Monday, October 17, 2016

5 Podcasts to Stretch Your Bubble, Gain Some Empathy, and Survive This Election

Me and Grandmom, May 1984. I'm so precocious!
One of the legacies my maternal grandmother left was an incredibly diverse family. I don't mean diverse in the way you're probably thinking; in fact, there are some remarkable physical similarities between us. What I mean is that her five children inhabit the entire political and religious spectrum, from very liberal to very conservative, from born again to atheist. It's truly amazing to me that these siblings all came from the same parents and were raised in the same home.

In this season year era of American divisiveness, my family actually gives me hope that we really can all get along. You see, all of these relatives (and there are a lot) are good people who believe strongly, though differently. While not everyone agrees about, well, most issues this election, and certain topics are understood to be off the table at dinner, there's not the visceral hatred of "the other side" I see online or the assumption that "the other side" is dumb. Wrong, yes; stupid, no.

I was talking to a cousin a little bit about this the other night. We had a conversation where she admitted she's "pretty sure [she's] a liberal" and joked that this isn't always taken well. This got me thinking that one of the best ways to be like my mother, aunts, and uncles, is to have a little empathy and respect for everyone, and perhaps especially for the so-called "other side." Expanding our bubbles to learn more about everyone, and, again, especially about those who are different than ourselves, is truly the way to go.

This is not always possible In Real Life, but it is absolutely possible virtually. So I'd like to recommend five podcasts that I listen to partly because they expose me to diverse voices, and partly because they're just good. Podcast listening is a baby step, I admit, but it can be done virtually anywhere, anytime, and with privacy should you want or need it.

These are all available wherever you find your podcasts; I use the podcast app on my iPhone, though there are plenty of other options out there for both Android and iOS.

  • Call Your Girlfriend, "a podcast for long distance besties everywhere." It's hosted by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, two funny, smart, often irreverent, and relatable friends and they cover a huge range of topics from periods to politics to Black Lives Matter and Kim Kardashian. 1 episode/week
  • Code Switch, from NPR. Conversations about race and identity in America that are definitely worth hearing. They're not always comfortable, but the journalist-hosts are smart, honest, and never condescending. 1 episode/week
  • NPR Politics. These are a breath of fresh air in the current political climate. I can count on this podcast to be fair, balanced, truth-telling, and entertaining. The hosts are a rotating band of NPR journalists who provide both facts and analysis. 2+ episodes/week
  • #GoodMuslimBadMuslim. Taz and Zahra talk about what it's like to be Muslim in America, and for a non-Muslim, this can be eye-opening. Episodes are always funny and serious and happy and sad and make me think. 1 episode/month
  • Working. Slate's Jacob Brogan interviews normal people doing normal jobs and it's fascinating. I've learned about the everyday, working lives of tailors, museum curators, horticulturists, and White House staffers. 1 episode/week
Those are my suggestions. What are yours?


  1. I really enjoy Another Round ( The hosts, Heben and Tracy are African American women who talk about all kinds of things from politics to pop culture. They even had Hillary Clinton on the show once. They are hysterical and thought provoking.

    And one I've discovered recently, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text ( "What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts?" The hosts are: a graduate of Harvard’s Divinity and Kennedy Schools who is training to be a minister for non-religious people, and another Harvard Divinity grad who is currently the Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University.

    1. Laurel, great finds! Subscribed now, thanks :)

  2. Forgot to say that I've really been enjoying the recent Working episodes, because they feature what feel like "real people."

  3. Dear Sugar Radio! Especially this one:


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