MILK Podcast Holiday Gift Guide

We gathered some of our powerhouse guests from 2018 to put together a list of holiday gifts to give (or treat yourself to) in celebration of a year of inspiring, creative MILKs who are making art, helping us heal, and creating stronger communities. Cheers!

milk podcast holiday gift guide.jpg


What Would Virginia Woolf Do: And Other Questions I Ask Myself as I Attempt to Age Without Apology

This funny and informative book by MILK Podcast guest Nina Lorez Collins grew out of her popular Facebook Group of the same name, where women – with strong opinions and humor – share their private selves with bravery and most of all, humor.

Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy

MILK Podcast guest Angela Garbes wrote this beautiful book based on an article she wrote for Seattle's alt-weekly, The Stranger, called “The More I Learn About Breast Milk, the More Amazed I Am.” The story became the publication’s most read piece in its twenty-four year history, and the inspiration for Like A Mother, an essential read for all new moms.

If You Knew Suzy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Reporter’s Notebook

Written by MILK Podcast guest and New York Times writer Katie Rosman, this memoir marries a daughter's quest to truly know her late mother, with a reporter’s attention to detail, humor, and pathos.

Modern Loss: Candid conversations about grief. Beginners welcome

Co-authored by MILK podcast guest Rebecca Soffer the Modern Loss book has been blurbed by everyone from Mindy Kaling to Stephen Colbert to Anna Sale. It is practical, surprising, and filled with the darkly humorous and tender details of death's inevitability.

And check out the Modern Loss community's Holiday Gift Guide for more thoughtful - and fun - holiday gift ideas.

milk podcast gift guide.jpg


Vote Like a Mother

Rock your Vote Like a Mother shirt and buy a tote bag for a friend who wants to spread the word about this organization, founded by MILK Podcast guest Sara Berliner.

Vote Like a Mother sells ethically sustainable merch with a wink, benefits mom run organizations, and acts as a filter for activism.

Signs of Resistance

MILK Podcast Bonnie Siegler, who runs the award-winning design studio Eight and a Half, was voted one of the fifty most influential designers working today by Graphic Design USA. Her book is a visual history of protest in America, perfect for this holiday season.

milkpodcast gift guide.jpg


Consider donating to these female-founded start-ups and progressive causes championed by MILK Podcast guest Carley Roney: Power of Two, Project Entrepreneur, and Brooklyn Community Foundation, Motivote and Sister District.

Donate in a friend’s name to support the Higher Heights Foundation, co-founded by MILK Podcast guest Kimberly Peeler-Allen. Higher Heights is a national organization that builds the political power and leadership of Black women from the voting booth to elected office. Talk about getting the new year off to a good start!


How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids

MILK Podcast guest Jancee Dunn's fabulous book is now out in paperback!

Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give

Another excellent book about marriage and parenting, MILK Podcast guest Ada Calhoun's book is out in paperback in time for the holidays.

TBH #2: 12 Before 13 and TBH #3: TBH, Too Much Drama

For the tweens on your list, or anyone who appreciates great YA, MILk Podcast guest Lisa Greenwald Rosenberg writes for tween girls and I love her books. Her new middle grade book, all told in text message, is the third in the TBH series, and due out in January. TBH #2: 12 Before 13, debuted this fall.

MILK Guest Post: Teens, Trauma and Grief with Journalist Rona Kobell

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting and student uprising for sensible gun control, a friend from high school, Rona Kobell, wrote a Facebook post about a brutal incident that happened to our classmate when we were 17 years old. I encouraged Rona to write more about the incident that upended our community, and was our first experience with traumatic violence and an unfathomable outcome. Rona and I worked together on the piece last week and talked a lot about where Karen Hurwitz would be today, and what might have happened if the boy who hurt our friend had access to an assault weapon. This collaboration is a re-connection with our once 17 year old selves, and Rona's words add a painful layer to understanding our own vulnerability as mothers.  -- Mallory

**Following the publication of Rona's piece here on, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette published it in their March 3, 2018, edition.

In middle school, I knew a boy who was smart and talented but often very much in his own head. In high school, he got his hands on a weapon he never would have been allowed to bring to school, prepared his attack at the local library, and set out to do something terrible.


The weapon was a samurai sword. And he used it, along with a pair of nunchucks, to kill my friend. We lost one friend that day, instead of dozens, because it was a sword and not a gun, and because he went to her house instead of our school. We lost her because a boy was troubled, and obsessed with weapons, and he decided to kill a girl who had been nice to him.


It was 1989. She was 17 years old. And in our minds she still is, a curly-haired girl who loved the Rolling Stones and hoped to be a journalist. She never got to be more than our memories of her. He took that from her, from her family, and from us.

MILK podcast grief and guns rona kobell mallory kasdan.png


Taylor Allderdice’s class of 1990 mourned Karen Rachel Hurwitz. We went to her funeral, where the rabbi talked about a beautiful light so unfairly extinguished. We read newspaper stories about her killer, whose defense was that he was influenced by the movie A Clockwork Orange. And at the student newspaper we wrote our own stories, agonizing about what to say in conversations that have become familiar in my adult life as a newspaper reporter. We talked about mental illness and movie violence. But mostly, we mourned our friend. We didn’t think about our own safety. Her killer was not a threat to us. He hadn’t come for us. (He is now serving life in prison, a sentence upheld after a couple of re-trials.)


But what if he had? What if, instead of a sword, he had a gun? And what if, instead of going to Karen’s home, he had come to our school?


People will argue that guns aren’t the problem. It’s the mental state. But a sword can’t kill 17 students in five minutes. A knife can’t do that.


I don’t have answers, nor do I have anything particularly insightful to say on gun control that anyone with an Internet connection hasn’t seen a thousand times. But my classmates and I, unfortunately, have something else: We know what it feels like to lose someone, brutally and without warning, at a time when we are still figuring out who we are and will be. In that, we have something in common with the Stoneman students. We are no longer 17; we are in our 40s, seeing our own children off to the bus, hearing about their lockdown drills and about classmates plotting school walkouts. With good concealer, some Spanx, and regular hair maintenance, we can pretend not that much time has passed. Some of us even run a faster mile now than we did then.


But time has passed. There is a void at every reunion. More than that, we think of Karen all the time. We think of where we were when we found out, who told us, what we did. (For me, it was my French teacher, and I ran through the empty halls to the journalism room, looking for someone to tell me it wasn’t true.) And we think of her when we have babies of our own, when we win awards or get promotions, when we achieve milestones that she never got to experience. I think of her when I hear Mick Jagger yowl about getting no satisfaction, or when I see a red bathing suit like the one she used to wear to the beach. No matter what else her old classmates endure—bitter divorces, painful addictions, the deaths of our own parents—the day we found out she was murdered will always be one of the worst days of our lives.


Taylor Allderdice is not so different from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas. Both are excellent public schools that celebrate their diversity and encourage social activism. Their motto is: "Be Positive, Be Passionate, Be Proud to be an Eagle!" Ours is “Know Something, Do Something, Be Something.” Our two most famous alumni are Jeff Goldblum and Wiz Khalifa. Today, portions of the country are still fighting about wedding cakes for gay couples. But in 1990, when two girls wanted to go to our prom together, our student body made sure they could. When I look the Stoneman kids, I see my own daughters, my high school friends, myself. I hear their stories—five of the 17 killed were Jewish—and I think of my own summers at Jewish camp, the long talks about standing up for those with no voice. I’d like to think we were that fierce. But I’m glad no one tested us.


I grew up in Pittsburgh but now live outside of Baltimore. I know that, 20 minutes from me, students are surrounded by violence. They lose many Karens—not, perhaps, in the brutal manner that she was killed, but to altercations, accidents, domestic disputes, and sometimes police shootings. High school kids in Baltimore attend many funerals. They’ve been tested, too. Long before Stoneman, students in Baltimore pleaded for their lives, too. And they still are pleading.


Karen’s death inspired me to become a police reporter. As I wrote in our school paper just after she died, I wanted to understand why bad things happened to good people. The Hurwitzes are unquestionably good people. Linda Hurwitz, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, was the longtime director of the Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Her father, Dennis, a prominent plastic surgeon, has helped many children suffering from deformities.


I can remember the victims in every murder case I covered: Gracie, gunned down in a convenience-store robbery and survived by her husband and beloved three-legged dog; David, whose ex-wife shot him on Christmas Eve in a custody dispute; Tony, a rowdy fellow who had the misfortune of living on the same block as an armed, order-loving former police chief. An NRA spokesman said reporters enjoy covering shootings for the attention they bring; I’d return every byline to bring the victims back. Each felt personal; I’d come home from my shift and turn on Law and Order, to replace the bodies with fictional ones in my head so I could sleep, wishing the real detectives could wrap up cases like Jerry Orbach did.


Even after writing about dozens of victims—many of them good people who, like Karen, found themselves in a terrible circumstance—her death still hurt the most. Once, when Karen’s killer was in court for a re-trial, I stopped in for the proceedings, looking for something to help me understand. I found nothing. I’m no closer now to figuring out why bad things happen to good people. Covering more murders did not dull the blunt force of the first one I wrote about. Nothing ever will.


My classmates and I think about Karen’s light. But when a deranged man brings a gun into a school, we think about our own mortality. We don’t want to, but that’s where our minds go. In another time, with a different weapon, the lights so unfairly extinguished could well have been our own.


Rona Kobell lives north of Baltimore with her husband and two children. A former reporter for the Baltimore Sun and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, her recent work has appeared in Slate, Columbia Journalism Review, Modern Farmer, The Atlantic’s Citylab, Undark and the Washington Post.



Written by MILK Podcast guest, Nicole Alifante

It’s hard to write about personal transformation when you’re in the middle of one but here goes.  We undergo many transformations in our lives.  Most of mine were by choice. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a professional actress and so I wrote a story for myself based on a traditional narrative. I moved to NYC, I pounded pavement and I made a living as an actress.

When I was 35, my husband and I decided that we would make a baby and so I transformed into a mother. I wrote a story for myself that was based on my own family history. I focused on my child and all things domestic. The artist met the mother and the reality of my life ensued. That transformation was initially harsh and continues to morph as the years go by.

My current state of transformation is born from a narrative that I did not write but one that I am a character in.  I am working toward becoming an anti-racist. I was never consciously racist and I’ve learned that I am not white but rather someone who has come to be called “white” through a long and institutionalized series of cynical choices and policies that built and defines this country. Let me be clear, I benefit from my whiteness every day. Living here in America that means I have three options. I can see black and brown folks as less than myself and actively perpetuate oppression against them. Second, I can acknowledge that black and brown people are presently oppressed as they were hundreds of years ago but in different forms, be sensitive to it yet still do nothing. Or finally, I can refuse to live any longer in a caste system that was not created by me but handed down to me and try to do something about it. I’ve chosen the latter. It’s the ultimate rabbit hole and it’s deep.

With the horror of our current POTUS shaking me to the core: “The wall”, “The travel ban”, “Mexicans are rapists”, “Black people have nothing to lose”, “Law and order”,  “I can shoot someone on 5th avenue and my people will still vote for me”, I began to research the ugly chunk of American history that was never taught to me in my 16 years of schooling (redlining, unfair taxation, housing covenants, criminalization of poverty, etc) and was awakened out of my deep, white sleep.    

I keep hearing Mr. Garner’s voice, “ I can’t breathe.” These days I feel a loss of oxygen with every unarmed black person shot down in the street -- equivalent to modern lynching. This is and always has been America’s existential crisis. Race is a social construct created so “white” people can maintain power, wealth, property and cling to an archaic definition of American identity. It is only with the lesser “others” that “white” can truly exist. What if those others were equal? Then who are we?    

I’m not trying to save people of color. I’d like to think that in my newfound activism, I can help make life better for black and brown Americans through policy change and education but I will be saving myself as well. I want to live in this country if it’s honest. I want to sing the national anthem, say the pledge or vote in a place where not only are “all men created equal” but are also treated as equals. I want the black teenager selling drugs to have the same punishment as the white kid; community service, rehab and a second chance. I want black mothers to know that their sons are safe on the street, like my son. I want reparations, in whatever form, for those oppressed peoples who have endured terrorism on our soil and continue to on a daily basis.

This metamorphosis is lonely. It’s complex. I’m learning a new language, I’m humbling myself, I am asking many stupid but necessary questions and I listen, a lot, to people of color. I’m not able to really look at people in my life right now and discuss this with them. I’m like an undercover agent, the best kind of liar and most days I feel like a dormant volcano.

When you start to read and pay attention, you learn that this country, and its sacred capitalism, was built on the oppression of black and indigenous human beings. It’s a violent, hypocritical place and it’s all documented. The surprise for me was that it was a historical problem and it’s still happening now. The oppression of black and brown people started here in the 1600’s, racism was born out of that oppression and it’s currently running like a well-oiled machine.

The facts are not open for interpretation, which is why it’s not taught to us. Our educators spoon feed the Martin Luther King story in elementary school, slavery and civil rights movement in middle school and high school and the white washing is accomplished. The “good” whites shake their heads at the scars history has left on the black community but only a select few of us come to understand that it’s not a dark psychology born of slavery that keeps blacks down but America’s very laws and policies that are in play and that mutate each generation like a new form of cancer. Slavery has turned to mass incarceration. I wonder now where our new passion for “white nationalism” will lead us?

We have dehumanized people of color, left them bankrupt, angry and afraid but the irony is that we American folks who have come to be known, for purely insidious reasons, as “white” are dehumanized as well. We are property too. We are born criminals without having to spend time in prison. Our entitlement cuts our soul to pieces because all that we have is due to the fact that “others” are purposely made to have not.

In a construct of such inequity the “boot straps” model is a demented illusion. I won’t allow my son to bear this burden. It’s not a burden that even touches the daily cross that American people of color have to bear but it’s profoundly heavy once you are hip to it.

An acting career comes and goes and your children eventually forge their own lives, but the desire to undo racism seeps into your being and takes hold of your psyche forever. This process changes the context of every decision you’ve ever made as a “white” person. A black woman transforming to an actress or a mother will face obstacles that I will never know and that shouldn’t be.  I may not see any real remedies in my lifetime but how many black mothers and fathers left this earth not knowing if their children would ever be unchained? I try to keep in mind that this version of myself is fighting with the hope that our sons and daughters’ America will one day truly be free.

Hear more from Nicole on MILK podcast.