Stitcher has a plethora of podcasts worth listening to. Each week, we’re giving you new episode recommendations from some of our top shows to help keep you up to speed and ease the pain of the pod discovery process.
LeVar Burton Reads — “Daddy” by Damion Wilson
If you’re ever looking to relax, it’s never a bad idea to listen to LeVar Burton read aloud. The actor, director, and educator has aimed to provide support to his fans, especially over this past year of extreme uncertainty and anxiety. He told CBS This Morning last April that he wanted to read stories that could “comfort” fans. “Stories have a tendency to bring us together.”
In the latest episode of LeVar Burton Reads, the host continues his quest to comfort, reading a work that is gripping in both its tragedy and its hopefulness.
The short story Burton reads, “Daddy” by author Damion Wilson, centers around a narrator named Tania. She’s just about lost everything in her life — her mother has died, her sister is fighting a drug addiction, and her father is battling Alzheimer’s Disease.
But Tania’s father has a secret. He is mysteriously able to transport himself out of his nursing home.
What makes the episode so powerful, in addition to Wilson’s writing, which includes visceral lines like, “tears I had expected to release me, never arrived, instead laden numbness filled my limbs,” is the production that complements his words. The sounds of crickets when Tania talks to her father outside on a starry clear night (“crickets chirped their lonely songs into the dark air”) and the orchestral accompaniment to the narrator’s introduction to the story, help transport the listener into Tania’s world.
There are also lighthearted moments like when Tania’sfather suddenly appears, he‘s wearing a robe, pajamas and “ridiculous bunny eared slippers someone had given him.” Burton displays his range, voicing every character from the narrator to the father to the nursing home workers to a police officer.
It’s a story for everyone, but especially for listeners who have suffered loss in their lives. It’s about letting go and finding peace. The episode ends with Burton himself relating the story to his own family and the relatives he’s lost. “This story reminds of me of all of the things that we shared that will only live in memory going forward.”
Under Construction with Tamar Braxton- “Self Made Millionaire”
On this week’s Under Construction, host Tamar Braxton opens the episode with an affirmation: “I can do anything.” The singer and four-time Grammy nominee reminds listeners to, “take accountability of who you are and what you want for your life.” It’s a fitting affirmation, especially for this week’s topic, which tackles becoming a self made millionaire.
Guest Todrick Hall joins Braxton and details his journey from growing up as a gay Black man in Texas, afraid to come out to his mom, to appearing on Broadway, and eventually rising to fame on American idol and beyond.
“There was no example of what I could be as a gay Black man from Texas,” Hall says. He went on to explain just how difficult his situation was growing up. “I don’t think that people who are not gay and who aren’t really close with people who are gay realize what it’s like, just to be gay man, but especially in a culture that is so based on religion and where being masculine is such a requirement for a man to be.” Hall couldn’t wear the same kind of clothing his white friends did. He says how difficult it was to come out to his mom as well. “To sit your mom down and tell them that you’re gay, a Black mom in 2001 in Texas…She truly believes everything that Bible says.” It took her long time to admit her child was gay.
Hall says that, despite his encouragement for others to come out, it’s important to do it when it’s safe. Hall has seen kids who came out to their parents and were soon kicked out end up homeless. He admits that, “The reality is for some people it’s not safe to come out. They aren’t in a place where they feel like they can take care of themselves.”
The rest of the episode chronicles Hall’s rise from being bullied as a kid to finding success through a niche market, singing in McDonald’s drive-thrus and joining a Target flash mob. But his persistence and ability to wear many hats (choreographer, writer, assembling his costumes) helped make him into a star.
He also can’t help but love getting the verified check mark on social media.
“I remember when I got that verified check. I was like ‘b*tch you can’t tell me sh*t, I got a verified check. That meant so much to me.”
Listen to the rest of the episode to hear what Beyoncé said to Hall the first time they met, how doing the “image sorcery” helped him fool his fans, and how he worked with Kelly Clarkson at Six Flags in Texas before she became famous.
Imani State of Mind — “Pandemic Fatigue”
“I think I’m going through a little bit of lockdown fatigue.” Dr. Imani Walker opens the show with a statement many of us can relate to. Each week, Imani State of Mind aims to help listeners to take care of their mental health and get their “mind right.” This week the show released a much needed episode that tackled a subject most listeners are grappling with as the 2020 pandemic has spilled into 2021.
Dr. Imani and her producer/best friend, Kam Law, go deep into the discussion as we close in on one year of this pandemic. “This is I think something we’re just going to have to live with and become part of our thought process from here on out. I don’t think it will ever be the way it was.”
Kam adds the strikingly relatable comment of, “I’m so tired of smelling my own breath.”
The two do a mental health check-in and Kam admits she needs to talk to people each day while Dr. Imani says that since her job requires her to speak with “upwards of 20 people a day” she wants to be alone by the end of the day.
So what about the lasting effects of this extended isolation? Dr. Imani says that anything involving this much isolation and extended periods of loneliness are going to have an effect, especially for kids. “They need to socialize and if you’ve been taught, since before you can even remember having been conscious of having a first memory, that you have to avoid people…This generation, these little kids coming up, it’s going to be really interesting for them.”
The duo also delves into how to cope with Zoom fatigue. The host suggests picking a nice background, a spa or beach and says she personally doesn’t like seeing everyone on the call so she turns on Speaker mode instead of Gallery. She also says sometimes it’s good to just turn off your camera. “Being on camera is taxing. Trust me I know. And you really do need to save your energy for a situation where you really do want to see someone.” If she’s not seeing patients, her camera is off, except for family. “Everyone needs to figure out their level of comfortability.”
Listen to the episode to hear Dr. Imani recommends finding your niche in Zoom, a breakdown of the Watchmen TV show and its representation of generational trauma, and a story from Dr. Imani about having an amazing time watching Coachella from home.
— Ian Goldstein