Taiye Selasi brings the African immigrant experience to readers in her debut novel, Ghana Must Go.
The novel begins with the Sai children preparing to travel from the United States to Ghana for the funeral of the family patriarch, Kweku Sai. Before they leave, Selasi gives readers a glimpse into the events that unfolded while they were growing up in the Boston suburb of Brookline, Mass.
Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 11:18 am
Amid a literary landscape increasingly rife with metafictional and postmodern high jinks, Jill McCorkle's sixth novel, Life After Life, is as resolutely down to earth and unpretentious as the hot-dog franchise owned by one of her characters. For her first novel in 17 years, McCorkle has dared to write a heartwarmer that takes place largely in a retirement home and stresses the importance of good old-fashioned kindness.
It's 9 a.m. on a Sunday, and my bathrobe and hair already reek of garam masala — burnt garam masala, to be exact. Who'd have known that the key to this Indian-Pakistani recipe for lamb biryani would be the French cooking mantra of mise-en-place? Or that the minute it takes for the pile of spices to get "aromatic" in hot oil is not nearly long enough to both measure and photograph them before they turn to ashes?
William Irvine is a philosophy professor by day, but he has an unusual sideline: He's also a collector of insults. Irvine has gathered some of his favorite jibes into a new book called A Slap in the Face: Why Insults Hurt — And Why They Shouldn't.
Irvine tells NPR's Audie Cornish that one of his favorite masters of insult is Winston Churchill. "Nancy Astor [said] to Winston Churchill, 'if you were my husband, I would put poison in your coffee,' " Irvine says, to which Churchill replied, " 'If you were my wife, I would drink it.' "
During the debate over whether to invade Iraq, or whether to stay in Afghanistan, many people looked back to World War II, describing it as a good and just war — a war the U.S. knew it had to fight. In reality, it wasn't that simple. When Britain and France went to war with Germany in 1939, Americans were divided about offering military aid, and the debate over the U.S. joining the war was even more heated. It wasn't until two years later, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war against the U.S., that Americans officially entered the conflict.
As The Voice returns to NBC this week for its fourth season, viewers are seeing two new, if quite familiar, faces as Shakira and Usher occupy the coaches' seats vacated by Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green. Its talent-show rival over on Fox, The X Factor, will also see two new judges when (if? no, "when," surely) it comes back in the fall.
So why does The Voice seem so healthy and The X Factor so wobbly?
Originally published on Fri March 29, 2013 9:42 am
As Marcel Proust so famously documented, it's often the simplest of foods that can carry us back to remembrances of things past.
And so perhaps it's not so surprising that, when freelance food writer Anne Noyes Saini began asking New York's elderly residents about their memories of the foods of the city during the early- to mid-20th century, it was humble meals like baked beans and the fruits sold by old-timey wagons that most often came to mind.
What's a reader to believe, especially when confronted with an unreliable narrator? Which of the many versions spun by the self-confessed liar and aspiring writer in Kristopher Jansma's far-flung, deliberately far-fetched, hyper-inventive first novel, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, should we buy? Does the seductive actress he pines for marry a) an Indian geologist on the edge of the Grand Canyon; b) a Japanese royal; or c) a Luxembourg prince?
Meg Wolitzer returns with The Interestings, a big and deliciously complicated novel that follows a group of summer-camp friends through the decades. Jules, Ash, Ethan and Jonah first dubbed themselves "the Interestings" as teenagers in the sweltering confines of Boys Teepee 3 at the artsy camp Spirit-in-the-Woods. All of them are bright, talented kids — artists, musicians, actors — but what happens to close friendship and early promise when you grow up? For the Interestings, that question will have very different answers.
It's a visual no parent wants to picture: a child describing what it's like to live in a house with no power for lights, heat or cooking. For many middle-class American parents, it's hard to imagine their family ever facing a situation like that. But a new HBO documentary suggests that many seemingly prosperous parents are only a few misfortunes away from dark houses and empty refrigerators.
If you go to someone's house and pick up the TV remote, chances are, you won't know how it works. You know the situation's bad when even a tech writer who also majored in physics at an Ivy League school is confused by her own TV remote.
Is it OK to eat alligator on Fridays during Lent? That question isn't just rhetorical in Louisiana, which has large populations of both Catholics and gators.
"Alligator's such a natural for New Orleans," says Jay Nix, owner of Parkway Bakery, which serves a mean alligator sausage po boy sandwich. "Alligator gumbo, jambalaya. I mean, it's a wonder that alligator isn't our mascot, you know?"
In 2008, during the brief window when it was legal for same-sex couples to get married in California, perhaps no couple drew more attention than Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi.
After their wedding, photos of the couple were everywhere; DeGeneres, beaming, in a white suit and holding hands with de Rossi, the very picture of the princess bride so many young girls dream of being one day. It was a cultural touchstone, and Dietram Scheufele, a communications professor at the University of Wisconsin, says it was neither the first nor the last time DeGeneres has played that role.
By now, you've probably heard people call themselves "slaves" to their phones or their computers. We all know what that means — but why are we allowing ourselves to be slaves to the very instruments of technology we've created?
Douglas Rushkoff, who spends his days thinking, writing and teaching about media culture, says it's time for people to stop chasing every ping and start using technology in a way that makes us feel more free. Rushkoff's latest work is called Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. He joined NPR's Audie Cornish to talk about the book.
More than a century before Steven Spielberg's film Lincoln offered an intimate portrait of the 16th president and his family, a memoir from the first lady's dressmaker offered a glimpse into the Lincoln White House.
Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Todd Lincoln's seamstress and maybe her closest friend, told her story of slavery and self-emancipation, and her relationship with the Lincolns in a tell-all memoir called Behind The Scenes.
As a film critic for The Boston Globe, Ty Burr has met a lot of movie stars and is often asked what they're really like. What he has realized is that often, the actor's image has little to do with their actual personality, but that's not what interests him; Burr is more curious about why we ask that question to begin with. Burr wants to know "why we respond to these people who we think are larger than life [and] that are — especially in the classic days — manufactured and all their irregularities sanded off and presented to us as some kind of perfection."
To remember Chinua Achebe who died last Thursday, Fresh Air listens back to an interview with the great African writer that originally aired on May 10, 1988. In it, Achebe talks about the literary trope of the white explorer or missionary living amongst the savages, and the importance of struggle.
In 1953, the Swiss chemical company Ciba came to Toms River, N.J. By all accounts, the community was delighted to have it. The chemical plant for manufacturing textile dye brought jobs and tax revenue to the small town on the Jersey shore. The company invested in the town's hospital and donated land for a golf course.
A few months ago, Reid Cherlin, a GQ magazine contributor and former White House spokesman for President Obama, was sent a link to a website with what he says was "a sort of grotesque sketch" of his face.
It was the website of Michael McCutcheon, a 73-year-old retiree who draws sketches of all of the guests on C-SPAN's morning programming. Cherlin was a guest on C-SPAN last year, a pretty normal thing for D.C. pundits.
Originally published on Sun March 24, 2013 9:00 am
Nicole J. Georges' latest book is Calling Dr. Laura.
My mother picked me up from school in early April 1994. I was barely a teenager, lips stretched over braces as I focused my attention on the radio dial, seeking an alternative station whenmy mom delivered some news: "Oh, your buddy died."
"Who is 'my buddy?' "
"Uhhh ... whatshisname ... the screaming, you know, the blonde. ..."
ALEX CORNELL: Sometimes you go to dinner with a lot of people you know, but then there's some friends from out of town and you end up sitting next to the, you know, the roommate of the friend who doesn't know anyone...
On-air challenge: You'll be given clues for some five-letter words. In each case, the letters of the answer can be found consecutively somewhere inside the clue. For example, given "Some teenagers' language," the answer would be "slang"(hidden inside "teenagerS' LANGuage").
The brothers in the Emanuel family are known for their success and for their chutzpah. The youngest is Ari Emanuel, a high-powered Hollywood agent. The HBO show Entourage actually based a character on Ari, and that character is a bit, well, blunt — threatening, for example, to rip out someone's tongue and serve it to his son's pet lizard.