Episode 3.1: Lobotomies

In this episode, Katie is bewitched by lobotomies. 

The U.S. has a long and tragic history of barbaric and inhumane treatment of people living with mental illnesses. From overcrowded institutions to painful experimental treatments, patients were subjected to the unthinkable. Admittance to a state hospital was tantamount to a death sentence served in inhumane conditions. Then, a promising young neurologist introduced a new procedure inspired by the work of a Portuguese physician. Walter Freeman and the prefrontal lobotomy offered the promise of returning a patient home in a year or less. To many, this psychosurgery was seen as a miracle. But as thousands of unconsenting patients had the connections in their prefrontal cortexes severed by leucotomes and orbitoclasts, the true costs of the procedure were slowly revealed. 

Staff picks: 

  • The Flatshare (and ALL the other books!) by Beth O’Leary 
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert 
  • The Midnight Club by Christopher Pike + its Netflix adaptation

Related media recommendations: 

  • The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness  by Jack El-Hai
  • Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity, from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine by Andrew Scull
  • Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson
  • My Lobotomy: A Memoir by Howard Dully and Charles Fleming
  • The Lobotomist’s Wife by Samantha Greene Woodruff
  • The Mad Woman’s Ball by Victoria Mas
  • The Mountain, directed by Rick Alverson
  • The Lobotomist, produced by American Experience PBS
  • My Lobotomy: Howard Dully’s Journey by “All Things Considered” NPR

If you are interested in any of the books we talk about in this episode, please consider purchasing them through our affiliate link with Bookshop.org!


The Strange and Curious History of the Lobotomy
My Lobotomy: Howard Dully’s Journey
Psychosurgery, Ethics, and Media: A History of Walter Freeman and the Lobotomy
A Hole in the Head: A History of Trepanation
America’s Long-Suffering Mental Health System
The Secret Lobotomy of Rosemary Kennedy
Mental Illness in Black Community, 1700-2019: A Short History
The Village at Grand Traverse Common: History


Halloween Spooktacular 2022

Happy Halloween! The Reference Desk is back with a spooky, special Halloween episode! Turn off the lights, grab some Halloween candy and settle in as Hailee tells you one of Virginia’s creepiest urban legends and Katie enthralls you with a haunted house story that is anything but typical. Plus, get some spooky reading recommendations for any level of scare.

The Reference Desk will be back for Season 3 on November 9th! Want to listen (or watch!) episodes 2 days early? Support us on Patreon!


  • The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson
  • The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon
  • My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
  • Lute by Jennifer Thorne
  • Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel
  • The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
  • The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
  • Other Terrors, edited by Vince A. Liaguno and Rena Mason

If you are interested in any of the books we talk about in this episode, please consider purchasing them through our affiliate link with Bookshop.org!

The Bunny Man Unmasked
The True Story Of The Bunnyman, Northern Virginia’s Most Gruesome Urban Legend
Bunny Man Bridge: Northern Virginia’s Spooky Urban Legend
The Clifton Bunny Man

Witch Witchcraft Act is Which?
A True and Just Record…
I Bought a Witches’ Prison
Real estate listing for The Cage 


Episode 13: 616.835-The Polio Epidemic and Vaccines

This week, Katie is bewitched with the polio epidemic and vaccines. 

As the U.S. takes its first tentative steps toward post-COVID life with the massive roll-out of vaccines, Katie takes time to reflect on another virus that changed our world: Polio. For decades, parents lived in fear of summer- time polio outbreaks. Children went from happy and healthy to iron lungs in a matter of days. As a result, public pools closed. Adolescents were banned from movie theaters, and parents everywhere hoped and prayed for a vaccine that would keep their children safe. The Polio vaccines continue to provide relief from this debilitating virus all over the world. Will we allow the COVID vaccines to do their work, too?

The Royal We series by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Growing Things by Paul Tremblay

Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky

The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis by Paul A. Offit

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Three Minutes for a Dog: My Life in an Iron Lung by Paul R. Alexander

Nemesis by Philip Roth

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

Severance by Ling Ma


Abramson, Mark A. “History Does Repeat Itself: Lessons from the Polio Vaccine.” Government Executive, Government Executive, 14 Apr. 2021, http://www.govexec.com/management/2020/07/history-does-repeat-itself-lessons-polio-vaccine/167068/. 

Alexander, Paul R., and Norman D. Brown. Three Minutes for a Dog…: My Life in an Iron Lung. FriesenPress, 2020. 

Chamberlain, Diane. The Stolen Marriage. Griffin, 2021. 

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Parents PACK Personal Stories-Polio.” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 4 Dec. 2014, http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/parents-pack/personal-stories/polio#.Vry9fPkrJmM. 

Cocks, Heather, and Jessica Morgan. The Royal We. Grand Central Publishing, 2020. 

Ducharme, Jamie. “Why ‘New’ COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Are Totally Expected.” Time, Time, 22 Apr. 2021, time.com/5957222/covid-vaccine-side-effects/. 

Fitzpatrick, Michael. “The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to a Growing Vaccine Crisis.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, The Royal Society of Medicine, Mar. 2006, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1383764/. 

History of Polio. http://www.historyofvaccines.org/timeline/polio. 

“History of Polio.” BBC News, BBC, 25 Sept. 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/health-17045202. 

“How We Know the COVID Vaccine Won’t Have Long Term Side Effects.” The University of Western Australia, http://www.uwa.edu.au/news/article/2021/march/how-we-know-the-covid-vaccine-wont-have-long-term-side-effects. 

Ma, Ling. Severance. The Text Publishing Company, 2020. 

Offit, Paul A. The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis. Yale University Press, 2007. 

Oshinsky, David M. Polio: an American Story. Oxford University Press, 2006. 

“Our Progress Against Polio.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Mar. 2021, http://www.cdc.gov/polio/progress/index.htm. 

“Polio Survivor Stories.” Marchofdimes.ca, http://www.marchofdimes.ca/en-ca/programs/postpolio/pss/Pages/Polio-Survivor-Stories.aspx. 

“Polio Survivor Stories.” PA Polio Survivors Network, http://www.papolionetwork.org/survivor-stories.html. 

“Polio through History.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., http://www.britannica.com/science/polio/Polio-through-history. 

Rodriguez McRobbie, Linda. “The Man in the Iron Lung.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 May 2020, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/may/26/last-iron-lung-paul-alexander-polio-coronavirus. 

Rogers, Naomi. “Race and the Politics of Polio: Warm Springs, Tuskegee, and the March of Dimes.” American Journal of Public Health, © American Journal of Public Health 2007, May 2007, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1854857/. 

Roth, Philip. Nemesis. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. 

Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Picador, 2017. 

“Vaccine Types.” Vaccines, http://www.vaccines.gov/basics/types. 


Episode 11: 910.9164- The survival story of Jose Salvador Alvarenga

In this week’s episode, Katie is bewitched by the incredible survival story of Jose Salvador Alvarenga.

In November 2012, Alvarenga headed out on a fishing trip despite warnings of a storm brewing. The routine trip soon turned life-threatening when engine failure and rough seas dragged Alvarenga and his mate, 22-year-old Ezequiel Cordoba, deep into the Pacific Ocean. For 438 days, Alvarenga survived at sea before washing ashore on the Marshall Islands.

Alvarenga’s survival is a story of incredible skill, intelligence, and sheer luck. In this episode we examine the psychological and physical obstacles Alvarenga overcame to become the first man to survive for over a year alone in the Pacific Ocean.

Recommended Books: 

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

Healthier Together by Liz Moody

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by John Krakauer

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere by John “Lofty” Williams

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell


Alba, M., & Connor, T. (2017, February 26). Marshall Islands Castaway Jose Alvarenga sued for $1 million. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/marshall-islands-castaway/marshall-islands-castaway-jose-alvarenga-sued-1-million-n295336

Benjamin, M. (2021). The children’s blizzard: A novel. New York: Delacorte Press.

Bryson, B. (1998). A walk in the woods. London: Black Swan.

Franklin, J. (2016). 438 days: An extraordinary true story of survival at sea. London: Pan Books.

George, J. C. (2012). My side of the mountain. New York: Puffin Books.

Krakauer, J. (2011). Into thin air: A personal account of the Everest disaster. London: Pan.

Krakauer, J. (2018). Into the wild. London: Picador Classic.

O’Dell, S. (2016). Island of the blue dolphins. London: Puffin Books.

Paulsen, G. (2018). Hatchet. Seoul: Longtail Books.

Philbrick, N. (2015). In the heart of the sea: The true story of the whaleship Essex. New York: Puffin Books.

Weir, A. (2015). The martian. Rask Mølle: DreamLitt.

Wiseman, J. (2009). SAS survival handbook: How to survive in the wild, in any climate, on land or at sea. London: Collins.


Episode 5: 615.78- Ayahuasca

In this episode, Katie is bewitched with the psychedelic drug ayahuasca.

Deep in the Amazon basin of South America, indigenous people rely on the wisdom of the sacred ayahuasca brew, a psychoactive drink. For centuries, this medicine has guided and healed those who partake in its sacred ritual. Traditionally, a trained shaman guides their community members through the ritual, but Westerners want in, too.

For the past decade, ayahuasca has skyrocketed to popularity with celebrities, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and those desperate for healing Western medicine has failed to give them. In this episode, we dive deep into ayahuasca’s traditional roots, its modern uses, and the hope and harm it encapsulates.

Álvarez, C. (2018, February 06). Why You Will Never Get a Traditional Ayahuasca Treatment. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://chacruna.net/you-will-never-get-traditional-ayahuasca-treatment/

Atwater, T. (2020, January 29). Ayahuasca: The Dark Side and Dangers. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/ayahuasca-addiction/

Ayahuasca Research. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://maps.org/research/ayahuasca

Ayahuasca [Television series episode]. (2020). In (Un)Well. Netflix.

Francuski, X., India, A., & View all posts by Xavier Francuski →. (2020, December 16). What’s a “Traditional” Ayahuasca Ceremony? Hint: It’s Not What You Think. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://entheonation.com/blog/traditional-ayahuasca-ceremony/

Gorman, P. (2010). Ayahuasca in my blood: 25 years of medicine dreaming. Lexington, KY: Gorman Bench Press.

Hay, M. (2020, November 4). The Colonization of the Ayahuasca Experience. Retrieved from https://daily.jstor.org/the-colonization-of-the-ayahuasca-experience/

Illing, S. (2018, February 19). The brutal mirror. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.vox.com/first-person/2018/2/19/16739386/ayahuasca-retreat-psychedelic-hallucination-meditation

J. Hamilton Hudson, E. (2020, January 21). How Can You Drink Ayahuasca Legally in the U.S.? Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://chacruna.net/how-can-you-drink-ayahuasca-legally-in-the-u-s/

Luna, L. E., & Amaringo, P. (1999). Ayahuasca visions: The religious iconography of a Peruvian shaman. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Moriarty, L. (2021). Nine Perfect Strangers. Flatiron Books.

Parton, D., & Oermann, R. K. (2020). Dolly Parton, songteller my life in lyrics. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books.

Sykes, L., & Piazza, J. (2018). Fitness Junkie. Random House USA.

Teigen, C. (2017). Cravings. London: Michael Joseph.

Teigen, C. (2018). Cravings. Hungry for More. New York: Clarkson Potter/.

Walubita, T. (2020, February 21). Cultural Context and the Beneficial Applications of Ayahuasca. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.lakeforest.edu/news/cultural-context-and-the-beneficial-applications-of-ayahuasca


Episode 3: 364.163- Frank Abagnale, Jr.

In this episode of The Reference Desk, Katie is bewitched by Frank Abagnale, Jr. 

One of America’s most notorious con-men, Frank Abagnale, Jr.’s unlikely journey into the world of check forgery, criminal impersonation, and other scams, inspired the popular film “Catch Me If You Can.” From his humble beginnings as a teenage runaway cashing bad checks, to his summer spent escorting a group of Pan-Am flight attendant hopefuls through Europe, this episode covers his life of crime from beginning to end. After our deep-dive into Abagnale’s problematic rise to notoriety, we give you book recommendations about the world of fraud, scams, and swindles. 


 Abagnale, F., Jr., & Redding, S. (2000). Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake. Crown.

Brock, P. (2009). Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam. Crown.

Carreyrou, J. (2020). Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. Vintage.

Dean J., Grigoriadis, V. (Hosts). Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen. [Audio Podcast]. Campside Media. https://www.campsidemedia.com/shows/chameleon 

Docter, P., & Powers, K. (Directors). (2020). Soul [Motion picture]. Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios.

Frank Abagnale. (2020, August 10). Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.biography.com/personality/frank-abagnale

Haig, M. (2020). The midnight library. New York, NY: Viking.

Highsmith, P. (2013). The talented Mr. Ripley. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

King, S. (2014). Revival. Scriber.

Mosley, Laci. (Host). Scam Goddess. [Audio Podcast]. Earwolf. https://www.earwolf.com/show/scam-goddess/ 

Sales, N. J. (2013). The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World. It Books.

Spielberg, S. (Director). (2002). Catch Me if You Can [Motion picture]. Dreamworks Pictures.

Season 3 Episode 2 – Woodstock 1969

In this episode, Hailee is bewitched by the Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969. 

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was a music festival that happened from August 15-17 in 1969 on a dairy farm in Bethel, NY. It was billed as an Aquarian Exposition providing three days of music and peace. Thirty-two acts performed for the nearly 500,000 attendees over the three days and Rolling Stone Magazine lists it as one of the top 50 moments that changed Rock and Roll history. There have been attempts to recreate the iconic music festival and all have been unsuccessful, most notably the absolute disaster of Woodstock 1999. So what made the original festival so special? 

Staff picks

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price 

Related media recommendations

Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life by Elliot Tiber 

Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969 by Bob Spitz

The Road to Woodstock by Michael Lang

Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash

Woodstock, Baby!: A Far-Out Counting Book by Spencer Wilson



If you are interested in any of the books we talk about in this episode, please consider purchasing them through our affiliate link with Bookshop.org!

Spotify Playlists

Woodstock 1969 – Full Chronological Setlist

Best of Woodstock 1969


Trainwreck: Woodstock ‘99

Woodstock ’99


Richie Havens | 50 Years of Peace & Music

Joan Baez Looks Back at Woodstock: ‘It Was the Eye of the Hurricane’

Peace, Love and Music: The Legacy of Woodstock 50 Years Later

Woodstock 1969: How a Music Festival That Should’ve Been a Disaster Became Iconic Instead – HISTORY

Support the show

Marilyn Monroe

This week, Hailee is bewitched by the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe. Born Norma Jean in 1926, she was moved from foster home to foster home, living for a time in an orphanage and never having a stable home base. She was married off when she was only 16 years old and was discovered by an Army Airforce photographer sent to take morale-boosting photographs of female workers during WWII.  Marilyn worked tirelessly on her craft, reading books and taking classes but she struggled with her past and with her mental health. Marilyn is much more than the blonde bombshell she has been pegged to be.


  • Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe, edited by Bernard Comment 
  • The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli
  • Marilyn: Norma Jeane by Gloria Steniem
  • Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers
  • Beauty Mark by Carole Boston Weatherford
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

If you are interested in any of the books we talk about in this episode, please consider purchasing them through our affiliate link with Bookshop.org!








Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/thereferencedesk)

Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger Disaster, Part 2

Join us as we finish the story of Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger Disaster. 

In part 2, Hailee tells us how Christa won the Teacher in Space position out of thousands of applicants, how she trained for weeks and gives brief bios for the rest of the Challenger crew. We will also learn how this disaster very well could have been avoided. 

What We’re Reading

  • Verity by Colleen Hoover
  • The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
  • The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
  • The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
  • Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C & Erin E. Stead

If you are interested in any of the books we talk about on this episode, please consider using our affiliate link through Bookshop.org!

Recommended Reading


  • The burning blue: the untold story of Christa McAuliffe and NASA’s Challenger disaster by Kevin Cook
  • Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster by Allan McDonald and James Hansen
  • Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew by Michael D. Leinbach and Jonathan H. Ward.
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Sheterly
  • How We Got to the Moon: the people, technology, and daring feats of science behind humanity’s greatest adventure by John Rocco


  • We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly
  • Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos


History of Spaceflight

The Space Race

NASA Group 8

Teacher in Space Program 

Christa McAuliffe 

1970s: Kennedy Dispatches Probes to Far Reaches as Apollo Ends

1980s: All Eyes Focus on Space Shuttle

35 Years Ago: Remembering Challenger and Her Crew

Utah engineers’ warning was ignored before Challenger explosion 30 years ago

Christa’s Lost Lessons

Rogers Commission Report

Challenger Engineer Who Warned Of Shuttle Disaster Dies


Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger Disaster, Part 1

This week, Hailee tells us about Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger disaster in this two-part episode! 

In part 1, Hailee gives us a (brief, layman’s version) history of the beginnings of the space age and the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. You will also learn about Astronaut Group 8, the most diverse group of astronauts NASA ever employed up to that point and we will learn about the decision to begin the Teach in Space program that will introduce us to the amazing Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire teacher chosen to be the first citizen in space. We also learn that if you break the moon, you have to pay for the moon. 

Stay tuned next week for part 2, along with all of our recommended reading!


History of Spaceflight

The Space Race

NASA Group 8

Teacher in Space Program 

Christa McAuliffe 

1970s: Kennedy Dispatches Probes to Far Reaches as Apollo Ends

1980s: All Eyes Focus on Space Shuttle

35 Years Ago: Remembering Challenger and Her Crew

Utah engineers’ warning was ignored before Challenger explosion 30 years ago

Christa’s Lost Lessons

Rogers Commission Report

Challenger Engineer Who Warned Of Shuttle Disaster Dies


Banned and Challenged Books

In this FIRST-EVER in-person episode of The Reference Desk, Katie and Hailee talk about banned books. 

In recent months, the number of challenged books has skyrocketed. Politicians and parents across the country have called for the removal of books that feature LGBTQIA+ references and material that may make white students feel uncomfy. Katie and Hailee tell you the history of book bans, talk you through how challenges are handled, explore current challenged material, and share their thoughts on actions to stop censorship. 

What the ALA has to say about the recent uptick in book challenges.
How material challenges are handled in public and school libraries. 
How libraries in Texas and Virginia are handling an onslaught in challenged material. 
Guess that banned book!
Currently challenged books. 
How you can help support your local schools, libraries, and marginalized communities in the face of book bans. 

Currently reading: 
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
New Kid by Jerry Kraft
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Melissa’s Story (Formerly titled “George”) by Alex Gino
Something Happened in Our Town  by Ann Hazzard, Marianne Celano, and Marietta Collins
All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom
Red Wine and Blue’s Book Ban Busters
The Unicorn Express
Free Little Library
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Mary Seacole

Many people know and recognize the name Florence Nightingale and recognize her as the founder of modern nursing. And, while she did some amazing things for the field of nursing there was another woman who many argue was actually the first nurse practitioner, largely forgotten by history. 

This week, Hailee is bewitched with Mary Seacole, a British-Jamaican nurse and businesswoman and one of the pioneers of modern nursing. 

Also mentioned in this episode: the extremely problematic “tip line” created by the Governor ofVirginia to have its citizens spy on school teachers and turn them into the government. If you would like to flood this tip line, the email is helpeducation@governor.virginia.gov


If you are interested in purchasing any of the titles we recommend in this episode, please use our affiliate link through Bookshop.org!

  • Non Fiction
    • Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands by Mary Seacole
    • Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield by Susan Goldman Rubin
  • Fiction
    • The rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon
    • The wonder by Emma Donahugh 
  • Hailee’s favorite children’s and YA books by Black creators: 
    • The March series of graphic novels written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell
    • The Hate u Give by Angie Thomas
    • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
    • Punching the Air by Ibi Zaboi and Yusef Salaam**
    • Sulwe by Lupita Nyongo
    • The Lola books by Anna McQuinn
    • The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson which was the winner of the caldecott medal
    • I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C James
    • Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

** Hailee incorrectly stated the co-author of Punching the Air, Yosef Salaam, was part of the individuals called the Central Park Four by the media. It is, however, the Central Park Five now, thankfully, the Exonerated Five! I apologize!

Episode 212: Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine

In this episode of The Reference Desk, Katie is bewitched by the incredible story of Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine.

Following the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education, all school districts were instructed to begin integrating public buildings. But in Little Rock, Arkansas, the resistance to integration became a national spectacle. As Governor Orval Faubus went to extreme lengths to keep Little Rock’s Central High segregated, nine brave African American students stepped up to confront him. The teenagers were selected and aided by Civil Rights activist Daisy Bates, local NAACP president, newspaper owner, and all-around champion for change. Together, Bates, the Little Rock Nine, and their courageous families changed the American education system. But since the 1980s, American schools have started to become more segregated. We explore the factors surrounding the complicated issue and examine how the education of Black children in America has been shaped throughout our history. 

Listen here:


Still Separate, Still Unequal: Teaching About School Segregation and Educational Inequality (NYT article Katie mentions)

U.S. school segregation in the 21st century

Little Rock Nine: the day young students shattered racial segregation

Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine

Inside the Rosenwald Schools

Little Rock Nine Foundation

Nice White Parents podcast

What we are reading: 

Katie: Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Hailee: Songteller by Dolly Parton

Recommended this week: see our Bookshop affiliate page for all of our recommendation or to purchase a title!

A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School by Carlotta Walls Lanier

Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals

The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High by Elizabeth Eckford

The Lost Education of Horace Tate by Vanessa Siddle Walker

Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works by Rucker C. Johnson and Alexander Nazaryan

The Long Ride by Marina Budhos

What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Episode 211: Reincarnated Children

This week on the Reference Desk, Hailee is bewitched by stories of children who remember having a past life. While reincarnation is a common belief and philosophy in Eastern religions and traditions, it is not as common in the West. Yet, two researchers have investigated over 2000 cases of children in the United States who have reported experiencing memories of a past life. 

What We Are Reading

  • Graveminder by Melissa Marr
  • Songteller by Dolly Parton
  • Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty


  • Return to Life by Jim Tucker
  • Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife Leslie Kean
  • Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot by Bruce and Andrea Leininger
  • My Name Is Memory by Anne Brashers
  • The Ghost Inside My Child (A&E Show)

If you are interested in purchasing any of the books we have recommended in this episode, please consider using our affiliate link at Bookshop.org!