pathology and Audiology at Lehman College – and Rebecca reunite via Zoom and discuss some of the more memorable assignments from Professor Shapiro’s Language, Culture, and Society class.

During the conversation, Rebecca and Estephanie mention Genie a few times. In case you’re not familiar with her case, you can read about it here. And if you don’t know what a shoe tree is, Rebecca held one up to her computer screen, but you can’t see it. It looks like this.

Rebecca Shapiro is the author of Fixing Babel: An Historical Anthology of Applied English Lexicography. She is also co-founder of Starfish House Editorial Services. She is on Twitter, which is how I “met” her!

Here’s another recent interview with Rebecca that delves even more deeply into linguistics. She joins in around the 29 minute mark and, among other things, talks about how dictionaries can be tools of justice.

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Episode 70: The intersection of art and social justice

For over ten years, Queens College has been partnering with the Queens Museum through a project called Social Practice Queens (SPQ) which supports initiatives combining art linked to such subjects as environmentalism, community histories, urban life, politics, and fair labor standards to name only a few.

Social Practice CUNY (SPCUNY) uses the same philosophy and approach and broadens it across CUNY. Based at the Graduate Center, SPCUNY supports faculty making public-facing work at the intersection of art and social justice. Fellows collaborate with diverse communities across CUNY campuses and throughout the city in projects that complement and inform their scholarly and pedagogic work. Cynthia Tobar is currently an SPCUNY faculty fellow, and in this episode, she talks with SPQ and SPCUNY co-directors Chloë Bass and Gregory Sholette, about the impetus behind this initiative and the value of providing a space to foster socially engaged art making at CUNY. Working effectively and meaningfully within the complicated bureaucracy of a silo-ed institution, their vision and execution of a “shadow CUNY” can serve as a model for other higher ed institutions who want to have a foot in the institution and in the larger world simultaneously. Check out the 2021-22 faculty fellow cohort (note previous Indoor Voices guest and City Tech librarian Nora Almeida among them).

Chloë Bass is a multiform conceptual artist working in performance, situation, conversation, publication, and installation. Chloë is a Future Imagination Collaboratory Fellow at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, a Faculty Fellow for the Seminar in Public Engagement at the CUNY Center for the Humanities, and a Lucas Art Fellow at Montalvo Art Center. She is an Assistant Professor of Art at Queens College, CUNY, where she co-directs Social Practice CUNY with Greg, with whom she co-edited Art as Social Action (Allworth Press, 2018). She currently has work on view at MASS MoCa, Center for Book Arts, Albright-Knox, and upcoming at the Henry.

Gregory Sholette is a NYC-based artist, writer, activist and teacher whose art and research investigate issues of collective cultural labor, socially engaged art, and counter-historical visual representation. He is a co-founder of the collectives Political Art Documentation/Distribution, REPOhistory, and Gulf Labor Coalition, as well as author of the books Dark MatterDelirium and ResistanceArt as Social Action and the forthcoming Art of Activism and Activism of Art. Greg is a Professor of Art at Queens College and co-director of the Mellon Foundation-funded art and social justice program Social Practice CUNY. To learn more about SPCUNY from another angle, read his opinion piece, “Reimagining Higher Education Through Socially Engaged Art,” about CUNY during/after COVID. Check out Greg’s latest work here.

Cynthia Tobar is Assistant Professor and Head of Archives at Bronx Community College and a faculty fellow with SPCUNY. In May 2021, she interviewed Molly Rosner and Summer Walker about their COVID documenting project at La Guardia Community College.

Greg and Chloë mentioned SPCUNY projects/artists Tara Homasi and The Workers Art Coalition and SPQ graduate standouts including Barrie Cline, Setare Arashloo, Erin Turner and Jeff Kasper.

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Episode 69: Molly Rosner on representations of history for children

My Barbie doll had a townhouse, a camper, a private jet and a wardrobe that would make Carrie Bradshaw envious. Barbie lived very much in the present (circa 1973) and didn’t teach me a thing about her past or mine. If I’d grown up a decade or so later, I’m sure I would have been badgering my parents for an American Girl doll. With one of those, I would have had a doll (who looked much less like a Playboy bunny) to fetishize as well as a stealth U.S. history lesson. In the introduction to her book, Playing with History: American Identities and Children’s Consumer Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2021), Molly Rosner explains how her American Girl doll was indeed instrumental in teaching her about American history, but more to the point, it taught her how to be an American consumer – as my Barbie clearly did for me. (Thanks, Mattel!)

Molly’s book is a series of case studies from five eras of the 20th century. She’s chosen unique yet iconic artifacts or projects – the annual Toy Fair, The Clark Doll Study, the Orange and Landmark Books, Freedomland, USA, and the American Girl doll – to illustrate how commercial industries have, on the whole, presented white, male, heroic, exceptionalistic views of U.S. history and American identity. As she writes, “Most representations of history for children continue to tell a story of America’s essential goodness and its steady march of progress rather than a story that acknowledges oppression and notes the fluctuations between progress and regression.” Playing with History is packed with fascinating supporting material, including book publishing history, the evolution of juvenile criminal justice theories, and the critical impact of dolls on a seminal U.S. Supreme Court case. (As she writes, “American history was forever changed by dolls.”) In our conversation, Molly talks about how her research all started with the idea of nostalgia and how becoming a parent has affected her thinking about cultural artifacts and media.

Molly is Director of Education Programs at the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives (a NYC history archive) at LaGuardia Community College. She was a guest on Episode 59 in May 2021, when she and LaGuardia student Summer Walker talked with Bronx Community College archivist Cynthia Tobar about their COVID documenting project.

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Episode 68: Daniel Vater’s culinary journey

Daniel Vater

Back in the early days on this podcast, in 2017, I interviewed Claire Stewart, Associate Professor at New York City College of Technology’s Hospitality Management Program, and we talked about her book, As Long as We Both Shall Eat: A History of Wedding Food and Feasts (Episode 6). For this latest episode, Claire returns to interview CUNY alumnus, Daniel Vater, who was a student in her Culinary Improvisation class. By the time Daniel was a student in Claire’s class, he’d had a decade and half of experience in the restaurant world as well as his own catering business, but Daniel took advantage of the unique flexibility of the CUNY BA program to fill in some gaps in his knowledge of the business aspects of his culinary career. He currently works as a private chef and is near completion of a Masters of Management in Hospitality at Cornell University. He talks with Claire about what he gained from his time at CUNY and about his multi-faceted, successful career. You’ll also get a glimpse into the private lives of private chefs and some picks and pans in the world of culinary trends!

Listen to Episode 68 now!

Daniel and Claire

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P.S.: In May 2018, I was one of the judges in a just-for-fun, end-of-semester culinary contest in Chef Claire’s class at City Tech. Daniel, Claire and I are next to one another in the second row.

Episode 67: Hannah Kavanagh, uncensored and uncut

Hannah Kavanagh, a Hunter@Macaulay undergrad, is a self-proclaimed nerd – about music, film, fashion, and conversation. She loves talking about anything, she says, and she does so with honesty and enthusiasm. She is curious, thoughtful, and a good listener. These traits make her an ideal person to have a podcast – a topic we never tire of here at Indoor Voices. She had already been producing and hosting Tea for Three from her dorm room when a communications officer at CUNY asked her to help amplify the university’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign (#VaxUpCUNY). That subsequently led to an invitation to produce and host CUNY’s first student-run podcast, CUNY Uncut. The podcast focuses on issues of concern to students – what students really want to address – and has the tagline “uncensored, unedited and uncut.” The first episode features City Tech undergrad and University Student Senate Chairperson Juvanie Piquant who talks with Hannah about an urgent and evergreen subject at the heart of students’ lives: mental health.

We talked briefly about Hannah’s journey to CUNY Uncut, and Baruch’s The Ticker and Brooklyn College’s Vanguard also chronicled how the podcast came to be.

Hannah is interested in a lot, which made it a challenge to choose a major. We agreed that her switching majors a few times during a relatively short college career is a positive symptom of her myriad passions and illustrates the value of listening to one’s inner voice. She’s now a senior and has settled happily and fittingly on a major in film studies. True to her word about being interested in other people and their stories, she turned the interview questions on me a couple of times. I was happy to comply, since I also love to talk about anything.

Mentioned in this episode:

Here’s the On the Media episode about the Dewey Decimal system and a piece of related hot-off-the-press news.

Hannah strongly endorses Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, as well as the work of Charlie Kaufman and Michaela Coel

There is a slew of helpful literature about women, assertiveness, and the power of “No,” which relates to some of what Hannah and I talked about. Here’s a recent example from The Atlantic.

Listen to Episode 67 now!

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Episode 66: Bringing Vietnamese refugee stories to light

In this conversation you’ll hear about three intersecting narratives, that of a dedicated scholar and teacher, the stories of the Vietnamese students she worked with, and the editors who carried on that teacher’s work and realized her students’ stories. Khánh Minh Lê, Julian Costa and Gabriel Da Silva discuss the value of mentorship, authentic self-expression and the woefully inadequate coverage of the experiences of Vietnamese refugees in the U.S. Julian and Gabriel talk with Khánh about their co-edited collection of these stories by Dr. Dean’s students, What They Know: Reflections of Vietnam. The book is described as “a collection of essays written by Vietnamese refugees who vividly depict their memories of fear, danger, hope, and strength as they escaped Vietnam during one of the darkest periods of the twentieth century. Their stories provide a glimpse into this period that is grossly underemphasized by historical curricula, and remind us of the resilience of the human spirit in dangerous situations.” The collection was brought to fruition by Julian and Gabriel – Rebecca Dean passed away in 2021 – and will soon be available via Amazon.

Khánh Minh Lê is a Substitute Instructor in Multilingual Literacies at Queens College and a PhD candidate in Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center. As a child of a refugee family and a product of the Vietnam War, his research is at the intersection of translanguaging, transtrauma, and transmethodology. He is the recipient of the Graduate Center Fellowship, The Dissertation Year Fellowship, The University Provosts Fellowship, the Advanced Research Collaborative Grant, and Fulbright Hays Grant. The article/interview he references early in the conversation can be found here.

Julian Costa is an adjunct professor in the Humanities Department at the New York City College of Technology, where he teaches courses in public speaking. 

Gabriel Da Silva is a junior in the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University.  He is the 2021 recipient of the Morris-Lerner Scholarship for Excellence in Public Speaking, sponsored by the Union of Adjunct Faculty at Pace. He co-authored a chapter in the forthcoming book, Online Instructional Communication, by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Rebecca Dean, 1985

Dr. Rebecca Dean was a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh where her focus was cultural studies.  Throughout her career, she taught courses in communication, film analysis, and other humanities subjects.  At the time of her retirement in 2019, she was Professor of Communications/Theatre at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Listen to Episode 66 now.

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Episode 65: Michelle Valladares on CCNY’s creative writing MFA

In Spring 2021, the Creative Writing MFA at City College saw an unprecedented enrollment spike. It’s not exactly clear why it occurred, but Director Michelle Valladares has some ideas about that. She has lots of ideas, in fact, about unique and exciting ways to grow the program even more while still maintaining a manageable cohort size. She is inspired by the program’s location in Harlem and is coming up with all kinds of ways to engage with the community, like the Archives as Muse: A Harlem Storytelling Project. In addition to hearing about Michelle’s innovative ideas, you’ll learn about some of the program’s outstanding alumni and faculty and successful students, a source of pride for Director Valladares. Award-winning crime novelist Walter Mosley is one of those esteemed alumni and the one who described CUNY MFA programs as the “Blue-Collar Harvard.”

Michelle Valladares
Michelle at her City College office.

It was a pleasure to sit down in person with Michelle and learn more about the MFA program which was recently profiled in Inside Higher Ed. Thanks to Angela Harden, adjunct professor and general manager of CCNY’s WHCR 90.3 FM: The Voice of Harlem, we had the perfect place to record.

Michelle is Director of the MFA Program and Lecturer in English, teaching both undergraduates and graduate students. Explore her writing and filmmaking.

Two more notes about the episode:

  • Identification: Brendan Kiely is the Young Adult (YA) author who Michelle mentions.
  • Clarification: Rather than forfeit his fee, poet Paul Muldoon donated his speaker fee back to the program.

Listen to Episode 65 now!

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