Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

Ever had a moment when you said, 'If that person wins the presidency I'm leaving?'

When Barack Obama was president, the governor of Texas talked vaguely about the state's right to leave the union. After Donald Trump's election, people talked of California's exit.

This is mostly fantasy — but Americans have had such ideas for a long, long time.

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In the new novel "Black Bottom Saints," Alice Randall writes this - a central significance of all Black art is that it increases the capacity of both artist and audience to restore self and to know self.

When the U.S military dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the American government portrayed the weapons as equivalent to large conventional bombs — and dismissed Japanese reports of radiation sickness as propaganda.

Back in the heyday of Detroit — from the Great Depression through the 1950s — Joseph "Ziggy" Johnson knew just about everybody who was worth knowing in the shops, bars, churches, theaters and nightclubs that lined the streets of that city's celebrated Black neighborhood, called "Black Bottom."

Christian women for centuries have dealt with biblical passages and dogmatic teachings that have severely constrained their opportunities for leadership in the church and consigned them to subordinate roles in marriage.

Cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt's recent work in TV animation — she designed the look of Bojack Horseman, and created the series Tuca & Bertie — is bright and bold and cartoony, shading occasionally into the absurd. But on both shows, that absurdist strain gets folded so deftly into the established visual texture that its essential weirdness ceases to register. Bojack may have been peopled with (animaled with?

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'I Promise' This Is A Message Book Your Kids Will Love

Aug 18, 2020

What I refer to as "message books" don't normally make a big splash in my house. You know the ones you REALLY want your kids to take to heart but end up being cast aside for The Babysitters Club or Judy Moody or Wings of Fire? The ones you start reading aloud, hoping your kids will learn to be nice, or be themselves, or control their temper, but instead of listening, your kid starts acting EXACTLY the opposite of the book's message? The ones you keep on the shelf in the vain hope that your kids will one day say, "Aha!

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George Orwell's "Animal Farm" turns 75 this week. The book is now considered a classic, but NPR's Petra Mayer reminds us that it almost wasn't published at all.

What forces propel young people to give up everything to join a violent extremist movement like the so-called Islamic State? That's the question that drove Fatima Bhutto to write the novel The Runaways.

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We're going to turn our attention back to the 2020 election to focus on external forces trying to shape it.

Stephen Miller is the architect of Donald Trump's extreme policies on immigration.

And leaked emails have shown him pushing white-power ideology cloaked in pseudo-science.

So how did an affluent kid from the California suburbs — who liked mobster movies and wore gold chains — get on the path that led him to where he is now?

Though M. T. Anderson couldn't possibly have planned it, his new book The Daughters of Ys feels like it was created for just this moment. The story's driving force and key image — a torrential flood of natural and unnatural origin that sweeps away a city — is the perfect symbol for our era. If you've felt your brimming anxiety about the coronavirus overflow as you've tried to keep up with the never-ending tide of news about it, you'll sympathize with Anderson's characters.

The new novel A Room Called Earth opens with a young woman as she gets ready for a holiday party in Melbourne, Australia.

Getting ready takes 17 chapters. And every detail has a reason for being. As the narrator tells us, "My inner processes can be visceral to the point of being completely illusory, and absurd."

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross. Today's guest is Sister Helen Prejean, whose latest memoir, "River Of Fire," comes out in paperback this month.

You may know her and her story from her previous memoir, which was titled "Dead Man Walking." That book told how she became an activist against the death penalty. It was adapted into a film of the same name in 1995, starring Susan Sarandon.

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Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are frequently seen as opposing forces in the struggle for civil rights and against white supremacy; King is often portrayed as a nonviolent insider, while Malcolm X is characterized as a by-any-means-necessary political renegade. But author and Black Power scholar Peniel Joseph says the truth is more nuanced.

"I've always been fascinated by Malcolm X and Dr. King ... and dissatisfied in how they're usually portrayed — both in books and in popular culture," Joseph says.

America suffers continued, devastating fallout from chattel slavery.

Our nation did not act alone; Europe's colonial powers also reaped mighty profits from the African slave trade.

The timing feels terribly apt.

Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression turned 50 this year. A bestseller in 1970, the book was one of nearly two dozen written by the cheerfully empathetic historian and journalist Studs Terkel.

Veteran political consultant Stuart Stevens has spent years working as a strategist for Republican campaigns, including the presidential bids of Bob Dole, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. But Stevens didn't support the party's candidate in the 2016 presidential election — and he wasn't alone.

"In 2016, when I went out and attacked Trump on television," he says, "I would say maybe a third of the party hierarchy would email me and thank me for doing this."

In her 2019 resignation speech, then-congresswoman Katie Hill said: "I am leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching."

She also could have said: I am leaving because I had an affair with a subordinate. Both statements would have been true.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

To read Isabel Wilkerson is to revel in the pleasure of reading — to relax into the virtuosic performance of thought and form one is about to encounter, safe and secure that the structures will not collapse beneath you.

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist's first book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, Wilkerson evinced a rare ability to craft deeply insightful analysis of deeply researched evidence — both historical and contemporary — in harmonious structures of language and form.

Travel with me for a moment, back to happier times. It's May 19, 2018, in a live broadcast from St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, 16 months after they first met, a handsome British prince marries a beautiful American actress in a ceremony unlike any previous royal wedding. (They had a gospel choir!)

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