Peggy Orenstein, UNRAVELING & Katy Simpson Smith, THE WEEDS

We talk with Peggy Orenstein about her book, Unraveling: What I Learned About Life While Shearing Sheep, Dyeing Wool, and Making the World’s Ugliest Sweater.

But first, Katy Simpson Smith tells us about her new novel, The Weeds. It weaves history, botany, feminism and the climate crisis together into a compelling and sharply funny tale.

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Episode Transcript

Tags: Writer’s Voice, podcast, book recommendations, author interview, book podcast, book show, book excerpt, nonfiction, fiction, botany, knitting

Katy Simpson Smith, THE WEEDS
In The Weeds by Katy Simpson Smith, two women, one from today’s Mississippi and another from Italy in 1854, navigate the Roman Colosseum documenting the plants they find there for their respective employers.

Through a list of seemingly minor plants and their uses—medical, agricultural, culinary—these women calculate intangible threats: a changing climate, the cost of knowledge, and the ways repeated violence can upend women’s lives.

They must forge their own small acts of defiance and slip through whatever cracks they find to redefine the roles women are given and have taken from them, and the lives they make for themselves.

About the Author
Katy Simpson Smith is the author of four novels and one book of historical nonfiction.
Listen to or read an excerpt from The Weeds

Listen to Other Writer’s Voice Interviews with Katy Simpson Smith

Peggy Orenstein, UNRAVELING
When the Covid Pandemic lockdown upended Peggy Orenstein’s life, she decided she needed something compelling to do.

So of course, she decided to learn one of the most difficult skills there is: shearing sheep.

That’s because, a lifelong knitter, she thought it would be great fun to make a sweater from scratch: from shearing to carding the wool to dyeing it and, finally, knitting it.

Along the way, she learned a lot of other things, too, like the environmental impact of fleece—and even worse, its artificial alternative—how women’s handwork has changed the world, colonialism and color and much more. Orenstein shares her findings in her new book Unraveling.

About the Author
Peggy Orenstein is the author of numerous books, including Girls and Sex, Boys and Sex, and Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

Read or listen to an excerpt from Unraveling

Next Week on Writer’s Voice

Amy Beutens, You Are The Universe and Jane Marshall, Searching for Happy Valley.