Karen Grigsby Bates

Karen Grigsby Bates is the Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News. Bates contributed commentaries to All Things Considered for about 10 years before she joined NPR in 2002 as the first correspondent and alternate host for The Tavis Smiley Show. In addition to general reporting and substitute hosting, she increased the show's coverage of international issues and its cultural coverage, especially in the field of literature and the arts.

In early 2003, Bates joined NPR's former midday news program Day to Day. She has reported on politics (California's precedent-making gubernatorial recall, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election campaign and the high-profile mayoral campaign of Los Angeles' Antonio Villaraigosa), media, and breaking news (the Abu Ghrarib scandal, the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams).

Bates' passion for food and things culinary has served her well: she's spent time with award-winning food critic Alan Richman and chef-entrepreneur Emeril Lagasse.

One of Bates' proudest contributions is making books and authors a high-profile part of NPR's coverage. "NPR listeners read a lot, and many of them share the same passion for books that I do, so this isn't work, it's a pleasure." She's had conversations with such writers as Walter Mosley, Joan Didion and Kazuo Ishiguru. Her bi-annual book lists (which are archived on the web) are listener favorites.

Before coming to NPR, Bates was a news reporter for People magazine. She was a contributing columnist to the Op Ed pages of the Los Angeles Times for ten years. Her work has appeared in Time, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Essence and Vogue. And she's been a guest on several news shows such as ABC's Nightline and the CBS Evening News.

In her non-NPR life, Bates is the author of Plain Brown Wrapper and Chosen People, mysteries featuring reporter-sleuth Alex Powell. She is co-author, with Karen E. Hudson, of Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times, a best-selling etiquette book now in its second edition. Her work also appears in several writers' anthologies.

Bates holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College. Additionally she studied at the University of Ghana and completed the executive management program at Yale University's School of Organization and Management.

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Code Switch
2:26 pm
Mon April 15, 2013

Dumbfoundead: A Rising Star In A Genre In Transition

Korean American rap artist, Dumbfoundead performs at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., on March 26.
Lauren Rock for NPR

Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 8:02 pm

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Around the Nation
1:26 am
Tue March 26, 2013

'American Winter' Families Struggle To Survive Fall From Middle Class

Pam Thatcher and her family ultimately moved into her mother's two-bedroom apartment because they couldn't make rent.
Courtesy Devon Terrilll Viewfilm productions/HBO

Originally published on Tue March 26, 2013 7:57 am

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.

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The Record
3:27 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Gangsta Rap Swap Meet Proprietor Wan Joon Kim Has Died

Wan Joon Kim (right), with his son Kirk and wife, Boo Ja, at their stall inside the Compton Swap Meet last January.
Courtesy of Sam Quinones

Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 4:49 pm

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History
4:45 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

1963 Emancipation Proclamation Party Lacked A Key Guest

Guests at the party included Johnson Publishing magnate John Johnson and his wife, Eunice, and Whitney M. Young, head of the National Urban League.
Abbie Rowe Courtesy of JFK Presidential Library

Originally published on Sun April 7, 2013 6:04 pm

Fifty years ago, the White House was the site of an unusual party.

It was a celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation's centennial, held on Abraham Lincoln's birthday, and many of the guests were descendants of the people Lincoln's historic document freed.

But noticeably absent was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader had declined the invitation after earlier conversations with President Kennedy about segregation had yielded few results.

Born Of Frustration

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Around the Nation
2:43 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Some In L.A. See Fired Cop Dorner As A Victim

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 4:24 am

The fired Los Angeles police officer who has been targeting other officers remains a fugitive. Chistopher Dorner is wanted in connection with three murders. Dorner claims he was fired because of racism. That claim has struck a chord with many of the city's Black and Latino residents

Business
4:36 am
Sun February 10, 2013

Bloomingdale's Lays Out Welcome Mat To Chinese Shoppers

To mark the Lunar New Year, Bloomingdale's is catering to affluent Chinese tourists with an array of pop-up shops.
Courtesy of Bloomingdale's

Originally published on Sun April 7, 2013 6:04 pm

A number of luxury retailers are rolling out tactics this year to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year. For Bloomingdale's in New York City, though, reaching out to Asian shoppers during the cultural celebration is a decades-long tradition.

The upscale department store's marketing strategy traces back to 1971, the year President Nixon lifted the U.S. trade embargo with the People's Republic of China. Immediately, Marvin Traub, then-president of Bloomingdale's, decided he wanted to sell Chinese goods in his flagship store on the Upper East Side.

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Arts & Life
1:22 am
Mon January 21, 2013

Aretha Franklin Was Already Famous, But Her Hat-Maker Wasn't

At the Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration of President Obama, Aretha Franklin's hat nearly stole the show. Her chapeau became a sensation, and made its creator, 36-year-old Luke Song, famous overnight.
Ron Edmonds AP

Originally published on Mon January 21, 2013 10:54 am

After the first Obama inauguration, everybody talked about three things: the historic moment, the Arctic weather — and Aretha Franklin's hat.

If it is possible for a piece of millinery to steal the thunder of one of the most-watched moments in recent memory, the Queen of Soul's hat managed to do it. Her gray felt cloche was topped with a giant, matching bow, outlined in rhinestones that flashed in the chill sunlight as she sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

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Television
1:19 am
Fri January 11, 2013

'Living' In Color, Long Before 'Girls'

Living Single (1993-1998) featured four young, black, professional women in New York — including Queen Latifah as the ambitious head of a small magazine.
E.J. Camp Corbis

Originally published on Fri January 11, 2013 11:14 am

The second season of HBO's critically acclaimed series Girls begins Sunday night, but the show about 20-something girls navigating their social and work lives in New York has itself been criticized for not being diverse enough.

By now, most of you have heard the buzz about Girls: It's written by 26-year-old Lena Dunham, and stars a quartet of young women whose plans sometimes crash face-first into life's nasty realities.

The show's smart dialogue attracted writer Allison Samuels, a cultural critic for Newsweek/The Daily Beast.

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Politics
4:13 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Ruiz Part Of The New Class Of A Diverse Congress

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 3:38 pm

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer in for Scott Simon.

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U.S.
3:25 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

New Policy For Young Immigrants Creates Paperwork Deluge

A crowd seeks help applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in August. Schools have been inundated with requests for the documents needed to qualify.
Jonathan Alcorn Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 4:29 pm

In the six months since a new law opened a path to temporary legal status for some young immigrants in the U.S., more than 300,000 people have applied — and have rushed to request qualifying documents from their schools.

The law, Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, offers legal status, renewable every two years, to people ages 30 and younger who were brought to the country as children. Applicants must prove they were in the U.S. for five consecutive years — something most easily achieved through school transcripts.

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Books
12:21 am
Wed December 5, 2012

Susan Straight: One Home Town, Many Voices

Courtesy of McSweeney's

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 7:09 am

Think of all the great writers who have made their hometowns literary history — William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Thomas Wolfe, to name a few. Now, Susan Straight is getting the same praise for her portrayal of Riverside, Calif. It's a small town at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains, an hour east of Los Angeles.

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Television
2:48 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

Comedians Parody Two Sides Of President Obama

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 4:18 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have an avid following for their weekly show, "Key and Peele" on Comedy Central. They've parodied everything from the names of black athletes to white people with dreadlocks. This year, the duo set their sights on the presidential campaign and examined the role that race played in it.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates has that story.

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Movies
1:26 am
Tue November 20, 2012

Controversial Casting For A Nina Simone Biopic

Nina Simone (left) and actress Zoe Saldana are seen in this composite image. Saldana has been cast to play the late singer in a film biopic.
John Minihan/Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 9:35 am

The rumors that had been around for a couple of years have finally been confirmed: At long last, there's a film in the works about the turbulent life of Nina Simone, otherwise known as the "High Priestess of Soul."

Simone was famous from the 1950s through the '70s for her music and her civil rights activism. And although she died in 2003, her voice remains popular on TV, movie soundtracks and commercials.

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Digital Life
2:33 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

A Mohawk Hero In The Not-So-Diverse Gaming World

For the latest installment of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed series, set in Colonial America, the hooded main character is part Mohawk. The company brought in a Mohawk consultant and hired a Native actor to play the role.
Courtesy of Ubisoft

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 3:49 pm

The Assassin's Creed video game series has become a megahit for gaming enthusiasts. The story line follows a bloody war between Assassins and the Knights Templar, first during the Crusades and then in Renaissance Italy.

The newly released Assassins Creed III crosses the ocean and a couple of centuries so the action could take place during the Revolutionary War and would be wildly anticipated on its own.

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Arts & Life
4:22 am
Sun September 16, 2012

Beverly Hills' Refuge For The Stars Turns 100

The Beverly Hills Hotel as it looked when it opened in 1912. The bleak landscape would eventually be replaced by lush tropical foliage, and after the depression, the white Spanish Mission-style hotel would be painted its now-famous pink.
Courtesy of Robert S. Anderson

Originally published on Mon September 17, 2012 3:26 pm

The Beverly Hills Hotel, a place fondly known as the Pink Palace, has preserved guests' privacy and indulged their every whim for 100 years, and the entire year will be filled with celebrations of its centennial.

There have been parties for the neighbors, parties for the staff, and a celebration this week as the hotel becomes the first historic landmark in the city of Beverly Hills, Calif.

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Politics
2:45 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Eva Longoria Offers DNC A Bridge To Latino Voters

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 3:56 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Democrats have always attracted a sparkly contingent of A-list celebrities to their party. This evening we'll feature one who's a celebrity and an important bridge to a much-coveted voter demographic. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates has this profile of a woman who is equal parts actress and activist.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES, BYLINE: Eva Longoria became famous as the self-centered Gabrielle Solis in ABC's hit comedy "Desperate Housewives."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW "DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES")

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Crime In The City
1:26 am
Mon August 20, 2012

Robert Crais: LA Is A 'Natural Canvas' For Nightmare

The canals in LA's Venice neighborhood serve as the scene of a murder in Robert Crais' 2011 novel, The Sentry.
David McNew Getty Images

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 11:50 am

It's been a few decades, and many published books, but Robert Crais can tell you exactly when mystery writing first caught his attention: He was a bright 15-year-old living in Baton Rouge, La., when he read Raymond Chandler's The Little Sister, which depicted the shady side of sunny Los Angeles through the eyes of private investigator Philip Marlowe.

Since then, Crais has found huge success with his own crime novels, also set in LA. The city is the perfect canvas for a modern mystery, and Crais' eyes still grow wide when he talks about what Chandler painted on it.

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Books
1:37 am
Wed August 15, 2012

A Rainbow Of Happy Endings In Ethnic Romances

The cover of the romance novel Only in Paradise, by author Michelle Monkou.
Harlequin Books

Originally published on Wed August 15, 2012 3:14 am

Romance fiction is the Rodney Dangerfield of the publishing world: It don't get no respect.

This, despite the fact that romance is the most consistently profitable genre in an unsettlingly shaky business. Last year, romance alone contributed more than $1 billion to publishing's diminished coffers. And a growing amount of that income comes from romances written by ethnic writers for ethnic readers.

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Television
2:10 am
Thu July 26, 2012

At Bravo, A Pop-Culture Kingpin Works Day And Night

Andy Cohen on the set of his nightly Bravo talk show, Watch What Happens: Live. Cohen is also Bravo's executive vice president of development and talent, and has helped make Bravo a pop-culture heavyweight.
Heidi Gutman Bravo

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 8:35 am

Andy Cohen has been yakking for most of his 44 years. He has a book titled Most Talkative — a title he earned in high school.

"My mouth has been my greatest asset and also my biggest Achilles' heel," he says.

Most days, it's an asset.

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