David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

Valerie Martin on the Mythology of New Orleans

Valerie Martin: I think from very early on, although I didn’t realize it myself, I was really preoccupied with race relations and with slavery. And I didn’t consciously pursue that as a subject matter, but I was very interesting in equality and injustice, which is built into that system; and power relationships.

So I think that those old stories, which in many ways are dashing and romantic, are also full of horrific violence and just plain cruelty. I think that had a big influence on my writing, which is sometimes pretty gothic I guess, although I never can see it as much as other people seem to. It’s certainly writing that’s preoccupied with relationships of power.


Valerie Martin: Well some years ago, many years ago I wrote a book called “The Great Divorce”, and it has three stories in it. And one of the stories is a story about a woman who murders her husband. And it takes place in antebellum times on a plantation, and she turns into a leopard; very mysterious, and magical, and horrific.

In that story I wrote a little bit about one of her slaves and some things that happened to the slaves, and I described the plantation life a bit. I guess maybe 20 years later in reading about slavery, I thought perhaps I romanticized that a little bit.

One of my great missions as a writer has been to de-romanticize the world, because I think that Americans still receive a romantic education, and that it ill-fits them for life.

In looking back over my own writing thought I have romanticized something as important as important as slavery, I was very upset. So I set about to repair that and de-romanticize it, and that was really how “Property” came about.


Valerie Martin: Well it’s historically accurate that there were slaves that were in pretty bad conditions and then there were women who were maybe a cut above; and then there were White men who were always at the top of every scheme there is to oppress.

But I was not trying to suggest, as has been suggested in reviews and commentary, that this rather brutal woman, __________, is in just as bad condition as her slave, because she isn’t. In fact she can get a divorce. She can own property. Her slave is her property and can own nothing.

I think there is certainly a big difference between those two characters, but I’ve had many people talk about how they felt sympathetic for __________ because she was herself property. Well to some extent that’s true, and I’m glad to hear that they were able to feel that. It’s very hard to get Americans to feel sympathy for each other, really, in fiction.

But I was not consciously trying to suggest that she was in as bad a strait as the slave who she chases clear across the country in order to get her back again. She’s very jealous of the slave because the slave has children by her husband and she has no children.

Basically in setting up a novel like that where we have these degrees of power, and everybody owns something, and some people own people, more or less, I really just wanted to be so complicated that you pull your hair and think, “Where is the end of property?”

And so that’s why I think there is this parallel between degree of ownership: the woman who owns the slave; the slave who owns nothing; the husband who owns the wife, and so forth.

 February 11, 2008

Valerie Martin on the mythology of the Big Easy.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less

Education vs. learning: How semantics can trigger a mind shift

The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.

Future of Learning
  • The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
  • Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
  • Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
Keep reading Show less

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

Keep reading Show less

Why is everyone so selfish? Science explains

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.

Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
Personal Growth
  • Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
  • New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
  • Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.
Keep reading Show less