Ailsa Chang

Journalist Harriet Shawcross is fascinated by silence: why we speak, and why we don't.

She's traveled the world seeking answers to those questions, meeting earthquake survivors in Nepal, a silent order of nuns in Paris, a Buddhist retreat in Scotland. She's written a book about it, called Unspeakable: The Things We Cannot Say.

Los Angeles rapper Duckwrth grew up with a foot in two worlds. One foot was firmly planted in his mother's Pentecostal household, while the other meandered around his neighborhood outside. The artist grew up trying to navigate between these two worlds and he uses his upcoming EP, The Falling Man, to look back and incorporate these competing forces.

Menopause blindsided author Darcey Steinke. The hot flashes and insomnia were uncomfortable. The depression was debilitating. And the cultural expectations — that postmenopausal women are no longer interested in sex — made her both frustrated and angry.

"I feel like in the world we live in, the patriarchal world, women are most valued for their sexuality and their motherhood," Steinke says. "Once menopause comes, there's a feeling of shame that comes for a lot of women."

As a kid, Enrique Olvera spent hours in his grandmother's bakery in Mexico City. He loved watching everyday ingredients like flour, sugar and eggs fuse into something entirely different.

For Olvera, even the simple act of baking a cake felt like magic.

He absorbed every detail as his grandmother gently coaxed masa into handmade tortillas. On Sundays, he joined his father in the kitchen, chopping onions and tomatoes for breakfasts of scrambled eggs and dry beef.

With a reverence for classics and an experimental spirit, Kelsey Lu is broadening the scope of how strings fit into contemporary pop. Lu's debut album, Blood, out now, is a mash-up of disco, R&B, pop and more that's rooted in her adoration of strings.

Moms perform heroic tasks every day, but they rarely get portrayed as superheroes. That changes in the new film Fast Color, which tells the story of three generations of black women — a daughter, a mother and a granddaughter — all of whom have supernatural powers.

Lt. Col. Bree "B" Fram left a doctor's office on April 2. Presenting that day as Bryan, the name given to them at birth, B should have been relieved.

"Overall, it's a good thing," said B. "It just didn't feel great to have to do it on someone else's timeline other than my own."

"It" was an official diagnosis of gender dysphoria. As a transgender member of the military, B had to secure the diagnosis by April 12 in order to continue serving openly.

The new novel Trust Exercise opens with teenagers attending an elite performing arts high school in the 1980s.

There, the theater kids form heartfelt friendships and relationships, and then sabotage them. Their semi-tyrannical drama teacher both inspires and manipulates them — with his "trust exercises."

Midway through, the book leaps forward in time and perspective. One of the students, Karen, is now an adult, re-thinking her past.

Quinn Robinson is only 18 years old, but she has already learned some hard lessons about the world. "It's scary being a trans person because I know there are people out there who just hate me for being myself," she says. "There's been kids who have approached me and say, 'Hey, you should burn in hell.' "

Robinson is a high school senior in Allendale, Mich., a small but growing town about 30 minutes outside Grand Rapids and smack dab in the middle of what's known as the state's "Bible Belt." Drive off the main road and you quickly find yourself in farm country.

Jennifer Eberhardt has been interested in issues of race and bias since she was a child.

The African-American Stanford University psychology professor — and author of a new book called Biased -- grew up in an all-black neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. Then, one day, Eberhardt's parents announced the family was moving to the Cleveland suburb of Beachwood. When Eberhardt arrived there, she told NPR's Ailsa Chang, she noticed something strange: She could no longer tell people's faces apart.

A new IMAX movie opens with a rescue worker named Henry dangling from a helicopter, working to save a skier trapped in an avalanche.

Henry wears a vest and goggles and, oh, by the way, is a border collie.

"Henry is like the real-life James Bond of dogs," says Daniel Ferguson, director of Superpower Dogs.

The film follows six remarkable dogs who work in fields such as avalanche and water rescue, endangered species protection, and emotional support.

The new movie Us, Jordan Peele's follow-up to Get Out, is a horror movie.

It starts with a black family on vacation. They go to the beach; dad buys a boat. Then things start getting creepy.

One night, another family dressed in red jumpsuits shows up in front of the house. And each member of this new family — mom, dad, sister, brother — is an identical copy of the family inside. They're doppelgangers.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

There's a story about China that's taken hold during this trade war, and it goes something like this. China is garbage at protecting American intellectual property. But the story I'm about to tell is a little different.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Once, when Halle Butler was working as a temp, she was taken to a file room filled floor-to-ceiling with old documents and told that her job was to shred them.

"The whole thing had kind of a feeling of the beginning of the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale where she has to spin all the stuff into gold — except that I was creating garbage," Butler says.

Butler's novel The New Me explores what it's like to work in a dead-end office job. Her story focuses on a 30-year-old woman named Millie who wanders from temp job to temp job.

Tim Demarais works for an American company called ABRO. The brand is a big deal in many foreign countries. They sell so much masking tape in places like Pakistan that when people there refer to a roll of masking tape, they'll often call it a roll of ABRO.

But back in 2002, ABRO's sales started to dip. Tim heard from a customer that counterfeit ABRO goods in China might be causing the problem. So, he flew over to investigate. What he discovered-- the extent of the fraud--was shocking. And even more surprising, the company posing as ABRO insisted they were the real ABRO.

We're back for our annual tradition: Channeling another year's worth of jealousy and self-loathing into a whole episode just for you. Happy Valentine's Day!

Here at Planet Money, we spend a lot of time digging around for stories and new ideas. So when we come across something that we think brilliantly explains our economy--we're often like, "Why the heck didn't we come up with that?!"

The government is shut down again. Here at Planet Money, we wondered: just how long has this been going on? The answer is: It started a long time ago, but then it didn't happen again for nearly a hundred years.

Today on the show, we go back in time to 1879. There was a fight between President Rutherford B. Hayes and Congress about African-Americans voting. It ended in the first ever government shutdown.

The new movie If Beale Street Could Talk is based on a James Baldwin novel of the same title.

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) adapted and directed the film. And in working with the Baldwin estate, he received a leather notebook filled with Baldwin's handwritten notes about how he would have approached a film version.

Tayari Jones says there are two things to consider as a book matchmaker: "You have to match what you think your friend would like to read, with what you think your friend should read — and you have to make a Venn diagram of that," she says.

As Congress prepares to adjourn for the holidays, one piece of legislation that's still on the table is a bipartisan criminal justice bill known as the First Step Act.

It aims to improve federal prison conditions and reduce some prison sentences, a sticking point for some lawmakers. But the bill also contains a less controversial provision: a ban on shackling pregnant women.

Incarcerated people outside prison walls are considered potential flight risks. That label applies even to pregnant women when they leave prisons for medical care or to give birth.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A couple years ago, author Gabrielle Moss was feeling "worn down by the world" and found herself impulse buying an entire crate of "Sweet Valley High" books on eBay for $25.

At first, Moss was binging these books — "Sweet Valley" and other series — as "nostalgic stress relief." Moss had devoured these pastel-colored paperbacks during her own preteen years — she estimates she read two per week.

Cooking is about community. But it can also be about solitude.

That's where chef Anita Lo's latest cookbook, Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One, comes in.

"Food is culture, food is identity. So it's reaffirming to cook the things that either you grew up with or the things that you love," Lo says — whether it's for your whole family or just yourself.

When "Rooster" Bogle — born Dale Vincent Bogle — used to drive by the Oregon State Correctional Institution with his young sons, he'd gaze out at the prison with nostalgia.

"Look carefully, because when you grow up, you guys are going to end up there," he told his boys.

This wasn't a warning: It was a challenge. And so began the competition for who could be the meanest, baddest Bogle.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

What if — instead of compulsively reaching for your phone — you could reach for a book? A kind of comfort object that could keep you company all day long.

That's exactly what illustrator Jonny Sun says he wanted to do in his new collaboration with Lin-Manuel Miranda (yeah, that Lin-Manuel Miranda).

Today on the show, we have a special report. We've learned that as many as 13,000 immigrants, most of them Chinese, may be at risk of being deported. They were all granted asylum years ago.

Now, the government is scrutinizing their cases. It goes back to an investigation called Operation Fiction Writer, which was announced in 2012. Dozens of people were rounded up for helping immigrants lie on their asylum applications.

Pages