Archive for November 2011

Extra Virginity and Birds of Paradise   Leave a comment

This week, Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil,  and Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise, visit Merry Gangemi on Woman-Stirred Radio.

First up, at 4:15 p. m. (eastern), is journalist Tom Mueller, whose new book, Extra Virginity: The  Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil (WW Norton, 2011) has shaken consumers and producers alike. An essential foodstuff for thousands of years, extra-virgin olive oil is also utilized in medicines, religious rituals, and health and beauty products. Extra-virgin olive oil is the product garnered from the first pressing of the fruit, and is highly valued for its uniquely beneficial properties as a monounsaturated oil. Mueller’s carefully researched and well-written book, Extra Virginity, not only explores the implications and consequences of an impure product, but also exposes the enormous financial windfalls available to producers who adulterate the oil, as well as fraudulent shipping practices and export/import policies, the brokers and purchasers who turn a blind eye, and the government inspectors and wholesale/retail quality control experts who are unwilling or unable to stop the fraud. The book is interesting, engaging, informative, and for some, will change the way they think about the food industry and the laxity of FDA oversight in an age of slash and burn economics.

Free-lance journalist Tom Mueller writes for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and other magazines. He lives in a medieval farmhouse the Ligurian countryside, near Genoa, Italy.

Then at 5:00 p.m., I interview Diana Abu-Jabar, whose new novel, Birds of Paradise, was released by WW Norton this year. The novel is structured around Felice, the teenage daughter of Avis and Brian, a master baker and a real estate lawyer, and their son Stanley, who owns and manages a thriving natural foods market. Set against the backdrop of Miami, Florida, the narrative unfolds in a style and manner not unlike the very essence of the city itself, with its diverse, multi-cultural neighborhoods, teen homelessness, the romanticism and allure of sugar, and social blindness to the long-term consequences of sprawling urban development. Fraught with the complexity of twenty-first century American life, Birds of Paradise relentlessly excavates the secrets and ambiguity of childhood, social and familial moral responsibility, and compartmentalization that grows like lichens between the realities and shattered perspectives of parenthood and financial success. One of the more fascinating undercurrents of the book is the inability of spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, and business associates to communicate with each other in an age in which communication technology is exploding and the facades of the American Dream are crumbling.

Diana Abu-Jaber is the author of Origin, Cresent, Arabian Jazz, and the Language of Baklava. her work has been published in many magazine, including Ms, Salon, Vogue, Gourmet, the Washington Post, and the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.  A recipient of the PEN Center USA Award, Abu-Jaber divides her times between Coral Gables, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.

So please tune in this Thursday, December 1, from 4 to 6 p.m. to Woman-Stirred Radio. Interviews start at 4:15. Want to join the conversation? Call the air studio 802.454.7762.

Historian Willard Sterne Randall and Musician Vanessa Lively on Woman-Stirred Radio   Leave a comment

This week on Woman-Stirred Radio I welcome Austin TX-based singer- songwriter, Vanessa Lively at 4:15 and then at 5:00, historian Willard Sterne Randall.

    “For a woman who thrives on jumping into the unknown with both feet, Vanessa Lively took an unusual approach to her new album, Uncovering Stones. She and her producer-husband, Jason, planned it practically down to the last note before stepping near a recording studio – a room in their Austin home, tricked out for the sessions by co-producer/engineer Keith Gary. Vanessa even painted the album art beforehand – on 42 canvas squares she sold individually to help fund the 12-song disc.

Lively recorded her first album, Let Me Rise, while she was living in Ecuador, followed by her second A Chain Unbroken,  recorded in Northern England. Her third, Canto y Cantera, was a tribute to Argentinean singer Mercedes Sosa and the nueva canción song movement she popularized.

Making music constantly during her sojourn in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, she observed how strongly it connected people.  Uncovering Stones is, she says, an expression of that experience. With a compelling mix of tempos and styles that embrace “hints of urban, world, Latin, funk and pop,” Lively’s songs fully capture her compassionate nature and love of community. Lively is thrilled with the result; she says Uncovering Stones is the album she dreamed of making—an inspiring album full of energy and beauty.

Then at 5:00, I welcome historian Willard Sterne Randall, author of Alexander Hamilton: A Life (Henry Holt, 2004), and Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor (Morrow, 1990). His latest biography, Ethan Allen: His Life and Times, has just been published by WW Norton.

The book is accessible and cogent, bringing to life an historical figure at once iracible, brilliant, and passionate. Ethan Allen, as Randall describes him  as “part Davey Crockett, part Paul Bunyan, and two parts Jack Daniels.”

Randall brings Ethan Allen to life in this in-depth and fascinating narrative; the first extensive biography of Ethan Allen in fifty years.

Willard Sterne Randall is the author of twelve books, including Thomas Jefferson: A Life; George Washington: A Life; Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor; and Alexander Hamilton: A Life. Randall is professor of history at Champlain College and lives in Burlington, VT.

So please join us on Woman-Stirred Radio, this Thursday, November 17th from 4 to 6 p.m. (eastern) for a lively and historically interesting two hours of ideas, questions, and creativity! Want to join the conversation? Call the air studio at 802.456.1630, or email questions and comments to 

The Road to Somewhere & All is Forgotten All is Forgiven :: James A. Reeves and Samantha Chang on Woman-Stirred Radio   Leave a comment

James A.Reeves joins Merry Gangemi this coming Thursday on Woman-Stirred Radio to talk about his new book: The Road to Somewhere (WW Norton, 2011), a pictorial and verbal memoir of an American man faced with the reality of how ambivalent and frenetic life in the United States has become. Reeves roads are not plotted or planned, he moves across post-9/11 America open and at times raw. “Sometimes,” he writes, “I feel jumpy, spooked by the few people that I pass when driving through shuttered small towns. The kids look wild, glaring at me and shouting at a red light. Skinny hard-bodied guys without shirts and chubby girls with cleavage spilling everywhere” (91).  Or, when he “hits the Pacific” he waits for the extraordinary or the profound,  “for one of those feelings you expect when you reach the ocean: the flash of insight that never arrives.” From under the boardwalk at the Santa Monica pier, Reeves takes “lousy art school photographs of shadows and water and light. Now here’s something: a fight. Fast and messy with hard rabbit punches and pulled hair and then it’s gone. People are always more interesting than nature” (345). The Road to Somewhere is a fascinating narrative of an American man determined to understand what it means to be a man.

James A. Reeves is a writer, educator, and designer. He attended the University of Michigan, Pratt Institute of Design, and Tulane Law School. He is a partner at Civic Center, an urban design studio, in New Orleans, where he lives.

So tune in this coming Thursday, November 10th, at 4:15 for a conversation with James A. Reeves about his photo memoir, The Road to Somewhere. Listen locally on WGDR 91.1 fm or WGDH 91.1 fm, or stream the show live at

The at 5:00 (eastern), I welcome Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Samantha Chang’s novel, All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost (WW Norton, 2010) has now been released in paperback. The novel is a story of friendship and poetry, of the commitments one makes to ambition and success, and of the seemingly innocuous “moments and petty decisions… that pass unnoticed…” and how it is that we “mysteriously and without consenting”collude with both the dark and threads threads of our own character, negotiating the minefields of lies or “deliberate untruths” and face “the subtle yet devastating ravages of regret, revelation, and time” (WWNorton). Set squarely and realistically within the universe of literary life, the novel will ring more than a few familiar bells.

Lan Samantha Change is the author of Hunger (1998) and Inheritance (2004) and had won The Wallace Stegner, and Truman Capote Fellowships at Stanford University; she was also a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow. Chang lives in Iowa City, where she is the director of the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

 Merry’s interview with Samantha Change begins at 5:00 p.m. this coming Thursday, November 10th on Woman-Stirred Radio. You can listen live locally at WGDR 91.1fm and WGDH (91.7fm), or you can stream the interview live at

Woman-Stirred Radio is a queer cultural journal that broadcasts live every Thursday afternoon on WGDR and WGDH, Goddard College‘s community radio stations. Woman-Stirred Radio is supported in part by Sinister Wisdom, the oldest lesbian journal of arts and letters, celebrating over 30 years of continuous publication.