Something Like Freedom: David Ferry, David Shulman & Michelle Obama's "Becoming"

December 9th, 2018

A bookstore is more than a retail space, and on this episode of Open Stacks we welcome back old friends and longtime members of the Co-op for a celebration of community committed to a sense of time and conversation spoken across the ages. Poet David Ferry goes in search of a communal voice in his landmark translation of Virgil's The Aeneid; peace activist and Indologist David Shulman walks us through the West Bank in Palestine, retracing the "ambiguous grounds for action," freedom, and despair in territories that can't seem to coexist; and Hyde Park's own Michelle Obama returns to the Co-op to kickoff her tour for Becoming. 

David Ferry at the Co-op on October 14, 2018. He spoke with poet Rosanna Warren about his fleet-footed and daring translation of The Aeneid. Hear Ferry read from his trnaslation on episode #32 of Open Stacks, Home for the Holidays. Speaking of the holidays, you can find all books featured in this episode below and check out our 2018 Gift Guide here

On November 13, 2018, Michelle Obama kicked off her Becoming book tour in her hometown of Hyde Park at the Seminary Co-op. The festivities began at our midnight release party at 57th Street Books, and continued long into the next day's epic event. Despite the long line and frigid weather, Hyde Park was all smiles and support for the historic occasion, celebrating an inspiring role model and fellow Co-op member. Find more photos here and reflections here.

Wendy Doniger begins our episode with reflections on the Co-op, and we close with a journey through the stacks with her long time friend and former student, David Shulman. Above, a photo of the two of them from a trip to Kerala Beach, courtesy of David. Hear more from Doniger on Open Stacks in episode #36: Myths and Folktales

Above, David Shulman (right) and Colin explore the Co-op's stacks on November 29, 2018. Learn more about the books discussed in Freedom and Dispair: A Selected Bibliography. Shulman also joined us previously on Open Stacks in episode #17, Tamil Saints and Poets.

On this episode, Shulman reads one of his favorite poems, "Revenge," by Taha Muhammad Ali. Find a video of the poem read by the poet and translator, Peter Cole, here. You can follow along with Cole's translation, here

What was the last book that made you feel closer to your community? Send us an email with any other comments or questions at

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