September 1, 2017

Private Geography

Everyone walks around on their own private map of the world. The places we’re from and how they made us, whether we like it or not.

Courtesy Calvin Chimes


Ira talks to Australian novelist Gerald Murnane. He’s never left Australia. He’s never been on a plane. And then he was nominated for the Melbourne Prize for Literature, a prize which asks the recipients to spend half the cash prize on international travel. Ira talks to Helen Garner who wrote about what happened, in an essay in her book Everywhere I Look. Murnane’s best known novel is probably The Plains. He has two books coming out soon: Border Districts and Stream System. (6 minutes)

Act One

Vouching Towards Bethlehem

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is from Grand Rapids, Michigan. So is This American Life producer Susan Burton. During Devos’s nomination hearings, critics accused her of never having set foot in a public school. But it turns out that years ago she did—as a volunteer mentor. Susan returned to Grand Rapids to find out what DeVos's experience in a public school in her hometown can tell us about her vision for education in this country. (29 minutes)

Act Two

Kids in the Hall

Will McMillan found a home in the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses when he was a teenager. Ultimately he was kicked out of the church. Disfellowshipped. But he can’t help himself. He still believes. Producer Neil Drumming, who was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, talks to Will. (20 minutes)