Stacy recommends: Octavia’s Parables podcast

The title:

Octavia’s Parables


The program started in June of 2020. It has continued on a more-or-less weekly basis since then, with the exception of a two-and-a-half month break between December and February.

How to listen:

Google “Octavia’s Parables” to see your options. I listen to it on Apple Podcasts. I’d recommend starting with last year’s episodes and working your way up to the present.

The hosts:

Author-activist-facilitator Adrienne Maree Brown and musician-activist Toshi Reagon. They’re both hardcore Octavia Butler fans: Brown edited Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements; Reagon wrote an opera based on Butler’s book, Parable of the Sower.

The gist:

Octavia’s fans have been saying for years that she predicted many of the big-time horrors that have transpired in the U.S. over the last several years: the tyrant leader, the pandemic, the increasing violence of the state, the sped-up destruction of the planet, the economic disintegration of communities. Last year, Brown and Reagon honored Butler’s prescience podcast style with a breakdown of every chapter of Parable of the Sower.

The science fiction novel takes place in the mid-2020s, when teenage protagonist Lauren Olamina is developing a religion called Earthseed in an effort to save her community and humanity. Her gift and her curse is a “hyperempathy” that makes her feel the suffering and the pleasure that she sees other people experiencing. She is what I imagine people mean when they say God is a woman.

“God is change.”

–From The Book of the Living in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower

Brown and Reagon have gravedigger-deep conversations about Lauren’s mission, her existential dilemmas, and her family’s push to build community and just stay alive. The Olamina family’s struggles are the prism through which Brown and Reagon deconstruct the world’s present-day woes, while reflecting on their own lives and challenges. The resulting dialogue is philosophy lesson, personal introspection, and social justice rallying cry all in one. Each episode ends with a set of “questions to ponder” that you can chew on for at least a week.

After their Parable of the Sower journey, they began breaking down Parable of the Talents. (I haven’t gotten to those episodes yet).

“What is childhood in an apocalypse?”

-Adrienne Maree Brown, reflecting on Octavia Butler’s work and relating it to the current times

Who should listen:

If you’ve read the books you know how the stories end, but Brown and Reagon will take you back through them with a level of detail and analysis that will give you a new appreciation for their depth. If you’ve never read them, the podcast is an incredible introduction. Read each chapter before you listen to Brown and Reagon talk about it, unless you’re fine with spoilers (they tell everything).

One more thing:

The theme music. It’s from Reagon’s opera, and it gives me chills every time I hear it.

If you want more:

Read any one of Octavia’s books – or all of them, if you can.

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