books

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Ficre Ghebreyesus and Elizabeth Alexander were born two months apart in 1962, he in Eritrea, she in Harlem. They didn’t meet until 1996. He was an artist and a chef at a New Haven Eritrean restaurant he owned with his brothers. She was a poet and professor. She had been teaching at the University of Chicago, where she had also met a senior lecturer named Barack Obama. She married Ghebreyesus. She delivered Obama’s 2009 inaugural poem. In 2012, a few days after her husband’s 50th birthday, he died abruptly. Her new book, “The Light of The World,” tells that story.

Beth Cortez-Neavel / Flickr Creative Commons

When was the last time you sent a letter? Not an email, but a real, tangible piece of mail? If your answer is "not recently," you’re not alone.

Except for the occasional birthday or holiday card, most of us haven’t sent -- or received -- good, old-fashioned snail mail in a very long time. 

Mike Licht / Creative Commons

Our deepest convictions shape how we see the world from a very young age. Our parents, community, and religion deeply influence our beliefs and ultimately, the political identity we choose to adopt.

Rick / Flickr Creative Commons

Did you know that roughly one-third of the food we produce each year is either lost or wasted? This hour, Food Foolish co-author John Mandyck tells us how reducing global food waste could help mitigate the stresses of hunger, water shortages, and climate change. 

Osseous / Creative Commons

Dr. Bill Petit spent Sunday, July 23, 2007 playing golf with his father. The day was sunny and hot and a great day to be outside. His wife and two daughters spent the day at the beach. Life was good - until it wasn't.

Within 24 hours, his wife and daughters would be murdered, his home burned, his belongings gone. The trauma would render him unable to return to his medical practice. 

USA Network

At this year's Golden Globes, the top TV honor, Best Television Series -- Drama, went to USA's hacker technothriller series "Mr. Robot." Last year, the trophy went to Showtime's "The Affair."

Between those two new shows, there are three point-of-view characters, three narrators. And you can’t really trust, you can't fully believe a one of them.

Better Than Bacon / WNPR

Quick! Name a living philosopher. Chances are if you can do it at all, you're going to say Peter Singer, Martha Nussbaum, Shelly Kagan, or Daniel Dennett. 

Dennett is probably the best bet because he plays the game at several different levels. He was known until the death of Christopher Hitchins as one of the four horseman of the atheist apocalypse. But his work on free will and consciousness have conferred a kind of celebrity on him.

Bansy / Creative Commons

Dr. Joseph Cyr, a surgeon with the Royal Canadian Navy, had to think quick when his ship came upon a rickety boat with mangled and bloody bodies. at the height of the Korean War in 1951. As the only doctor on board, he quickly moved to operate on 19 men, all of them his enemies in this war. All survived, making the young doctor a hero.

Except he wasn't really a doctor. 

Wikimedia Commons

How disgraceful was last weekend's Cincinnati Bengals/Pittsburgh Steelers game? Well, Boomer Esiason, a former Bengals quarterback, used that word - disgraceful - to describe his old team and its fans. Rush Limbaugh, not a noted opponent of violence, used the word "disgrace" twice to describe the flagrant thuggery on the field.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Life changed dramatically for Illeana Douglas in 1969 when her parents fell in love with the two Harley-riding hippies in the Dennis Hopper - Peter Fonda classic, "Easy Rider." They decided to trade in their middle-class life for a wild ride filled with free spirits, free love and Hollywood.

Maxppp / Creative Commons

Natalie Cole struggled to step out of the shadows of R&B icon Aretha Franklin and the longer shadow of her father, singer Nat King Cole. But she did it with her stellar voice and lasting, if under-appreciated, contributions to R&B, soul, and jazz. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

I assembled seven Nose panelists and asked them to pick a topic we used during 2015 from my list of twelve.  

Of the five left over, four of them were connected to the modern cycle of internet shame: Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP official who was pretending to be black, the drunk profane kid demanding jalapeno bacon mac and cheese at UConn, the aunt who sued her nephew for jumping on her, and the dentist who sued Cecil the lion.

CircaSassy / Creative Commons

Many of our ideas about history are drawn from historical fiction. 

Who, for example, is Thomas More? Is he the tragic hero of the play and movie, "A Man For All Seasons"?

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

A documentary airing Thursday night on CPTV tells the story of American soldiers stationed in Luxembourg during World War II who, without realizing it, helped to create a new holiday tradition. 

Author Neil Gaiman has always been fascinated by dreams. As he sees it, dreams are what differentiate people from one another.

"None of us exist in a world that is the same world that any of the rest of us live in," Gaiman explains to Fresh Air's Sam Briger. "The world that's important is the world behind each of our eyes, which is something that none of the rest of us can access."

Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

Before Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, before Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien, before "The Simpsons," before David Letterman, before "Saturday Night Live," before The National Lampoon… before all the great subversive American satirists that we’ve all grown… used to — before all that, there was MAD magazine.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

I first met cartoonist Bill Griffith back in the 1980s. I arranged for us to tour a Boston-area Hostess Twinkie plant, which sounds like a weird first date but makes perfect sense if you're familiar with his creation "Zippy the Pinhead," an unwitting surrealist who swims happily through a sea of taco sauce, processed cheese and, well, Twinkies.

Aida Mansoor / Muslim Coalition of Connecticut

In his latest book, author and scholar Moustafa Bayoumi takes a critical look at what it means to be Muslim-American in post-9/11 society.

Joan Marcus/Hartford Stage

In 1954, Alfred Hitchcock directed two movies. They both star Grace Kelly. They’re both murder mysteries involving a married couple and a boyfriend and a girlfriend. They both take place almost entirely in one room. They both look like plays.

Wiki Erudito / Creative Commons

Star Wars fans are anxiously awaiting the release of "Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens," the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise, and first one without George Lucas at the helm. Will J.J. Abrams live up to the challenge? And where is Luke Skywalker?

Wikipedia

Colum McCann was assaulted in New Haven last summer while attending a conference on empathy. He was knocked unconscious and suffered physical and emotional injuries that lingered long after the attack.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Raouf Mama is a beloved storyteller by children and adults familiar with his books Why Goats Smell Bad and Why Monkeys Live in TreesHis love of storytelling stems from a long and honorable oral tradition that goes back to the ancient empire of Mali, when people preserved the lessons of life in memory instead of on the written page.

Raouf says we each have a story of belonging and identity. He uses his stories to entertain, comfort, and most of all as a tool to enlighten students.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Caroline Jacobs is a grown woman with children of her own. But by all accounts, she's a wimp. She would prefer to suffer in silence than stand up for herself or anyone else -- until she couldn't stand it anymore.  

One night, while at a public meeting and in a crowded room, she stood up, pointed her finger at the one she loathed, and shouted "F%$# You" to her nemesis. With that one phrase, she was ready to face her past. 

Grendelkhan / Creative Commons

Connecticut might mean clapboard homes, leafy suburbs, and town centers that show off their roots to our colonial past. Unless you're thinking of southeastern Connecticut.

The southeastern part of our state conjures images of casinos, submarines, and a blue-collar vibe that's just a little different from the rest of the state.

It probably doesn't help that the Connecticut River literally cuts the state in half, separating southeastern sections from their wealthier brethren. Wally Lamb describes it as "more feisty than fashionable, more liverwurst than pate."

If you play today's massively multiplayer online role-playing games — World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy, for example — you have a 1970s tabletop game to thank, says author Michael Witwer.

Witwer has just written a biography of Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons.

"Even first-person shooters like Call of Duty have some of the roots at least in tabletop role-playing games," he tells NPR's Ari Shapiro.

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

Women have come a long way in the fight for equality, but the battle is not over yet. This hour, we take a look at how women’s funds are helping to advance women’s rights and break down gender barriers.

Gloria Steinem is 81 — a fact that the iconic women's movement leader describes as "quite bizarre."

"Eighty-one is an age that I think is someone else's age," Steinem tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I stop people on the street and tell them how old I am, because I'm trying to make myself believe it."

But Steinem isn't unhappy about aging. The co-founder of Ms. magazine says that as she approached 60, she felt like she entered a new phase in life, free of the "demands of gender" that she faced from adolescence onward.

Caitlin Mitchell

We had a great show planned for you today with two great authors. But, sometimes life is crazier than the fiction we talk about and today, we ended up with two great authors, but only one we expected. 

Sloane Crosley pays homage to Guy de Maupassant in her debut novel about three old friends searching for an elusive necklace as a way out of their quarter-life crisis, yet unable to share their deepest thoughts with their closest friends. 

Colum McCann was supposed to join us but was unable at the last minute. Instead, you'll hear from him next week. 

But, that left Colin with a lot of time on air by himself. He got to vamp for the last half hour like he hasn't been able to do since he started working at WNPR. He kind of liked it, especially when author David Mitchell dropped in for a surprise chat. You can't make up this stuff.

For the pious Puritans of early America, witchcraft was a crime of the highest order.

Back then, the term "witch hunt" was not just an expression: In 1692, 19 women and men were hanged and one pressed to death with stones after being found guilty of witchcraft.

In her book The Witches, author Stacy Schiff follows the buildup of fear and outrageous tales of consorting with the devil. The witch trials were set in motion by two young Salem girls in the grip of strange and disturbing symptoms.

Celebrating 100 Years of Arthur Miller

Oct 20, 2015
The Huntington / Creative Commons

More than a decade after his death, Arthur Miller’s plays continue to resonate with readers and audiences across the world. This October marks his 100th birthday, and theaters from Los Angeles to London are staging Miller productions in celebration of his centennial.  

Pages