See Me After Class is a weekly column where a different professor reveals their variety favorites.
Dr. Emily Contois is an assistant professor of Media Studies who holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from Brown, an M.P.H. from Berkeley and an M.L.A. from Boston University. To have had her as a professor is to love her. Amid a pandemic semester, Contois’ class — even in an online format — was a light for me and my classmates. She is candid, energetic and caring. It would be a mistake to graduate from TU without taking a Contois class.
What’s your favorite book? What book would you say all undergrads need to read before they graduate?
Rather than recommend one book, I’d encourage students to 1) read voraciously and widely, across multiple disciplines, fields and genres, and to 2) try to not lose your love of reading, which unfortunately can be a common side effect from reading so intensely for classes.
I try to follow this advice too. So, I’m enjoying reading for my new research project on athleticism in branding and everyday U.S. consumer culture; recently I liked Jürgen Martschukat’s “The Age of Fitness: How the Body Came to Symbolize Success and Achievement” and Jenn McClearen’s “Fighting Visibility: Sports Media and Female Athletes in the UFC.” I also read a lot for fun from: literature and popular fiction (I own all of Ann Patchett and Haruki Murakami’s books, though Murakami’s recent ones have let me down a bit), memoir (I liked Jami Attenberg’s “I Came All This Way to Meet You”—and you and I read together and loved Michelle Zauner’s “Crying in H Mart”) and thrillers and romance, too (I liked Andrew Mayne’s series about a deep sea diver turned detective and I just got Jen Comfort’s “The Astronaut and the Star” on Kindle, which sounds like a fun twist on the typical meet cute). I loved getting Magic City Mailbox delivered throughout the pandemic and especially enjoyed Kelli Jo Ford’s “Crooked Hallelujah” and Bryan Washington’s “Memorial.” I also find solace in reading books about writing like Helen Sword’s “Air & Light & Time & Space” and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.”
2. What’s reading like for you? Is there a specific setting, mood, drink set-up?
Reading is such a lovely escape, but I also learn something from everything I read that helps me to become a better writer, whether it’s lovely prose or skillful argument or something about pacing, characters or storytelling more broadly. I’ll often curl up with a book on the sofa with my rescue pittie Raven cuddled next to me and a cup of tea at arm’s length, or if I’m reading for work, with a pencil and a bunch of sticky notes, too. My favorite setting is to read outside on a lovely sunny day.
3. Is there a movie/show that you always return to?
I teach the pilot episode of “Mad Men” in my “Advertising History, Culture & Critique” class and I often get sucked back in and watch the entire series again. It’s not without its flaws, but I find the characters infinitely intriguing and the show does a great job highlighting some of the biggest issues in advertising and of the 1960s. I’ve watched the entire thing maybe six or seven times at this point. Like many of my students, I’ve lately been a big comfort TV re-watcher with shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Office” and “Parks and Rec”—so much so that I wrote about the connections between comfort TV and comfort food in a short essay.
4. What was the last book/movie/show that you actually found funny?
I read Sam Anderson’s “Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis” when we first moved to Oklahoma and parts of it had me in stitches. I recently read “The Guncle” which had some really funny moments. “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is nominated for Best Animated Feature this year and I thought it was funny and very clever. I haven’t loved the show “Peacemaker,” but the intro credit’s choreography is hysterical. Almost every episode of “Insecure” is comical in a way that sears you. “Moses Storm: Trash White” was hilarious and very smart. For a song and music video, Aesop Rock’s catchy and absurd “Long Legged Larry” makes me laugh every time, and I love the stop motion animation.
5. What’s your favorite Tulsa restaurant? Do you have any food/restaurant routines?’
The spot I probably visit the most is Mother Road Market. I take my “Food Media” students there for field trips to test our palates and to meet the food entrepreneurs who are part of the Kitchen 66 program. I also had a very memorable meal at Nonesuch in Oklahoma City and its concept (local ingredients and flavors, a multi-course tasting menu, a small space with seats setup in an intimate U-shape) reminded me of one of my favorite restaurants where we’d go for my birthday every year in Providence, RI, where we lived before we moved to Tulsa.
6. Is there a media/pop culture/entertainment/music side to you that students wouldn’t expect?
Ha. Well, I’m a pretty open book with my students and pop culture is a lot of my job, so I don’t think they’d find anything all that unexpected. My “Media & Popular Culture” students last semester found it funny how sincerely I love-hate the “Fast and Furious” franchise. Probably the weirdest thing would be the music I’m listening to while I work out at the gym. (I’ve been holding one of my office hours each week at Collins Fitness Center so students (current and past!) can ask questions, get help, chat, or just say hi.) I’ll be listening to anything from sugary pop to 80s rock to hip hop, or even a touch of metal. My husband and I met when we were in college, and we’re polar opposites in just about every way, including our live music tastes (which we’ve missed during the pandemic), so favorite concerts range from Lady Gaga to Ghost, Childish Gambino to Iron Maiden, Girl Talk to Weezer.
7. If you had to pick three songs for a Playlist of Your Life, what would they be?
Okay, first off would be John Farnham’s “Two Strong Hearts.” He was an Australian pop star when I was a little girl growing up there and it’s just so catchy.
Second would be Rise Against’s “Swing Life Away.” They’re a hardcore/punk band that was popular when we were in college. It’s a sweet acoustic song that I remember listening to together, driving around town with the window’s down and the warm air rushing in. We danced to it at our wedding, too.
Third would be Kesha’s “Praying.” I love all of her party pop music, but Rainbow was this gorgeous departure, deeper, more soulful, more searching. I wrote most of my first book listening to that album and “Praying” was one of my favorite tracks.