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NPR's Book of the Day

NPR's Book of the Day

In need of a good read? Or just want to keep up with the books everyone's talking about? NPR's Book of the Day gives you today's very best writing in a snackable, skimmable, pocket-sized podcast. Whether you're looking to engage with the big questions of our times ? or temporarily escape from them ? we've got an author who will speak to you, all genres, mood and writing styles included. Catch today's great books in 15 minutes or less.


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In 'Sweet Land of Liberty,' pie recipes show how American values transform over time

A lot of holiday tables will undoubtedly feature some kind of pie this year. But for food writer Rossi Anastopoulo, pies aren't just a baked dish ? they're a throughline of how American society and values have changed over time. In this episode, Anastopoulo shares some notable pie recipes with NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer, and breaks down what they each represent about race, gender and economic opportunity in this country.
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Sci-fi elements help a family's story before and after warfare

Displacement, identity and the aftermath of warfare are themes running through today's episode on The Haunting of Hajji Hotak. Author Jamil Jan Kochai talks with Ari Shapiro about why he used elements of science fiction like video games and magical realism to tell a largely autobiographical story of his family's life in Afghanistan before and after the Soviet invasion.
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'Control' chronicles the dark history of eugenics and its ongoing impact

Adam Rutherford is a geneticist and author who just wrote a new book about the history of eugenics, and he tells NPR's Rebecca Ramirez that the political ideology is not just a relic of the past, but very much still relevant today. In this episode, Rutherford explains how anti-immigrant fear in the 19th century spurred popularity for an unscientific practice that was eventually embraced by Nazis ? and has a complicated relationship with today's reproductive rights movement.
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In 'The Book of Jose,' Fat Joe remembers his rise in hip-hop

Fat Joe's career spans three decades ? but before he was performing on stages around the world, he was a little kid getting bullied in the Bronx. His new memoir, The Book of Jose, goes back to his childhood in New York and his early days rapping in the Diggin' in the Crates Crew. In this episode, he opens up to NPR's Ayesha Rascoe about why he's committed to his community and how becoming a "big boy, financially" might mean putting a pause on new music.
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Two books cover the Russia-Ukraine war from opposite perspectives

In this episode, two nonfiction books explore the Russian invasion of Ukraine from two completely different experiences. First, 12-year-old Yeva Skalietska from Kharkiv reads one of her diary entries from the early days of the war to Here and Now's Deepa Fernandes. Then, former White House Russia expert Andrew Weiss speaks with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly about his new graphic novel biography of Vladimir Putin (illustrated by Brian "Box" Brown) ? and why the Russian leader built a nefarious political image for himself that may not be entirely factual.
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'Gods of Soccer' celebrates 100 of the world's best players

Men in Blazers' Roger Bennett knows football ? or soccer, as Americans call it. His new book, Gods of Soccer, lists 100 players who've made their mark on the sport one way or another. He tells Mary Louise Kelly about how he managed to compile that list, and why the book delves into the origin stories and cultural impact of a wide range of players ? not just the Ronaldo and Messi household names, but the lesser-known figures who are iconic in their own right.
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Michelle Obama talks marriage, motherhood and 'going high' in 'The Light We Carry'

Michelle Obama wants young people to know "going high" isn't about being complacent ? it's about being strategic while pushing for change. In this episode, the former first lady sits down with NPR's Juana Summers to discuss her new book, The Light We Carry, and the toolkit she relies on to navigate the realities of partnership, parenthood and privilege.
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'Now Is Not the Time to Panic' captures a summer of teenage friendship and creativity

Now Is Not the Time to Panic is a novel, but the relationship at its core comes from best-selling author Kevin Wilson's own young adulthood. Two teens find each other, in a summer of boredom, and start making art together ? but their collaboration spirals to unlikely places. In this episode, Wilson tells NPR's Scott Simon about the real-life friendship that sparked the story, and what those memories mean many years later.
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'Fatty Fatty Boom Boom' details a lifelong relationship with food and body image

When Rabia Chaudry's family moved from Pakistan to the U.S., her parents fully embraced the processed foods lining the grocery store aisles. But as the author and attorney got older, she began to associate eating with shame and secrecy. Her new memoir, Fatty Fatty Boom Boom, recounts how her outlook on food changed as she understood her own mom's eating patterns. In this episode, Chaudry tells NPR's Ayesha Rascoe how she eventually started healing ? so much so that she reclaimed her childhood nickname for the title of her book.
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Two writers on building new careers and self-fulfillment through food

In this episode, two cookbook authors recount their relationship with food and how it's led them to unlikely places. First, actor and TikTok sensation Tabitha Brown tells NPR's Michel Martin about going vegan and connecting with an online audience through plant-based recipes. Then, restaurant owner Kardea Brown talks to Here & Now's Celeste Headlee about connecting with her family's roots in the kitchen and honoring the Gullah Geechee people's traditions.
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In 'Small Game,' a survival-challenge reality show takes a dark turn

Blair Braverman knows the great outdoors. So it makes sense that the American adventurer and "Naked And Afraid" contestant's first novel, Small Game, takes place in the wilderness. She tells NPR's Ayesha Rascoe about some of her own fears while competing in the Discovery Channel series ? and how they manifested themselves in her first foray into fiction.
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In 'Somewhere Sisters,' twins adopted by different families reunite

Isabella and Ha are twin sisters, but they grew up oceans apart. Isabella was adopted by a white American couple in Illinois, while Ha was raised by her maternal aunt in Vietnam. In this episode, journalist Erika Hayasaki discusses her reporting of over five years, which follows how the girls came back together and built a relationship.
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Bono writes about the faith and ecstasy of U2's music in 'Surrender'

Bono probably needs no introduction at this point. In this episode, the U2 frontman, philanthropist and now author sits down with NPR's Rachel Martin to talk about his new memoir, Surrender. He explains how his connection to a higher spiritual power works with rock-and-roll across U2's discography, and why he's reached a point in his life where he just wants to "shut up and listen."
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'If I Survive You' navigates family and identity in the Jamaican diaspora

Jonathan Escoffery's debut collection of short stories follows the American-born son of Jamaican immigrants finding his place in the world and within his own family. Inspired by some of his own life experiences, If I Survive You questions what it means to belong, how culture is shared across generations, and why people migrate in the first place. Escoffery tells Here & Now's Deepa Fernandes that he wanted to disrupt the American savior complex, and instead acknowledge U.S. imperialism's role in pushing people out of their homes.
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Two books examine how we listen to music and why it resonates with us

The two books in today's episode explore how we construct meaning from the music we listen to. First, record producer Susan Rogers talks to WBUR's Robin Young about her book, This Is What It Sounds Like, which breaks down the science behind what draws different types of listeners to particular songs. Then, author Francesca Royster traces the relationship between Black identity and country music in her book, Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions. She tells NPR's Juana Summers that as a queer Black woman, listening to country can feel a lot like coming out.
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In 'The Last Chairlift,' John Irving revisits familiar themes with a new perspective

In this episode, NPR's Scott Simon pays best-selling author John Irving a visit in his Toronto home. Across from Irving's family photographs and slanted writing station, they discuss the writer's expansive career, the prevalence of gender and sexual politics in his novels and the newfound personal connection he can make with his characters.
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'The Persuaders' finds power in bridging the political divide

The U.S. is highly polarized ? and author Anand Giridharadas thinks writing off people with different opinions is only going to make things worse. In this episode, he tells NPR's Steve Inskeep about some of the activists and leaders he talked to for his new book, The Persuaders, and how their mission to actually listen and engage with the other side of the political aisle could actually save democracy.
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In 'Signal Fires,' a tragic accident stretches across time, memory and family secrets

Author Dani Shapiro spent 15 years working on Signal Fires, a novel about how a single accident changes the course of one family's life. In this episode, she tells NPR's Scott Simon how her own trajectory to completing the book upended what she thought she knew about herself and her upbringing.
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'And There Was Light' traces Abraham Lincoln's views on slavery and religion

Abraham Lincoln made history in 1863 when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, effectively freeing enslaved people across the U.S. But he expected it to cost him reelection. In his new book, And There Was Light, Pulitzer prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham dives into how Lincoln's moral vision allowed him to stand his ground, even in the face of great criticism. Meacham tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that Lincoln's views on God and morality can teach us a thing or two in today's political climate.
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Two thrillers unfold in the shadows of Appalachia

In this episode, we share two interviews on novels that explore how horror can be found within ? and beyond ? the laws of nature. First, Megan Miranda takes NPR's Elissa Nadworny into the North Carolina woods to set the scene for her book, The Last to Vanish, about disappearing hikers. Then, Stephen King and his son Owen tell Mary Louise Kelly about the supernatural rage that overcomes the women in their novel, Sleeping Beauties.
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'Fen, Bog & Swamp' explains why the wetlands matter and why they're disappearing

Pulitzer Prize winning-author Annie Proulx tells Leila Fadel that she learns by writing. So when she wanted to better understand the wetlands ? and how they're being affected by the climate crisis ? she dove into nonfiction. Her new book, Fen, Bog & Swamp, does not concern itself with how the natural world serves humans, but rather how it serves itself.
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'When We Were Sisters' details the pain and perseverance of orphanhood

Poet and filmmaker Fatimah Asghar lost their parents at a young age. But they tell Scott Simon that they didn't grow up with a lot of stories that accurately captured the experience of being an orphan. In their debut novel, When We Were Sisters, Asghar describes life on the margins for three Muslim-American siblings left to raise one another.
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In 'Dying of Politeness,' Geena Davis says Susan Sarandon taught her to speak up

Geena Davis is no stranger to the spotlight. But in her new memoir, Dying of Politeness, the Academy Award-winning actor remembers growing up full of insecurities and self-criticisms. She tells Rachel Martin that acting gave her the "ability to be somebody else" ? and over time, she gained her confidence by watching none other than her Thelma and Louise co-star, Susan Sarandon, walk through the world with her head held high.
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'Black Women Will Save the World' honors those on the frontlines of democracy

April Ryan and Ayesha Rascoe both know what it's like to cover the White House as Black women. In this episode, the two journalists discuss the importance of taking up space and looking out for one another in that environment, including throughout the Trump presidency. Ryan's new book, Black Women Will Save the World, combines memoir, reporting and analysis to highlight the strength of trailblazers like Stacey Abrams, LaTosha Brown and herself ? but she also opens up about the personal cost of always having to be resilient.
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Two books highlight the role of food in creating the comfort of home

In this episode, we share two interviews on books that look at the ways in which food and family go hand in hand. First, NPR's Scott Simon talks to singer Linda Ronstadt about her memoir Feels Like Home, in which she writes about living by the Mexican-American border and how food brought her closer to those around her. Then, Scott Simon visits French chef Jaques Pepin at his house to talk about his book Art of the Chicken. Pepin tells Simon that cooking a good meal at home helps him hold on to the memory of his late wife. Both books feature recipes close to the writers' hearts.
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'Mika in Real Life' focuses on identity and the diversity of parental bonds

Young adult author Emiko Jean is out with her first book for adults ? Mika in Real Life. In this episode, we hear Jean in conversation with WBUR's Celeste Headlee about the book, in which a teen girl ? Penny ? tries to connect with her birth mother Mika. Jean says that just as Penny and Mika struggle to figure out who they are, much of the book mirrors the author's own identity struggle as a Japanese-American woman.
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'Less is Lost' is the sequel to Andrew Greer's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel 'Less'

In this episode, WBUR's Robin Young talks with author Andrew Sean Greer about his new novel Less is Lost, the sequel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Less. This time, Greer's protagonist Arthur Less takes a tour of America in a van, and in the process learns about what it means to be an author today. Less is disappointed by how things are going, but doesn't realize how good things actually are for him. Greer says that he almost didn't write a second book, but by satirizing the literary crowd, he saw the importance of critiquing himself.
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Constance Wu writes about her trauma and ensuing judgment in memoir 'Making a Scene'

In her memoir Making a Scene, actress Constance Wu writes about the sexual harassment and abuse she faced on her breakout show Fresh off the Boat, and why she hesitated to speak out at first. She tells WBUR's Scott Tong that "trauma and feelings don't go away simply because you will them to." And when she finally spoke up about that trauma on social media, she received a wave of online hate. A warning that this episode ? and the book ? includes descriptions of assault and a suicide attempt.
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Celeste Ng's 'Our Missing Hearts' explores a new dystopia through a teenager's eyes

Celeste Ng's new novel Our Missing Hearts is set in a dystopian America, where children are taken away from their parents. The story is told from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy who goes in search of his missing mother. In an interview with NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, Ng says she wanted to look at how people rationalize their faith in institutions, and how willing they are to look away from something that's wrong.
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Two novels by Namwali Serpell explore borders and the mixed-race family

In this episode, we hear two interviews with author Namwali Serpell. Her two novels look at some variation on what it means to be part of a mixed-race family. First, NPR's Scott Simon talks to Serpell about her 2019 debut The Old Drift in which the author considers how immigrants that came to Zambia gave the country a new identity through unity and love. Then, Serpell and NPR's Juana Summers discuss her second novel The Furrows, which looks at grief ? and how it doesn't necessarily get easier with time.
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In 'You Gotta Be You,' Brandon Kyle Goodman says we should embrace who we are

This conversation between NPR's Ailsa Chang and actor Brandon Kyle Goodman looks at authentic relationships and the performance of queerness. Goodman is Black, non-binary, and grew up in a religious household. Among humorous stories of love ? and self-love ? their new book You Gotta Be You: How to Embrace This Messy Life and Step Into Who You Really Are touches on dating, white privilege, and dating those with white privilege. Goodman's origin story helps readers understand what it means to fully love oneself.
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'WARHOLCAPOTE' is a window into the relationship between two great, tortured minds

Rob Roth's new play in book form, WARHOLCAPOTE, is what he calls a "non-fiction invention," created from found tapes of conversations between artist Andy Warhol and writer Truman Capote. In a conversation with Scott Simon, Roth sheds light on the two men's loneliness, their recognition of both talent and pain in each other, and how they turned the way they fathomed the world into art.
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Gay sons of immigrants talk about the weight they carry in 'Brown and Gay in LA'

In Brown and Gay in LA, author Anthony Christian Ocampo interviews more than 60 gay sons of immigrant families about the fears that come with living as gay men. He discusses with A Martinez the complex relationships they have with their parents ? the respect they have for their parents as immigrants, but also the pain they carry from coming out to them.
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'Waging a Good War' explains civil rights movement in military strategy terms

Distinguished war correspondent Thomas Ricks analyzes how civil rights movement protesters used military principles and strategies in his new book, Waging a Good War. He explains to Steve Inskeep how although unarmed and non-violent, the discipline, training, and willingness to sacrifice everything allowed the protesters to achieve success and employ tactics rivaling those of the U.S. military.
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Two writers on friendships and how they shape us

In this episode, NPR's Scott Simon interviews two writers whose books about friendship reckon with how people, and what we experience with them, make us who we are. First, Hua Hsu talks about his memoir Stay True which focuses on one of his formative college friendships, and how that friendship was cut tragically short. Then, we hear from Kamala Shamsie about her novel Best of Friends. It follows the push and pull of a friendship between two girls from when they were teenagers in Karachi to when they're older and working in London.
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Dick Ebersol's autobiography 'From Saturday Night to Sunday Night' spans his career

Dick Ebersol was a major player in the world of American entertainment until his retirement over a decade ago. He co-created Saturday Night Live, and created Sunday Night Football, which was once the most watched television program in America. In this episode, we get a glimpse of Ebersol's 40-year career as he talks with NPR hosts Ari Shapiro and Juana Summers about his new autobiography From Saturday Night to Sunday Night. We also hear from Ebersol how he coped with some of the worst, tragic moments in his life.
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'What If? 2' is Randall Munroe's second round of answers to absurd questions

Randall Munroe's first book of scientific answers to the absurd questions people have was so popular that he wrote another one. In What If? 2, the author and cartoonist answers confusing and often unusual questions submitted by adults ? and children ? using science and humor. He spoke to NPR's Ayesha Rascoe about why it's important to lean into this confusion, and how that actually makes way for curiosity.
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'The Door of No Return' is a story for children about slavery

Kwame Alexander's new novel aimed at teens, The Door of No Return, focuses on the history of slavery. It follows a boy growing up in Ghana in 1860, and it aims to help readers understand the wholeness of the lives and experiences of Africans before they walked through that "door of no return" ? and were shipped to the Americas. In an interview with NPR's Rachel Martin, Alexander talks about how he used poetry to make the heavy subject palatable for children.
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Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall' examines the reign of King Henry VIII through his advisor

In 2009, Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel Wolf Hall. Mantel died in September, and in this episode we hear former NPR host Liane Hansen's interview with Mantel just after she won the prize. In the novel, Mantel examines the reign of England's King Henry VIII through the life and relationships of his trusted advisor Thomas Cromwell ? and the author says it's important not only to look at what happened in the past, but also to consider how it felt.
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Two authors on writing unlikable characters and the power of storytelling

The two books in today's episode point up how authors write and empathize with characters that aren't exactly likable. First we hear from Anthony Doerr who spoke to NPR correspondent Arun Rath about his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel All The Light We Cannot See. Doer talks about how we can better understand the moral choices people make by tuning into untold stories. Then, Scott Simon of NPR's Weekend Edition interviews author Yiyun Li about her new novel The Book of Goose. It's a story of two ruthless French girls who write a book that alters their lives.
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A futuristic novel about the powerful escaping to space echoes today's world

Author Tochi Onyebuchi says that a majority of space stories he's come across favor those in power. Rich and white people get to escape in spaceships, whereas less affluent Black and brown people are left behind on an increasingly inhabitable Earth. His new science-fiction novel Goliath gets at this power imbalance, and the author spoke to Juana Summers about how it tells us so much about racial and economic disparities right now.
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A family grows and changes in graphic memoir 'It Won't Always Be Like This'

In her new graphic memoir, It Won't Always Be Like This, NPR Editor Malaka Gharib revisits the summers she spent in Cairo, Egypt and how they shaped who she is today. She writes about her relationship with her dad and her step-mom, and how that relationship strengthened over the years even as the distance between them grew. The author, her dad, and her step-mom all spoke with NPR's Leila Fadel.
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'The Marriage Portrait' is a renaissance story of marriage, survival, and murder

The Marriage Portrait is Maggie O' Farrell's fictional interpretation of Lucrezia de Cosimo de Medici, who fights to survive her forced marriage with her abhorrent husband, Duke Alfonso II. In an interview with Mary Louise Kelly, O'Farrell discusses themes of loss of control and explains her philosophy in how she portrays these historical figures.
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'The Divider' looks at Trump's years in office through the eyes of his aides

When former President Donald Trump was in office, a number of his aides said they wanted to quit out of concern for the country's political and military future. Some did quit, some didn't. Political reporters Susan Glasser and Peter Baker conducted 300 interviews for their new book The Divider ? two of those with the former President himself. They spoke to Ayesha Rascoe about Trump's White House tenure ? and what it means for the American presidency at large.
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Two YA books spark conversation about race and racial justice activism in youth

Today, YA adult novels ? both of which have faced bans from schools and libraries ? focus on conversations with kids regarding race and police brutality. First, Angie Thomas talks about The Hate You Give, in which an unarmed black teenager is killed by a police officer. Thomas reflects on victims of racial injustice in this discussion. Then, we hear from Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely about All American Boys, in which a white teen witnesses his black friend be brutalized by a cop. The two authors discuss in an interview with Karen Grigsby Bates the importance of being proactive in racial justice.
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'Daughter of Auschwitz' tells the harrowing story of a child Holocaust survivor

Tova Friedman says she's telling her story of having survived the Holocaust in her memoir, Daughter of Auschwitz, to honor the victims' memories. In a profound conversation with Scott Simon, she recalls her childhood ? from her tiny apartment in the Jewish ghetto to the crematorium in the concentration camp ? and grapples with how such atrocities could have even happened.
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'The Unfolding' examines values of old, wealthy Republicans after Obama's election

The Unfolding examines the socio-political upheaval in the U.S. following the election of President Barack Obama ? as seen through the lens of a wealthy, influential Republican power broker. Author A.M. Homes talks with Ari Shapiro about how she writes characters who she thinks wouldn't normally tell their stories ? and also discusses the political evolution of America.
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Ruby Bridges recounts civil rights history through kid's eyes in new children's book

In her new children's book, I Am Ruby Bridges, civil rights activist Ruby Bridges tells the story of how she was the first black child to desegregate an all-white elementary school ? through the eyes of her 6-year-old self. She shares in a conversation with Mary Louise Kelly stories of the racism she endured and how her loneliness at school may resonate with kids today.
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Zelensky aide gives insight on war in Ukraine in 'The Fight for Our Lives'

Iuliia Mendel, press secretary to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, offers a peek behind the curtain in her new memoir, The Fight of Our Lives: My Time with Zelenskyy, Ukraine's Battle for Democracy and What it Means for the World. In an interview with Mary Louise Kelly, Mendel talks about Vladimir Putin ? and the resilience of Ukraine.
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Two authors explore ideals and stresses of Latino culture and immigration

The two books featured in this episode are stories examining the difficulties and stressors of being Latino in America. First is I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, which is about a 15-year-old girl who has a contentious relationship with her immigrant parents. Author Erika L. Sánchez explains in conversation with Latino USA's Maria Hinojosa her goal to challenge ideas of Latina perfection. Then we hear from David Bowles, author of They Call Her Fregona, who discusses with Scott Simon the cracks in the Latino community and immigration in pursuit of a better life.
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