Podcasts: Celebration of Diverse Literary Voices

Listen to podcasts of interviews with multicultural authors as KAZI Book Review Celebrates Diverse Literary Voice.

This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. Thanks to our sponsors Austin Revitalization Authority, Austin Spurs, Jeffrey Travillion, Austin Public Library, and HEB for their support.

Michelle Gadsden-Williams, CLIMB: Taking Every Step With Conviction, Courage, And Calculated Risk To Achieve A Thriving Career And A Successful Life

In Michelle Gadsden-William’s memoir, CLIMB: Taking Every Step with Conviction, Courage, and Calculated Risk to Achieve a Thriving Career and a Successful Life, she shares her story of how she reached the C-Suite in corporate America as an African American woman. Full of keen career advice, especially for women of color, she uses her experiences as a guide to help her readers navigate the challenges and opportunities of working in Fortune 500 companies.

Michelle Gadsden Williams is chief diversity officer for Accenture North America. She has more than 20 years of experience as an advocate for equality within corporate America and is a thought leader around diversity and inclusion.

To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Michelle Gadsden-Williams click the play button below:

Francisco Cantu, The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From The Border

The Line Becomes a River is a memoir about Cantu’s experiences serving as a border patrol agent on the U.S.-Mexico border.  In it he provides a sympathetic view of the plight of the individuals and families trying to cross the border.  He also explains how his work as an agent caused him relentless nightmares resulting in his decision to leave the border patrol.  But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantú gets involved in the administrative machinery of immigration to discover what happened to him.

Francisco Cantú served as an agent for the United States Border Patrol in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas from 2008 to 2012. A former Fulbright fellow, His essays and translations have been featured on This American Life and in Best American Essays.

To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Francisco Cantu click the play button below: 

James Forman Jr., Locking Up Our Own: Crime And Punishment In Black America

Former public defender James Forman, Jr. is a leading critic of mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of color. In Locking Up Our Own he seeks to understand the war on crime that began in the 1970s and why it was supported by many African American leaders in the nation’s urban centers.

Forman is a Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He is a graduate of Atlanta’s Roosevelt High School, Brown University, and Yale Law School, and was a law clerk for Judge William Norris of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the United States Supreme Court.


To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with James Forman Jr. click the play button below: 

Naima Coster, Halsey Street

Set in Brooklyn, Naima Coster’s debut novel Halsey Street is, at first glance, a heart rendering portrayal of the broken relationship between a young black woman Penelope, and her Dominican mother, Mirella. But as the novel progresses, Coster adds the mother’s point of view turning the story into one about their individual journeys toward self-determination, and deeper and richer lives.

A native of Brooklyn, Naima Coster is a writer whose stories and essays have been published in the New York Times, Arts & Letters, and the Rumpus.  She currently teaches writing at Wake Forest University.


To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Naima Coster click the play button below: 

Charles Johnson, Middle Passage

Set in 1830, Charles Johnson’s award winning novel Middle Passage explores slavery through the eyes of a free black man, trying to escape from a forced marriage, who inadvertently stows away on ship in New Orleans which will be traveling to Cameroon to illegally buy slaves to sell in the U.S.  Discovered by the crew, the roguish hero is put to work in the kitchen and serves as the metaphorical bridge between the captured Allmuseri tribe, whose spiritual values and magical abilities prove troublesome, and the brutal captain and crew and their imperialist values.

Charles Johnson is the author of 16 books including Middle Passage, which won the 1990 National Book Award for best novel.  He is the fourth black writer to win a National Book Award. He has a Ph.D. in Philosophy, was a l998 MacArthur fellow, and was the 2002 recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature.


To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Charles Johnson click the play button below: 

Robin D.G. Kelley, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

Born in 1917, Jazz pianist Thelonious Monk is one of the greatest and most original American composers of all time. His best known song Round Midnight, is the most recorded jazz song in history. With his dissonant harmonies and unique use of space and accents, Monk paved the way for the birth of modern jazz in the 1940s.  In the book Thelonius Monk: The Life and Times of An American Original, UCLA history professor Robin Kelley documents Monk’s long struggle for recognition and respect, and provides a unique view of the world of jazz in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  

Robin D. G. Kelley, also the the author of Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times and Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America.


To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Robin D.G. Kelley click the play button below: 

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko

The novel PACHINKO is a sweeping multi-generational saga of a Korean family that progresses from peasant farmers in Korea in 1910 to descendants that are well educated and wealthy. Along the way the family confronts, ethnic, religious, class, and gender oppression in a Japan that mistreated and discriminated against ethnic Koreans. Despite their success, the choices made to assimilate into Japanese society has tragic consequences for the family.

Min Jin Lee is the author of two novels. Pachinko was a 2017 National Book Award finalist.  Her writings about books, travel and food have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Literary Hub, and the Wall Street Journal.


To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Min Jin Lee click the play button below:     

Walter Mosley, Down the River, Unto the Sea

In Down the River, Unto the Sea, Joe King Oliver, a former NYPD cop once imprisoned for a crime he did not commit must solve two cases: that of a man wrongly condemned to die, and his own.  Joined by a brilliant sociopath that owes him a favor, Oliver must beat dirty cops and dirtier bankers, craven lawyers, and above all though, he struggles to keep his 17 year-old daughter far from the underworld in which he works.
Walter Mosley is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than 43 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins.

To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Walter Mosley click the play button below: 

Deji Bryce Olukotun, After the Flare

In the new dystopian sci fi thriller, After the Flare, a catastrophic solar flare has reshaped the world order as we know it – in an instant, electricity grids are crippled, followed by devastating cyberattacks that paralyze all communication.  And Nigeria operates the only functioning space program in the world.  Author Deji Olukotun explores this dystopian near future through the eyes of Kwesi Bracket, an African American recruited to assist.  In this sequel to his first novel, Nigerians in Space, he poses deep questions about technology, international ambition, identity, and space exploration in the 21st century.

Deji Olukotun is the author of two novels and his fiction has appeared in five different book collections. His novel After the Flare won the 2018 Philip K. Dick special citation award, and was chosen as one of the best books of 2017 by The Guardian, The Washington Post, Syfy.com, Tor.com, Kirkus Reviews, among others. His novel Nigerians in Space, a thriller about brain drain from Africa, was published by Unnamed Press in 2014.  He is currently the Head of Social Impact at the audio technology company Sonos and a Future Tense Fellow at New America.


To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Deji Bryce Olukotun click the play button below: 

Luiza Sauma, Flesh and Bone and Water

Luiza Sauma’s debut novel, Flesh and Bone and Water, tells a story about the forbidden love between the teenage son of a doctor and the teenage daughter of the servant for the family.  Cutting across race and class, time and place, from London to Rio to the dense humidity of the Amazon, Flesh and Bone and Water straddles two worlds with haunting meditations on race, sex, and power in a deftly plotted coming-of-age story about the nature of identity, the vicissitudes of memory, and how both can bend to protect us from the truth.

Luiza Sauma, a journalist, was born in Rio de Janeiro and raised in London. After studying English at the University of Leeds, she worked at the Independent on Sunday for several years. She has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths, where she won the Pat Kavanagh Award, and she has also been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.


To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Luiza Sauma click the play button below: 

Adam Smyer, Knucklehead

In Knucklehead we meet Marcus Hayes, a black law student who struggles, sometimes unsuccessfully, with the impulse to confront everyday bad behavior with swift and antisocial action. The cause of this impulse is unknown to him.

When Marcus unexpectedly becomes involved with the brilliant and kind Amalia Stewart, her love and acceptance pacify his demons. But when his demons return, he is no longer inclined to contain them.

Adam Smyer is an attorney, martial artist, and mediocre bass player. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two cats. Knucklehead is his debut novel.


To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Adam Smyer click the play button below: 

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