Episode for May 23, 2022
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Rebecca Soffer had always primarily associated the word “orphan” with waifish Charles Dickens characters. But when she was 30, her mother Shelby, was killed in a car accident, one hour after dropping Rebecca off from a family camping trip to the Adirondacks. Four years later, her father died of a heart attack while on a cruise to the Bahamas. Lucky him, unlucky everyone else. Suddenly, she was actually an orphan herself.
So much loss at such a relatively young age un-tethered Rebecca. There were husbands yet to meet, puppies yet o dopt, and so many other miles yet to stone—but all of it would have to be done without her own parents’ guidance, along with dealing with the logistical aftermath of each of their deaths. Dear reader, it was bad.
But she wasn’t alone. Together with Gabrielle and some other friends, Rebecca formed a monthly dinner party called WWDP (Women With Dead Parents, obviously). The WWDP conversations were wide-ranging, but the common denominator was a shared understanding. A general “I get it.” No apologies, no accusations, no questions asked. Other than: Who brought the chocolate cake, and can I get the recipe?
Because if Rebecca couldn’t have parents, dammit, she could at least have chocolate cake—not to mention friends who understood the particular nuances of going through profound loss way before they expected to.
With Modern Loss, Rebecca hopes to bring that refreshing openness to a broader audience, and community, who could use their own place setting at the table of loss.
Rebecca has been a lifelong organizer of communities, both public and private. From getting her masters in journalism from Columbia University, to accompanying Stephen Colbert on a Peabody Award-winning quest to get to know all 435 U.S. Representatives, to helping to grow a leading network of Jewish creatives, Rebecca has always found strength in numbers, and bringing those numbers together. She has contributed pieces across media, including TIME, NBC Think, The New York Times, Marie Claire, Refinery29, Elle Decor, and Tablet Magazine’s podcast, Vox Tablet; has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning; and has spoken at Chicago Ideas Week, Amazon, HBO, and Experience Camps‘ annual benefit, where she was its 2017 honoree. She has also led Modern Loss retreats at Kripalu; keynoted for several organizations, including Good Grief and Capital One; and is known for putting her special touch of levity, depth and a bit of comfortable weirdness on Modern Loss’ live storytelling events.
Rebecca lives in New York and the Massachusetts Berkshires with her husband, two little boys, and labradoodle. Keep up with her on Twitter @rebeccasoffer, where she regularly tweets at 3 am because she barely sleeps these days (see the part about the two little boys). Contact her for speaking engagements, press inquiries, to book a live storytelling event, and more at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Toluse Olorunnipa is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for The Washington Post. He joined the Post in 2019 and previously covered the White House. Before that, he spent five years at Bloomberg, where he reported on politics and policy from Washington and Florida.
A landmark biography by two prizewinning Washington Post reporters that reveals how systemic racism shaped George Floyd’s life and legacy—from his family’s roots in the tobacco fields of North Carolina, to ongoing inequality in housing, education, health care, criminal justice, and policing—telling the story of how one man’s tragic experience brought about a global movement for change.
“It is a testament to the power of His Name Is George Floyd that the book’s most vital moments come not after Floyd’s death, but in its intimate, unvarnished and scrupulous account of his life . . . Impressive.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Since we know George Floyd’s death with tragic clarity, we must know Floyd’s America—and life—with tragic clarity. Essential for our times.”
—Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist
“A much-needed portrait of the life, times, and martyrdom of George Floyd, a chronicle of the racial awakening sparked by his brutal and untimely death, and an essential work of history I hope everyone will read.”
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author ofThe Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song
The events of that day are now tragically familiar: on May 25, 2020, George Floyd became the latest Black person to die at the hands of the police, murdered outside of a Minneapolis convenience store by white officer Derek Chauvin. The video recording of his death set off the largest protest movement in the history of the United States, awakening millions to the pervasiveness of racial injustice. But long before his face was painted onto countless murals and his name became synonymous with civil rights, Floyd was a father, partner, athlete, and friend who constantly strove for a better life.
His Name Is George Floyd tells the story of a beloved figure from Houston’s housing projects as he faced the stifling systemic pressures that come with being a Black man in America. Placing his narrative within the context of the country’s enduring legacy of institutional racism, this deeply reported account examines Floyd’s family roots in slavery and sharecropping, the segregation of his schools, the overpolicing of his community amid a wave of mass incarceration, and the callous disregard toward his struggle with addiction—putting today’s inequality into uniquely human terms. Drawing upon hundreds of interviews with Floyd’s closest friends and family, his elementary school teachers and varsity coaches, civil rights icons, and those in the highest seats of political power, Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa offer a poignant and moving exploration of George Floyd’s America, revealing how a man who simply wanted to breathe ended up touching the world.