Backtalk: Back to School

This week, Dahlia and Amy get into the back-to-school season. We spend more than a decade in school developing our worldview and learning how to be decent human beings. What happens when the people in charge of our education are closed-minded and unwilling to accept social progress? From schools with Confederate namesakes to creating a more inclusive curriculum, here’s a look at all the ways our education can shape us.


Based on the Patricia Highsmith romance novel, The Price of Salt (1952), Carol is a gorgeous film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara about unrequited lesbian love in an unaccepting time. 


Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino covers internet culture, scammers, reality shows, and so much more. This essay collection is truly an instant classic of the worst decade. 


“Darkest Hour” by Joy Crookes


Photo credit: Gábor Adonyi


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DAHLIA: Did you know your phone can be a powerful force for change? With CREDO Mobile, it can because credo stands for women’s rights, the environment, and more and donates $150,000 every month to groups like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Switch now, and you’ll also get a year of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream on us. Learn more at That’s
[theme music plays]
Welcome to Backtalk, the feminist response to pop culture podcast. I’m Dahlia Balcazar.
AMY: I’m Amy Lam.
DAHLIA: We start every episode by talking about our pop culture moments. What’s yours this week, Amy?
AMY: So, my pop culture moment is shouting out former Popaganda and former Backtalk cohost Sarah Mirk! She used to also be the online editor at Bitch Media. And I think longtime listeners will remember Sarah and her amazing spirit. Love her. But right now, she’s doing a project called A Comic a Day, and it is so good. You can check it out on her Twitter or Instagram, and it’s @SarahMirk, S-a-r-a-h M-i-r-k. And essentially, she makes a mini-comic every day. And it goes from very serious topics about like bailing out folks who are in ICE detention, in what ways can we help, to talking about like the recent media circus around the protests that were in Portland to like really silly things like the stray cats and dogs that she meets or the types of gifs that you can give somebody who’s over 30. So, she’s doing a comic a day, and they’re always kind of like really quippy and fun and interesting. And also shout out to Sarah, but her artistry has improved so much throughout the year. ‘Cause I’ve seen her do her drawings for a while now, and she’s just like so much—I mean not to say that she was terrible before—but you know how like when you practice an art form, you just get better at it. And I think that she’s just getting so much better. So, I just wanted to say check out her stuff. Even though she’s not with us on Backtalk, she’s still doing amazing work. And I love following her daily life through this.
DAHLIA: Me too. So, Sarah’s more than halfway now through her year of comics, and I find myself looking forward to them every day. Like you said, Amy, they’re like a really good mix of really important topics but also really good the cat and dog comics.
AMY: [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: So, you don’t have to split our cat versus dog listeners. Yeah, I just really enjoyed them, and I think it’s for someone who doesn’t read a lot of graphic novels or comics, it’s been really surprising also to see what her artistry comes up with every day.
AMY: I will say that she has a cat now, but it’s like a repeated theme that her and her partner are yearning for a dog also, so. [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: Okay, but there’s a cat also.
BOTH: [Laugh.]
AMY: [Through gritted teeth.] But she REALLY wants a dog!
BOTH: [Laugh.]
DAHLIA: My pop culture moment this week is that I was reading through the news, and I saw that there is a special edition of Monopoly for sale only at Target, and it is socialist Monopoly.
AMY: Wow.
DAHLIA: And that might sound fun, but actually, someone bought the game and reviewed it and took a lot of photos for Twitter. It’s actually like anti-socialist Monopoly. So, here’s an actual card that you get. It says, “Minimum wage increase! Sucks to be a small business owner.”
AMY: Wha???!!! [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: And it’s especially sad because Monopoly was created as an anti-capitalist game. It was invented in 1984 by a woman named Lizzie Maggie. It was called the Landlord’s Game, and its stated goal was to demonstrate the evils of accruing vast sums of wealth at the expense of others. And I know that’s not how people see Monopoly now, that now people see it as like learning how capitalism gets you lots of wealth. So, it’s especially, especially ironic that this socialist Monopoly version just like is so clearly playing Republican talking points about the evils of socialism and extolling the virtues of capitalism even though that’s exactly the opposite of what Monopoly was supposed to do!
AMY: Wow. So, I Googled it while you were talking, and it is wild looking!
DAHLIA: [Laughs.]
AMY: I mean first of all, I guess I should’ve known. ‘Cause when you said there’s like a socialist Monopoly, I was like, wow, that sounds amazing. And then, you’re like, sold by Target, so.
BOTH: [Laugh.]
AMY: I already knew that, I was like okay. And then Googled it, and I’m looking at the Twitter thread of Nick Kapur who talked about it. And just even the box itself looks like scary, like trying to make socialism really scary.
AMY: And the tagline is, “Winning is for capitalists.” And you see like the old mustachioed Monopoly man, and everything’s red outlined. And he’s holding out his top hat like he’s begging for money.
DAHLIA: Oh no!
AMY: And then, people are throwing cash into it! Oh my god! This makes me so upset! This is very highly upsetting! [Laughs.] But also hilarious.
DAHLIA: That’s what I’m saying.
AMY: Yeah, but also hilarious. But wow! This is like at so anti-socialist. But I’m also not surprised that a multinational corporate board game company put this out. It’s just the timing of it is really kind of fucked up. But it’s good for a laugh I guess? [Chuckles.]
DAHLIA: It’s back to school to learn about the real evils of socialism and the joys of capitalism.
[cutesy bells ring]
AMY: And I wanna take this time to thank folks who are heading over to iTunes to rate and review us. Like I’m always saying like a broken record, we read them, we appreciate them, and it really helps to boost visibility for the podcast so other folks can find us. So, I wanted to read a review by somebody named Irks Perks. And it says “Love Amy and Dahlia and obsessed with this smart, sharp, wildly cool content. However please fix the volume levels. My bedraggled eardrums beg this of you because my little sausage fingers can’t keep up with the volume changes. Thanks. Love you.” [Laughs.]
I read this review, and I was like hmm. ‘Cause I listened back to our episode, and I don’t notice the volume changes. And actually, ‘cause I listen to a lot of podcasts and I’m actually sensitive to things like that because I love a well-produced podcast. And our producer, Cher, I think has been doing an amazing job with the levels. And I will pass this note on to Cher who’s listening [laughing] right now! Obviously. But we thank you for your feedback. And I also wanted to point out that in a review that says to please fix the volume levels, the subject of the review is “Loud and proud.” So, I think all of that combined just made this review really funny to me. [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: I love this review.
Yeah, but I was also thinking I wonder if there are moments where the volume peaks, and it’s actually when either me or Dahlia are laughing. So, then there’s that paranoid part of me that’s just like, oh my god. Is this another dig about us giggling or laughing, which I don’t think it is. [Laughs.] But I really just can’t help but go there. That’s what my brain does. But yes, we received this feedback, and we super appreciate it. And if you have a moment and you have something to tell us about ways in which we can improve or what you’re liking about the podcast, please head over to iTunes and rate and review. Thank you so much.
[cutesy bells ring]
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[cutesy bells ring]
AMY: So, tis the season for our back to school episode. We’re actually recording this a couple weeks early, so we might miss any new news about education. But there’s so much about what schools are and aren’t doing for their students that it’s actually a very evergreen topic. And I did wanna say that like as somebody who graduated in May and seeing some of my classmates who are still in school or seeing people were entering school right now, I’m lowkey jealous [laughing] ‘cause I love back to school season. And I’m kind of sad that I’m not getting to take a part of it. And my partner did say like, “We can go to the store, and you can look at [laughing] stationery if you want.”
DAHLIA: Amy, I went to a university bookstore the other day, and I was just walking around looking at syllabi. And I was like, maybe I’ll just read these books and just learn a lot.
AMY: Yeah. So, I guess we’re just exposing that we’re just really huge nerds.
BOTH: [Chuckle.]
AMY: So, the reason why we wanted to talk about this, because in our last episode, we talked about the importance of The New York Times 1619 Project, which I actually got a physical copy of. So, it’s been so much, like it’s been really enlightening to read, and I’m really appreciating it. And with the 1619 Project we thought it’s so important because it’s a reframing of history and how the things that we learn in school, especially with history and humanities, shapes our worldview in such profound ways. So, think about all the important things that you learn while at school, versus being at home or at church or even from TV and pop culture, i.e. me. I learned a lot about life through TV.
And so, when we wanted to talk about this because for example, recently I read a Twitter thread from the founder of the American Indians in Children’s Literature—her name is Dr. Debbie Reese—where she called out the Florida Department of Education who just released a reading list for students, and it included some very obviously racist works. And then there’s also the recent controversy about the Texas State textbooks where there was like some students brought home a worksheet called “The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View” where it asks students to list pros and cons of slavery, which is so wild. And there was also another history textbook controversy in Texas. I’m not sure if it’s the same book where they portrayed Mexicans in a very stereotypical way, like about being lackadaisical about their work ethic. And in that specific case, the textbook publisher is run by someone, he was a former Texas Education Board member, which makes you realize that the people in charge of our education have so much power in how and what we learn.
And I’ve seen efforts from authors who talk about decolonizing our bookshelves, decolonizing the literary canon, which I think on the surface means to make it less white, less straight, less male because there’s this understanding that it would only make literature more interesting and more engaging. So, we wanted to think about ways in which school could benefit from a kind of decolonization so that we aren’t and our kids aren’t just learning hateful bullshit in school.
DAHLIA: I also recently went to my local library to read a copy of the 1619 Project on paper, which is so beautiful. So glad I got to see it on paper. But something super shocking that I learned from reading is that unlike math and reading, states are not required to meet academic content standards for teaching social studies and U.S. History. Flat out, I did not know that at all. And so, what that means is that every state in the country puts together their own curriculum about talking about U.S. history. There is no agreement about what parts of U.S. history will be focused on or what the through line will look like. In fact, in 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center researched 12 commonly-used U.S. History textbooks, surveyed 1,700 social studies teachers, high school social studies teachers, and 1,000 high-school seniors to sort of figure out what they’re being taught about specifically American slavery. And that research found that there was widespread slavery illiteracy among the students. More than a third of students thought the Emancipation Proclamation formally ended slavery when it was actually the 13th Amendment. Sixty percent of teachers said that they didn’t think their textbook’s coverage of slavery was accurate. And then these textbooks received a failing grade of 46 percent.
This research was making me think about my own experience with history in schools. I moved around a little bit when I was a kid, and so I know from firsthand experience that growing up in California, for instance, you learn a lot of mission history, which is very, very different than when I was in school in Kansas when we learned a lot of Civil War history. And it shouldn’t be a surprise, although I had, again, I’m very shocked to know that math and reading, which of course are very, very valuable skills, but to say that  there are standards for math and reading, but there are no standards for what U.S. history or what understandings of civics and government should be the standard for any U.S. high school student, I mean no wonder there’s this very discombobulated, uneven understanding of not just U.S. history but the parts of U.S. history that many are eager to pass politely over, specifically slavery.
AMY: Yeah. And you had mentioned that more than a third of the students thought that the Emancipation Proclamation formally ended slavery. I am one of those third because I also thought the same thing. And I think that the inadequate lessons around enslaved Africans and in history influence how we think about I think the place of Africans in America is that it really, it can really influence how we think about social justice in present day. Like if we don’t truly understand the legacy of slavery, then how are we to understand the Black Lives Matter movement? And I think there’s this very cynical part of me, of course, that I maybe can feel very conspiracy theory, but I don’t think it is. I think it’s just real life, is that I think, in a way, not just a lack of regulation and standards, is that the shapelessness of, especially with around history or humanities curriculum, really does help to support white supremacist ideology in a very lowkey way, but it works.
You know, like we were saying in the last episode, when we’re talking about mass movements about how Black Lives Matter movement and protests often are looked at very negatively because some people just don’t understand what the Black Lives Matter movement is fighting for. And I think that if you’re unable and don’t have the education to connect it to the hundreds of years of systemic oppression based on enslavement of Africans, then how can you be sympathetic and empathetic to a movement now about saving and protecting Black folks? So, I think that the lack of an adequate education just continues to breed more ignorant people.
And you talked about how when you were in California, there was a lot about mission history in California, and it’s so true. ‘Cause I grew up in California and Southern California, and we learned so much about missions and their work in California. And I remember even like in third or fourth grade at my elementary school, one of the things that you kinda looked forward to doing was that everybody had to do a diorama of a mission. And it was like a fourth grade thing that every fourth grader did. And you go and you buy popsicle sticks or clay or whatever, and you model the thing. But the thing about the mission system in California, which I just literally learned this like in the past year because I’m writing historical fiction book about 1850s California, is how violent and abhorrent the mission system was to Native and Indigenous folks in California to even the Mexicans who were living California, who were at the time called the Californios. But I cannot even remember an iota of learning about how violent, how much violence was happening on these missions. And I think that it’s like a whitewashing of history. And to think like oh, you know, in California, these Spaniards came over, and they put up these missions! And they’re like, aren’t they cute adobe houses, buildings?
DAHLIA: [Laughs.]
AMY: You know, like that’s how we learned about it. Like look at these really cool adobe homes. But not talking about the treatment of Indigenous folks or Californios at the hands of the folks who ran the missions. And I think that that flattens so much, and it doesn’t give us a full understanding of history. And it’s just it’s such a disservice.
DAHLIA: Speaking of California actually, this year, California lawmakers are, many are trying to make Ethnic Studies a graduation requirement in high schools and at Cal State Universities. If this passed, it would affect 6.5 million California students, and it would be the first such requirement in the nation. And right now, there’s a lot of debate about what should be included on that curriculum. And again, totally expectedly, there are a lot of conservative and Republican pundits and lawmakers who are essentially saying like, this doesn’t have a place in our history canon. Actually, there’s this horrible quote in a LA Times article from Williamson Evers who’s a research fellow at Stanford. This is him complaining about the proposed Ethnic Studies curriculum. He said, “Instead of an objective account of the history of ethnic groups and their current situation, this is a biased portrait emphasizing suffering and victimization, serving as a kind of roadmap to create ideological activists based on racial identity. Will you be graded on having the politically correct answers?”
Ugh! What a horrible quote. But it reminds me of like so many things that we’ve been talking about, Amy, in the past few weeks about what does objectivity look like? And how so often the people who claim we should be talking about things objectively are the people who are trying to, you say, whitewash or hide what this researcher describes as suffering and victimization, which absolutely happened throughout American history to many, many people!
AMY: And I think that what that quote highlights is how those in power are very invested in the status quo and staying in power. And then how those in power, it’s often their narratives that are supposed to be, like you’re saying, that quote-unquote objective narrative. And that any challenges to it would just be like some social justice warrior, P.C. culture bullshit. And I think that that framing is so ignorant and so limiting. And it’s like it’s not even dog whistling ‘cause they just say it out right! Like you can’t let Ethnic Studies run rampant ‘cause they’re gonna learn about shit! [Laughs.] They’re gonna learn about how these systems that have been in place for decades and centuries were made to oppress them, you know. And how this notion of American exceptionalism is really brutal and violent and can only exist because of its subjugation of people. And I think when things like this pop up, you can often tell whether or not it’s worth supporting by seeing who’s opposing it, right?
DAHLIA: [Chuckles.]
AMY: [Laughs.] So if somebody like that is saying that about this proposed curriculum, I am 100 percent for this curriculum. And it’s also in such bad faith too for people in education or educators to be like no! Why would we want them to be educated in this specific way? Why would we want to expand their horizons and learn more things that are outside of the canon? There’s like a fear there, like I said, a fear that once you learn this shit, you will become radicalized in a way. ‘Cause I know I did when I was in high school, you know? And speaking specifically about History, I really disliked History. I think from like middle school on, I disliked it so much because it was so boring! [Laughs.] It was utterly boring because it was just about like there was the 19-whatever war. And then like this other war happened, and then these people got this. And I didn’t process it. I didn’t like it. It just was so just disinteresting to me. But it shouldn’t be because it’s literally about the founding of nations, and it’s about brokerages between politicians and things. It’s like in a way, it’s like historical reality TV shows, so you think I would really fuck with that shit. But I didn’t.
BOTH: [Laugh.]
AMY: Because it was done in such a way where I think I already intuitively know this is about white men in power trading land like it was nothing. And I just remember being like so really disinterested in it. I remember I had in my freshman year in high school, I had a History class. It was my first period class. And because it was my first period class, I slept so much in that class.
DAHLIA: [Laughs.]
AMY: [Laughing.] I slept so much! Because I was so bored and because I felt like nothing was relevant to me. And I think that it means something for students to see themselves in these reported accounts of history. As somebody who’s the child of refugees, I would have loved like an entire chapter or whatever about the Vietnam-U.S. conflict, right? But not about it in terms of like well, when would this battle happen? Or what army force did what? But more about the people involved, the lives that were affected, like humanizing folks and their stories in this historical context. But none of that existed. So, I think that it was also true that I was also kind of very disinterested in my English classes sometimes because we read so many boring books by white men to the point where like oh my gosh! I’m really confessing something now. But we would have summer reading lists, and sometimes I would just be so bored by them I would have my best friend at the time read them ‘cause he’s like a very fast reader. Actually, why did I say best friend at the time? He’s still my best friend.
DAHLIA: [Laughs.]
AMY: But I would have—so, shout-out to Gus—I would have Gus read the books. He’s such a fast reader. And then he would tell me the gist of it so that I could talk about it the first month of class when we came back from summer. And because I was so bored by it. And to think that I’m a fucking writer now, you know what I mean? But I was so bored by what was being given to me to process and to consume because it didn’t reflect who I am. And I don’t understand why people think that it’s harmful to open shit up so that we can learn more things then already exist. And it’s just so disingenuous to hear remarks like what that man had said.
DAHLIA: You know, a lot of these things are happening in different parts of the country, but it seems like they’re really echoing a lot of the same themes. Something I’m thinking about is that an NAACP chapter has just filed a federal lawsuit against Hanover County in Virginia and its school board, arguing that the names of two schools honoring Confederate leaders violates the Constitution. The suit is targeting Lee Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School. Robert E. Lee was the leader of the Confederate States Army, Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy, and Stonewall Jackson was a Confederate general. And so, those are like three names all just squished together and into Lee Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School. And you know, it’s like you’re saying, Amy, these curricula that do not show students of color, Black students, marginalized students themselves. I mean we see that not just reflected in the curriculum but reflected in who teaches in public schools, who teaches the majority of students, but also something like this. What is a school literally named?
In fact here, at these two schools in Virginia, the sports teams are literally the Confederates, and the other sports team is the Rebels. And it’s reminding me of sort of so much of this conversation about Confederate monuments. And yet another layer of why we need history is the fact that so many Confederate monuments, the names of these schools, things like that didn’t come from the Civil War. They came from post-Civil War Jim Crow laws in the 20th century. Names like this, statues like this were erected across the South to make people of color and Black people feel excluded, to make them feel as if they didn’t have a place, to intimidate them. And it’s the same thing that I see, I think, in these curricula. It’s schools saying you’re not a part of our history. You’re not a part of U.S. history. What we teach in this school is our history, not yours.
AMY: And it’s so wild because I think that the naming of actual structures where students are forced to go into to study this stuff, it’s so, it’s so violent on a psychological level, you know? It’s like every day, go into this building that’s named after somebody who you know doesn’t believe in your humanity.
AMY: Like I remembered when I was at University of Mississippi, there’s this building. And I don’t think that, I’m looking it up right now, and the building itself wasn’t named after him. But there was a section of this building that was named after Trent Lott. Trent Lott who is famously a former U.S. senator from Mississippi and just a hateful motherfucker.
DAHLIA: [Laughs.]
AMY: But his name was on the building itself! ‘Cause it was for the Trent Lott Leadership Institute. And you know, I would often walk by that building and think like how fucked up would it be to be from a marginalized community that this man attacked and to have to go into it every day to receive your education from a school that’s taking a ton of your money? They didn’t even serve very good food sometimes.
BOTH: [Laugh.]
AMY: And their student union. But I’m just saying how much is that gonna probably wear you down in such like fucked up ways?
You know, I was thinking back about when I was at school at Ole Miss is that I thought about, ‘cause the building that we went to a lot for the Creative Writing MFA was called Bondurant Hall. And I was just very happy to learn that he wasn’t some famous racist. He was just a former football coach, and they named this building after him. I don’t know anything about him besides that. But to think that I personally felt a sense of relief thinking like I’m not going every day into this building named after this very horrible person. And it’s important, and I think is right for the NAACP to make an example of these schools to say, you can’t do this! You can’t do this because it’s a form of literally structural discrimination against students who were the targets of these men who you named these buildings after.
DAHLIA: This is also reminding me of the politician Newt Gingrich’s response to the New York Times 1619 Project. He did a horrible tweet about it and then doubled down in a Fox News interview where he was saying that the 1619 Project is propaganda.
AMY: Mm!
DAHLIA: And I hear sort of echoes of that in these arguments against Ethnic Studies curriculums. And what’s going on in California is not the first time that there have been huge statewide debates over curricula like this history curricula or Ethnic Studies curricula. And it’s really, it’s upsetting, it’s enraging to hear people, like established, well-known, educated people, politicians, educators say things like, “History is objective the way we teach it, but if we decenter white heteronormative patriarchy, that’s propaganda. Like our story is the truth.” And investigating, like what the 1619 Project is doing, is looking at deeper contacts and following through lines of history to now and examining where did our medical practices come from, where do our law enforcement practices come from. Such fascinating investigations into how do the structures that we live with and take for granted, how do they originate in other people’s, did they originate in other people’s oppression? How do they contribute to other people’s oppression? And to label that as propaganda merely because it is decentering the norm, again, is not a surprise, but is, I think, really harmful to the many, many, many, many students in this country who are not white, you know.
So many of these conversations assume, so many of these conversations that are against expanding curricula to talk about Black people and people of color and marginalized people more directly, they just assume the position of whiteness to the exclusion of any kind of marginalization that these students surely feel in their lives. These students are not not aware of Black Lives Matter or ICE raids in their towns. The issues of racism and marginalization and oppression not only did they begin in the horrible violence that started with the settling of the United States, but those have direct threads to the present. And labeling that as propaganda is shortsighted and just woefully ignorant in a very depressing way.
[cutesy bells ring]
At the end of every episode of Backtalk we talk about something we’re watching, reading, and listening to. Amy, what are you watching?
AMY: So, I am watching Carol and I actually mentioned it briefly ‘cause I had a search our podcast archives to see if I had recommended it before. It turns out I had mentioned it very briefly during our holiday episode at the end of last year. But I want to say very specifically watch Carol.
BOTH: [Laugh.]
AMY: I had to watch them on Netflix. I believe it’s still on Netflix, so and I think you can catch it on other streaming platforms. But it is such a beautiful movie! And it is based on a romance novel by Patricia Highsmith that was published in 1952, and it was originally titled The Price of Salt. It is just such a gorgeous movie with so much yearning and desire, so you just already know that it’s going to be like a queer film because there was so much yearning. So much yearning. And such amazing performances by Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara. And Sarah Paulson also shows up, and anything that Sarah Paulson is in, I will watch ‘cause I fucking love her work! She’s so good.
DAHLIA: [Laughs.]
AMY: She just has such a great pensive face. And in this film—spoiler alert—but she does play a thwarted lover. But it is so good and so lovely. And I think that when I had last mentioned it, I talked about it in terms of its aesthetics. It’s just so gorgeous to look at. It’s such a beautiful and quiet film. And I just recommend it if you haven’t watched it. If you have a Netflix password, check it out. It is just such a nice, calming thing to watch. And I just think it’s good to watch especially during back to school season if you’re heading back to school, and you just want something to soothe your brain from the stress of going back to school. Check out Carol. It is so good.
DAHLIA: I have an addendum to the Carol recommendation, which is that Carol is so good. I totally agree with you. But go see it, and then after you’ve seen Carol, you should google “Kate McKinnon, Carol” because for some awards show or something like that, the Saturday Night Live actress Kate McKinnon did this skit where she stands in. They use real footage from Carol, but then she’s making jokes, and it is so funny!
AMY: [Laughing.]
DAHLIA: I love it. So, watch both of those.
AMY: Okay, I’m definitely watching that.
DAHLIA: Yeah, you would love it.
My [laughs] my read pick is Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino. I’m savoring this book. I bought it so I could read it at the beach, and I’m just like still savoring it through the end of the summer. Jia Tolentino is a New Yorker writer. She writes a lot about internet culture. But Trick Mirror is a collection of essays about sort of fractures at the center of our culture. Some of the essays are about the nightmare social internet, another about reality shows, scammers, optimization. The cover says that it’s, “An instant classic of the worst decade,” and I think that’s like a really good way to describe it. It’s just like such smart, incisive, witty cultural criticism about just the terrible times we live in. I love it. It’s really, really good. So, I recommend really highly Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino.
AMY: “An instant classic of the worst decade.” That sounds like a line you wrote.
BOTH: [Laugh.]
AMY: So, I’m unsurprised that you love this book.
AMY: Speaking of [winding down her laughter], I have the listen pick, and this song is called “Darkest Hour.” But it is not like a downer. It’s really about being there for somebody at their darkest hour. It is by Joy Crookes. I found this as I was just sort of like scrolling through YouTube, finding very chill music to listen to. And I just really love her sultry voice. It’s very mellow. It’s got some R&B vibes to it. And I like Joy Crookes’s story. She was born in London. She’s a Londoner. And she’s Bangladeshi Irish. And so, I’ve seen her talk in interviews about her upbringing, and she talks about how her dad introduced her to Van Morrison and Sinead O’Connor. And I fuck with anybody who was influenced by Sinead O’Connor. She’s such a powerhouse. So, I just really love this track. It’s “Darkest Hour” by Joy Crookes.
♪ “Motorola was the pebble phone/
And all your cigarettes were Marlboro/
Orange shadows on the way back home” ♪
AMY: Thanks for listening!
DAHLIA: Thanks for listening.
♪  “All the memories our Castle holds/
When heavy hearts were not unusual/
I’d have to meet you at the corner shop/
All the years that I spent indigo/
My father’s arms were indestructible/

When it all falls, when it all falls down/
Tame your teardrops, never doubt/
When it all falls, when it all falls down/
You call me and I’ll be round….” ♪
DAHLIA: Thanks for listening to Backtalk. This show is produced by Cher Vincent. Bitch Media is a reader- and listener-supported feminist nonprofit. If you wanna support the show and our work, please head over to and donate.
by Amy Lam
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Amy Lam was a contributing editor and co-host of Backtalk at Bitch Media. Find her at & Twitter / Instagram.

by Dahlia Balcazar
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Dahlia Balcazar was a senior editor at Bitch Media, the co-host of the podcast Backtalk, and the host of the live show Feminist Snack Break. She’s passionate about horror films, ’90s music, girl gangs, and Shirley Jackson. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.