close Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn
10 mins

Sonya Renee Taylor: Love Yourself, Change the World — Transcript

Read Caitlin's interview with Sonya Renee Taylor about the benefits—to yourself and the world—of practicing a radical form of self-acceptance.
by Ines Bläsius | Oct 24 2019

Caitlin: Welcome to Simplify. I’m Caitlin Schiller.

Ben: And I’m Ben Schuman-Stoler.

Caitlin: Hey, Ben.

Ben: Hi, Caitlin.

Caitlin: How’s it going?

Ben: Pretty good.

Caitlin: Awesome. Do you remember back to your childhood where you got your very first conception of your body?

Ben: My mom gave me a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves when I was 27.

Caitlin: So you’re a child, cool. Okay.

Ben: Right.

Caitlin: Yeah. I don’t know that I actually got any formal education about it. I just grew up receiving cultural messages about what was good and what wasn’t and like looking at magazines. But, our guest today, Sonya Renee Taylor is a person who’s looking to change the sort of haphazard way that we get educated about our bodies and thus how we feel about them.

Have you heard of her before?

Ben: Yes, because I know that you like her book.

Caitlin: I do.

Ben: And I looked up some of her Slam Poems.

Caitlin: Oh, yeah?

Ben: Before your interview. Yeah, there’s not that many online.

Caitlin: No, but what’s there is great.

Ben: Yes.

Caitlin: Right.

Ben: It’s sort of similar to the book. I thought there’s going to be all, because she won awards and stuff as a slam poet.

Caitlin: She did, but she’s not just a slam poet. Sonya Renee Taylor is a radical educator. She’s a poet, as Ben said, she’s an author of the book The Body is Not an Apology and it’s beautiful. And we’ll get to hear me talk with her about her work on that book and in the world educating people about radical self-love today.

Ben: Why’d you want to have her on the show?

Caitlin: Uh, well because this book The Body is Not an Apology takes something that feels really private, which is the way that we feel about our bodies and other people’s bodies, and blows it open to show its wider implications on how we live, and how we make policies, how we build buildings, and raise our children, and how we treat our partners bodies and our own.

So it’s, it takes this really small, private concept and shows it in a broader societal context, which I found really fascinating. And also, she’s a poet and the writing is beautiful, and I also really wanted to talk with her, and she did not disappoint. She has a mesmerizing, lovely delivery.

Ben: So should we just go into the interview?

Caitlin: Yeah, I would say, when we get into the interview, look out for this really interesting thought experiment about the default body, that will tell you a lot about what you think of yourself and what you think of other people’s bodies, that you might not necessarily have thought about before.

Ben: All right, cool. Let’s do it. We’ll catch everybody at the end, when we’ll make a little book list for people who want to dive more into the subject.

Caitlin: Yeah, let’s do it. All right.

Caitlin interviews Sonya

Caitlin: Hi Sonya. Before we get started here, could you please introduce yourself the way that you like to be introduced?

Sonya: Sure, I am Sonya Renee Taylor, founder and radical executive officer of The Body is Not an Apology.

Caitlin: And, The Body is Not an Apology deals with everything around radical self-love as does your book of the same name and we’ll discuss it a little bit later today, but could you start us off by explaining- what is radical self-love? I understand all those words, I think, but you know as does everyone else, but taken together they form so much more than the sum of their parts.

Sonya: Yeah, absolutely. So I think that in order to really talk about what radical self-love is, the reason why we put radical in front of self-love is because radical does all the work that we needed to do to describe what I’m, what I propose a self-love should do. And so, the definitions of radical are forming the bases, or foundation, of a thing, going to the root, or inherent in a thing, proposing drastic change from the traditional way that things are done, and proposing significant, political, economic and social reforms. And so, for me, radical self-love does that thing. Radical self-love is a love, first and foremost, that is the root or foundation of our relationship with ourselves, that we came to this planet already in right relationship with our bodies and the bodies of others. In love with ourselves, you’ve never seen a self-loathing toddler. And that’s because we came here, clear, that we were awesome. And clear that other humans were awesome. And so, somewhere, we got away from that foundational, root, knowing. And from the distance that we’ve created from that root knowing, we’ve built systems- political, economic, and social systems- that reaffirm that somehow we’re not enough, that somehow we are, that somehow there are these external things in the world that we must attain, or must be, in order to be inherently valuable and inherently worthy. And so radical self-love proposes that we need to change the political economic and social system, so that it is one that reflects all of our inherent value, no matter what body it is that we arrived on the planet in.

And, that whatever it is that we create in its place when we change these systems, and when we change ourselves, that that foundation has to be built on love. And that if it isn’t built on love, we’ll only end up replicating the systems that we already have. And so, that, for me, is what radical self-love is.

It is our inherent knowledge of our own divineness and a changing of the world that reflects that, such that everyone has the political, economic, and social resources that they need, to live into that Divinity.

Caitlin: That is beautiful.

Sonya: Thanks, I think so, I think so. I think radical self-love is absolutely beautiful.

Caitlin: Agreed. You said that we come here, onto this planet, feeling or being radical self-love, as representatives of it. So then, what are the things that contribute to our losing it? What happens along the way?

Sonya: Yeah, so we come here, and born, you know, part of the challenges that the systems that we’ve created, that disconnect us from our sense of radical self-love, are so deeply embedded in the world, embedded in the way that the world operates, embedded in the way that are, you know, the way that businesses make money, embedded in the way that we create laws and divvy out resources. And so, these messages, and all of our indoctrination into these messages, start so early. We start telling humans that there is something wrong with them, you know, almost as soon as we start socializing them. And so, those messages that we begin to get, there are both systemic and structural that are both from the media and our government, but are also passed on from our own individual indoctrinations into those systems, become the way that we start to see the world. And so, one of the things that I talk about in the book, is I talk about this idea of a body shame origin story. What’s the first memory that we have when we were told that there was something wrong with us, that somehow we were not inherently valuable, that somehow the body that we were in was not going to be okay?

And what’s that first memory? Because oftentimes that memory is the thing we carry forward, along with so many other messages. But that seed is really icy. It’s sort of like the foundational bricks between, that build the wall between us and our own radical self-love.

Caitlin: In reading your book, I remember getting to the Unapologetic Inquiry, which are questions that you’ve interpolated throughout the book to help readers reflect on their own voyage away from radical self-love and their voyage back toward it, and I realized something that I had never considered before, and it was that I don’t think my first memory of body shame was even my own, it was watching my mother denigrate her body.

Sonya: Yes. Yes. And that is, for so many people, very true, that the first thing they remember is seeing someone who they love and identify themselves through, say that that person is not okay. Say that, you know, like I’m not okay. And as a small child, you’re like, but I love you and I think you are the most amazing thing ever, mom, you know, like, human who brought me to the planet. And that person saying nope, I am not good enough in this body. And so there’s a way in which we get that message and then it’s like, well, if this person I love, who I look like, who I came from, who nurtures me, isn’t okay, then I must not be okay too. And so, it’s, you know, there are these ways in which we pass on this body shame, this body shame narrative from one person to the next, oftentimes very inadvertently.

I like to say that, you know, radical self-love is contagious. I love it. You can totally catch it like a cold, but so is body shame, you know, and the truth of the matter is we live in a world where we’re constantly passing on body shame, all the time. And so if we’re going to be contagious either way, I figure, I might as well be spreading some radical self-love.

Caitlin: Absolutely. So, in order for us to believe that there is something wrong with us, that we’re not okay in the bodies in which we’ve come here, there has to be something to which we’re comparing it. And, in your book you talk about something called the default body.

What is the default body? And how did we start to believe that that was the right one to be in?

Sonya: Yeah, so, you know, the default body is a social construct, first and foremost. So, the default body is the body that we see in the world as the most valuable, and that shifts and changes. There’s some of it that is pretty socially, structurally true across the board.

We, as a society, have decided that abled bodies are better than disabled bodies. We, as a society, have decided that thin bodies are better than fatter bodies or larger bodies. We, as a society, based on the ways that we’ve structured our society, have decided that white bodies are better than other bodies. And so these messages that we begin to see, we can look at our social world and see that we’ve ordered them in such a way, and so for us, I think part of the work of really, like, figuring out what’s the default body that I’m operating from, is what are the assumptions? When someone says, a person, you know, they don’t specify anything. They just say, a person. Who do you see in your own head? What is the default for person? What is the default for human, for you? Is that person an able-bodied person? Is that person thin? Is that person white? Is that person male? Is that person cisgendered?

Those are the definitions, the visuals, that attach to a default body. And that, like I said, those things I have found in my travels around the world. We tweak them a little bit, but not by much. For the most part, most societies have a default body that we’re operating off of. And we can see the outcomes of that in the way in which society is structured.

Caitlin: And related to this, is this idea of body terrorism. I’ve watched some talks of yours, and heard some talks you’ve given, and you always like to give a disclaimer that, you know, people think it sounds really over-the-top and radical when I say body terrorism, but it is so true the way you unpack it because body terrorism affects so many of us, even the people who practice it.
Could you explain a little bit about what body terrorism is?

Sonya: Absolutely. So, you know, if we’re talking about the idea that there’s a default body, a body that is valued more in our social narrative than other bodies, some bodies that are valued more than other bodies in our social narrative, and that those bodies receive greater resource. They receive a greater freedom. They receive more money. They receive, there are all of these ways in which society sort of affirms that.

And then there are all of these ways in which society has also harmed the bodies that we see as lesser. And that that is historical, and across, again, across culture. So one of the ways that I think about it is, you know, I am an ancestor of enslaved Africans, an ancestor of the chattel slavery, you know, regime that reigned for hundreds and hundreds, actually, this year is the 400th year of the arrival of enslaved Africans on the United States soil. And if ever there were a history that is more clear about what I mean by body terrorism, it is the experience of chattel slavery. To travel to another land, to deem those people as so not human, that they can be gathered up, separated from their families, disposed of in the Atlantic Ocean, and then brought to another land, chained together, forced to reproduce for the purpose of building the wealth and value of bodies that we decided were more important. And so that’s, you know, certainly that’s a big giant version.

But if we look in the United States right now, in the experiences that are happening there, we are looking at, you know, this surge of mass murders based on all kinds of identities of people who are very clear that they have a vision about what the default body is, the superior body should be, and the willingness to kill people in large numbers who, who are not reflective of that. And so there are these ways, you know, and so those are some of the things that we can look at in the landscape to say that’s body terrorism, but there are also smaller, you know more, how do I want to say, just more accepted ways that we engage in body terrorism every day.

I think about the television show The Biggest Loser, which is a television show where they select large bodied people from all over, and at this point the show’s been syndicated all over the world, and then they have those people engage in disordered eating and disordered exercise, for the entertainment of millions of viewers at home. Knowing that this often leads to horrible health outcomes for these folks, that 95% of them will gain the weight back that they lost plus more weight, that it creates eating disorders and, also, tells people in the world that these people are not valuable until we make them, their bodies, the bodies that we think they should be. That is a function of body terrorism. And so there are, you know, we can look around our world and find, you know, endless examples, but the idea of making it so fearful for people to live in their own bodies without worry of violence, without worry of being treated inequitably, without worry of being under resourced as as a group because of the bodies they live in, is body terrorism.

Caitlin: Yeah. Thank you for that. And this also impact everything. It impacts who we decide to put on the covers of magazines. It defines who gets to be on TV and not terrorized, but it affects more important things like the way that we design policies, the way we design buildings.
What does some modern body terrorism, that doesn’t just look like media placement, look like?

Sonya: So, there are all kinds of things, one of the things that I think is a really, sort of, fascinating example that we often overlook is the lack of accessibility as it relates to disabled bodies. And, you know, how often it is we will have, you know, large scale social gatherings and have made zero efforts to consider accessibility for people who are deaf. How long are we actually, you know, like we watch television all the time and there is, you know, very rarely do I see translators in space, in anybody’s spaces, you know. That, you know, I’ve been to conferences that are about social justice where people who are wheelchair users cannot actually get in the building. There are lots of ways in which we either erase the needs of entire segments of pop-, of our population, or we actively seek to harm them, which certainly is, you know, visible right now in the U.S. immigration policy.

The idea that, that, there are children sleeping on floors in cages, literally. We could clearly not value the bodies of those children. And I often ask people to imagine what it would be, you know, to put, to see, you know, to see a little blond blue-eyed girl who was 5 years old sleeping on a cage in a Detention Facility and what the world might do with that kind of outrage to see something like that. And there’s a reason why, while there is absolutely outrage, no one has stormed the White House yet. Even though I’m sure a lot of people might be feeling tempted, that hasn’t happened. And I, it is hard for me to imagine a world that, where if those were filled with, you know, blond, blue-eyed, able-bodied, little white boys and girls, and the world not stop what it was doing and fix that problem immediately.


Caitlin: This episode is about radical self-love and what we can do to feel and show more of it. Self love is the essential place to start, but there are plenty of other kinds of love too- romantic partner love, loving our kids, loving our work, loving the planet, and we’ve got books about pretty much all of them on Blinkist. Blinkist is an App that gives you the key insights from best-selling, non-fiction books in these powerful little packs of knowledge in audio or text. So, you can learn about love, or parenting, or whatever else you’re into, whether you’re driving to work or winding down before bed. Best part? They take just about 15 minutes to read or listen through, so you’ll get the most important insights of a book in about one-sixteenth of the time it would take you to read the entire thing.

Alright, one more thing. I know it sounds too good to be true. I mean, can you really trust something so short? Is it made by a machine? I can tell you that it is not. All of Blinkist key insight summaries are made by real people, like me and Ben, who carefully comb through the whole book and use a science-based approach to finding the key insights and turning them into something you can actually remember. You know, I think it’s just better if you just try it for yourself.

So go to, tap on Try Blinkist, and you can try it for free for 14 days, by using the voucher code radical. That’s R-A-D-I-C-A-L. Radical. Okay, now back to my talk with Sonya Renee Taylor.

Interview Cont’d

Caitlin: You said that it’s hard for you to imagine a world in which little blond and blue-eyed boys and girls were treated this way. But, when you imagine a world that is free of body shame and body terrorism, in which most of us live in a default state of radical self-love, what would you imagine? What would your day look like? What would your morning look like? What would, what would going “to work” look like? If this is utopia science fiction that you are writing about your own ideal world, defined by radical self-love, what would it look like?

Sonya: Oh, I love it so much. I had this conversation with two friends sitting at a bar, overlooking a really beautiful place in Australia, in Sydney one time. We’re like, if the world, like, was free of body terrorism and it was, you know, just the social justice utopia, what would I do with my life? And I was like, I would garden, I would, I think I would garden and birdwatch.

I think I would have, you know, the most sort of epic variety of dahlia’s that anyone has ever seen in the world. And, and I would know the names of all the birds. I think that’s what I would do, in this world. And I think, what I, what that speaks to, to me, is that there is all of this joyful creation, this joyful imagination, that, that is potential in us, that these systems strip us of, you know. That they remove us of the ability to, particularly those in the most marginalized bodies, those in the bodies the farthest away from the default body, are stripped of the space to explore what life would be like outside of body terrorism.

And so one of the things that I think is an excellent just sort of exercise, a liberatory exercise, is to be like what, what would I do with my time if I wasn’t, you know, fighting injustice in the world? If that wasn’t what it was. And I imagine that there are so many, you know, I think we would have cured cancer by now.

I think that we wouldn’t be in a climate crisis. We would be in a thriving, you know, sustainable world. I think that we would be in right relationship with animals. I think we would be living in a world where so many of the other ills that we can’t seem to solve would all of a sudden have space. They would have space to come to solution because all of this psychic energy that we spend in to either fighting these systems or upholding these systems of body terrorism. That would be freed up and I think some really amazing stuff could come from that.

Caitlin: Well, that’s a world that I would want to live in.

So then, we’ve been talking about the symptoms and problems of not living in radical self-love, but I want to get there. So if I’m packing my car for a journey back to radical self-love, what do I need to take with me?

Sonya: I love it. Almost everything you need to take with you, you already have on you. And that is a willingness, well, you might not have the willingness, but you have the ability to become present with your thoughts and your actions. And to let go of some things. I would offer that there’s also some things to leave behind on that journey. Don’t bring in your car your need to understand everything. Leave it. It is not radical self-love compatible because from the need to understand everything, becomes an unwillingness to accept when we don’t- which means we can’t accept difference.

It means we can’t allow that which is so different from us to just exist, which puts us in battle with other human beings whose lives we may not understand. So I say leave that behind. Bring along with you a willingness to look into your own thoughts, your own ideas, to lovingly inquire about them. Leave outside of the car judgment about those thoughts because often what time what happens is, we won’t look at our thoughts because we’re so busy thinking our thoughts make us bad people, that it’s better to just let them run in the background then to actually face them. And so what happens is they run in the background, but they absolutely run, and they absolutely inform the way that we move through the world.

But once we bring a consciousness to our thoughts, we actually are at choice. That’s how we create choice, is by being like oh, I thought that. Does that make sense to think that? Is that useful to think that? Is that, is that getting me towards my own sense of radical self-love or is that taking me further away? All of a sudden we are at opportunity. And every time we find ourselves being at the intersection of our thoughts and our behaviors, we are at the intersection of choosing radical self-love or choosing the old pathway. And so the other thing that I think, the last thing I would say make sure you have in the car, is what I like to call in the book, The Guidebook for Speaking French. And this is how, this is how we allow ourselves to become conscious of our thoughts, by removing the judgment that we have about the thoughts that we have. And the way that I like to talk about it is we all, like say you grew up in a francophone home. And you’re, you know, you were born, your parents said wonderful loving French things to you. You would start speaking French and you wouldn’t have to try to speak French. It simply would be a function of the immersion of the language. And the more deeply immersed you became in the language, the more proficient you would become at speaking it. Not because you’re like, you know, trying to, not because you, you know, made some serious efforts, and eventually as you got older you would make some efforts, but initially you would just be learning it because it’s what you were surrounded with. That doesn’t make you a bad French person. That doesn’t make you an evil Frenchist because you speak French. You just happen to speak French because that’s the language you grew up in. We grew up in body terrorism. We grew up speaking ableism and homophobia and transphobia and racism.

We have grown into a world that speaks those things and we would be delusional to think that somehow we manage, of all the people in the world immersed in this language, it was our most special selves that didn’t get that language. That’s just silly. But what is true, is that if I wanted to speak a different language, I would have to study. I would have to meet other people who spoke that language. I would have to practice that language myself. I would have to take active efforts to speak a new language. And sometimes I would still totally default to French because it’s the language that I grew up in. That is the function of learning how to de-indoctrinate ourselves from body terrorism, and start speaking a radical self-love language in the areas of our lives. And we’re not bad because we used to speak French. We just grew up with that language.
For me, I say that the biggest judge of character is knowing that we speak a language that harms people and choosing never to learn a new language. You know, that is the tell of character to me. So those are the things I need, I think folks need to put in the car, if they’re trying to go to radical self-love land.

Caitlin: Amazing. That’s such a helpful metaphor to think about how we learn to talk about our bodies. But, it sounds like in addition to good metaphors, we might also need traveling companions.

Sonya: Absolutely. So the, you know, in the back of the book, I include what I call 10 Tools for Radical Self-Love, which are really designed to be incredibly practical ways that we can start driving this car back towards ourselves. And number nine, I like to say that Tools 10 and Tools 9 are the most important tools in the book that you could do everything else and if you don’t do those two, you’re going to really really struggle. And Tool 9 is Be In Community. That we have to be building relationship. We don’t become fluent in a new language speaking it just to ourselves alone in our bedrooms. That’s not how fluency works. We’ve got to be immersing ourselves in as many surroundings that are speaking the language we want to learn, and so finding community that reflects the area’s you want to grow and reflects the areas that are already rich and vibrant in your life, is such an essential, essential part of a returning to a radical self-love practice.

Caitlin: So then that’s Tool 9. What’s Tool 10?

Sonya: Tool 10. Tool 10 is the most important tool in the book. And if you do this one and you don’t do the other ones, you’ll still really really really be on your way. And Tool 10 is give yourself some grace. I like to say, I like to remind people when I, when I’m doing talks that I run an entire organization whose only focus is radical self-love.

It’s all we do, it’s all we talk about and there are days when I don’t feel like I love myself or love my body. And my assignment on the days that Sonya doesn’t love this body, is to love the Sonya the doesn’t love her body, until Sonya feels like loving her body again. That’s it. I love you Sonya who doesn’t feel divine and worthy today.

I love you Sonya who, you know, has a weird pimple growing out of the side of your face. I love you Sonya whose depression feels like it’s throwing you underneath the, you know, underneath the hooves of 10 million horses. I love you. And I keep loving that Sonya until that Sonya starts to feel that love again and can embody it for herself.

And as long as we can be in that practice, remind ourselves that that’s available to us, loving the imperfect parts of ourselves, loving the parts of the don’t feel very lovable, it’s a place to always kind of return. That is, that’s the key. That’s the, the core piece of radical self-love.

Caitlin: So there are two things I like to ask all of my guests before we scram out of here. And this is the first one. If there were one central idea about radical self-love that you’d like to leave everyone listening today with, what would it be?

Sonya: It would be that radical self-love is, it is a force that is already available to us. That, by accessing it, we have the power to transform our lives and we have the power to transform the world into a more just, equitable and compassionate place for everybody, and every body.

Caitlin: For those who hear that and might scoff, how do you respond to them?

Sonya: I’m, I mean, I don’t know how you scoff at radical self-love. Like, phooey on loving oneself. You know, if someone were to scoff, I would just say like, what is what is your resistance to loving yourself? What harm has love done in the world?

Caitlin: Gorgeous. Okay. So, last thing. This is nominally a book podcast or an idea podcast that focuses on people who’ve written great books. So what have you read recently that you’ve loved?

Sonya: Ooh, I love this question. What have I read lately that I’ve loved?

Kiese Laymon’s book, his memoir, Heavy. It is so good. And it’s such a beautiful, you know, ode to blackness and southern America, and the complexity of it. And that, you know, one of the things he talks about and one of the line to uses, is in middle school that he and his friends used to say, “black abundance”. And I love, I love the idea of such a rich and beautiful ode to a time and a location that we’re taught to think of as, you know, deficient and, you know, at the scourge of American history. And what he reminds me is that, you know, even in the most complex and challenging circumstances, we can still grow abundance and that’s, yeah, that’s a joy place for me.

Caitlin: Beautiful. I’m so glad that was your recommendation. It’s such a remarkable book. I actually just recently finished it myself.

Sonya: Yes. An incredible book, incredible book.

Caitlin: Alright, Sonya Renee Taylor, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been a pleasure.

Sonya: Thank you so much for having me. I so appreciate it.

The Bookend

Ben: Welcome, to the Bookend, where we end with books.

You don’t want to say hooray, this one time.

Caitlin: No, but I can’t think of anything else to say-

Ben: That’s okay, you don’t say it.

Caitlin: aside from hooray.

Ben: So, we did it. I mean, here we are.

Caitlin: We did it.

Ben: We did it.

Caitlin: Here we are. Sonya Renee Taylor did it. She did the heavy lifting that episode.

Ben: What’s the one thing that you remember from the interview?

Caitlin: The one thing that I remember from the interview, and this is only about six weeks ago, so it was relatively recent, is that radical self-love is about, just it’s about so much more than looking in the mirror and liking your body. It’s about an orientation toward the world that allows you to be your best and your most generous, most generative, most creative self, for culture in society and do the most good for you.

The whole concept of like if you love yourself first, which sounds cheesy but I think is true. If you feel good about yourself, if you approach your being in your day with unconditional love and acceptance for who you are, you’re able to get a lot more stuff done because you’re not hung up worrying about all those other things. Yeah, I think it’s just a really freeing, radical orientation toward the world.

Ben: Yeah. I mean there’s a lot in there to take away. You don’t have a choice, you are political. That’s quite a, the implications of that are serious. I know that’s what she means and that’s what she wants it to be.

Caitlin: Mm-hmm.

Ben: I also liked her definition of radical.

Caitlin: Mm-hmm, starting at the root.

Ben: Yeah, right and that it requires action.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ben: But like you’re saying, so many of the guests that you are really passionate about bringing out to Simplify, have this self-awareness component to what they’re saying. When she says, what’s the first time you were told that something’s not okay with you?

Caitlin: Mmm-hmm. There were numerous times in this interview, that I got really choked up.

Ben: Oh, really?

Caitlin: Yeah, it was, it was really emotional for me and I think that she asks really important questions and so much of her book actually is about asking yourself important, hard questions. And, through these really simple questions that you can, you can use to interrogate what you do and what other people are doing throughout their day, it really lays bare some of the structures of power and systems going on in the background that you might not necessarily notice every day, but certainly shape who we are and how we are with each other.

Ben: Yeah.

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ben: I don’t know how to respond to that. So, do you want to just get into the books?

Caitlin: Yeah, I think that’s okay. We’ll just, we’ll leave, we’ll leave Sonya to do the deep philosophizing, and we will do what we do best, which is recommend awesome books. Yes.

Ben: Okay.

Caitlin: So you brought two today, which is great. Okay, then let’s do a, let’s do a Caitlin book sandwich. So you go first.

Ben: Okay, let’s start with a book from an author who’s been much talked about, but not in the non-fiction world, rather in the fiction book world. Did you read the book of Americanah?

Caitlin: Of course I did.

Ben: Yeah.

Caitlin: So good.

Ben: Yeah, so I’m talking about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She wrote a book that is from 2017 called Dear Ijeawele, or, A Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions.

Basically, it starts as a letter to a friend of hers, a childhood friend of hers, and the, it turns into fifteen essays, suggestions for raising a happy, feminist daughter. And what I liked about this, what I thought connected to the interview today, was about giving tools to your daughter.

So, I mean I’m a parent, but I don’t have a daughter but still, when you think about what can I give my child, even something like language, how do I talk about my body? How do I talk about happiness? How do I talk about my feelings?

Caitlin: Yeah.

Ben: It’s something that you can’t overlook. So, she’s approaching this from a, from a different perspective, maybe as a mother but I do think this is a universal issue similar to Sonya Renee Taylor’s points.

Caitlin: Mm-hmm.

Ben: And that’s my first one, Dear Ijeawele.

Caitlin: Really good recommendation. Thanks, Ben.

Ben: Yeah, you’re up.

Caitlin: All right, so, there was a part of the interview where Sonya Renee and I talked about Utopia, and she said something like, her idea of Utopia, she would wake up and she would do a lot of gardening. And that got me thinking about Utopia and I don’t know what my Utopia would look like, I’m still developing that, that outline for myself, but there is a really cool book out there, it’s written by a guy named Rutger Bregman. He’s a historian. The book is called Utopia for Realists. It’s pretty new. It’s this radical, there’s that word again, rethinking of how a society functions, really, from everything from work to personal life.

And the premise is that we’ve got unprecedented wealth and material comfort, but we’ve still got all of these problems, from soul destroying jobs to inequality and poverty, and Bregman, much like Sonya Renee Taylor, much like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, makes these really doable suggestions. This is yet another, like, tool book essentially for what Utopia could look like, how we can get closer to it, what we can do to heal the situation that we’re in now on our planet to make it a little bit better.

Ben: Oof.

Caitlin: Yeah, Utopia for Realists, pick it on up.

Ben: Right, I like that. Okay, so we have,

Caitlin: Hopefully more light content for today.

Ben: Right. I actually do have sort of a lighter one.

Caitlin: That’s good.

Ben: Which is, which is, the book Travel As a Political Act, by Rick Steves.

Caitlin: I said lighter, Ben.

Ben: It is. It is! It’s traveling. The subtitle is, Change the World One Trip at a Time.

Caitlin: Hmm

Ben: and Rick Steves is a historian and a travel writer. This book came out in 2009, but was updated recently like 2018, I think. And it’s basically, I mean, it’s cool, it’s like go travel. You should, that’s the best way to overcome preconceptions. And that it’s okay to be afraid of other cultures and the unknown, just go there, and be open and talk about it. So he talks about going to Iran, for example, and to the Balkans, and to places where maybe many of our listeners would not put on, like, their honeymoon destination list let’s say.

Caitlin: Uh-huh. Yeah.

Ben: But I, I don’t know, I think the idea also ties, again, radical re-thinking, radical Utopia, giving people the tools-

Caitlin: Yeah

Ben: to get out there.

Caitlin: We can just remix all those words into like one long book title, Radical Self Utopia Love Travel.

Ben: A bestseller.

Caitlin: Yeah, an SEO-able bestseller. I think that should be our goal for the offseason of Simplify.

Ben: Right.

Caitlin: All right, so we’re off to create our SEO-able bestseller, but we want you to know that Simplify was produced by me, Caitlin Schiller, Ben Schuman-Stoler and Christoph Meyer.

Ben: Cool. And right, Caitlin and I work here at Blinkist, which actually, all the books we recommended you can find on Blinkist. If you go to and hit on the link on the top right, you can put in the code radical. And R-A-D-I-C-A-L, nailed it, again. Good speller. R-A-D-I-C-A-L. You can try out Blinkist for 14 days free. If you don’t know what Blinkist is, it’s an App you can use on iOS, Android or the web and we take the world’s best non-fiction books and condense them into these little, easy to digest 15 to 20 minute pieces you can listen to. Or, well we call them Blinks.

Caitlin: You can listen to them or you can read them.

Ben: Yeah, whatever you like.

Caitlin: And it gets you all the main insights from these really great best-sellers in like a sixteenth of the time it would normally take you to read the book.

Ben: Yeah.

Caitlin: It’s pretty cool. You should check it out. Look at The Body’s Not An Apology there, and then read the whole thing because her voice is something that you’d really, you’d miss if you do

Ben: Is there an audiobook, actually?

Caitlin: I’m actually not sure, I read it, but, yeah. Cool. So, if you want to reach out to us, let us know what you thought of this episode or really anything else. You can reach me at Twitter at @CaitlinSchiller and Ben is @bsto. You can reach the entire podcast crew at [email protected]. Without any further ado, checkin’ out!

Ben: Alright, cool episode. Checkin’ out.

Caitlin: Checkin’ out.

Facebook Twitter Tumblr Instagram LinkedIn Flickr Email Print