Ep. 213 Curating a Vibe with Novena Carmel – Transcript

Today we’re joined by musician and DJ Novena Carmel, cohost of KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic. We get into our childhood reading habits, Novena’s radio show experience, and curating a playlist for the city. We also discuss finding one’s own rhythm, being the daughter of a music legend, and the power of vibrations.

The Stacks Book Club selection for May is Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop by Danyel Smith. We will discuss the book on May 25th with Novena Carmel.


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*Due to the nature of podcast advertising, these timestamps are not 100% accurate and will vary.

Traci Thomas 0:09
Welcome to The Stacks, a podcast about books and the people who read them. I’m your host Traci Thomas and today I am joined by Novena Carmel. Novena is a cohost of one of my favorite radio shows, KCRW’s flagship Morning Becomes Eclectic. We talk today about how Novena thinks about the responsibility of setting the musical tone and creating a vibe for the entire city of Los Angeles every single day. What it was like for her growing up with a super famous musical father Sly Stone, a Sly and the Family Stone and in a family of a bunch of musicians and musically inclined people. And we talk about the simplicity of children’s books, especially for adults. This month’s book club selection is Shine Bright, a very personal history of black women in pop by Danyel Smith. We will discuss the book on May 25, when Novena Carmel returns to the show. As a reminder, everything we talked about on each episode of the stacks can be found in the link in the show notes. If you love the show and want more of it, join the stacks pack that’s our exclusive community for all of you book lovers out there with a bunch of bonus content including our Discord community, our monthly virtual book club conversations and bonus episodes. Plus you get discounts on merch and shout outs on the show. Not to mention the stacks is an entirely independent podcast. So the way that I’m able to make the show week in and week out is with the support of people in the stacks pack. So if you like what you hear and you want to get involved head to patreon.com/thestacks to join. Alright, now it’s time for my conversation with Novena Carmel.

Alright, everybody, I’m very excited because today’s guest is a music person, a music savant, perhaps I don’t know, a very music person who I also know totally separate from her work in like a very weird family type of way. So I’m excited to have a friend and a friend of the podcast, Novena Carmel, welcome to the stacks.

Novena Carmel 2:19
I’m so excited to be here.

Traci Thomas 2:21
I’m so excited to talk to you. So I guess we always sort of start here, which is sort of boring, but just to give people a sense of who you think that you are. Will you tell people a little bit about yourself? They’ve already heard your like professional bio in the real intro. So this is more of like, give us a little inside scoop on Novena.

Novena Carmel 2:39
Wow, it’s always so interesting trying to describe who you are. Yeah, well, definitely. I’m a music person. As you said, I just love music in all of its forms. I love singing, playing music for people going to live music. I’m kind of like a person who likes to try things before saying no. Um, hence me being here. Yeah. Say no, but it’s just like, Yeah, sure. Let’s talk about books. I’m usually you know, submersed in music, audio, which leaves it so that I don’t have much time to read but I’m like, let’s talk about books. See what comes out of that. And I feel like I am forever young old soul lists. folks ask me my age I say they say how old are you? I say I’m old enough and I’m young enough.

Traci Thomas 3:34
Yes. And for you guys can’t see novena but novena is truly like one of those people. That is a light in the world. Like, every time novena walks into a room. I feel like it’s just like, instantly brighter and like more fun and such a vibe. So what is your relationship to books?

Novena Carmel 3:56
I feel like books are kind of like someone I have a crush on but don’t get to, like, engage with me.

Traci Thomas 4:06
That’s sort of how I feel about music. So I’m excited.

Novena Carmel 4:10
Yeah, we can learn from each other, I’m sure. Yeah, but I have a bookshelf, there’s books on them. That’s a good place to start. I start a lot of books and I don’t finish them often.

Traci Thomas 4:25
Why don’t you finish because you run out of time, or you just lose interest or the book wasn’t that good.

Novena Carmel 4:30
I think I sort of get distracted. Like with other things that are going on, especially these days. I listen to a lot of music and and now I have to listen to music. So it tends to come first and it’s when you’re preparing for a radio show. It’s kind of like you can never listen to too much or enough music, especially when you want to know what’s new and if it’s good and how it flows together. So I kind of, I would say put it on the back burner.

Traci Thomas 4:55
You listen to music when you read or when you’re listening to music for work or you listen Sending, like in a different way than how I just like have music on?

Novena Carmel 5:03
Oh, that’s a great question. So I think that’s the other thing for me with reading is I get distracted really easily if there’s any words around me. So if someone’s talking, there’s a TV show on or music with words cannot do. But I love listening to music without words, like classical music or jazz, or something ambient while I’m reading or, like when I was in college and writing essays that was my go to, you know.

Traci Thomas 5:30
And were you a kid or a, I guess, from your childhood all the way through your schooling. Were you like, what kind of reader were you in school? Like, I was never never read the books on school. Even though I love reading. I just I always was like, this book is wack. I’m not doing this.

Novena Carmel 5:48
Um, it really depended. There was some really cool books that I read in school. And I think that whoever the teacher was always made it more interesting. I liked a lot of the reading that I did in college, but there was usually too much reading. And I don’t know I don’t find like that. I’m a fast reader. I think other people might be faster than myself. So there was definitely some skimming some Cliff Notes. watching the movie, and for sure, for sure. For sure. The when I was a kid, I love to read, you know, like I had all the classic kids stuff like Berenstein Bears and Sweet Valley twins. Yes. The baby sitters club.

Traci Thomas 6:28
Yes. Yeah. I love love the sweet valleys. Love the babysitter Club was not a Berenstein Bears person. Okay, I want to talk about your radio show. Morning Becomes Eclectic. It’s like a little over a year, right? It’s like a year and a half.

Novena Carmel 6:46
Yeah, so I’ve been DJing at KC RW for a handful of years. But myself and my co host, Anthony validez. We took over morning Becomes Eclectic. Last February. So February 2021.

Traci Thomas 6:59
Oh my gosh. Okay. And tell people about it. It’s your it’s an la radio show. It’s a morning music show it is. It’s the only way I learn about new music or any music, old music too. I’m like, every time I listen, I’m like, How have I never heard this song before. You’re like, this is some great shit from the 70s. And I’m like, literally never heard this.

Novena Carmel 7:20
Yeah, so I love that we kind of tried to do a mix of playing songs that feel familiar to people either because they know them, or it has an energy of something that they’re familiar with, including old music, love putting on folks to music that might be old, but might be new to them, or even new to us, because we’re constantly discovering, and then obviously new artists, often shining a light on artists that might not get play on commercial radio. Everyone’s equal, it’s as far as like, the consideration of who will play it’s just whoever we feel like sounds right for the show. So you don’t have to have a budget or whatever, you know. And it’s also about like waking up with Los Angeles, creating a sense of community and connection, especially during the recent times when folks feel isolated. Time and time again, people are like, the music is great, I love it. But I also just love your personalities, you make me laugh, you make me feel warm. I really feel like you guys are my friends. And you’re there all the time. And some folks just love the banter. So it’s kind of it’s it’s music is the focus, but it’s packaged in this way that’s unique to our relationship. And the way we are as humans and Anthony and I’ve been friends for a while now, like 10 years. And we did podcast together before. And we always felt like we wanted to do real long term project together. And so this is the sort of the culmination of that, too.

Traci Thomas 8:44
Okay, I have a lot of questions about how you guys make the show. But the most important question to me is, how do you find the music? And how do you decide what you’re going to play on a given day? Like, how do you to navigate that? Are you like, Yo, I really want to play this track tomorrow, like, here it is? Or do you each say like, Okay, we’re going to switch off? Or like, how do you actually build the soundtrack for the morning for the rest of us?

Novena Carmel 9:08
Okay, so we do switch off as far as who starts the show. So it’s basically alternating. And pretty much whatever we’re playing in our sets, we decide individually, although our taste does overlap, and we find you know, the same songs a lot of the time. And typically, we don’t figure out everything we’re gonna play in advance because we like to play off of each other. So it would be too much coordination to be like, Okay, what are you going to play in advance? So, I’ll think about what out how I want to start the show and then I think Anthony will sort of play off that and then I’m like, Okay, it’s been this mood for a while, so let’s switch it to this or that song reminds me of another song. So I’m going to play that in the next set. And then we also try to make sure that as, as a music apartment as a whole, if there’s artists albums, songs that we’re excited about that we keep those songs and rotation, because when I first started, I kind of had this like, mentality of I don’t want to play the same things too much. But the average listener is not sitting there for three hours listening to every song. So you’re actually doing a disservice to the artists, if you don’t play the songs that you love, or the artists you love multiple times. So we do have intentions with that. And then there’s other things too, like, you know, if it’s someone’s birthday, we may play their music, if it’s, you know, something super la related, maybe there’s an LA song, and it can be mellow. Or it can be something upbeat. And I almost feel like what is the energy of the day? You know, what is it like?

Traci Thomas 10:46
Do you feel a responsibility that you’re also setting the energy of the day for other people? Like, do you ever come into work some days and you’re like, I’m, my energy is feeling like very low stakes. And then you’re like, okay, am I gonna bring that to all of LA? Or are you like, okay, like, I got it, like, I’m, I’m having a personal thing, but like, you know, or do you try to bring in how you’re feeling to what you bring to the rest of us.

Novena Carmel 11:09
I usually try to think of bringing in an energy that’s going to elevate, so it doesn’t have to be like, hey, positivity, here’s the song. You know what I mean? Like, sometimes people need to ask people pathetic, but I usually like at least to start the show stray away from anything that would sound too dark, or depressing, lyrically, or something like, you know, but sometimes the weather can affect that, like, if it’s cloudy, you know, what kind of makes sense. But you definitely as far as what we’re playing, and even how we’re talking. Good morning, you’re tuned into morning Becomes Eclectic. You know, I try to bring that like, hello, you’re welcome. We’re so happy you’re here. We also often come right out of the news. And you know, often the news doesn’t have the the most cheery items.

Traci Thomas 11:59
That’s been pretty bleak these days.

Novena Carmel 12:01
So it’s sometimes it’s like, Okay, now we’re gonna recalibrate together. Yeah, yeah, let’s get something positive. Forget that, you know.

Traci Thomas 12:10
Yeah, it’s just like, a more gentle, ushering in today kind of thing. I love it. I think it’s like a cool, at least for me as a person who likes music, but isn’t like into music, you know, like, I’m very whatever is like pop top available. Hip Hop, like the the stars, that’s what I listened to. I’m not a deep cuts person. But what I love is that I usually think of like, DJing as being something that people do at night at the club. And what I love about your show is that it’s a different form of DJing. And it does feel like sort of holistic in the sense that you guys are like curating this like vibe for a city, which is really different than like, hey, there’s 250 People in this club. And it’s like, hip hop night, you know, like, that’s like a very different kind of DJing. And I think what’s cool about you guys, it’s like, you’re educating us, and you’re like, setting us up for the day. And like, I’m learning new things. I always forget to like, put out my sound, how to like, Listen, you know what I’m like, but I just love it. Like, because it’s stuff that I would just never listen to. I would never find it without you guys, which I just I don’t know, I think that’s like a really cool thing that you do. I don’t know. Is that a? Is that a difficult responsibility for you? Or do you ever think about it in that way?

Novena Carmel 13:33
Um, I love it. It’s sort of creating a live mix tape. And I always love. I love documentaries. And the thing that I love documentaries is like information, I guess you could say, I mean, yeah, personalities, real stories. But just I love knowing things. I love learning about things. And so and then when I when I learned about things, I love telling that story, or fascinating fact, or whatever, to other people. So this is that opportunity to do that, like, tell people why this song is important or amazing. And sometimes it’s like, like, the other day, we played a song it was like a Stevie Wonder cover from the 70s by this Indian Band, and it doesn’t really like sound good, it kind of they kind of like are off key. I love when well the context that it’s like this 70s obscure band from India. And it’s like how many like hard rock psychedelic bands were doing Stevie Wonder covers at the time. So knowing the context makes it interesting. And it’s not even about always, do you like the song or is this something you can dance to? It’s like, what’s the conversation around it? And sometimes I wish we could have more conversation because people will have immediate reactions that I would like to talk to the more about, which you can’t fully do. But yeah, opening the conversation, adding more context is really cool and There are a lot of people that say that they enjoy that about the show as well.

Traci Thomas 15:04
What’s the what was the song so that I can link to it in the show notes so people hear what you’re talking about.

Novena Carmel 15:09
What? I can’t even think of the title of the song. That’s so crazy. Looking back on when I Oh, yeah. That’d be headed boy. Yeah. Yeah. Is fried right now. I wish Yes, yes. Okay. And the band is called atomic forest.

Traci Thomas 15:29
Okay. Okay. I’ll link to it in the show notes so that people can listen to that to-

Novena Carmel 15:34
know what you think about that version.

Traci Thomas 15:36
Let us know what you guys think. Call in to kit what does it que si are? That don’t call me. Don’t actually don’t call me either. Call your call your mom and tell her what you thought of it. Okay, you have this weird not weird. You have this like born connection to music. Your dad is Sly Stone from the Family Stone for those of you who are familiar with stone famous stones? What’s it like being a music person with like this famous family thing? Like, were you when you were a kid? Did you know you loved music? Or like was it part of who you were? Or was it something that you learned from exposure? Or like? I don’t know. I just I’m always fascinated by people who are raised with like, incredible artists and how they then turn their lives into becoming incredible artists.

Novena Carmel 16:29
Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to know what element impacted my love of music because my whole family is very artistic, like on both sides of my family, my mom’s side as well. And my mom grew up in Brazil, surrounded by interesting artists. My aunt’s late husband was a really prolific bossa nova Brazilian musician. And then my mom just loved music, like I remember we, you know, dance to records in the living room. Lots of like, Great 80s records, Guns and Roses, Michael Jackson, in excess. And then my grandfather, he was really supportive of me learning to play the piano. So he bought me a piano when I was like six years old. So there’s always been music around me. And probably more so when I was young with my mom’s side, because I didn’t really live much with my dad, although sometimes I would go to church like to hang out with his family. And that was where I felt like I had no rhythm, because they would be like, so good. And, um, it was weird. It was like, Wow, this, I felt like I wasn’t really connected to that. And I want it to be more so you know. And going into middle school. Well, an elementary school, I went to a Japanese bilingual Elementary School in San Francisco. And it was like a very insulated, lovely environment. And then I went to middle school, and I was like a public middle school. And the Mission District. And it was it was a great school was so cool. But there was like, not but and there was even more cultures there. And like, basically, I went to school, and folks were like, you sound white? Aren’t you an Oreo, and I would just hang out who I wanted to, and like these black girls would come over and be like, You need to get in where you fit in. Are you black? That kind of stuff. But I remember being at a dance. And I was just dancing. And I overheard this Filipino girl say, Damn, I thought all black people could dance.

Traci Thomas 18:28

Novena Carmel 18:33
And, I mean, this is this is kind of an aside, but it’s just like all the story of like music and rhythm in my life and feeling like okay, I need to learn how to dance. And I need to like, learn rhythm a little, apparently. But as I got older, and then I think all of that stuff kind of made me shy in a certain way like to put myself out there. And to be a musician, because it was like those little moments when I did. I kind of was like, feeling like I wasn’t good enough. And then when I would compare it to actual things, people in my family who were more than good enough, it was like, What do I fit in here? You know, right? So it took me a while to feel more emboldened and when I actually started singing is when I was living in Japan for six months. And we had a going away party. After living there the program that I was with, and we performed a song that we wrote, and I loved performing it and the energy was great. So then I was like, Okay, I could do this. And so I came back feeling a little bit more confident, but still like, it is that sense of like, okay, the first time that I performed people are going to be comparing me right, but then as time went on, if I ever felt like I doubted myself in that arena, one of the things that I’ll go back to is literally like, I lived in my dad’s balls, so definitely Some of that legendary ability to be great is in me.

Traci Thomas 20:04
Right? Right. Right. Did you you love you love documentaries? Did you? I’m sure you saw summer of soul.

Novena Carmel 20:11
Oh, yes, yes, I definitely did see it. I actually had the opportunity to help out with a little bit. My name is in the credit. Oh yeah. Brilliant documentary. Amazing. Amazing. class was so good. Yeah, I can’t even say enough about it. And what I’m really excited about. Additionally, is Questlove is going to be directing the documentary about my dad.

Traci Thomas 20:36
Oh, that’s exciting. Yeah. But that’s not that’s like Next up for him.

Novena Carmel 20:42
Yeah, I mean, he’s now winning. He was already super busy. He’s, yeah, so, but I know it’s in the works. So I can’t think of anybody else I’d rather not doing it. Yeah, I

Traci Thomas 20:55
mean, I can quest love Oscar winner class. Yeah, like, I mean, it’s pretty, pretty high stakes there. That’s very cool. Okay, before we get off before we go back to books. Can you just like, tell people who are listening to the show who maybe are like me, because I know a lot of my listeners. We’ve talked about this before. We like music, but we suck at finding cool music. Where can we go? What should where should we be like listening like what’s like baby’s intro to not just listening to top 40s

Novena Carmel 21:26
Listen to my show.

Traci Thomas 21:28
Oh, but your guys’s show is not a podcast, right? They have to listen through case c r w or whatever the app through that. Okay, I’m gonna link to everything I just listened to off my computer just like when I’m working. Like I just pull it up. But I did try to find it as a podcast. And I was like, I can’t find it.

Novena Carmel 21:44
Oh, yeah, yeah, no, it’s not a podcast, you can listen on the website, live or the archives, you can do the same on the app. Any of the DJs at KCRW w are going to put you on to some amazing music and people find the DJs that make the most sense for them. You know, some people have different styles, but I’m not even trying to just hype up what we do. But honestly, it’s a great place to learn about a lot of songs. Otherwise, I mean, I don’t even know where I find music. I yeah, I just I guess there’s different playlists that I follow and stuff like that, you know, that have some cool stuff.

Traci Thomas 22:23
And who is like your favorite, super famous you type artists right now like so for people who can get a sense of what you like, like, who is like the famous version of what you’re into who’s like, you know, you don’t-

Novena Carmel 22:36
I’m getting on someone current that is famous that people might know that I like.

Traci Thomas 22:42
Yeah, you did that better than me. Even on my job.

Novena Carmel 22:49
Who do I like? I really liked James Blake. Is he famous enough?

Traci Thomas 22:52
Yeah, he’s famous. He’s a song with Beyonce. So he’s famous.

Novena Carmel 22:58
Do you know her?

Traci Thomas 23:00
I don’t, but I’m also not a great person. I know like seven artists.

Novena Carmel 23:04
She’s awesome. I mean, these are kind of like famous adjacent. He just won a Grammy. Kaytranada we do play like the weekends new album. Because it’s really cool and interesting.

Traci Thomas 23:20
Wait, that’s how you said that? Kaytranada I know exactly what you’re talking about. But I just always see that because I used to teach span. I used to play their music and my spin classes. Yeah. But I used to just like be like, oh, like I you know, like, sometimes you see a word in a book and you don’t know how to pronounce this. You’re just like, okay, then like, I literally have never attempted to say that out loud. But I know exactly what you’re talking.

Novena Carmel 23:40
That is funny. Kaytranada Yeah, big time. Solange would be another one that easily play on the show. Tame Impala.

Traci Thomas 23:48
Okay. Yeah, that’s good. You’ve done you’ve done good. Alright, bookshelf time. Okay, I did not prep you. This is the one thing I did not prep you for this is sort of a pop quiz. We do this thing called Ask the stacks where someone has written in asking for a book recommendation. So I’m going to read to you what they said. And then I’m going to give them three recommendations. You can give them just one you do not have to feel pressure, but it’s my job to do three. Okay, so this comes from Julie and Julie says which this is a great intro. Julie. Thank you for this is very radio show, longtime listener first time recommendations. I am an avid reader of all sorts of genres. But I have found myself in charge of a book club with some of my colleagues. We are looking for something to spark conversations among a group of professional women, and we love to learn something. We’ve read three books so far. The first book is how to be an anti racist by Ibram kendi, which went over well, we had a great conversation, but we felt it was a little too textbook like second book was braving the wilderness by Brene Brown. No one really liked this Sorry Brene but I don’t think this type of nonfiction self help is what we’re looking for. And then the third one is men we reaped BY JASMINE ward. Everybody loved this great writer with a compelling memoir went over very well. We laughed. We cried. We loved it. Any recommendations? They’re counting on me. So thank you in advance. Wow. I’ll go first because I was able to prep for this, you just think of some a good book club pick. So my first you guys did all nonfiction. So I’m gonna go ahead and just stick to the nonfiction theme with my racks. The first one is the Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. It’s about the year after her her husband died suddenly, and her daughter was like in the hospital. She like went into sepsis anyways, it’s about grief and how we navigate and like memory. And I think that this book, as you all know, I’ve been obsessed with grief recently. And I think it’s something interesting to think about and talk about and community. So this might be like an interesting sort of shift for you guys. My second pick is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, which is about Bryan Stevenson is the activist lawyer, he does a lot of work. Or he does pretty much all his work, and getting people off death row, protecting young people who are juveniles who have been convicted to life in prison without the possibility of parole and or death. And so it’s a book sort of about the carceral system. And there’s just so much to talk about, it’s also just a fantastic read. So even if the conversation isn’t as poppin as you’d like, you’re all gonna love the fucking book, I promise. It’s so good. It’s one of my favorite books ever. And then my third one is stakes is high by Michael Denzel Smith, who was on the show last year. And his book is sort of about like the American dream and what it looks like and how it has maybe changed for him a black guy in New York, after Donald Trump’s election, but it’s not like election, he but it was inspired by that. It’s just really well done. And there’s a lot to talk about, like how we’re all implicated in a lot of things that we would like to pretend like we’re not a part of. So I think that one’s right for conversation. So those are my three picks. Novena, any book club pick, recommendation.

Novena Carmel 27:10
Oh my God, those were sound like some amazing pics. Tracy. I was really hoping that while you were talking, I would think of something. Which I did not. I mean, there’s books that I love that I recommend to people, but I don’t know about for book club to have conversation.

Traci Thomas 27:27
Well, what are some of the books that you like to recommend to people? Oh,

Novena Carmel 27:30
I just love the book of joy. That’s like my favorite book.

Traci Thomas 27:35
I feel like that would be great for conversation because people could talk about the different ways that they engage and participate and practice joy. Yeah, okay. Cool. Yeah, you think that would I would love that? Yeah. No, I love mine are depressing. And I wouldn’t be very fun. I’m telling you, that novena is a light. She’s a light, like God, I am light.

Novena Carmel 27:55
But her outer look of joy, if you’re not familiar with it is there was an author who followed the conversations of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama, who are old friends. Well, of course, Archbishop Desmond Tutu passed away recently. And they’re both individuals who have been through really hard times throughout their lives, but I’ve remained joyful. And the conversations are, there’s excerpts from them. And then sort of like paragraphs that are written by the author who put the book together. And there’s just so much goodness me, it’s like a Bible. And if you’re in a place where there’s even touches on, you know, like, it’s very, it’s not possible to just be like, Just be happy, just be joyful, right? But because they’ve been through so much, they have these really cool examples of how to find something, regardless of what situation you’re in, and I just love it.

Traci Thomas 28:58
So that sounds like an incredible book to talk about. Are you kidding? Okay, Julie, if you read any of our picks, you have to let us know what you think everyone else you can email ask the stacks at the stacks. podcast.com for your book recommendations. Okay, two books you love and one book you hate.

Novena Carmel 29:15
Oh, Lord. I don’t hate any books. I’ve forgotten. I’ve I’ve cut them out of my memory. If I hated them, I have to answer that as well.

Traci Thomas 29:27
I mean, I don’t know. Did you read something in school? You made it I remember. People are always like, I don’t I don’t know. I don’t know. And I’m like, all I do is hate books. Like I remember every book I’ve ever hated. I hate every book I’ve ever read. I mean, not exactly. No, I mean, if you really can’t remember one that’s okay. But maybe one will come to you later.

Novena Carmel 29:47
Yeah, maybe my A good friend of mine. He told me something that his grandmother said, which is I’ve been blessed with a bad memory. And I really related to that sense.

Traci Thomas 29:58
I am the opposite. I am like I remember every little thing my family, like, despises. It’s about me. They’ll be like, Oh, we did it on like, actually, it was a Tuesday, because the trash got picked up that day. You guys don’t remember that. They’re like, it was 9094. I’m like, I know. But the trash came.

Novena Carmel 30:15
No. I mean, sometimes it’s bad though, because I’ll be talking to someone and ask them if they’ve seen a movie. They’re like, yeah, we saw it together.

Traci Thomas 30:25
That never happens to me. I cannot relate to this at all.

Novena Carmel 30:29
But that’s great. I mean, reading books, I feel like if I read more books, I’d have a better memory.

Traci Thomas 30:33
I don’t know. I do forget a lot of things that I read. Like for a lot of books. I know that I’ve read it, but I can’t always remember like what it was about, but I can usually can remember how it made me feel. Or like if it like irritated me, or like if it reminded me of something, but I often cannot remember the actual plot of a lot of books. Okay, what about two books you love? You must have that.

Novena Carmel 30:55
Well, I mean, I love the book of joy I just mentioned. Yeah, yeah. I love love, love it. Another book that I always think of, is a small place by Jamaica Kincaid. Okay, I read that. It is one that I think I read it in college, or it may have been high school. And it’s very short. And the way that it’s written is really interesting. It talks to the reader like in the third person, it’s like you this you that you think this and it’s sort of like based on an island. And Jamaican Kincaid is also from an island. It’s based in the island Antigua. And it’s juxtaposing like the tourists vision of what it means to go on vacation and visit an island versus what the experience is like for a person who’s from there, and how one person’s vacation can be another person’s prison. It’s very simple, but very deep at the same time, and ever since then, whenever I travel, I think of that book and how I am interacting with the culture of a place that I go to, and not wanting to be like an ugly tourist.

Traci Thomas 32:09
Yeah, that also sounds like a great book club book.

Novena Carmel 32:12
I’m just saying, yeah, yeah, that could be actually, you’re right.

Traci Thomas 32:16
My favorite book this year is this book called this are one of my favorite books this year as this book called the swimmers. And there are sections of the book that are also in that you voice and it’s like, exhilarating to read it just like it’s so because it’s like an indictment on the reader. Like all of a sudden, you’re part of this thing. Like it’s like, you can’t escape it. You can’t be like, Oh, that’s someone else. It’s like, No, you I’m talking to you, dear reader.

Novena Carmel 32:40
Yeah. And it’s funny too, because being on the radio, one of the big notes that I got is to always say you as much as possible, not you all, not everybody, not even I not us to say you as much as possible. So the power of that instead of saying like, Oh, here’s a song that I really like, because it reminds me of, you know, going to the beach and swimming in the ocean. It’s more powerful to say, if you’ve ever gone to the beach, and walked into the water and feel the water going up your legs, and you hear the sound of the waves and the sun beaming down on you and the smell of sunscreen. That is what the song might remind you of, you know, something like that.

Traci Thomas 33:25
You’re so good. Okay, professional radio. First off, I love this. I want can’t wait to listen to this song. I’m gonna try to start doing that with this show. And people are gonna be like, What is she doing? Like, you are gonna love this book. You open it up, you turn the pages, you read the words. It doesn’t really puts you right in the moment. Yeah. Are you reading anything right now.

Novena Carmel 33:56
So there’s a DJ named Natasha Diggs, who’s absolutely fantastic. And she’s one of those people that it’s like, everything she does, is a recommendation. So she like wears clothes. And you’re like, I want those clothes. And she has 45 records. And it’s like, oh my god, your taste is amazing. She’s eating food. And you’re like, I want to eat that food. So she recommended this book from a local bookstore in New York or something like that recently, and I picked it up and it’s actually based on the essays of this old Sufi philosopher. I believe he was Indian, and it’s talking about how there’s basically music and vibration and harmony in the in the universe. So it’s sort of, you know, you can think of music as this thing that you listen to or whatever, and there’s, like, you know, the rhythm of the music, but he’s showing all the ways how that is in everything. When you are vibing with a person, I mean, even vibing it’s like vibrate. You’re in harmony, when and then it’s like musical, you know, and the way that he right I said it’s just ooh, it feels like so delightful. And the book is, it’s called a Sufi message of Hazrat Inayat Khan. And this volume that I’m reading is called the mysticism of sound.

Traci Thomas 35:11
Do you read a lot of books about music?

Novena Carmel 35:15
I read a lot of articles about musicians. Maybe not like profiles. Yeah, like if there’s something you know, different articles that are online, I guess you could say that are published online. Or just like if I want to learn more about an artist and I’m talking about I just find everything I mean, even even I’m interviewing artists all the time, right, you know, learning more about them. But the thing that I love about this book is I’m really into sort of like esoteric things, spirituality, stuff that we feel elevated, hence the book of joy. So this is sort of like a combination of I Love You know, and like music

Traci Thomas 35:57
And the esoteric world.

Novena Carmel 36:01
Yeah and how it really is one in the same and you know, a lot of people say music is healing and in this kind of, like, dives into why it really is.

Traci Thomas 36:10
Yeah, yeah. I don’t know. I can’t I don’t know that much about music. I know how music makes me feel though. All you need to know. Yeah, I mean, I think that’s that’s all I do know like, I feel like music holds so much like memory. Like there’s so much in music that’s like you can hear a song and you know, people always talk about this like instantly being back in this place or like it brings up things and I feel like of all the art forms music is the one that most does that for me. But I feel like I also just listen to the same music because I’m like, in this like nostalgia place or something I don’t know. But my kids you know, they’re really little and they have like discovered music that they really liked. Like we never used to listen to Dua Lipa, but for whatever reason, they love Dua Lipa, like, go nuts cry when we turn it off, like obsessed with her. And so it’s become this thing where it’s like, we like dually buzz, like my number one artist on Spotify, even though I never listened to her before. And don’t listen to her when they’re not in the room. But it’s like interesting that they like picked up like that you have taste in music, even from a young age that like isn’t necessarily taught to you.

Novena Carmel 37:25
Mmhmm. Absolutely. Yeah. And there must be like a simplicity in there something that’s speaking to them as kids. It’s really, really interesting. There’s that Yeah, I mean, there’s so many ways that you can approach music, which is I think the other thing of why it’s like the universal language, and it works for nearly everybody. There are some people that are like, music doesn’t do anything for me, which I’m just like, wow, that’s

Traci Thomas 37:44
I know, I don’t understand that. I know that there are people. And then like, I know that there’s obviously like, music is a is an auditory art form. So like people who can’t hear obviously, they don’t have the same relationship to music that we would have. But even still, there are plenty people who can’t here who do have relationships to music, which I also find to be very interesting that like, that is still something that they respond like that they can respond to.

Novena Carmel 38:14
I was with someone recently that didn’t have the ability to hear at a live show. And she was loving it. And she was she could feel the vibration in her body. And just like the energy of what the performers look like, yeah. And yeah, it does go back to that. It’s not just about hearing it through your ears, but it’s like a feeling, right? And the culture that surrounds it, too.

Traci Thomas 38:38
Right, right. But that’s what I see. That’s what I’m not plugged into the culture of music, and a lot of ways like, I mean, you know, cert, in some ways I am but like, the music, like a music festival would never see me they’re not once in your life. I’m like, No, the Coachella my nightmare.

Novena Carmel 38:57
One example of culture, but it’s also like, if you had a couple folks over for wine and there’s like jazz thing in the background. It’s just an element that adds to whatever the experience is. And it’s an easy go to element that, that most people can find something that works for whatever the environment is.

Traci Thomas 39:14
Yeah. And I feel like the other thing is like music, it’s for me at least it’s like a, it’s like a gateway. It’s like a thing to talk to people about. It’s like an it’s an invitation for conversation. I think a lot of the times like you put it on, it’s like, oh, what are we listening to? Oh, let’s talk about this thing. Yeah, to talk about the leather. But for me books also do that. But it’s a little it’s a little bit harder, because not everyone’s into books, right? Like books is a little a little different. A little higher barrier to entry, though I do think everyone has a relationship to reading and books, but sometimes it’s just harder to get at to get in to find the like key on that. Okay. How do you decide what you’re going to read next?

Novena Carmel 39:56
I usually decide what I’m going to read next, just based on someone talking about a book, and I say, Ooh, that sounds cool. That’ll be one way. Another way is if someone trusted gives me a book, which has happened recently. And then, you know, I’ll read that, or if I’m looking for help in some kind of way, and it’s like, I want a book for that, you know. So if it’s like a spiritual, if I’m like, I’m feeling really not grounded, my spirit is off. I’ll look into what book may help with that.

Traci Thomas 40:32
Like you’ll just Google it.

Novena Carmel 40:34
Google it, or ask around, maybe tweet an inquiry into the Yes, one that’s like on my shelf that I haven’t even started and I’m like, oh, that’s it’s the time to read that. Right. Right. Right, right.

Traci Thomas 40:46
What’s the last good book someone recommended to you?

Novena Carmel 40:51
My neighbor, and really good friend. She’s an amazing writer and poet. Her name is Aditya Monet. Everyone should read her poetry. She’s fantastic. She actually gifted me a book for my birthday. It’s a children’s book, and it’s called What do you do with an idea? Hmm. And she said, it’s one that’s always inspired her and I think sometimes it’s just those simple books that speak to who we are inside because it’s like our our, I mean, I don’t want to say no child. That sounds so cheesy. But there is like a kid in assets always. I think searching for something. So I don’t know, books sometimes. Just finding like a simple kids book computer.

Traci Thomas 41:35
Yeah, no, I think because like we complicate things so much.

Novena Carmel 41:39
Yeah, yeah, exactly. We complicate things. And that’s what it is. Sometimes kids books help to remind you how to find the simple pleasures in life.

Traci Thomas 41:49
Yeah, yeah, I agree. I mean, I’ve obviously been reading a lot of them, which I hadn’t since I was a kid. And I’m like, Oh, this is a good message. Like, yeah, it’s helpful to be like, there’s this book that I love that my kids have. It’s called, like, little monkey calm down or something. And it’s like the monkey spills his ice cream. And it’s just like one sentence per page. It’s like, poor little monkey. He’s having a hard time. He’s feeling sad and mad and angry. Like, it’s okay to cry. Take a deep breath, snuggle with your blankie be still and relax, like sing a song. Feeling better? Great. Let’s go have the rest of our day. And I’m always like, wow, yeah. Like, fucking yeah, that’s all it is, is like you’re upset. Acknowledge it. Let’s fucking go on. Like, do your coping. Take a second feel shitty, and like, can reenter. And I feel like as an adult, it’s like, I need to call everyone I know and scream about it and tweet about it and like, be mad for a month and month little monkeys like no, just snuggle with your blankie. Or they’re genres that you you’ve talked about genres that you love, are there any genres that you just will not read?

Novena Carmel 43:00
Genres that I will not read? Don’t think? No.

Traci Thomas 43:07
You’ll try anything. And I’ll try anything once. Okay, that’s good. Do you ever do audiobooks?

Novena Carmel 43:13
I haven’t done audiobooks in a while. I think that it’s been replaced by really cool podcasts like the Stacks.

Traci Thomas 43:24
Hey, Product placement.

Novena Carmel 43:26
An audiobook is something that I would, you know, listen to be more likely to listen to, like, while I’m driving somewhere, but I I’ve done that more with podcasts recently. Yeah.

Traci Thomas 43:35
I mean, I feel like you’re also like, you listen to a lot of stuff. So I feel like maybe on listening is like nice, like reading it would be like an escape or TV or whatever.

Novena Carmel 43:44
Totally. And that’s why like, I prefer actual books than even reading it on like a Kindle or an iPad or whatever. Because it just feels like a more tactile experience. That’s different than being on the computer all day, which I am a lot for work as well.

Traci Thomas 44:02
So what is your ideal reading setup? Like? Where are you? What is the time of day? Do you have a snack or a beverage? What’s the temperature? What’s the vibe if you’re in your dream reading place?

Novena Carmel 44:14
Ooh, I love that. Well, the most likely place is just somewhere at home at that point in the day where it’s really quiet. Maybe there’s some birds chirping, I would do it on the couch with a little bit of pillows propped behind me. I don’t need a beverage anything because like I said earlier, I don’t need any distractions. My phone is like silent. It’s somewhere else. It’s not near me. Maybe a little incense burning or something like that sage. super cozy. I live for cozy, but also like if I could be somewhere else like at the beach. Reading with the waves, like any peaceful environment like that. Just wherever there’s a Little distractions as possible. And if it is a sound, it’s a consistent sound like waves happening.

Traci Thomas 45:06
Yeah. Okay. Do you have a favorite bookstore?

Novena Carmel 45:11
Oh, um, I don’t get to go to the bookstore a lot. But um, I always just think of as salon books in Limerick just because it is iconic and fantastic. It’s black owned, and that’s all I need.

Traci Thomas 45:29
That’s my favorite bookstore as well. There’s a new black owned bookstore in Inglewood called the salt eaters. It’s black, queer, woman femme. Owned and books. So all books by black women, femme non binary transgender mothers. Yeah, it’s really, really cool.

Novena Carmel 45:49
You also just reminded me of reparations club. Yeah, Reparations Club.

Traci Thomas 45:53
Which is those are my three experience save bookstores. Okay, this is sort of our lightning round. What’s the last book that made you laugh?

Novena Carmel 46:03
Okay, definitely laughing in George Clinton’s memoir is very long. It’s something like, they’d be like a Yo, George. Ain’t that kind of hard on you? Like that’s the whole book.

Traci Thomas 46:18
And I’ll link to everything in the show notes for everyone. So don’t worry. What about a book that you’re embarrassed that you’ve never read?

Novena Carmel 46:24
I’m embarrassed that I’ve never read? Oh, okay. Um, I don’t think I’ve read enough. Toni Morrison. Maybe I haven’t even read Toni Morrison. To be honest. I should read more Toni Morrison.

Traci Thomas 46:40
I feel like you would really like Toni Morrison. I feel like you should start with Sula. I think you would dig it in a big way.

Novena Carmel 46:49
I feel like there’s a number of powerful black women authors that I need to that I want to read more of.

Traci Thomas 46:58
I mean, same hard, same. I feel like there’s a lot because I feel like part of it is like we’re not taught about them in school. And then all of a sudden, you spent all this time reading all this stuff that was like not that good or important or relevant, like relevant to your life and then you become an adult and you’re like, oh my god, I have to catch up with all the Toni Cade Bambara and Toni Morrison and Jamaica Kincaid, and like all these women run, like, how come I wasted my time with John Steinbach?

Novena Carmel 47:24
I was recently reading a book of stories from Octavia Butler. And I never realized like, how she was like, ahead of her time science fiction writer.

Traci Thomas 47:36
Oh, yeah. I was like, This is it? This is like some matrix,

Novena Carmel 47:39
Like far out, you know?

Traci Thomas 47:43
Yeah. Yeah. She was like a real, like visionary. Like she was her book Parable of the Sower. I finally just read it. And it’s set in starts in 2024. And like, it’s like a dystopia in California. And it’s like, the sky is full of smoke from all the wildfires. And I’m like, How did she know? And it’s like, the like, the President is like, basically a Donald Trump in kind of get a guy running for president is like, basically Donald Trump. It’s like wild. Like she really just could see the world like she could see us. Yeah, that’s just wild.

Novena Carmel 48:20
The one that’s mostly in conversation is like George Orwell. 1984. And it’s like, let’s put that in the conversation too, you know? Yeah. Yeah. Well, yeah. And it could be Butler in

Traci Thomas 48:29
Exactly. It could be Butler Butler, and maybe it will start being now that we’re getting to 2024 and Parable of the Sower, we can change the narrative. Okay. A favorite book from childhood. I know you mentioned Berenstein Bears.

Novena Carmel 48:43
My favorite author from childhood was Roald Dahl. Yes. Which I think now when I’ve looked into who he is, he’s kind of like, problematic.

Traci Thomas 48:53
Yeah, he was like a Nazi, I think. Yeah. But it was a damn good. But those books slapped at eight years old. I was like, Yes. I was like James and that peach. My guy. All those bugs.

Novena Carmel 49:07
James and the Giant Peach, the twits the BFG

Traci Thomas 49:12
the witches, Matilda. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now you had bangers

Novena Carmel 49:18
Bangers- hit after hit. Yeah. So and it was kind of weird and quirky. You know? Like, yeah, really weird.

Traci Thomas 49:25
Yeah, I’m with you. Yeah. Okay. If you were a high school teacher, what’s a book you would assign to your students?

Novena Carmel 49:36
I really liked the book, The Untethered Soul. Have you read that?

Traci Thomas 49:39

Novena Carmel 49:41
It’s by Michael singer. I think that’s his name. And for me, that was a book I haven’t sometimes, you know, like, you go back and read books you like, oh, it’s not hitting the same. But I will say I read it when I was like, in my mid to late 20s or something. And it was like during a time where I felt really, like I was just like spinning off, of course, not any way that anybody would know. But just like was how I was viewing myself and my purpose. And reading that book totally gave me a new perspective with with how to interact with the world.

Traci Thomas 50:19
Hmm, I love that. Okay, I just have this one last question for you. I stole it from the New York Times. It’s if you could require the current president of the United States to read one book, what would it be?

Novena Carmel 50:32
Joe Biden. How does that mean novena, what book should I read? He needs to read something that’s just like, you know, give him a little more.

Traci Thomas 50:44
Honestly, he definitely needs more.

Novena Carmel 50:46
You know, um, he needs to read like, whatever is the most potent thing that James Baldwin has ever written.

Traci Thomas 50:54
Something. Yeah, I agree. He could definitely afford to read some Baldwin. That’s very good. Yeah, some I love it. I love this for Joe. Joe, you need to read some James.

Novena Carmel 51:04
Read some James. I was. Also you had your prompts. And I think one of your questions was like one of the most embarrassing books you’ve ever read. Oh, yeah, sure. Which I’m happy to answer, although I can’t really remember the name because I blocked it out of my head. Okay, well, I’ll try to. And I was like, it’s not even really an age. It’s more so like, so much time had passed before I was meeting, a man that I felt was right for me. And I was like, You need to approach this a different way. Let’s like, let’s get down to the basics. And it was something that I think I threw it away, because now I’m in a relationship and I didn’t want anybody to see it. But it was something like how to marry a man or something like

Traci Thomas 51:47
It wasn’t was it was an act like a lady Think Like a Man by stone.

Novena Carmel 51:51
Oh, cringe.

Traci Thomas 51:53
Yeah, I read that. I read that. It’s really-

Novena Carmel 51:56
No, it was it was something like that. And it was just going in on how like, men and women are different. And like, it was it’s an old book, too. And I was like, maybe if I just read something traditional, it’s just like, maybe I’m ahead.

Traci Thomas 52:10
Like God, did it any of it- Did any of it resonate? Or was it all just like, yucky?

Novena Carmel 52:17
It was, it kind of resonated? I mean, just kind of, I think thinking about, like, the different communication styles of people in general. Yeah, um, so maybe it hit that but and it also reminded me of reading this book in college in communications class called, you just don’t understand. And it’s about men and women communicate differently. And I’m like, I wonder if they still use that book because it feels very data.

Traci Thomas 52:44
Yeah, yikes. Oh, my God, I love it. Okay, we’re done for today. But novena will be back on May 25. I’m very excited. We’re going to talk about music, pop music, black women. We’re reading shine bright by Danielle Smith. I’m really excited because she’s a Bay Area gal like us. And she’s really great and brilliant and has a really interesting story. Neither of us have read the book yet. So I don’t know if it’s any good. I’ve heard it’s good. She’s a great writer. So I’m excited to everybody get your copy. And make sure you listen to morning Becomes Eclectic. If you’re in LA you can do it on the real radio. If not, you can do it online or through the app. Novena. Thank you so much for being here.

Novena Carmel 53:25
Thank you so much for having me. I hope I said something interesting.

Traci Thomas 53:29
Oh my god, you’re so interesting. And oh, remember next time we’re gonna have to tell people how we know each other because it’s like the weirdest, most roundabout way that you know my brother, but anyways, we’ll talk we’ll tell the story.

Novena Carmel 53:39
Okay. So stay tuned for that. Stay tuned.

Traci Thomas 53:41
That was a teaser. See you guys in a few weeks. Novena. Thank you and everybody else we will see you in the Stacks.

Thank you all so much for listening and thank you to Novena for being my guest. Remember, this month book club pick is shine bright, a very personal history of black women in pop by Danyel Smith, which we will discuss on May 25. With Novena Carmel. If you love this show and want insight access to it. Head to patreon.com/the stacks to join the stacks pack. And make sure you’re subscribed to the stacks wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you’re listening through Apple podcasts or Spotify, be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from the stacks. Follow us on social media at the stocks pod on Instagram at the stock spot underscore on Twitter and check out our website the stocks podcast.com This episode of the stocks was edited by Christian Duenas with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas.

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