Scott Simon

Growing up as a child in Bogotá, Ingrid Rojas Contreras was almost the victim of a terrible crime. Violence reigned in Colombia under drug lord Pablo Escobar — bombings, kidnappings and assassinations were commonplace. Contreras didn't know it at the time, but her mother was receiving threatening phone calls detailing the routines of her daughters' lives: "They got off the bus at this hour. We know what the bus route is. We know what they look like."

There was a conspicuous act of bravery in the second half of this week's World Cup championship game.

The French team, which won 4-2, was bold and deft. Many of its players are immigrants, or children of immigrants, from Africa. Its victory was also seen as a triumph over bigots in France who have vilified and attacked immigrants.

The Croatian national team was dauntless. Several of its players were from families who were refugees when their country was torn by war.

Anne Tyler's latest novel is about a woman in her 60s who marries young, has two children and is widowed young, remarries — and finds her life truly changed, late in the game, by a phone call asking for help, that was probably made in error. (Though that doesn't make it a mistake.)

The new book — Tyler's 21st — is called Clock Dance. It has a saguaro cactus on the cover, but Tyler's novels almost always lead to Baltimore, which is where she was when we spoke.


Interview Highlights

On the creation of Willa, her main character

Bobby Shafran got an unexpectedly warm welcome on his first day at college in 1980.

"Immediately everyone greeted him like he'd been there for years," says filmmaker Tim Wardle. "Guys coming up to him, slapping him on the back, girls are kissing him. He's never been there before — he doesn't know what they're talking about."

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Yasmin Williams only started playing the guitar after beating all the songs on expert-level on Guitar Hero II. "I figured, well, I beat that game, I can probably play a real guitar now," she says.

If Sarah Sanders or Kirstjen Nielsen came to our studios — and I hope some day they will — I would thank them for coming, and be professional and pleasant. But when the mic light went on, I would have to ask why so many of the children who have been separated from their families at the border are still locked up in detention centers.

Reporters can have the chance to ask. Most citizens don't.

The new novel Confessions of the Fox is a mystery enrobed in a mystery.

Hugh Grant was finishing up his studies at Oxford in 1970s, when the scandal about British politician Jeremy Thorpe broke. "It was a source of much amusement and sort of schoolboy giggling at the time," Grant recalls.

Thorpe, also an Oxford man, was a savvy progressive, expected to make history as the leader of Britain's Liberal Party. But Norman Scott, a former groom and aspiring model, came forward to say he'd had a sexual relationship with the popular politician. Thorpe was later accused of hiring a hitman to murder Scott.

On NPR in 2012, Jill Barber called herself "Canada's Sweetheart." And even though her new album Metaphora, out now, doesn't conjure up the same sugary connotations as her previous works, she says the sweetheart title still holds true. "This record's maybe a little less sweet, but I hope it still reaches people in their heart," she says.

The cries of children pierce our hearts. Scientists say they're meant to. They move us to love and protect children. This response is healthy; it's human; and it keeps humanity going.

As Dr. Marc Bornstein at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development told The Scientist, "the infant cry and the caregiver response, have developed together to ensure the survival of the species."

Deborah Epstein has spent her professional life fighting for victims of domestic violence. But protecting such victims is also what Epstein says led her to step down from a commission meant to tackle the issue of domestic violence in the National Football League.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

At the age of 64, when some retired people would look at brochures for cruises, Nell Irvin Painter — professor emeritus of American history at Princeton University — decided to go to art school.

The Creole word ayibobo carries many meanings. It can mean blessings or welcome. It can describe something wise or something you like. For Haitian singer-songwriter Paul Beaubrun, it signifies strength and resilience of his country, which is why he chose it to be the title of his latest album.

In 1978, Ron Stallworth was working as a detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department when he came across a classified ad to find out more about the Ku Klux Klan — and answered it. Two weeks later, he got a call on the police department's undercover operations line. It was the local KKK organizer. He asked why Stallworth wanted to join the Klan.

"I said I wanted to join because I was a pure, Aryan, white man who was tired of the abuse of the white race by blacks and other minorities," Stallworth recalls.

I have to talk in an utterly personal way about suicide. My grandmother took her life, and my mother, who struggled against the impulse several times, said, "Suicide puts a fly in your head. It's always in there, buzzing around."

An Israeli television series with an Arabic name that shows Israelis and Palestinians plotting against each other — and themselves — has become a fan favorite in 190 countries around the world, including Israel and many Arab states.

Fauda — Arabic for "chaos" — is now streaming its second season on Netflix in the United States. Lior Raz stars as Doron, an Israeli Defense Forces special operative who defies authority, has a messy domestic life and complicates everything by both spying on and falling for a Palestinian doctor who gets married to a Hamas commander.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We all have songs that bring memories. Fifty years ago, Laura Nyro wrote a song that put momentous and terrifying events into words. Martin Luther King, an apostle of peace, had been shot down. There was grief, unrest and uprising in the streets.

On the day this week that Roseanne was canceled because of a racist tweet, researchers from Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health estimated Hurricane Maria caused at least 4,645 deaths in Puerto Rico.

Now that is a story.

Love and loss often inspire creativity. Aisha Burns' second solo album Argonauta is about the places where grief meets hope. What makes this album distinct is that it was written in response to a great loss in Aisha Burns' life — her mother's death — which occurred alongside the beginning of a great romance.

Sad! Pathetic! Fake News!

Have those words crept — or burst! — into your vocabulary in the past couple of years?

Any president has an impact on public rhetoric. But the influence of what I'll call Trumptalk, derived from the president's frequent tweets, may be even more communicable.

Sarcastic nicknames! Punchy phrases! Staccato sentences! Exclamation points scattered like bowling pins! We all talk like that now!

Tom Wolfe did not blend in. He was a southerner in New York, a New Yorker in the world, a reporter among novelists and vice-versa, and a man who wore ice cream white suits and peach-pink ties in artistic circles where men and women often wore black with occasional splashes of gray.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Maybe you heard - Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle, an American, today inside the grounds of Windsor Castle outside of London.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

The Week In Politics

May 19, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now we're going to turn to Ron Elving, NPR senior editor and Washington correspondent, because, of course, there is a political dimension to all of this. Ron, thanks very much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

Aja Gabel's new novel has music cues for each new section. One of them is for Antonin Dvorak's "American" String Quartet in F, Op. 96, No. 12, which is performed in the opening of the book.

It's a love story, the famous violinist had said, and even though Jana knew it was not, those were the words that knocked around her brain when she began to play on stage.

Shakespeare wrote great tyrants. Macbeth, the Scot who plots a bloody route to the throne; Richard III, the brother of a king, and "rudely stamped," in Shakespeare's phrase, who murders his way into power and madness; Coriolanus, the Roman ruler who believes power in the hands of citizens is like permitting "crows to peck the eagles," and betrays his city; King Lear, Lady Macbeth, Henry VI, Julius Caesar — one of Shakespeare's themes is how men and women may lust for power, then use it in the worst way.

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