Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

This week, the Code Switch team is sharing conversations with some of our favorite authors about the books we're starting the decade with. First up, editor Leah Donnella talks to Tomi Adeyemi about Children of Virtue and Vengeance, the second volume of her YA fantasy trilogy.

I'm going to eat a little crow.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today the American Library Association announced the top awards in children's books, and the big winner was "The Undefeated," with three honors, including the Caldecott Medal for best picture book. Kadir Nelson illustrated "The Undefeated." His work often explores what it's like to be black in America today and throughout history. The book's words are by poet Kwame Alexander.

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It is a universally acknowledged truth that a curious reader in want of a good book needs only direct their footsteps (and questions) to the nearest librarian. Librarians, after all, are always a font of good book suggestions.

'A Long Petal Of The Sea' Finds Love In A Time Of Chaos

Jan 27, 2020

If there is a region which understands the current anxiety in the United States over populist authoritarian regimes, manufactured coup d'états, the hope of resilience and the resilience of love, it's Latin America. Specifically, Chile.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The "riot baby" in Tochi Onyebuchi's slim, devastating new novel is Kev, born amidst the chaos of the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Kev is the sort of character who's often reduced to a statistic, in books or outside them: He's young, he's black, he's in prison — while out in the world, his sister Ella is the one who wields mysterious, terrifying magical powers.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In a fairer ⁠— or at least weirder ⁠— literary world, Stephen Wright would be as famous as Thomas Pynchon or Don DeLillo. He's has only written five novels since his debut in 1983 with Meditations in Green, but two of them, M31: A Family Romance and Going Native, are among the best of the last century. Wright is an unpredictable author with an unwavering commitment to the surreal; you get the feeling he couldn't write a straight story even if he wanted to. And it's pretty clear he's never wanted to.

Let's talk about fast food — and I bet you have a jingle in your head right now, because according to a new book, on any given day in America, an estimated one third of all American adults is eating something at a fast food restaurant.

Rita Woods' debut Remembrance is a complex story of loss and survival told across 200 years by four women, united by the color of their skin and the supernatural powers they command. It's an ambitious, absorbing novel that's occasionally let down by lengthy exposition and frequent jumps between points of view.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Willis Wu is often seen as a generic Asian Man in a restaurant or the background of a crime scene on a television drama called Black and White. You kind of know the show: She's an accomplished young detective, he's a third-generation cop, together they are Black and White, and they solve impossible cases.

Willis hopes one day to be a Kung Fu Guy on movie screens around the world. But for now, he's the star of Interior Chinatown, the new novel from Charles Yu, an award-winning writer for Westworld and other shows.

First lines. I love them. Some people collect coins or stamps, I collect first lines. Night Theater has an excellent first line: "The day the dead visited the surgeon, the air in his clinic was laced with formaldehyde."

As the owner of a yellow lab named Gus, author Maria Goodavage has had many occasions to bathe her pooch when he rolls around in smelly muck at the park.

Nevertheless, her appreciation for his keen sense of smell has inspired her write best-selling books about dogs with special assignments in the military and the U.S. Secret Service.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This week was supposed to be an exciting one for author Jeanine Cummins. After months of hype, her novel, "American Dirt," had finally been published. It got high praise from writers including Sandra Cisneros and Julia Alvarez. Oprah even picked it for her book club. This is a clip from "CBS This Morning."

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ANTHONY MASON: Oprah. Drum roll, please.

OPRAH WINFREY: Oh, it is "American Dirt," "American Dirt," "American Dirt," by Jeanine Cummins.

GAYLE KING: Yes.

There's a book you might have heard of by now. It's called American Dirt, and it's the much-hyped new novel from author Jeanine Cummins that was released this week.

It's the story of a Mexican woman named Lydia and her 8-year-old son Luca, who flee their home and undertake a harrowing journey to the U.S. border after gunmen from a local drug cartel kill most of their family. It's been hailed as "a Grapes of Wrath for our times." In fact, that quote is on the cover of the book.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon has been a devoted Star Trek fan since he was 10 years old — but when people ask whether it's a "dream come true" to be a showrunner and executive producer on Star Trek: Picard he says no.

"I say 'no' because I never would have had the ... chutzpah to dream that," Chabon says. "I would have been happy just shaking Patrick Stewart's hand and telling him how much I loved him on Star Trek. But to be able to actually write words that he will speak and act? It's incredible."

Editor's Note: This interview contains descriptions that some listeners and readers may find disturbing.

Sex, power and assault are at the heart of a new study that looks at what it is that makes college the perfect storm for misunderstandings around sexual encounters.

Beginning in 2015, Professors Jennifer Hirsch and Shamus Khan interviewed more than 150 Columbia and Barnard College undergrads to learn about their sex lives. What they wanted out of sex, how troubling encounters unfolded, and how layers of misunderstandings led to assault.

On November 7, 1983, a bomb exploded in the U.S. Capitol. The blast caused roughly a million dollars worth of damage, but no one was killed or injured.

An all-women group called May 19th was behind it. And counterterrorism expert William Rosenau’s new book takes us inside the group and their motives.

Yiddish has been described as a language without a country. But it’s deeply woven into the fabric of the United States.

And it’s not just Jewish people who have a connection to Yiddish. Goys do, too — from bagels and bubbes to kvelling and kvetching.

In the last century, Yiddish has become a huge part of the American vernacular — and comedy. Vaudeville, Mel Brooks, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and other forms of entertainment have thrust the language into the spotlight.

How has Yiddish changed America? And how has America changed Yiddish?

Emma Copley Eisenberg's The Third Rainbow Girl is a true crime tale as thoroughly researched and reported as it is perplexing.

The book offers a deep-dive into rural Appalachia, a region of the United States that is little understood, and it digs into questions of how deeply misogyny and bias can run inside a community. It is also an honest and endearing coming-of-age tale — one that will leave readers curious to know what Eisenberg will write about next. However, like any good true crime story, The Third Rainbow Girl starts with the facts.

William Gibson does not write novels, he makes bombs.

Careful, meticulous, clockwork explosives on long timers. Their first lines are their cores — dangerous, unstable reactant mass so packed with story specific detail that every word seems carved out of TNT. The lines that follow are loops of brittle wire wrapped around them.

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