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  • Folklife Friday: Zadie Smith, Pop Music, Spring Rolls, and More

    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.

    Novelist Zadie Smith On Historical Nostalgia And The Nature Of Talent
    In her new novel, Swing Time, author Zadie Smith uses dance to explore race, class, and migration. Here, Smith talks to Terry Gross on Fresh Air about the novel and how, as a member of the diasporic African Caribbean community in England, she struggled with the same questions of identity and place. “I had to really become an adult and in part move to America to understand, for instance, a relationship between England and Jamaica, the relationship between England and West Africa,” Smith said.

    The History of Popularity
    In Love for Sale: Pop Music in America, David Hajdu traces the evolution of popular music, a genre as influential as it is amorphous. The book, which takes its title from Peter, Paul and Mary’s “I Dig Rock and Roll Music,” examines how technology shaped the dissemination of the music in the United States from late the nineteenth century to the early twenty-first. With the advent of the transistor radio and solitary listening, Hadju notes, “pop hits became conspicuously intimate and reflective.” Later, in his reflections on Auto-Tune enhancements, Hadju explains that the adjustment, “by making every song perfectly correct, makes every song wrong.”

    Eat These 10 Essential Chinese New Year Dishes
    From spring rolls and dumplings to rice balls and turnip cake, this collection of Chinese New Year dishes is a feast for the eyes. In preparing poultry, one of the Lunar New Year staples, writer Clarissa Wei recommends air-drying marinated chicken or duck for three hours, or until the skin takes on a papery feel, before frying and adding spices. And, if you find yourself in Los Angeles, Wei recommends Sam Woo BBQ for its savory roasted chicken.

    On Being Translated Back to Myself
    For author Boris Fishman, visiting Estonia to translate his first novel, A Replacement Life, brought to light the nuances of the Russian language. In this piece, Fishman reflects on translation in a cultural context, noting that his forefathers in Brooklyn and the Estonians with whom he met shared a language, but little else. “What linguistic particularity extends,” Fishman writes, “cultural recognition reduces.”  

    ‘Soviet Daughter’: How A Great-Grandmother’s Diary Became A Graphic Novel
    When author Julia Alekseyeva came upon her great-grandmother’s memoirs, penned after moving to Chicago from Kiev, what she discovered was a more than a set of notebooks. The anecdotes included therein painted a picture of an adventurous wild child whose story could only be captured in a graphic novel—a format Alekseyeva chose for its visual impact. “I thought it would make such a great work to be able to show this to other people,” Alekseyeva explains, “and for them to understand what was really happening in the USSR through one person’s perspective.”

    Special thanks to editor Elisa Hough, and to Michael Mason and Maya Potter for their contributions to this week’s digest.

    Photo by Annie Spratt

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