In 2007, Dinaw Mengestu became something of a literary star when his first novel – “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears” – garnered him awards from the National Book Foundation, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, and other prestigious organizations.
His new book is called “How to Read the Air.” It centers on a young Ethiopian-American named Jonas. In a failed marriage, and seeking to better understand his family history, Jonas attempts to retrace the migration of his parents from eastern Africa to the American Midwest. Along the way, we see Jonas retelling and sometimes fabricating the histories of strangers, his parents, and himself.
Rafer and Kristen look at this week's "It's Kind Of A Funny Story" and the history of movies set in psych wards, insane asylums and cuckoo's nests.
When we look back on the wild west of American history, we frequently celebrate cowboys and Indians, wild buffalo and wide open country. But what we often leave out are the thousands of Chinese-Americans who worked on the Union Pacific railroad, lived in the many coal-mining towns, and struggled against the prejudices of their white neighbors and employers.
There’s so much focus put on homeowners and the problems they're facing in our current economic climate, but what about all the renters out there? There’s been a 10 percent increase in renters in the past five years according to the Census Bureau, and a whole new world of problems as landlords face the threat of foreclosure and instability. What are these issues? And what are a renter’s current rights?
John Lennon would have turned 70 this weekend. A movie coming out Friday looks back fifty-some years ago, before anyone knew Lennon's name, when he was simply a teenager growing up in Liverpool, England.
The film, called "Nowhere Boy," focuses on John Lennon’s youth: growing up, discovering music, becoming reacquainted with his estranged mother and being raised by his fiercely protective Aunt Mimi.
The world may best know Glenn Beck and Rand Paul as Tea Party leaders. But Beck and Paul also happen to be avid readers, and both have mentioned their fondness for Ayn Rand and her dystopian novel "Atlas Shrugged."
Widely celebrated by Tea Party leaders, Ayn Rand's books have become centerpieces of the Tea Party’s literary canon; over the last year and a half, sales of her books have tripled as a result over the past year and a half.
How did this happen? What other books are on the Tea Party’s list of favorites? And what similarities does their canon bear to those of other political movements?
A case coming up before the Supreme Court today will test the limits of free speech.
In Snyder v. Phelps, the anti-gay protestor Fred Phelps is being sued by the father of Matthew Snyder, a 20-year-old Marine who died in Iraq. In 2006, Phelps' group, the Westboro Baptist Church, picketed 1,000 feet from Snyder’s funeral with signs saying “You are Going to Hell” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The father wants to see the WBC punished for "intentional infliction of emotional distress."
Rafer and Kristen discuss this past weekend's hit, "The Social Network."
Since its publication in 2005, millions of people have read "Freakonomics." The best selling book, written by economist Steven Levitt and New York Times reporter Stephen Dubner, examines pop culture and everyday life through the economic lens of incentives. The result was unexpectedly funny and popular enough to have spawned a newly emerging media empire, including Freakonomics Radio and "Freakonomics: The Movie."
In the 80's, the infamous McMartin Preschool sexual abuse trial ignited a hysteria about child sexual abuse. The McMartin trials never found anyone guilty, however, and several of the children, now adults, have come forward, saying no molestation ever happened. Across the nation, though, tens of thousands of people became convinced that they had repressed – and recovered – memories of awful abuse.
Meredith Maran, a journalist and author, found herself caught up in it. She began to believe that her own father had molested her, and at age 37, she accused him. Ten years later, she realized that he was innocent and recanted. But it was almost too late.
Snooki did not invent celebrity – and chances are she won't break it either.
That's according to Professor Fred Inglis, author of "A Short History of Celebrity." Inglis is a cultural historian, and he takes the long view on our fascination with the likes of Tiger Woods, Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie. Over the past 200 years, says Inglis, it has become easier and easier to live vicariously.
The military ads we see on television often claim that enlisted men and women have the opportunity to gain valuable job skills while serving our country. Whether the dream is to be an engineer or a journalist, the promise is that the military can help that dream to come true. But are these promises real? And what do real veterans face when trying to find work?
This week, the NAACP’s president, Benjamin Jealous, did something previously unheard of for the organization: He encouraged members of New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center to work with him and specifically, to attend the NAACP march for jobs and justice in Washington next month.
Today, one of the greatest screen villains of the past quarter century returns in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
This time, Gordon Gekko, again played by Michael Douglas, returns to the investment banking world just in time to see it crash and burn ... and of course, in time to benefit from it crashing and burning.
But while some fans of Gekko and "Wall Street" are thrilled with the prospect of a sequel, we’re more interested in knowing whether the movie is good, the facts accurate, and what we might learn from it.
Rafer and Kristen (and special guest New York Times Wall Street and finance reporter Louise Story) discuss "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps."
Rafer and Kristen discuss "Easy A" and the history of teen sex comedies.
As the economic climate continues to suffer, the number of former workers seeking Social Security disability benefits has spiked.
Ten years ago, roughly five million disabled workers collected Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Today, more than eight million ex-workers do. And as the economic climate of America continues to suffer, the number of SSDI applications continues to rise. This year, they’re up 21 percent over last year.
This year marks the thirtieth year since the disease smallpox was eradicated. The disease has been around since roughly 10,000 BC, and killed approximately thirty percent of its victims. Over the course of history, it struck millions, including such famous survivors as George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln.
Now eradicated for three decades, what lessons can we take away from how we dealt with smallpox?
Sharing his insights is Dr. Walt Orenstein, Deputy Director for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Amy Julia Becker is like a lot of mothers in America. She’s in her early thirties. She’s married. She has two kids, and a third on the way.
But here’s where she might be considered slightly different: of her two children, one has Down Syndrome. And when it comes to her current pregnancy, she and her husband have decided NOT to have the fetus screened for Down Syndrome.
Katherine Schwarzenegger descends from Kennedy bloodlines and Hollywood royalty. She’s educated and beautiful and has been afforded more privileges than most of us could ever hope for. But she also wants the world to know she’s a real person - a person who, not that long ago, was a young girl facing the same pressures that young girls everywhere in America face.