Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

I'm obsessed with tales of obsession. Chances are, you are too, judging by the unflagging popularity of true crime stories presented in podcasts, documentaries, movies and books.

What sets Ellen McGarrahan's just-published true crime book, Two Truths and a Lie, above so many others I've read is the moral gravity of her presence on the page and the hollow-voiced lyricism of her writing style.

National Book Award-winning author Tim O'Brien is best known for his stories about the Vietnam War, including the 1990 novel, The Things They Carried. But he says he'd give up every book he's written if it meant more time on earth with his two young sons.

Now 74, O'Brien didn't become a father until his late 50s. He says he was initially worried that having children would curtail his ability to write.

War is hell. But it's also pretty crummy on the homefront — especially if you're a woman with few options (read, a woman) in World War II-era England. But what if you could cook your way to a better life?

That's the basic premise of The Kitchen Front, the third novel from Jennifer Ryan, and the third to be set in England during World War II. As in her best-selling The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, the story concerns itself with the struggles and resilience of village women, but this time around, the action revolves around a cooking competition.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti has died in San Francisco. He was 101. Ferlinghetti is probably best known for three things: his Beat poetry, his San Francisco bookstore and small press, and his defense of the First Amendment in a famous court case.

His most famous work is a 1958 collection of poetry called A Coney Island of the Mind. In it, he compares the horrors depicted in Francisco Goya's paintings of the Napoleonic wars to scenes of post-World War II America.


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, was passed in 2010. Since then, there have been many unsuccessful attempts by Republicans to kill it. The left has been pushing to have the government insure everyone directly through what's described as "Medicare for All." Now this debate is happening during a pandemic, when health care is at the forefront of people's minds.

Amidst a barrage of horrific news, The New York Times recently ran a story decrying shrinking rooftop spaces to raise pigeons. Pigeons, it turns out, are far more than urban pests that poop on passers-by below. They have a fascinating history spanning the globe.

A new book takes a detailed look at an excruciating moment for Syria, the United States, and the world — the time in 2013 when the U.S. concluded that Syria's government had used chemical weapons in its long running civil war.

President Barack Obama, having warned Syria not to do that, held off on a military strike. The government agreed instead to give up chemical stockpiles, though the war went on, and continues to this day.

One thing most poets are not afraid of is saying what cannot be said.

Oftentimes, those unsayables involve uncomfortable truths about our capitalist society. And in her new book, Popular Longing, poet Natalie Shapero takes a blunt, funny look at the things we'd prefer to avoid.

"A lot of what I try to do in my work is write poems that are in conversation with the ways in which we don't talk about things in a straightforward way," Shapero says. "The way in which we talk around difficult subjects or taboo subjects."

It's bitterly cold where I am. I am wearing sweats, a heavy coat, a stocking cap and trying to type while wearing gloves, all while listening to my son's umpteenth dissertation on the Indoraptor's ultimate superiority and trying to keep my girls from arguing about their Calico Critters.

I am in my living room.

Prickly, angry girls either get to the bottom of disappearances — or cause them — in these three angsty young adult books that will send thrills through your winter doldrums.

The Initial Insult, by Mindy McGinnis

Author and Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro has explored multiple settings over the course of his career, from the English country house in 1989's The Remains of the Day to the dystopian future of 2005's Never Let Me Go. But no matter where he sets his stories, they're always deeply felt and deeply human.

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Investigators are still trying to answer some key questions about the January 6 assault on the Capitol, like exactly who stormed the building that day? And what motivated them to be there? An NPR team has been analyzing the more than 200 cases the Justice Department has brought so far. The defendants include military men, extremists and hardcore Trump supporters. One thing they had in common - they were nearly all men. As Dina Temple-Raston of NPR's Investigations team explains, experts say gender likely played an outsized role in the way the day played out.

Writing is a calling for Patricia Lockwood, as she made clear in her sacred and profane, lyrical and bawdy 2017 memoir, Priestdaddy. While still in her teens, she took the vows of literature and became "a person who almost never left the house." Art became her emissary. She confessed: "This is the secret: when I encounter myself on the page, I am shocked at how forceful I seem. On the page I am strong, because that is where I put my strength."

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Two years ago, the London Review of Books made an offer that Patricia Lockwood couldn't refuse. She's a poet and an author. And the invitation was to give a lecture at the British Museum.

Three novels and two story collections — selected from a longlist of 15 — remain in contention for this year's Aspen Words Literary Prize.

The $35,000 prize honors fiction that "illuminates vital contemporary issues," and this year's finalists span the globe, covering everything from Native American land ownership questions to the intersections of Blackness and queerness to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sarah Gailey knows how to build the heck out of a world.

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So much of the news from Syria consists of sad stories of chaos, of brutality, of war. But a new book — while a story about Syria and about war — brings us a refreshing story of hope, of female courage, and of heroes.

The new book The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice is about an all-women militia facing off against ISIS. It's about a group of women deciding go up against a group that raped and enslaved women.

Law professor and human rights activist Rosa Brooks wanted to better understand police violence and the racial disparities in America's criminal justice system, so she decided to join the police force as a volunteer.

As a reserve officer with the Washington, D.C. police department, Brooks received the same training as officers at the police academy and was sent on patrol like other police. From 2016 until 2020, she carried a badge and a gun and worked a minimum of 24 hours a month — all on a voluntary basis.

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Black boys dance, too. Of course they do. Jamal Josef is a teacher to some of them. His new children's book is called "Black Boys Dance Too: Darnell Enters A Talent Show"


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