Tag Archives: Kaya Oakes

Kaya Oakes on Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church

Radical Reinvention

Earlier this evening Kaya Oakes celebrated the launch of her new book, Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church, at Moe’s Books in Berkeley, California. I tip my hat to Oakes (a friend of this blog, who I interviewed for the first time in late 2009 regarding her book, Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture) for writing a great book and giving it a great title that perfectly informs the reader what they are about to read. As a fellow Catholic, I could not pass up the chance to interview her about the new book.

Tim O’Shea: Do you think you would have come back to Catholicism if you had attended a more traditional conservative Catholic parish in another part of the country?

Kaya Oakes: That’s a good question, because I am Bay Area to the bone. I’ve only briefly lived in other parts of the country/world, and those were fairly liberal urban areas. My family parish in childhood was ultra progressive, and the Catholic schools I attended were run by liberal/progressive religious orders. So it’s very hard to imagine what my faith life would be like had I come from a more conservative place or set of circumstances. Frankly, I would probably not be back in a pew. In researching the book I did visit some more conservative local churches, including our local cathedral Mass, and I even went to a Latin Mass, and let’s just say that the urge to return is… nonexistent. The Catholicism I grew up with was social justice oriented, not just about sex and birth control. And after some searching, I did find that that kind of Catholicism is alive and well.

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Kaya Oakes on Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture

Slanted and Enchanted
Slanted and Enchanted

In the introduction to her book, Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, Kaya Oakes writes: “If we understand culture to mean something more than a style of music, a visual aesthetic, or a literary mode and try to define it from its Latin root, cultura—“to cultivate”— then we can see how indie artists have traditionally worked together to cultivate many things: credibility, freedom, the ability to promote their own work and to control how it’s promoted, self-reliance, open-mindedness, and the freedom to take creative risks. Likewise, if a culture is truly a group of people working and living together, independent artists have traditionally embraced the value of networking, making connections, and striving toward doing their art, their way. If being independent in your choices about what you listen to, look at, read, and watch implies a lack of compromise, then many of the people still making music and art independently would absolutely fit that definition. Indie’s ambiguity can partially be chalked up to its emphasis on making its participants feel individual and unique. But before any of us were able to be creatively independent, we had to build on the practice of our independent predecessors. Because indie’s history is in many ways a shadow history— one that parallels and reflects mainstream culture but also poises itself as being a subculture of outsiders— the threads connecting the twentieth- and twenty- first-century indie movements are not always readily apparent, especially in this day and age, wherein young artists face a plethora of choices about what kind of art they will make and how to distribute that art. Young fans often encounter art that builds on traditions of independence with which they may not be familiar.” (The entire intro can be read here at Oakes’ site). In the book, Oakes (who co-founded Kitchen Sink magazine) set out to examine the evolution of the indie movement and the scope of its impact. My thanks to Oakes for her time and insight into the DIY dynamics.

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