After Nathaniel Popkin first appeared on Life Elsewhere in 2018 to talk about his novel, Everything Is Borrowed we didn’t hesitate to invite the Philadelphia-based author back. Then, in response to the American political crisis, the movement, Writers Resist proved a renewed interest amongst writers in political discourse and prompted Stephanie Feldman and Popkin to co-edit, Who Will Speak For America? The eloquent and intellectually curios Nathaniel Popkin returned to our show to discuss the anthology. Now Nathaniel is back to talk about his latest work of fiction – set against the backdrop of 1976 Philadelphia, The Year Of The Return follows the path of two families, the Jewish Silks and African American Johnsons, as they are first united by marriage and then by grief, turmoil, and the difficult task of trying to live in an America failing to live up to its ideals. Both hyper-real and feverishly imagined, and told in the unfiltered voices of the characters themselves, Popkin summons the electric dimensions of racial conflict, sexual liberty, and economic collapse during America’s post-Vietnam urban meltdown. Paul Silk and Charlene Johnson are journalists whose love for each other and commitment to social justice were formed in the peace movements of the 1960s. But the idealism of that era leads to the urban deterioration of the 1970s. Mayor Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia is a place of crime, white flight, and class resentment that is inhospitable to their interracial marriage, forcing them to move away. But when Charlene dies of cancer, Paul returns. Unmoored and unable to let go of Charlene, he wades back into the lives of the two families, with the hope of helping Charlene’s younger brother Monte, once a prodigy and now a troubled veteran of the Vietnam War. Their explosive reunion leads to the baring of personal revelations and dangerous secrets. This is a vivid story of families trying to reconnect with and support each other through trauma and loss, and a meditation on the possibility of moving on to a better future. We are delighted to welcome Nathaniel Popkin back to Life Elsewhere.
Plus new music from Felicia Douglass and Eric Gundel out Brooklyn who perform under the moniker, Gemma. You’ll hear Love Trade from Feeling’s Not A Tempo, their latest album, which we highly recommend. Montreal-based, multi-talented singer-songwriter, Sarah Krier gives us Wrap from her new long-player, Avoidable Injuries. Digital Vagabond hail from Denver, Colorado, Patrick Boyle is the composer, producer, and knob-twiddler on The Tyndall Effect, featuring Carly Lynn Meador aka Spirah on vocals.
And, Norman B voices an opinion on guns, he first aired on a talk radio show in the early ’80s.
Portrait by Peter Woodall