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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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Lauren Groff talks captivity narratives, climate change and 'The Vaster Wilds'

Today's episode is an in-length conversation with National Book Award finalist Lauren Groff. She met up with NPR's Andrew Limbong at a library at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where they chatted about Mary Rowlandson, the colonial woman captured and held ransom by Native Americans in the 1600s, and how she influenced Groff's new book, The Vaster Wilds. Groff also talked about how she found a new affinity for historical fiction, and why she always has "a go bag" ready.
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Alice Carrière's memoir tackles the dissonance between memory and mental health

Alice Carrière grew up in Manhattan under the care ? and absence ? of two extraordinarily creative parents: artist Jennifer Bartlett and actor Mathieu Carrière. But her mother's trauma, her father's transgressions, and her own dissociative disorder broke Alice's ties to her own identity and humanity. In her memoir, Everything/Nothing/Someone, she recounts some of the most difficult moments of her life ? but as she tells NPR's Ailsa Chang, she also used writing, her mother's dementia and a reconciliation with her father to reclaim her own reality.
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In 'Fly,' Mitchell S. Jackson looks back over the history of fashion in the NBA

From Walt "Clyde" Frazier to Russell Westbrook, a new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Mitchell S. Jackson chronicles the relationship between style and basketball over decades. Fly: The Big Book of Basketball Fashion features photos and analysis of how the Civil Rights movement, the infamous dress code, and Instagram have all played a role in the evolution of NBA players' modes of expression. In today's episode, Jackson tells NPR's Ayesha Rascoe how race and activism also intersect with the perception of the sport, and why he thinks we're seeing the most exciting tunnel walks yet.
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In 'The Fraud,' Zadie Smith takes on historical fiction and the Tichborne case

In the 19th century, a butcher living in Australia claimed to be the long-lost heir of a British fortune. The Tichborne trial, which sparked much controversy and even more attention in Victorian England, is at the center of Zadie Smith's new novel, The Fraud. In today's episode, the author tells NPR's Mary Louise Kelly how she became captivated by the outrageous lies the man told in court, and how the way his believers still dug their heels and supported him echoes the state of politics in the 21st century.
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Abdulrazak Gurnah's 'Afterlives' highlights nuances of colonization in East Africa

In Abdulrazak Gurnah's Afterlives, the characters centered in the novel offer different perspectives of ordinary people under German colonization in East Africa. In an interview with NPR's Scott Simon, the author goes into detail about how the "power and attraction of the victor" can lead to the conquered joining the conqueror and the impact it has on one's identity.
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Two books examine masculinity and mental health in immigrant families

Today's episode is rooted in how the expectations of immigrant fathers affect their children. First, Khashayar J. Khabushani speaks with Here & Now's Deepa Fernandes about his novel I Will Greet the Sun Again, which follows a young Iranian-American boy trying to make sense of his identity and sexuality under a strict, sometimes violent, dad's care. Then, Prachi Gupta tells NPR's Leila Fadel about her memoir, They Called Us Exceptional, and how the intersection of racism and patriarchy contributed to her brother's tragic death.
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'The Men Can't Be Saved' analyzes masculinity in the world of advertising

Ben Purkert's novel, The Men Can't Be Saved, follows a junior copywriter with a viral tagline for adult diapers. Is it a modern take on Mad Men? Or its very antithesis? Purkert tells NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer how his own days in the advertising industry ? at the same time the TV drama starring Jon Hamm had just premiered ? shaped his understanding of ego, drive and manhood in the workplace....and how maybe making partner at a firm is more about finding connection than a fancy title, though his protagonist would never admit it out loud.
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In 'The Breakaway,' Jennifer Weiner touches on love, mothers and body-shaming

Abby Stern is very much looking forward to leading a biking trip from NYC to Niagara Falls ? until her mom, an old one-night-stand, and some uneasy memories are added to the mix. In Jennifer Weiner's new novel, The Breakaway, that two-week trip becomes filled with tension: sexual, political, and familial. Weiner tells NPR's Juana Summers how different women manage their mothers' expectations, and how she learned to see "almond moms" quite differently while writing this novel.
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In 'Happiness Falls,' a father gone missing brings family tensions to the surface

Adam Parson goes on a morning hike with his son, Eugene, and the boy returns home alone. Eugene is autistic and nonverbal, so he can't explain what happened. This is how Angie Kim sets up Happiness Falls, which chronicles how the Korean-American family tries to make sense of Adam's disappearance. Kim tells NPR's Scott Simon about the complicated relationship between Eugene and his siblings, and why she wanted to emphasize that a lack of verbal communication does not equal a lack of thought and feeling.
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'This is Wildfire' offers an in-depth guide for managing today's more-frequent fires

In the face of record temperatures and dry conditions, wildfires are becoming more and more common. This is Wildfire, a new book by Nick Mott and Justin Angle, provides a historical analysis of the role flames have played in both human and natural ecosystems ? and seeks to inform readers how to best protect themselves, their homes, and their communities. As the authors tell Here & Now's Scott Tong, solutions are as far-ranging as keeping gutters clean of debris and actually encouraging more controlled burns.
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Two thrillers raise questions about writing from a particular race and identity

Today's episode focuses on two thrillers that our host, Andrew Limbong, read while on parental leave. First, R.F. Kuang speaks with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly about her novel Yellowface and the complicated nuances of writing about friendship and cultural appropriation. Then, Japanese-American author Joe Ide takes a walk with Karen Grigsby Bates, formerly of NPR's Code Switch team, to explain how his upbringing in South Central L.A. informed his series I.Q. and his choice to write from the perspective of a Black protagonist.
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'Queer Career' chronicles the history of LGBTQ workers in the U.S.

In her new book, Queer Career: Sexuality and Work in Modern America, historian Margot Canaday sets out to discover the experiences of LGBTQ people in the American workplace. From the Lavender Scare that sought to remove gay and lesbian employees from government jobs, through the abuse and exploitation that outed workers often faced when they didn't get fired, Canaday's book recounts how sexuality and gender shaped the careers of countless Americans. Canaday tells NPR's Stacey Vanek Smith that despite the adversity, queer people still found meaning and community through their jobs.
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'Of White Ashes' follows a Japanese-American love story after the WWII internment

Author Kent Matsumoto's parents both lived through traumatic experiences during WWII: his mother was forced into an internment camp for Japanese-Americans in the U.S., and his father survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In a new novel, Of White Ashes, Matsumoto and his wife and co-writer Constance Hays Matsumoto explore a romance between two Japanese-Americans based on Matsumoto's parents. They spoke with Here & Now's Celeste Headlee about choosing to fictionalize true events, and how writing together created a love story of their own.
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In 'Losing Our Religion,' Russell Moore tackles a crisis in evangelical Christianity

Russell Moore resigned from his position in the Southern Baptist Convention after finding himself at odds with other top evangelical leaders ? for criticizing Donald Trump, condemning a sexual abuse scandal in the church, and calling out white nationalism within the institution. In his new book, Losing Our Religion, the Christianity Today editor-in-chief examines how the evangelical faith became inundated with politics and culture wars. He tells NPR's Scott Detrow about how despite today's polarization in Christianity, his faith has become stronger ? and he sees a path to renewal.
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'Mobility' examines wealth and climate change through the eyes of a teenage girl

Elizabeth "Bunny" Glenn likes reading Cosmopolitan and watching soap operas ? but the teenager is blithely aware of how power and wealth operate around her. She's the daughter of a diplomat in Azerbaijan tasked with ensuring oil pipeline access in Lydia Kiesling's new novel, Mobility. In today's episode, the author speaks with NPR's Scott Simon about how her protagonist feigns oblivion to pave her own career in the fossil fuel industry, and how her complicity in climate change makes her a complex character to write.
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Short story collections by Steven Millhauser and Jamel Brinkley focus on the uncanny

Today's episode features interviews with two authors of short story collections. First, NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer speaks with Steven Millhauser about Disruptions, and why he likes to write stories that start off in the normal world and slowly become more and more unsettling until he feels he's pushed the limits as far as he can. Then, NPR's Juana Summers asks Jamel Brinkley about Witness, and how he incorporated gentrification in New York, masculinity and Blackness into his larger themes of obsession.
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Pidgeon Pagonis' memoir 'Nobody Needs to Know' reclaims intersex identity

Pidgeon Pagonis grew up thinking they'd survived cancer as a child, and the disease was the reason their body didn't develop quite like the other girls at school. It wasn't until college that they realized they were actually born intersex, and all the surgeries, secrets and confusion came into focus. In their new memoir, Nobody Needs to Know, Pagonis reckons with how they came to understand and accept the truth about their body. They tell NPR's Leila Fadel about that journey and about how they're thinking about community and activism now that their story is out in the world.
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In 'The Apology,' a South Korean grandmother makes amends from the afterlife

There are lots of secrets that 105-year-old Hak Jeonga has carried with her throughout her life. But even after she dies, there's still one big one ? generational curse included ? that she must resolve. Jimin Han's new novel, The Apology, follows the family from South Korea to Chicago to right some of the wrongs that have happened over time. Han tells NPR's Eyder Peralta how she was influenced by her own family's experience of longing and separation following the Korean War, and why Korean shamanism influenced this story of immortality.
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James McBride's new murder mystery digs into Black and Jewish communities in the '30s

In James McBride's new novel ? the titular shop at its heart ? The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store ? can be found in a neighborhood in Pottstown,Pennsylvania, where working-class Jewish immigrants and African-Americans live side by side, forming a community of protection and respect for one another. In today's episode, McBride speaks with NPR's Scott Detrow about the murder mystery that unfolds in the novel, the inspiration he took from his own grandmother, and the allure of writing about Pennsylvania.
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'War and Punishment' chronicles the history of Russian oppression of Ukraine

Journalist Mikhail Zygar says a lot of Russian historians were actually propagandists ? they worked for people in power and wrote recorded events the way politicians and elites wanted. In his new book, War and Punishment, he breaks down the historical myths he says are part of the Russian psyche, one he says Putin uses to defend the invasion of Ukraine. Zygar tells NPR's Leila Fadel that he doesn't think everyone believes the propaganda, but that it's essential to uncover the truth about the Russian empire to understand how we got to today's war, and where it might go next.
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Two books reflect on the highs and lows of adolescence

Today's episode focuses on very different experiences of the teenage years. First, NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Christine Suggs about their new graphic novel, ¡Ay, Mija!, inspired by Suggs' formative trip to Mexico to understand their parents' upbringing and reconnect with their family and culture. Then, NPR's Rachel Martin sits down with psychologist Lisa Damour to discuss her new book, The Emotional Lives of Teenagers. They discuss the stresses and anxieties young people deal with ? especially as a result of the pandemic ? and how parents can help manage these intense feelings.
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Terrance Hayes' poems span history, fables and quarantine in 'So to Speak'

Writing is a practice ? especially for MacArthur Genius Grant and National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes. His new collection of poems, So to Speak, comes out of that practice during turbulent times: COVID quarantine, the 2020 protests after the killing of George Floyd. And they reach further back, too, to the Jim Crow South and his mother's youth. In today's episode, Hayes speaks with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly about engaging with language and reimagining family members in a new light.
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'Good Fortune' reimagines 'Pride and Prejudice' in early 2000s Chinatown

In C.K. Chau's new novel, Good Fortune, Elizabeth Chen is highly wary of the Wong brothers who have swooped in to buy a New York City community center. But where Elizabeth sees a threat to her neighborhood, her mother sees an opportunity ? and not just for their block. In today's episode, Chau speaks with NPR's Ailsa Chang about reframing Pride and Prejudice as an early aughts story about love and aspiration in a Cantonese American family, and how reframing certain characters as immigrants brings a whole new level to their outlook on relationships.
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'Filthy Rich Politicians' scrutinizes the wealth of elected officials

In Filthy Rich Politicians, conservative columnist Matt Lewis presents some startling figures. Senator Rick Scott: net worth of approximately $200 million. Representative Michael McCaul: $125 million. Nancy Pelosi: $46 million. In his book, Lewis takes a close look at how people get richer after they're elected to office, and what this wealth means for our political systems. He speaks with NPR's Steve Inskeep about how politicians amass money not just for themselves, but their families ? and how Donald Trump is a prime example of that.
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Ann Patchett's new novel brings a mother and daughters together during 2020 lockdown

Lara, the protagonist of Ann Patchett's Tom Lake, finds a silver lining during the frightening first few months of the COVID pandemic: her three adult daughters return home to the family orchard in Northern Michigan. In today's episode, Patchett tells NPR's Mary Louise Kelly how they bond while Lara tells them of a romance from her youth, and how looking back to the past brings up all kinds of questions about love and relationships for all the women in the family.
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Two novels depict young men understanding themselves and the danger around them

Today's episode features two novels with two very different protagonists, though their journeys might have more in common than appears at first glance. First, Stephen Buoro discusses The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa with NPR's Camila Domonoske, which follows a young Nigerian man's obsession with whiteness. Then, NPR's Scott Simon asks Max Porter about Shy, a short novel depicting a British teen's escape from his boarding school for troubled kids.
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In 'Soul Boom,' Rainn Wilson calls for a spiritual revolution

Actor Rainn Wilson says he's "always identified as being a dork and a misfit and an outsider." In fact, he says that's probably why he found so much success playing Dwight Schrute in The Office. But in real life, Wilson attributes his dorkiness to how uncool it was to be "the God guy" in the New York acting scene, causing him to shy away from it. In his new book, Soul Boom, he details the monumental role spirituality now plays in his life. He tells NPR's Rachel Martin about his journey back to his faith, and why he feels it should be a guiding force in solving the world's problems.
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In 'Miles Morales Suspended,' Spider-Man grapples with racism and saving the world

Miles Morales, the beloved protagonist of Jason Reynolds' Spider-Man novel, is back. And this time, he's dealing with in-school suspension for challenging his history teacher at an elite Brooklyn private school. But between writing poetry about his new crush and saving the world, the young, Black and Puerto Rican superhero also stumbles into some major themes about racism and censorship. Reynolds tells NPR's A Martinez how his newest novel is a response to the book bans taking place across the country ? and how he wishes it didn't have to be.
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'Soil' weaves together a poet's experience of gardening, race and community

For poet Camille Dungy, environmental justice, community interdependence and political engagement go hand in hand. She explores those relationships in her new book, Soil: The Story of a Black Mother's Garden. In it, she details how her experience trying to diversify the species growing in her yard, in a predominantly white town in Colorado, reflects larger themes of how we talk about land and race in the U.S. In today's episode, she tells NPR's Melissa Block about the journey that gardening put her on, and what it's revealed about who gets to write about the environment.
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Bangles cofounder Susanna Hoffs' first novel follows a one-hit wonder, 10 years later

The protagonist of Susanna Hoffs' debut novel, Jane Start, probably listens to Dionne Warwick to hype herself up in the morning. Start is 33 and living with her parents ? her days of pop stardom, for one song, are 10 years behind her. But in This Bird Has Flown, a romantic spark reignites a second chance for her creative endeavors, too. In today's episode, Hoffs tells NPR's Andrew Limbong how her own experiences as a rockstar influenced the story, which she's now adapting into a feature film.
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Two books dive into the history of minimalist music and the origins of the saxophone

Today's episode is all about music history. First, musicologists Kerry O'Brien and William Robin tell NPR's Noah Caldwell about their new book, On Minimalism, and how the genre was born out of 1960s counterculture and went on to influence artists like The Who and Alice Coltrane. Then, Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome tell NPR's Samantha Balaban about their new picture book, The Story of the Saxophone, which chronicles the instrument's journey to becoming one of jazz's most important players.
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Madhur Jaffrey celebrates 50 years of 'An Invitation to Indian Cooking'

Today's episode comes to you straight from Madhur Jaffrey's kitchen. NPR's Michel Martin pays the celebrated chef and actor a visit in her New York home, where she discusses how she first learned to cook while studying acting in London. Jeffrey also reflects on how Indian cooking has changed since she published her first cookbook. An Invitation to Indian Cooking will be re-issued later this year to mark its 50th anniversary.
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Poet Hanif Abdurraqib reflects on the ways grief has shaped his spirituality

In his new book, A Little Devil in America, poet Hanif Abdurraqib writes about music in such a way that NPR's Rachel Martin wanted to focus a conversation about spiritual transcendence related to it. What came out, however, was a deep discussion about how losing his mother and close friends early in life created its own kind of spiritual practice for Abdurraqib. In today's episode, he explains how "grief makes a home within us" and why that might actually be a good thing.
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'Monsters' examines fandom and how we consume art by morally compromised people

In the midst of the #MeToo movement in 2017, Claire Dederer posed a difficult question in The Paris Review: "What Do We Do With the Art of Monstrous Men?" From that viral essay comes her new book, Monsters, which examines how we morally engage with ? or don't ? musicians, authors and actors whose work we love, when we condemn their personal actions. In today's episode, Dederer tells NPR's Ayesha Rascoe how this question first arose for her around Roman Polanski movies, and how complex and personal it is to try to separate the art from the artist.
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'The Collector' follows a fictional spy's quest to track down a real stolen painting

Johannes Vermeer's 1664 masterpiece "The Concert" was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. That real - still unsolved - case is at the heart of Daniel Silva's new thriller, The Collector. Despite his initial reluctance, art restorer and former Israeli intelligence officer Gabriel Allon is enlisted to hunt down the painting, along with an unexpected collaborator. In today's episode, Silva speaks with NPR's Scott Simon about his distaste for art theft and his reasons for turning villains into protagonists.
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Two children's books show the comfort kids can find in darkness

Today's episode is all about young readers and the ways they interact with complicated emotions. First, NPR's Julie Depenbrock speaks with Jon Klassen about his new book, The Skull, inspired by a folk tale about a little girl who runs away from home. She befriends the skull and they form a close bond despite the strangeness of the situation. Then, NPR's Miles Parks talks with author Kevin Johnson and illustrator Kitt Thomas about their new book, Cape, which chronicles a young boy's first experience with grief.
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In her memoir, designer Aurora James examines representation and equality in fashion

Aurora James is the designer behind the fashion brand Brother Vellies and the 15% pledge, an initiative that encourages major retailers to stock more work by Black-owned businesses on their shelves. In her new memoir, Wildflower, she describes the complicated upbringing that led her to her current work as a creative and activist. In today's episode, she tells NPR's Michel Martin why it was so important for her to work with African artisans and the misconceptions and biases she hopes to break down in the world of high fashion.
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'Nobody's Fool' explains the science behind falling for scams ? and how not to

In their new book, Nobody's Fool, psychology professor Daniel Simons and cognitive scientist Christopher Chabris make the case that people don't just fall for scams because they're gullible. The way our brains work ? the way they reason and trust ? can often lead us to believe a piece of misinformation or to click on a phishing scam. In today's episode, the authors explain to NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer why truth bias and familiarity can work against us, but that skepticism and fact-checking can help us fight back.
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'The Best Possible Experiences' captures immigrant experience through short stories

In today's episode, author Nishanth Injam tells NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer that when he first arrived in the U.S. from India, he wondered if he'd made a huge mistake. That tension he grappled with is now at the heart of his debut collection of short stories, The Best Possible Experiences, which chronicles the expansive ups and downs of being an immigrant, both at home and in a new place.
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'The Rachel Incident' looks back on early-20s friendships, love and mistakes

The new novel The Rachel Incident is rooted around a wonderful, messy friendship. Rachel and James live together, party, and get themselves into a peculiar situation with an older married couple. In today's episode, author Caroline O'Donoghue speaks with NPR's Miles Parks about how abortion and sexual repression in Irish society play a large role in Rachel's early adulthood. O'Donoghue also shares why it was important to her that the novel be told from an older Rachel's perspective, reflecting on her youth.
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Dennis Lehane and Jake Tapper pen new novels set in the 1970s

Today's episode takes us back in time to American society in the '70s. First, NPR's Scott Simon speaks with author Dennis Lehane about Small Mercies, his new novel about the desegregation of Boston public schools and a mother's plight to find her missing daughter during that time. Then, Simon chats with CNN anchor Jake Tapper about his book All the Demons Are Here, a family drama that involves a U.S. marine, a journalist, and their politician father making sense of post-Vietnam and post-Watergate disillusionment.
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'The Apartment' follows the residents of a Miami Beach building over decades

Ana Menéndez's novel The Apartment starts decades ? maybe centuries ? before the art deco building named The Helena is built in South Beach, and ends eons into the future. What takes place in apartment 2B in the in-between is where her story lives. From a Cuban concert pianist to a refugee, Menéndez dives into who lives at The Helena and how their time there shapes them. In today's episode, she tells NPR's Ari Shapiro why she wanted time to become its own character in the book, which she spent more than a decade writing.
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'When Crack Was King' chronicles the misunderstood history of the crack epidemic

In his new nonfiction book, When Crack Was King, Donovan X. Ramsey explores how the crack cocaine epidemic of the '80s and '90s shaped people, neighborhoods and entire communities, particularly for Black and low-income folks. He writes portraits of those who struggled with addiction, those who sold the drug, and those who tackled policy and decriminalization. In today's episode, Ramsey tells NPR's Ayesha Rascoe why he wanted to dispel the myth of the "superpredator," and how societal views on addiction changed once people of color were no longer the face of it.
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'Ripe' tackles the dark side of Silicon Valley

Cassie, the main character of Sarah Rose Etter's novel Ripe, has hit a wall. She's burned out at her toxic Silicon Valley job, she's disillusioned by the staggering wealth and poverty that surround her at the same time, and she's struggling with depression and anxiety. In today's episode, Etter tells NPR's Juana Summers how Cassie's experience parallels some of her own time working for a start-up and why girlbossing her way out of her problems isn't an option for Cassie.
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'Temple Folk' conveys the experiences of Black Muslims through short stories

Early in today's episode, Aaliyah Bilal says she knows that a lot of people associate the Nation of Islam with hate. But in her new collection of short stories, Temple Folk, she reclaims narratives about Black Muslims and how they contemplate faith, identity and community in the U.S. She tells NPR's Scott Detrow why it was especially important for her to center women's stories and how her characters contend with some of the complexities of the movement.
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A Douglas Stuart double feature! 'Shuggie Bain' and 'Young Mungo'

Both interviews today are with author Douglas Stuart. The first is about his Booker prize-winning Shuggie Bain; a story based on his own life growing up a queer son of a single mother struggling with addiction. He told NPR's Scott Simon that he hoped people could find comfort in this story. Next, Stuart spoke to NPR's Ari Shapiro about his new book, Young Mungo. It's a story about two boys separated by faith who end up falling in love with each other. Stuart told Shapiro that when he "write[s] about heartbreak or sadness, I'm really only doing that to make the tenderness and the love shine more."
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In 'Lessons In Chemistry' a chemist is the star of...a cooking show?

Bonnie Garmus' new novel Lessons In Chemistry has been getting a lot of buzz. Elizabeth Zott is a talented chemist but because it's the 1960s she faces sexism in her quest to work as a scientist. So instead she has a cooking show that is wildly popular. Garmus told NPR's Scott Simon that the character of Elizabeth lived in her head for many years before she started writing this novel.
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How to manage a disaster in 'The Devil Never Sleeps'

Former Homeland Security official and author Juliette Kayyem has a new book out that encourages preparedness. The Devil Never Sleeps makes the case that disasters are going to happen, and gives advice on how to manage them. Kayyem told NPR's Steve Inskeep that we need to redefine our definition of success after disasters occur.
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Novel 'Four Treasures of the Sky' focuses on the horrors of the Chinese Exclusion Act

Author Jenny Tinghui Zhang is out with a new historical fiction novel, Four Treasures of The Sky. Set in the 1800s during the height of anti-Chinese sentiment, a young girl named Daiyu is kidnapped and brought to the U.S. Zhang told NPR's Ayesha Rascoe that she has seen a lot of reviews that refer to this book as 'timely' ? and that she does not think that is a good thing when a book is about racism.
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Poet Ocean Vuong shares his grief in 'Time Is A Mother'

Ocean Vuong's new collection, Time Is A Mother, is about his grief after losing family members. Vuong told Morning Edition's Rachel Martin that time is different now that he has lost his mother: "when I look at my life since she died in 2019, I only see two days: Today when she's not here, and the big, big yesterday when I had her."
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