Folklife Friday is a weekly digest of arts and culture articles, podcasts, and videos from across the web. Read on for a selection of the week’s best cultural heritage pieces, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for a new set of weekly picks.
Joni Mitchell: Fear of a Female Genius
What could a twenty-three-year-old girl know about “both sides” of life? It’s a question Lindsay Zoladz poses in this article on Joni Mitchell’s longstanding legacy. Tracing the trajectory of the beloved singer-songwriter, Zoladz makes the case for female artists with an equal, if not rivaling, gusto. “I was struck by how many of Mitchell’s greatest successes sprung directly from her ability to tune out the men who so authoritatively doubted her, who told her, simply, assertively, that the way she did things wasn’t the way things were done.”
Redefining Jewish Authenticity: An Interview with Eli Valley
In Diaspora Boy: Comics on Crisis in America and Israel, writer and artist Eli Valley uses satire to complicate notions of Jewish identity, namely the implicit assumption that “extremes are our norms.” In this interview, Valley reflects on his body of work, how Kafka still inspires him, and what the future holds for those looking to both honor the past and forge a new future. “When people ask me who my readership is, the obvious answer is me and my friends, but the longer answer is ghosts from the past and ghosts from the future.”
“Annotated African American Folktales” Reclaims Stories Passed Down from Slavery
“[These folktales] have that magical quality,” says literature professor Maria Tatar. “They give us mysteries wrapped in enigmas inside riddles. We have to respond to them. We have to figure them out.” In this NPRinterview, Tatar and colleague Henry Louis Gates, Jr., speak to the new anthology The Annotated African American Folk Tales, the complicated and continued history of these stories, and their newfound place in the cultural zeitgeist. “It’s like links in a chain, and these chains go back hundreds of years,” Gates says. “Our job is to put them in a form in which they can be consumed by a whole new generation.”
Annotating the First Page of the First Navajo-English Dictionary
In the new essay collection This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home, writer Danielle Geller explores the complex history of the Navajo language, chiefly the shame and hardship embedded in “words better left unspoken.” Reflecting on the construction of identity in translation, she writes, “It is one thing to play dress-up, to imitate pronunciations and understanding. It is another thing to think or dream or live in a language not your own.”
Tiny Desk Concert: Natalia LaFourcade
Nominated for a Latin Grammy, Mexican singer-songwriter Natalia LaFourcade presents a spirited and soulful mélange of the music of her youth. “The performances are an ode to a magical time in Mexican popular music, one that is revived with every note this singer and her band perform,” NPR Music’s Felix Contreras writes. Mirroring the informal jam sessions of her hometown gatherings, the concert is, put simply, a delight. Complement this with the similarly spritely Quetzal album from Smithsonian Folkways, The Eternal Getdown.
Special thanks to editor Elisa Hough and to Michael Atwood Mason and Deborah Wong for their contributions to this week’s digest.