The Personal Element

The Personal Element

Where we listen to essays we love, and talk about what makes them so great.


February 15, 2023 31 mins

 In Rachel Zemach's essay, first published in Huffpost, we learn that for a deaf person, being able to speak is not superior to communicating in ASL (American Sign Language). Rachel lost her hearing as a ten-year-old girl and as a result, can speak clearly--unlike many people who are deaf. But this doesn't give her an advantage. In fact, complications arise when people assume that if she can speak, she can hear. In this i...

Mark as Played

 In this exquisitely poetic essay, first published in The Diagram and republished in Creative Nonfiction, Diana Xin takes our listeners back to her grandmother's rural village where she boils water for drinking and hangs her laundry on the line. "To accumulate so many years and so few regrets: this must be a life well lived," the writer explains. She takes us through the tragedies of her grandmother's life, the ...

Mark as Played
December 15, 2022 27 mins

Not everyone has an amazing relationship with their parents. Not every parent is a person we feel proud to be related to, to be "of". In some cases, we are simply just different people. Or maybe the problems run deeper, into past actions or beliefs. Janice Northerns faces her conflicted feelings head-on in the essay Something Like Love, first published in Yellow Arrow, where she describes being at her father's deathb...

Mark as Played
November 15, 2022 40 mins

In this special edition of The Personal Element, we rebroadcast an episode of Lesley University's Why We Write podcast. Christine and Tavi talk about their writing lives as well as dig into Cindy House's essay "Urgent Care" from her acclaimed memoir/essay collection Mother Noise. They are joined by host Georgia Sparling to dissect this fabulous essay on mothering and regret encapsulated in a visit to an emergenc...

Mark as Played
October 15, 2022 31 mins

Alice block is a writer who has a great depth of knowledge about music, theater, and performance in general. She's published two memoirs (and a novel) exploring her relationships with the women in her life, her own sexual awakening and her rich life experiences in the 1970s New York City gay scene. Alice contemplates a man named Lenny who she almost married in comparison to the "relationship" she had with the famous ...

Mark as Played
September 15, 2022 39 mins

Icelandic-American writer Margrét Ann Thors takes readers on a surprising ride from Reykjavík to Colorado through her imaginative translations. The essay, though beautiful and amusing, touches on such heavy subjects as abortion, mass shootings and serious medical conditions. Margrét deftly explores her feelings around perpetrators and zealots in relation to her pregnancy. In gorgeous language, this essay will have you wondering how...

Mark as Played

Scientist and writer Lauren Tanabe takes us through her anxiety-ridden world of early motherhood. Concerns that her child will be injured or fall ill push Lauren to isolate herself further, hoping to keep her daughter clear of germs and accidents. With clear self-analysis, she admits that her anxiety is not something she wants to pass on. Listeners will identify with the writer's worries. Written pre-pandemic, the essay is alm...

Mark as Played

Essayist Kelly Eden discusses the larger questions in life as she skillfully weaves in her experiences with a chronical illness, contemplations regarding the movie Tick Tick Boom and the life of "Rent" creator Jonathan Larson, and a desire to make a mark in the world.

Christine and Tavi contemplate their own relationships with health, writing and fear of death while pointing out the economy of words in this essay which was...

Mark as Played

Rabbi Elliot Kukla writes about the importance of taking time to rest in his essay which was first published in the New York Times.  With an ear to the pulse of a nation exhausted from natural disasters  mass shootings and the pandemic, Kukla proscribes a remedy of laziness and relaxation to heal our deepest wounds. As a physically disabled person, Kukla has had no choice but to allow his body to rest and as a result, has reaped th...

Mark as Played
May 15, 2022 49 mins

 In his incredibly chilling and honest essay, “The Dark Month”, Christopher Collins explores his faith and belief after witnessing a boy's senseless death during the war in Afghanistan.  Brian O'Neil reads this essay that was first published in Creative Nonfiction.  The essay is a bit longer than most of the pieces we choose, but we felt passionately that the subject matters of PTSD, mental health for veterans, and findin...

Mark as Played
April 16, 2022 28 mins

Based on the Beck song, "Que Onda Guero", Kelly Shire's musical essay (first published in Memoir Mixtapes) explores a young girl's search for identity while working in a warehouse. Surrounded by men who have hired her because they thought she was white (not half-Mexican) and thought she would "class up the place", she handles herself with grace, eventually discovering that she desires something more. 


Mark as Played

First published in Hippocampus Magazine, Brooke Knisley’s essay helps put in perspective what failure means, what success means. After her fall from a redwood tree, she must learn to write and speak again. Brooke pulls listeners into an intimate moment of starting over. In this episode we discuss how Brooke is able to keep a cool, collected distance from her struggle, without ever seeming to feel sorry for herself. What would it fe...

Mark as Played
February 15, 2022 28 mins

 This episode on The Personal Element, we take a little different tack. We're talking about two essays this time by writer Ellen Birkett Morris, author of the gorgeous story collection Lost Girls

The Nine, published in The Fem, addresses trauma over childhood medical issues, expertly weaving in the nursery rhyme Monday's Child. 

And the deeply political essay Nobody's Home, first published in The Common, de...

Mark as Played
January 15, 2022 17 mins

 Mikhal Weiner writes beautifully--musically--about falling in love for the first time. Join us as we discuss her essay "Barefoot Angels", which first appeared in An Injustice!.  Mikhal transports us from Tel Aviv, where she bravely falls into a same-sex relationship, to Boston, where the two will attend the Berklee College of Music. The women fight to hold on to their relationship through the years in this lyrical essay....

Mark as Played
December 15, 2021 28 mins

 School shootings are far too common in the US. In the wake of yet another shooting, this time at Oxford High School in Michigan, students and educators try to find a way to feel safe. With grace and aplomb, Megan Doney writes about living through a school shooting at New River Community College in Christiansburg, VA on April 12, 2013. Join Christine and Tavi as they discuss this moving, important work. 

Mark as Played

In this episode, Tavi and Christine discuss Cindy DiTiberio's essay, If You're Not Sure If Your Marriage Will Survive the Pandemic, You're Not Alone, first published in Scary Mommy. Through the lens of Cindy's decision to give her home office to her husband so he can work during the pandemic while she homeschools her kids, the essay covers topics of working, parenting, and being a partner during the pandemic.   

Mark as Played

In this episode, Josh Kozelj writes about how hard it has been for him to open up to his male friends about his feelings. Josh brings in research from acclaimed researchers to ponder why men have a hard time making themselves vulnerable. Originally published in the New York Times. 

Mark as Played
August 19, 2021 2 mins

Come listen to our new podcast, The Personal Element, where writers Christine Junge and Tavi Taylor Black listen to essays they love and talk about what makes them so great. 

Mark as Played
August 8, 2021 26 mins

In this episode of the podcast, Casey Mulligan reads her heartbreaking and poignant essay, A How To for Desperate Times which was first published in Barren Magazine. Its subjects are parenting, adolescence and young adulthood, decision making, and all you can't protect your children from. Trigger warning: this essay deals (beautifully) with the subject of a young adult's death. 

Mark as Played
August 8, 2021 18 mins

In this episode of the Personal Element podcast, Jeanne Bonner reads her essay about recording her child's voice, which was originally published in the New York Times. The essay touches on themes of motherhood, the ephemeral nature of childhood, and how parents capture this special time. 

After the essay, Christine and Tavi discuss the craft of the essay--such as how Jeanne deepens it  with some personal revelations, ...

Mark as Played

Popular Podcasts

    "McCartney: A Life in Lyrics" offers listeners the opportunity to sit in on conversations between Paul McCartney and poet Paul Muldoon dissecting the people, experiences, and art that inspired McCartney’s songwriting. These conversations were held during the past several years as the two collaborated on the best selling book, “The Lyrics: 1965 to Present.” Over two seasons and 24 episodes of “McCartney: A Life in Lyrics”, you’ll hear a combination master class, memoir, and improvised journey with one of the most beloved figures in popular music. Each episode focuses on one song from McCartney’s iconic catalog – spanning early Beatles through his solo work. Season 1 premieres on October 4th. “McCartney: A Life in Lyrics” is a co-production between iHeart Media, MPL and Pushkin Industries. Cover Portrait © 1967 Paul McCartney / Photographer: Linda McCartney

    Dateline NBC

    Current and classic episodes, featuring compelling true-crime mysteries, powerful documentaries and in-depth investigations.

    Crime Junkie

    If you can never get enough true crime... Congratulations, you’ve found your people.

    Stuff You Should Know

    If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.


    Unforgettable true crime mysteries, exclusive newsmaker interviews, hard-hitting investigative reports and in-depth coverage of high profile stories.

Advertise With Us
Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


© 2023 iHeartMedia, Inc.