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Growing Up Powerful: Ep 8. Biology and Banana Peels

Asha and Jestine team up with celebrated author and Teen Vogue columnist Nona Willis Aronowitz to chat with their neighbors on how they define family and what it means to them.

This is episode 1 of our Growing Up Powerful miniseries! These are stories about dealing with big feelings, growing up, and connecting to the world around you. And just so you know, some of these themes may be mature for our younger Rebels. We encourage listening with your grown up.

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book Rebel Girls: Growing Up Powerful. This series was produced by Joy Smith, Deborah Goldstein, and Haley Dapkus, with sound design and mixing by Mumble Media. It was written and edited by Abby Sher. Fact-checking by Joe Rhatigan and sensitivity read by Schuyler Swenson. Narration by Margaret Ying Drake as Asha and Imani Parks as Jestine. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Our executive producers were Joy Smith and Jes Wolfe. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!


JESTINE: Welcome to Growing up Powerful with Rebel Girls!

ASHA: I’m Asha. 

JESTINE: I’m Jestine. And we’re two best friends trying to figure out this thing called life.

ASHA: And I need some help on this project!

JESTINE: Oh sure. What’s up?

ASHA: So, I have this assignment for social studies class and I have no idea what to do for it. We have to define the word family and then draw some sort of family crest or symbol that’s important to me.

JESTINE: Okay, well lemme see what you have so far.

ASHA: Yeah. So I started but…

JESTINE: Okay…that’s really…colorful.

ASHA: See? I don’t even know what it is. I started with FAMILY IS…and then I had no idea what to write. So I drew a star because my mom loves stars. And then I thought I would fill it with the names of people in my family. 

JESTINE: Okay, so inside the star you wrote your brother’s name, your mom’s name. And your Auntie Lail?

ASHA: Auntie Lala. Her real name’s Linda. But I don’t know if she even counts because she’s not biologically related. She’s just my mom’s best friend since high school.

JESTINE: Of course she counts! 

ASHA: But then I only have one grandma who’s still alive and I don’t really know how to write her name in English so I just put the Chinese characters floating around. And then I haven’t seen my dad since I was like three but I didn’t want to leave him out completely, so I just put his initials on the bottom.

JESTINE: Okay, this is brilliant.  

ASHA: You think? I mean, it’s not really a symbol. And I have no idea how to define family.

JESTINE: Yeah. That almost feels like a trick question. But you know who I think will have an answer? Nona!

ASHA: Oh right! We were gonna talk to Nona.

JESTINE: And by Nona, I mean, Nona Willis Aronowitz, celebrated author and advice columnist for Teen Vogue. She actually wrote the Rebel Girls book Growing Up Powerful and is an expert on all things family.

ASHA: Yes! Let’s ask her!

NONA: Hi! I’m Nona Willis Aronowitz and welcome to BIOLOGY AND BANANA PEELS! 

JESTINE: Wait, what?

NONA: It’s based on the idea that sometimes family means the people who you share genes with and sometimes family means the people who pick you up when you slip and fall down – like on a banana peel! And sometimes… it’s both! You ready to play?

Asha: I think so…

NONA: This is how it works. We’re going to ask people what family means to them. (street noises) Excuse me. Hi. Hello. 

RANDO 1: Hello?

NONA: Hi, my name’s Nona. What’s yours? 

R1: Deirdre.

NONA: Hi Deirdre. What does the word family mean to you?

R1: Family? I guess the people you live with? Or maybe, the people you start out living with?

NONA: Great! Hi. I’m Nona. Can I ask you a question? [hmph!] Okay, maybe not. Hi, ma’am? What does family mean to you?

R2: People who love and support you.

NONA: And you?

R3: Anyone who knows what your snores sound like.

R4: Your closest relatives?

R5: The first people you meet when you’re born!

NONA: Okay, next question. What would you say is the best thing about your family?

R6: We’re loud.

R7: When it’s snowing, we get out sleeping bags and have a sleepover in the living room.

R8: Honestly, we fight a lot, but we always come back together.

R9: Don’t tell my brother that I said this, but I love when we put on reggae music really loud and have a dance party.

JESTINE: Oooh! Can I ask a question?

NONA: Sure!

JESTINE: Excuse me. Hi. Hello. Jestine here. Who’s somebody you call family even though they’re not technically related to you?

R10: My Uncle Marty. He actually introduced my mom to my dad.

R11: My downstairs neighbor, Joyce. She’s always coming over for dinner.

R12: Miss Elisa! She’s my favorite dance teacher EVER.

R13: Mama Rose! I don’t even know how we’re related, but she’s always been kinda like my fake grandma.

ASHA: I have one! What’s a sound, taste or a smell that makes you think of family?

NONA: Oooh, I love that question.

R14: My mom’s chicken curry, because whenever I’m feeling sad, that always makes me feel better.

R15: Sound, taste or smell…how about my dad’s coffee pot gurgling in the morning? It just feels like…home.

R16: Oooh! Easy! My grandma Joanie’s perfume! Whenever I hug her, everything feels calm.

JESTINE: That’s such a great question. Wait, Asha! Where are you going?

ASHA: I’m going to add on to my assignment! Plus, I wanna tell my mom that we have a much bigger family than I thought we did.

JESTINE: What would your family smell like Nona?

NONA: Yeah, I was just trying to figure that out. I hope it doesn’t smell too much like dirty socks.

JESTINE: We definitely have a lot of stinky feet in my family.

NONA: I’m gonna go with matzoh ball chicken soup instead.

JESTINE: Good call. I have to go home and do some sniffing. See ya later!

NONA: Stay rebel!

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls.

This episode was narrated by ME! Imani Parks as Jestine, and Margaret Ying Drake as Asha. Special guests were Nona Willis Aronowitz, with Cheryl Kanekar, Dominique Franceschi, Hillary Hawkins, Krystel Roche, Aria T., and Natalia M.

It was produced and directed by Joy Smith, with Deborah Goldstein and Haley Dapkus. Sound design and mixing by Mumble Media. It was written and edited by Abby Sher. Fact checking by Joe Rhatigan, and Sensitivity Read by Schuyler Swenson. Our executive producers are Jes Wolfe and Joy Smith.

Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi.

A special thanks to the whole Rebel Girls team, who make this podcast possible!

Until next time, staaaay rebel!

If you like what you heard here and want to learn more, check out the newest book from Rebel Girls! Growing Up Powerful: A Guide to keeping confident when your body is changing, your mind is racing, and the world is…complicated. With stories from rebels all over the world and guidance from some brilliant experts, this book is our newest bff. Order your copy of Growing up Powerful today on Amazon or anywhere you purchase books!