Aug 26, 2011
This week, Sarah Koenig hosts, as we tackle the thing we all hate to love: Gossip. That's right; we've got rumor, we've got innuendo, and we've got a story of gossipers gone pro. Sarah even makes a compelling case that in some places, gossip could very well be saving lives. But you didn't hear it from us.
- In Malawi, in southeast Africa, not gossiping can be worse than gossiping. Sarah interviews a young Malawian woman named Hazel Namandingo, who explains that because so many people have HIV and AIDS in Malawi, they often rely on gossip to figure out who's safe to date or marry. It turns out this kind of gossip is the basis for a huge research project about AIDS in Malawi. For 10 years, a sociologist named Susan Watkins has been collecting journals filled with gossip about AIDS. Watkins hired local people to write the journals—to just listen to what people were saying in their communities about the virus, and then write it down. What Watkins learned from reading them bucked much of the conventional wisdom about how rural Africans were dealing with the epidemic. (Plus, they're really entertaining.) There's a U Penn website that explains the Malawi Journals Project. And an NGO in Malawi called Invest in Knowledge has catalogued the journals. (30 minutes)
- Chicago writer Rebecca Makkai bring us the story of a reality television producer attempting to gossip love into existence—and just how complicated that gets. This fiction story originally appeared in the journal Crazyhorse. Rebecca is the author of the novel The Borrower, and "The November Story" is part of her collection-in-progress Music for Wartime. (18 minutes)