Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

Why did Reconstruction fail? It's a heady question for American historians — not least because despite seminal scholarship on the subject, from W. E. B. Du Bois' Black Reconstruction in America and Eric Foner's Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, key elements are still missing in our narratives about Reconstruction.

Everybody I know loves reading Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Even though I understand the gender-political problems inherent in referring to female writers by first names, I struggle to resist expressing my love informally, as in "Have you read Taffy's profile of Gwyneth Paltrow?" or "Have you read Taffy's essay about Justin Bieber's church?" If you haven't, please do. You will be enlightened and delighted. You'll laugh and get angry and text the best sentences to whoever in your life deserves them, and at the end, you will be moved and inexplicably grateful.

Dr. Louise Aronson says the U.S. doesn't have nearly enough geriatricians — physicians devoted to the health and care of older people: "There may be maybe six or seven thousand geriatricians," she says. "Compare that to the membership of the pediatric society, which is about 70,000."

For your summer romance reading pleasure this month: two teenage girls who find love while pulling pranks that chip away at the patriarchy, a maid of honor and best man who make the connection of a lifetime and confront what happily-ever-after really looks like, and a movie star and small-town girl who feature in a love letter to romantic comedies and love stories that end happily.

Young adult author Randy Ribay is Filipino American and says his latest book Patron Saints Of Nothing is dedicated to people like him: "The Hyphenated," he calls them. And not just Filipino Americans, Ribay tells NPR's Morning Edition, but also anyone else who would consider themselves more than one thing.

"The difficulty with a dual identity is just trying to figure out what does it mean to be more than one thing in a world where people want you to be one thing," he says.

Dr. Ayaz Virji was a Muslim living in small-town, white America.

He had left a good job in a leadership position at a successful hospital in Harrisburg, Penn., in order to practice medicine in a rural, underserved area.

Virji says he "had the BMWs, the nice house, but it wasn't enough for me, I wanted to do more." Rural America faces a shortage of doctors, with many residents forgoing care and saying locations are too far away. "So I felt like I should do something about that. And it was back to the idea: If not me, then who?" he says.

One of the best ways to get know a country is by talking to its people.

NPR correspondent Frank Langfitt, who has covered China and other countries over a span of nearly two decades, proves this in latest book, The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys with the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China. The book is a master class on how to chronicle a changing country through the personal narratives of its citizens.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

"La Cocina" means "the kitchen" in Spanish. It's also the name of a business incubator based in San Francisco's Mission District. Since it began in 2005, it's been helping local food entrepreneurs, many of whom are low-income immigrant women, develop their small businesses.

Sometimes the greatest stories are forever out of reach. Such is the case with innumerable tales of the mocambos, communities of runaway slaves that took root in the jungles of Brazil in the 1600s. And such is the case with the stories that make up Marcelo D'Salete's Angola Janga. In this massive graphic novel, D'Salete relates the history of the villages that provided havens for freedom-seeking runaways — and presented a perennial threat to the whole institution of slavery in Brazil.

National Writers Series: An evening with Marie Benedict

Jun 15, 2019
Tom Haxby

Marie Benedict is a former lawyer who’s written ten novels. Her latest book, “The Only Woman in the Room,” is a work of historical fiction about the actress from the golden age of Hollywood, Hedy Lamarr. In addition to her acting career, Hedy was also an inventor. In the 1940s, she created a radio guidance system that eventually led to the development of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology. Marie Benedict talks this hour with journalist and director of arts and culture for the city of Detroit, Rochelle Riley.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Strand Bookstore, a New York City icon that is home to 2.5 million books and 92 years of storefront history, was commemorated by the city and chosen as a historic city landmark this week. Nancy Bass Wyden, the store's third-generation owner, isn't taking it as a compliment.

"Some people have congratulated me, and I said, 'No, this is no congratulations. This is a punishment,' " Bass Wyden tells NPR's Scott Simon.

Bass Wyden feels that the designation is counterproductive.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner's parents got divorced when she was 6, but she didn't really think of her debut novel, Fleishman Is in Trouble, as "a divorce book."

"I don't like to think that a divorce haunted me ..." she says. "I'm intolerant of the people who use their parents' divorce into adulthood. I think, why can't you get over it? ... And, yet, look at me: This somehow became my art."

The summer I sprained my ankle to within an inch of its life, I'd been in the middle of a Grey's Anatomy rewatch binge. The friend who took me to the ER was highly amused at the coincidence. He prompted me to spout some random medical jargon, but the only thing in my mind was "STAT!" Days later, when the pain fog had lifted from my brain, I laughed out loud at the memory. "STAT!" was what Paris Geller once yelled in a hospital during an episode of Gilmore Girls because she was distraught and couldn't think of anything else to say.

Alan Newton

Lynne Olson, Elizabeth Berg, and Elizabeth Letts all join Writers Series co-founder Doug Stanton on the stage of the City Opera House to talk about their work. Author and journalist Lynne Olson is known for her books about history, especially World War II. Her latest is “Madame Fourcade’s Secret War.” Elizabeth Berg writes novels, such as “Open House” and “The Story of Arthur Truluv.” And Elizabeth Letts writes books of non-fiction and historical fiction. Her latest is about “Wizard of Oz” author Frank L. Baum’s wife, Maud Baum. Doug asked each author to describe their latest book.

The countdown has begun. It's T-minus a month or so until the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 — and humanity's first and famous steps on another world.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross, who's off this week. Today, we'll listen to the interview I recorded last year with cartoonist and essayist Tim Kreider. His collection of personal essays, called "I Wrote This Book Because I Love You," is now out in paperback.

Essay: Disappointed Life

Jun 14, 2019

When I was in college, I read a novel by Saul Bellow called “The Adventures of Augie March,” the story of a young man growing up in Chicago.  Augie had a kind of bold optimism, inspired by a woman who’d survived the London bombings during World War II.  


Which one of us hasn't imagined putting down on paper a narrative of our ancestors? It's a go-to premise for almost all newbie novelists, who are naturally certain their own family histories will prove enthralling to others. Deb Spera, a successful television producer, has deep roots in the very real town of Branchville, S.C., and draws on those roots in her first work of fiction, Call Your Daughter Home.

For several decades in the 20th century, the Los Angeles metropolitan area was known as the bank robbery capital of the world.

The area's abundance of freeways made it easy for robbers to quickly put distance between themselves and the banks they targeted, escaping into other jurisdictions before the police even knew what was happening.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

On a rainy summer night five years ago, in the city of Shanghai, China, Frank Langfitt took up driving a taxi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: (Foreign language spoken).

Working elephants of mountainous Myanmar and northeastern India haul timber or transport people by day, then return to the forest at night.

In his new book titled for these elephants, Giants Of The Monsoon Forest: Living And Working With Elephants, geographer Jacob Shell describes the lives of these animals with details at once compelling and disturbing.

Knock knock!

Who's there?

THE FUNNIEST PANEL OF SUMMER POLL JUDGES WE'VE EVER HAD!

Voting in this year's Summer Reader Poll is in full swing — and if you still haven't voted, you can do that here — so it's time to meet our expert panel of professional funny people ... who I wish were writing this copy, because maaaan they're all way more hilarious than I am. But in fact, they'll be helping curate our final list of 100 favorite funny reads.

Here's the thing you gotta know about Blake Crouch.

You remember that guy from college, sophomore year? The one that was always there at the bar, on the strange nights when it felt like you could hold off last call just by talking fast enough and thinking big enough? He was the one you'd find yourself listening to at 3am, sitting on the floor, weed and cheap beer twining together in your head as he spun out some bonkers theory about perception, psychology, memory, reality. The one who never seemed to sleep. Who always said the most fascinating things.

Pages