Author Interviews

Michael de Yoanna / KUNC

When Erin Morris went to a show-and-tell to talk about her service in the Army, she was surprised by what the kids wanted to know. They weren't interested in guns or tanks.

"They wanted to know, 'What did you do every day? Where did you eat? Where did you sleep?'" Morris said.

At the beginning of Esi Edugyan's new book Washington Black, it seems the narrator is not going anywhere.

It's the 1830s, and the narrator, a boy named George Washington Black, is enslaved on the British-controlled island of Barbados. He seems likely to be worked to death in sugar cane fields — until he's carried away.

He's made into an assistant of a visiting white man, and they become friends. Sort of.

"Any true friendship between them is impossible because of the power imbalance – it's just too great," Edugyan says in an interview.

Cynthia Ozick is revered by those who love literature. She's written novels, but also short stories and essays. Her fiction has been nominated for various awards and she's received high praise from critics as well as her fellow writers.

But you won't find her on best-seller lists. Ozick seeks neither fame nor fortune from her writing. For Ozick, she feels it a necessity to write. "I can't not," she says.

Here's a different kind of thriller, of the sort often called "literary": Susie Steiner's Missing, Presumed follows British detective inspector Manon Bradshaw as she investigates the disappearance of Edith Hind, a university student from a well-off family.

Across the country there are stories like this: In a high-poverty area of Honolulu, a high school social worker helps her Asian-Pacific Islander students talk with their families about being LBGTQ.

At a time when LGBTQ concerns in schools are increasingly visible — and often debated — teachers and administrators are looking for new ways to support students.

If you've stepped foot in a comic book store in the past few years, you'll have noticed a distinct shift. Superheroes, once almost entirely white men, have become more diverse.

There's been a biracial Spider-Man, a Muslim Ms. Marvel, and just last week, Marvel announced that the new Iron Man will be a teenage African-American girl.

Joining this lineup today is Kong Kenan, a Chinese boy who, as part of a reboot of the DC comics universe, is one of four characters taking up Superman's mantle.

In 2015, after winning an Emmy for her work on Inside Amy Schumer, comedy writer Jessi Klein made one important stop before heading to the award show after-party — to pump breast milk in a backstage dressing room. Klein's son was 3 months old at the time, and she says that while winning the Emmy was "genuinely awesome and exciting," she also knew it wasn't going to change her life.

Journalist Gay Talese has never shied away from controversial topics. He took on the mafia in Honor Thy Father and dove deep into America's sex life in Thy Neighbor's Wife. But even Talese paused when he first heard about the Manor House Motel in Aurora Colo., back in 1980. Innkeeper Gerald Foos had outfitted his motel with a special platform which allowed him to spy on his guests — and he invited Talese to take a peek as well. Talese, a man of seemigly insatiable curiosity, did just that. But Foos demanded anonymity, so Talese decided not to write about the experience.

Tough love, interventions and 12-step programs are some of the most common methods of treating drug addiction, but journalist Maia Szalavitz says they're often counterproductive.

"We have this idea that if we are just cruel enough and mean enough and tough enough to people with addiction, that they will suddenly wake up and stop, and that is not the case," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Robert F. Kennedy is often remembered as a liberal icon who worked to heal racial strife, decrease poverty and end the war in Vietnam. But biographer Larry Tye says the New York senator was actually a political operative whose views changed over time.

"Throughout his life, [Kennedy] paid attention to what went right and wrong," Tye tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "He grew by actually seeing things up close; he took things to heart in ways that few politicians do."

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