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BMI Conversations: Tajja Isen

Tajja Isen
Photo: Courtesy Black Mountain Institute
Illustration: Ryan Vellinga

This is Black Mountain Institute Conversations, a series of interviews produced by Nevada Public Radio’s Desert Companion in collaboration with the Black Mountain Institute. Here, Desert Companion Editor Heidi Kyser talks with BMI’s Shearing Fellows about their passions, inspirations, community initiatives, and … of course … their writing.

This episode features Tajja Isen. She’s a 2024 Shearing Fellow, and author of the 2022 book Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service, from Atria/One Signal Publishers. Each of the nine essays focuses on an aspect of contemporary culture, analyzing it through Tajja’s own lived experience and extensive research. Together, they paint a picture of the enraging, heartbreaking, and even funny ways people pay lip service to social justice, without making meaningful changes to oppressive systems and structures.

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Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and KNPR's State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022. In 2024, Interim CEO Favian Perez promoted Heidi to managing editor, charged with integrating the Desert Companion and State of Nevada newsroom operations.