Replay: After These Revolutions: Neda Toloui-Semnani and Sean Cole in Conversation

The authors of two new books (and dear friends) talk about storytelling, grief, love, and resilience

Apr. 25/22: An evening with VICE’s senior show writer Neda Toloui-Semnani and This American Life‘s Sean Cole, as the two authors (and dear friends) discuss storytelling, grief, love, resilience, and other themes from their new books.

About Their Books

In 1979, Neda Toloui-Semnani’s parents left the United States for Iran to join the revolution. But the promise of those early heady days in Tehran was warped by the rise of the Islamic Republic. With the new regime came international isolation, cultural devastation, and profound personal loss for Neda. Her father was arrested and her mother was forced to make a desperate escape, pregnant and with Neda in tow.

Conflicted about her parents’ choices for years, Neda realized that to move forward, she had to face the past head-on. Through extensive reporting, journals, and detailed interviews, Neda untangles decades of history in a search for answers.

Both an epic family drama and a timely true-life political thriller, They Said They Wanted Revolution illuminates the costs of righteous activism across generations.

Neda Toloui-Semnani is an Emmy award–winning writer and producer. She is currently a senior writer at the television news magazine VICE News Tonight, and her work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Washington Post, Kinfolk, New York, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Baffler, The Week, BuzzFeed, and Roll Call among others. She’s been featured on The Rumpus and This American Life. She was named a 2018 fellow with the Logan Nonfiction Program and a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA fellow in Nonfiction Literature.

Sean Cole’s After These Messages is built around a series of poems written on the fly. Like Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, written during his lunch breaks at NYC’s Museum Of Modern Art, Cole wrote poems while watching TV advertisements. Like ads, the poems are speedy and compressed, packed with argument and imagery, sometimes sublime, sometimes hilarious, but always bordering on the hallucinatory. They weave in and out of the dramedy of this fine collection — interstitial featurettes that punctuate the action of what you sat down to watch in the first place.

After These Messages marries the plain-spokenness of one of public radio’s most esteemed storytellers, with the buoyant fabulism of O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, and Kenward Elmslie. Unlike a lot of innovative poetry that reads like a lab report of the experiment, Cole’s poetry pulls the reader into the exuberant middle of the experiment, so that we can experience the doubled pleasure of mystery mixed with discovery.

Sean Cole is a radio journalist and poet. Over the years, he’s contributed to lots of public radio programs and podcasts including Radiolab, 99% Invisible, Marketplace, and All Things Considered. He’s currently a producer and occasional guest host of This American Life. His latest poetry collection, After These Messages, is forthcoming on Lunar Chandelier Press. @ittycity

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