By Guest Blogger, C’loni Bailey, Bookmans Enthusiast and Cosplay Connoisseur.
Reading Rainbow was a staple of the American childhood during the ’80s and ’90s. Levar Burton was the face, the voice, and the personality that made reading not only fun but magical. For over twenty years, Levar Burton brought the magic of reading straight into people’s homes via the half-hour television show. Now, those same children who grew up watching Reading Rainbow get the chance to experience that magic again with Levar Burton Reads, a new podcast in which the Star Trek: The Next Generation actor reads his favorite works of short fiction.
In Levar Burton Reads, Burton hand picks a different piece of short fiction to read to his audience each episode. The works vary in genre and topic but as Burton says in every episode, “The only thing these works have in common is that I love them, and I hope you will too.” However, Burton is clearly a fan of fantasy and science fiction as many of the stories feature fantastical elements.
With each podcast, Burton performs the different voices for each character while still remaining true to that soft, velvety tone that made Reading Rainbow such a wonderful show. The podcast features works from famous authors such as Elmore Leonard, Ken Liu, and Neil Gaiman. At the beginning and end of each episode, Burton takes the time to discuss what he enjoys about that particular story, how it reflects or resounds with his own life experiences. This provides not only insight into the story itself but into the heart of a man that is so beloved in geek culture.
Even if you only have time to listen to one or two stories (they run about 40-60 minutes long on average) I would highly suggest listening to Episode 11: “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu. It’s a heart-wrenching story about the relationship between a mother and a son while dealing with the challenges of conflicting cultures. In this story, a half-Chinese boy born to an immigrant Chinese mother tries to come to terms with his ethnicity in America, all the while discovering how special his mother, and her culture, really was. I dare you to not cry during the devastating conclusion of this story, especially after listening to it being read with Burton’s trademark warmth and gravity. This story had me holding back tears on the bus.
If you prefer something more lighthearted in nature, try listening to Episode 7: “Chivalry” by Neil Gaiman. “Chivalry” is a humorous story of an old woman who has the Holy Grail which she keeps on her mantle. One day, a knight approaches her and tries to convince her to give it to him but she repeatedly refuses. It looks quite good on her mantle, after all. Written with Gaiman’s trademark cheeky wit, Burton breathes life into the funny old woman and her curious interests.
Levar Burton Reads is available at levarburtonpodast.com, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher. Season one features twelve episodes and Burton is hard at work to bring us season two next year. If you are a fan of Levar Burton or fantastic fiction or both, give this podcast a try. You won’t be disappointed.
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