3 Must-Listen Podcast Recommendations for Life Story Lovers

If only there were more time in a week to listen to all the podcasts I would like to! As a former journalist who often bemoans the state of media these days, I find respite and refuge and inspiration in the podcast arena, where interviews are often in-depth and surprising, and where there is plenty of content aimed at lovers of memoir, life story, and family history.

T Kira Madden, Steve Lickteig, Beth Kephart are recent podcast guests

Here are a handful of my favorites in recent weeks—I hope you give them a listen, and please let me know your own favorites in the comments so I can add them to my playlist!

Click on the numbered links below to go straight to that review:

  1. Steve Lickteig on Dani Shapiro’s Family Secrets podcast (41 minutes)

  2. T Kira Madden on the Reading Women podcast (40 minutes)

  3. Beth Kephart on The Life Story Coach podcast (46 minutes)

An Open Secret Revealed

On Dani Shapiro’s Family Secrets podcast, Steve Lickteig talks CANDIDLY about the secret of his own identity that not only his family, but an entire small Kansas town, kept from him. As a child, he was told that he was adopted. But that didn't turn out to be entirely true, or even half of the story.

“There is a real power in crafting a truthful narrative—or at least as truthful as you can make it, your emotional truth,” Steve Lickteig tells Dani Shapiro in this episode of her new Family Secrets podcast. As a longtime fan of Shapiro (Hourglass will always be among my favorite memoirs), I’ve listened to all of the Family Secrets episodes. And while I absolutely suggest subscribing, I will say that her talk with Lickteig is the one that lingered longest with me—and which would make a wonderful introduction to the series for a first-time listener.

Lickteig is a journalist himself, and perhaps it is his deep rootedness in storytelling that makes his conversation with Shapiro so resonant; he is articulate and thoughtful, conscious of creating a narrative out of his family history that enlightens something greater than his own perspective.

Listen to the full episode at left, or head over to the Family Secrets page to hear more from the likes of guests Debbie Millman, Jane Mintz, and Jim Graham.

During Shapiro’s interview with Lickteig he recalls his occasional unease (and simultaneous journalistic pride) at the way he comes across in his 2011 documentary Open Secret, which explores in depth the stories he shares on the podcast. He says the film portrays him in ways that are at times unflattering, but yet true to his experience.

Open Secret is described as Lickteig’s “20-year search for who his real birth parents were; why a whole town kept the truth from him; and how his family's tumultuous history revolves around the hidden lives of two unconventional women.” I haven’t watched the film yet, but indeed, it’s on my watch list.

A preview of Steve Lickteig’s documentary Open Secret, available on Google Play, Amazon, and iTunes

 
 

An Unconventional and Evocative Memoir

T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, talks about owning her story with Kendra Winchester and Autumn Privett on the Reading Women podcast.

Topics of conversation include:

  • getting permission—or not—from her family members to write about them

  • discovering the form that would best suit her narrative, from weaving a linear thread through disparate stories and ways of storytelling to creating the skeleton that would support her memoir structurally

  • how reading The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch gave her permission to allow “form and content to play with each other,” and to tell her stories in a nonlinear way

  • how to separate herself from her memoir

  • the ways in which we inherit parts of our parents’ identities (“understanding myself meant understanding more about my mother and understanding more about my father”)

  • how the “memory loop [she] was caught in for years” transformed into memoir


I was immediately drawn to Madden’s book when she described it alternatively as a “funky memoir” and “scattered essays that make up my life so far.” It is so much more than a coming of age tale, and trust me, those “scattered” pieces are woven together meaningfully.

“The honesty and vividness with which Madden writes and the tightly controlled structure she utilizes only emphasize the fact that Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is a deeply compassionate book, though not an apologetic one,” Ilana Masad writes in a review for NPR. “In baring the bad and ugly alongside the good, Madden has succeeded in creating a mirror of larger concerns, even as her own story is achingly specific and personal.”

Give the full 40-minute interview a listen here, or visit the Reading Women podcast page for show notes.

This was my introduction to Reading Women, and I will undoubtedly be listening to more. A couple that are in my listening queue are a discussion of Kindred by Octavie E. Butler and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (I recently read Kindred and highly recommend it for history lovers especially) and, of course, their exploration of memoir from last September.

 
 

The Questions We Ask

Award-winning memoirist and memoir writing teacher Beth Kephart introduces Amy Woods Butler’s Life Story Coach listeners to ways we can help others write memoirs that matter.

When I sat down to listen to this conversation between memoirist Beth Kephart and life storyteller Amy Woods Butler, I had no idea that I had indirectly introduced them…but how happy I am that I did!

Kephart has fed my writing soul for years; I have personally relished her fiction, endorsed—and continue to use—her writing workbook, and forward her newsletter to friends often. I imagine this less-than-an-hour interview with Kephart will entice you to want to hear more.

In this The Life Story Coach session recorded in 2019, Kephart and Butler hit upon topics including:

  • the wide variety of her experience teaching memoir and writing memoir

  • “getting to our stories in sideways fashion”

  • the power of contextualized and unexpected writing prompts

  • why she is drawn to memoirs with “that scenic, atmospheric detail-rich quality”

  • the gap between one’s spoken word and written word

  • and the Juncture newsletter, where Kephart explores topics such as what makes a memoirist approachable, interviews current memoir writers, and includes reader book recommendations, as well.

If you’d like to hear more of Beth Kephart’s writing wisdom over the years, here are three older podcast interviews with her you may enjoy:

“I’ve written memoir in the quest to answer very specific questions,” Kephart tells Dan Gottlieb in a wide-ranging conversation about the therapeutic value of memoir (also with a social psychologist) and how she helps others learn to tell their own stories. She talks about what memoir is not, and how to get to what it is and should be for each of us.

You can also listen to Kephart speak about Handling the Truth here, and hear her in conversation with Dani Shapiro about her latest memoir Inheritance (which inspired the Family Secrets podcast referenced above!) here.

 
 

What podcasts are you listening to—specifically those having to do with memoir, storytelling, and oral history, or any that have just captivated you?