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On New Year's Eve, 2006, Christine Hyung-Oak Lee developed a splitting headache. She was 33, and her world turned upside down — as in, she literally saw the world upside down. Suddenly, she could hold things in her mind for only 15 minutes at a time. She was a writer who now couldn't recall words or craft sentences. She remembers looking at the phone and thinking to herself: What is the phone number for 911? Days later, she learned she'd had a stroke.

When author Viet Thanh Nguyen was 4 years old, he and his family fled South Vietnam and came to the U.S. as refugees. That's about the same age his own son is now — and Nguyen wonders if his child will ever know the feeling of "otherness" that he knows so well.

"I think it's a very valuable experience," Nguyen tells NPR's Ari Shapiro. "I wish, not only my son, but everybody, had a sense of what it is like to be an outsider, to be an other. Because that's partly what gives rise to compassion and to empathy — the sense that you are not always at the center of the universe."

Joyce Carol Oates' latest book opens in 1999 with a killing: A man who considers himself a soldier of Christ shoots a doctor who performs abortions. Over the next 700-plus pages, we see the consequences of that act ripple through the doctor's family and that of his killer.

The novel is called A Book of American Martyrs. Oates, who is outspoken about her liberal politics, spoke with NPR's Ari Shapiro.


Interview Highlights

On telling parts of the story from the perspective of the killer, Luther

"I think you work harder if you're haunted by some small darkness," says John Darnielle. And if the work he's produced is any indication, Darnielle is one haunted man.

The dynamic, sometimes evil and always enthralling Victor Newman has been a mainstay of CBS' daytime soap The Young and the Restless. The character is played by actor Eric Braeden, who is marking his 37th year on the show. Braeden also has a new memoir out called I'll Be Damned. In it, he shares stories from his career and his childhood in post-World War II Germany.

In 1987, the popular sitcom A Different World brought stories of life at historically black colleges into living rooms across the country. For six seasons, the NBC TV show chronicled the goings on at the fictional Hillman College.

Since then, no other show on the small screen has been dedicated solely to the culture of historically black colleges — until now. Thirty years after A Different World's debut, BET has premiered The Quad.

Daphne Merkin is a productive and admired professional, a writer and critic for the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine, a novelist and essayist. But all of her life, she's struggled with melancholy, the blues, the black dog, the blue devils — depression, by any other name.

Clergy across the country are sermonizing about events in Washington, D.C.

For Rev. Adam Hamilton, that is both a challenge and an obligation.

Hamilton founded the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas in 1990, hoping to attract what he describes as thinking Christians with little or no engagement with their faith. The congregation began meeting in the chapel of a funeral home.

With stories about politics and international affairs dominating the news cycle, it can be easy to miss what's going on in the world of music. To help with that, NPR Music has a Friday roundup of what was on its radar this week.

President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders have been working to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. And the millions of Americans who have health insurance through the Obamacare marketplaces aren't the only ones wondering about their fate. Leaders of insurance companies are, too.

If one thing became clear over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, it's that Donald Trump knows how to keep media attention on himself. If cable television coverage started to stray, a new controversial tweet or remark would draw it back to Trump.

In the 1970s and '80s, the TV show One Day at a Time pushed boundaries with the story of a divorced mother raising two teenage daughters in Indianapolis. Now Netflix has rebooted the show, and their 21st-century take pushes boundaries in its own way: The family is now Cuban-American, they live in Los Angeles and its mom, Penelope, is a veteran who served in Afghanistan.

There's a music video that's been racking up millions of views for the last few weeks — and it comes from Saudi Arabia. NPR Music's Anastasia Tsioulcas describes the scene:

Tuesday is the last day of open enrollment for health coverage for 2017 under the Affordable Care Act. And while Republicans in Congress are working to repeal the law, it's not at all clear what might replace it.

During the campaign, President Trump suggested a nationwide insurance market that would allow insurance plans to be sold across state lines.

It's become a January tradition for NPR to look ahead to some of the most anticipated jazz albums of the year. Bassist Christian McBride, who hosts NPR's Jazz Night In America, and jazz critic Nate Chinen of NPR Member station WBGO join NPR's Audie Cornish to preview three albums coming out in 2017.

Read some of McBride's and Chinen's thoughts below, and hear more of their discussion — including a reflection on the relationship between musicians and critics — at the audio link.

Writer Laurie Frankel has written a novel about a family with five boys in which the youngest feels he's something entirely different — a girl. It's called This Is How It Always Is, and it's a story that's close to Frankel's heart because she's living it: Her own child was born a boy and now identifies as a girl.

Was it the maid, the lover or the lover's partner who killed glamorous socialite Emily French with a candlestick? If this sounds like an Agatha Christie plot, it is.

Christie's novella-turned-play The Witness for the Prosecution — set in 1920s London — has been adapted into a new TV show, starring Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall as the murder victim.

Patricia Bosworth has authored acclaimed biographies of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Diane Arbus. Now, she's written about a chapter in her own remarkable life.

The Men in My Life chronicles Bosworth's time in Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio, learning and working alongside Jane Fonda, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Penn, Elaine Stritch and Tennessee Williams. Bosworth starred with Audrey Hepburn in the 1959 film The Nun's Story, before she turned to writing.

People are seeing a lot of Rufus Sewell these days.

He's starring in the play Art at the Old Vic theater in London. On PBS, he's playing Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria's first Prime Minister — and perhaps prime minister indeed, if you catch my drift.

And he's also receiving raves for his role as John Smith, the Nazi leader of America, in the alternate universe of Amazon's The Man in the High Castle, which has been renewed for a third season.

You may remember Mary Johnson from a 2011 StoryCorps conversation with a man that could have easily been her enemy.

The CW television network has lots of shows that appeal to teenagers — and its new show, Riverdale, tells the story of some teenagers who've been around for more than 75 years.

Yes, Riverdale is the latest incarnation of the all-American Archie comics. It premieres tonight, and it has none of the aw-shucks innocence of the original. This town is full of forbidden love, secrets, and murder.

Mansoor Shams is comfortable with a variety of labels.

He's a veteran, who served in the U.S. Marines from 2000 to 2004. He's a small-business owner. He's a Muslim youth leader. And now he's an ambassador — self-appointed.

Shams is traveling around the country with a sign that says, "I'm A Muslim U.S. Marine Ask Anything."

Author Julia Alekseyeva's great-grandmother Lola lived to be 100 years old, long enough to see the birth, and eventual collapse, of the USSR. In 1992, she and her family — including young Julia — moved from Kiev to Chicago.

Unbeknownst to her family, Lola began to write her memoirs, recording the stories of her life as a Jew in the Soviet Union, filled with vivid details and enlivened by a strong, independent spirit. Upon Lola's death, Julia discovered her great-grandmother's memoirs, and has now transformed them into her debut graphic novel, Soviet Daughter.

Elliot Ackerman's new novel Dark at the Crossing is about a man who escaped one conflict zone with his life, and now wants to break into a new one.

Haris Abadi — an Iraqi who worked for U.S. special forces during the Iraq War and later became a U.S. citizen — wants to put his new life on the line to free Syria from the cruel grip of Bashar al-Assad.

But Haris is turned back at the Turkish-Syrian border, then robbed, then taken in by Syrian refugees who make him look into his own commitment. Is it to Syria — or, ultimately, his own definition of himself?

Many Americans are still deeply divided about the next president. That includes some married couples, like Marty and Jessica Halprin of Woodbridge, Conn. He supported Trump, she supported Clinton.

In November, they talked about their tense night watching the election results.

These days, Jessica says things have gotten less tense in their house. She says she's even noticed some cracks in Marty's support for Trump.

When Donald Trump won the presidential election, he made a pledge to every citizen: that he would be president for all Americans. In the weeks before Trump's inauguration, we're going to hear about some of the communities that make up this nation, from the people who know them best, in our series Finding America.

Holdenville, Okla., is home to about 5,800 people. It has a small downtown with banks, restaurants and a few shops, though some are closed down.

There's the heroic, lightning-quick medical care that saves us from crises. And then there's the slow-but-steady incremental medical attention that doctors provide for weeks, months, years, even decades in the attempt to heal complex conditions.

For the past 17 years, Sam Barsky has knit sweaters that depict places he's seen around the world, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Stonehenge, Jerusalem's Western Wall — even a field of electrical pylons.

But what's made Barsky an internet phenomenon, with well over a million hits on various websites, are photos of the knitter himself posing in front of a scene, wearing his matching sweater.

Veronica Roth became best-selling author when she was just 23 years old. Her Divergent trilogy for young adults was instantly popular and it was made into similarly popular films. Roth has now written her first new series since Divergent. The first novel is called Carve the Mark, and it takes place in a world where everyone comes into a gift when they reach adolescence.

Henry Morgenthau III was in his 90s when he started to write poetry.

Morgenthau has had an extraordinarily full life. He's produced award-winning television documentaries, raised children, written a memoir — and yes, his father was the Henry Morgenthau Jr. who was Franklin D. Roosevelt's Treasury Secretary.

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