Episode 574 – Elizabeth Flock

Virtual Memories Show 574:
Elizabeth Flock

“If women are violently fighting back against violence, is that helpful or harmful? I let that question lead me wherever I could find women who were doing that around the world.”

With her incredible new book, THE FURIES: Women, Vengeance, & Justice (Harper), journalist Elizabeth Flock explores the lives of three women who responded to violence with violence, and how they run up against the social institutions that seem designed to grind them down. We get into how the book grew from her interest in female vigilantes and her own experience of sexual violence, how she wound up reporting on the YPJ all-women army in Syria (but didn’t tell her mom until a few days before flying out there), how we try to reconcile revenge and a just world, and how cultures of honor wreak havoc on women and men. We talk about how she balanced reporting with the near-mythic characters of some of her subjects, what she’s learned over 15+ years in journalism (including how not to re-traumatize her subjects as they tell her their stories), the mind-body connection & how wrecked her body got by the time she finished writing this book, and how she went into this book starry-eyed and came away with a muddied picture. And we discuss how flexible podcasts are for journalistic storytelling, how women and men have responded to The Furies, what it was like reporting in Alabama, India and Syria during the pandemic, the time her dad took her to a murder scene when she was a kid (tbf, he was a journalist), guns & gun culture (& my embarrassing gun story), having her first child a few months ago, whether things are getting a little better for women, and more. Give it a listen! And go read THE FURIES!

“The longer I worked on this project, the more complicated and muddy it grew. As a journalist, that’s both wonderful and a nightmare.”

“If I was a 1950s housewife, I think I’d have been given a lobotomy by now, for being too outspoken or refusing to do the housework.”

“A lot of women have reached out to me and said, ‘You’re telling a story that’s my story’. I didn’t write this book for critics or reviews, but for women who defended themselves or wished they had.”

“It’s a depressing era for media, but the one thing I’m encouraged by is how many ways there are to tell stories.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Elizabeth Flock is an Emmy Award–winning journalist whose work has been featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Atlantic, and on PBS NewsHour and Netflix, among other outlets. She is the host of Blind Plea, a podcast from Lemonada Media about criminalized survival. Her reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center, PEN America, and the International Women’s Media Foundation. Her first book, The Heart Is a Shifting Sea, won a Nautilus Book Award for books that inspire and make a difference. She lives in Chicago and Los Angeles. Her new book is THE FURIES: Women, Vengeance, & Justice.

Follow Liz on Twitter and Instagram.

The writer and journalist Elizabeth Flock (USA), Los Angeles, California, June 9, 2021. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Liz by Beowulf Sheehan. Photo of YPJ soldier with RPG by Liz. It’s on my instagram.

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