Podcast Review: Ear Hustle

I’ve been listening to podcasts ever since I lived in China. For those of you keeping score, that’s a long time ago. I can’t even remember how I discovered them, but I know that among the first podcasts I listened to was one on learning Chinese and another on English Premier League football.

I don’t listen to either of those anymore.

I do however listen to a lot of podcasts. A lot. Poor C has to hear me at least twice a day saying, “I heard on a podcast that…”

In light of this, I thought I could on a semi-regular basis share some of the podcasts I listen to and explain why, dear reader, you might enjoy them.

First up, Ear Hustle.

This is a new podcast out of Radiotopia and it’s getting a lot of buzz. Ear Hustle certainly doesn’t need any recommendations from me, with everyone from The New Yorker, to The Guardian, to Rolling Stone, the show is not short on glowing reviews.

I don’t listen to many of the big name podcasts – I’ve never listened to Serial – and my tastes veer to science and nerdy things. But if I were to recommend just one podcast to anyone, it would be Ear Hustle.

Ear Hustle is set in San Quentin jail, and each episode focuses on one topic – cellmates, pets, solitary confinement. It is one of the most human things I’ve heard on a podcast. These are men trying to make their way in a world that is similar to ours, but is not ours. There is nothing sexy or glamorous about being in prison. It is simply another way of living, one with different rules, and it’s enlightening.

In the episode “Catch a Kite”, inmates are asked what they would change about the prison system if they could. One answers – “make it co-ed”. Another inmate agrees – not because of the sex or intimacy, although that would be nice – but because he feels like he has forgotten how to talk to women, how to treat them.

“There’s a bunch of things you can learn around women that you can’t learn around men,” he says. He’s scared to hug his sister and nieces and mother, because he’s around men all day. He feels like women can teach him different life skills, more respect. He’s been in jail for more than a decade, around nothing but men.

In the same episode, another prisoner identifies as Mexican for the first time. “What are you?” the warden asks him. He’s confused. He’s American, he thinks. Until he looks around and sees how the jail is organised. “Ah,” he realises. “No. In here, I am Mexican. That’s who I run with now.”

It’s only five episodes in, but I can’t recommend Ear Hustle enough. Give it a whirl. Available on iTunes, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, or direct on the website.

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.

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