Lynn Neary

When writer Téa Obreht's first book came out in 2011, it got the kind of reaction that most debut novelists only dream of: The Tiger's Wife was both critically acclaimed and a best seller. It was nominated for the National Book Award and won the Orange Prize.

Writers, like all artists, are willing to give up a lot to keep doing what they love best. But sometimes, reality bites, and dreams have to be put aside in order to put food on the table. That's what happened to Adrian McKinty — but then, with a little help from some friends, he found a way to keep going. The result is his new book, The Chain.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Poet, writer and musician Joy Harjo — a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation — often draws on Native American stories, languages and myths. But she says that she's not self-consciously trying to bring that material into her work. If anything, it's the other way around.

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In 2017, during the Super Bowl halftime show, Lady Gaga did something extraordinary. She performed a song that had become the unofficial anthem of the LGBTQ community.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUPER BOWL LI TELECAST)

LADY GAGA: (Singing) No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgender life - I'm on the right track, baby. I was born to survive. No matter black, white or beige, chola or Orient made - right track, baby, I was born to be brave.

(CHEERING)

Four years ago the unthinkable happened to Jayson Greene. His 2-year-old daughter, Greta, was visiting her grandmother. The two were sitting on a bench on New York's Upper West Side when a brick came loose from a nearby building. It struck Greta in the head, and she died three days later. Greene began keeping a journal, which turned into his new memoir, Once More We Saw Stars.

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Cathy Guisewite, the creator of the "Cathy" comic strip, didn't really want the character to be named after her. People would think that "Cathy" was based on her own life, she reasoned, and ... they would be right. Or, at least, they wouldn't be wrong.

"Cathy was kind of my heart," Guisewite says. "Other stronger characters in the strip like Andrea were more my brain. But Cathy was kind of my heart, that was me."

Ann Beattie has been hailed as the voice of her generation, but she's never taken that distinction too seriously. Beattie's short stories began appearing in The New Yorker in the 1970s. In her latest book, A Wonderful Stroke of Luck, the voice of the boomer generation focuses on a new generation — the Millennials.

Beattie has published more than 20 books over the course of her career, both novels and short story collections. She says short stories come more easily to her. Novels, she admits, are "endlessly fascinating," but more of a struggle.

Every year, when it's time to give out the Nobel Prize for Literature, British bookies lay odds on who might win. Every year, Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong'o is viewed as a contender.

His body of works includes novels, plays and essays. But the first thing he ever wrote was a short story, which is included in a new collection of stories that range from the 1960s to the present. It's called Minutes of Glory, and he thinks of it as a kind of "literary autobiography."

Sandra Newman freely admits that her new novel, The Heavens, is almost impossible to describe. "I found that you can give about five different descriptions of it," she says, and all of them will be "equally true." She's essentially written five novels in one.

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Editor's note: This story contains offensive language.

A photo and a confession, both widely condemned as racist: The first, a page in the medical school yearbook of Virginia governor Ralph Northam, showing a picture of two men in blackface and KKK garb. The second, actor Liam Neeson's confession that he once went looking to kill an innocent black man after a friend was raped. Both men expressed regret, both denied they were racist. But how can there be racism without racists?

Imagine a world where lying is against the law. You might expect that any place that values truth so highly would be a utopia — but the world writer Ben Winters has created in Golden State is far from idyllic. And though it's set in the future, it's very much based on our current political moment.

Winters says he knows exactly when he started writing Golden State: The day following President Trump's inauguration. Specifically, it was after "the infamous incident of the inauguration crowd-size debate."

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

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This morning, at its annual conference in Seattle, the American Library Association gave out its prizes for children's and young adult literature. Its awards include the prestigious Caldecott and Newbery medals. NPR's Lynn Neary reports.

Much-loved poet Mary Oliver died Thursday of lymphoma, at her home in Florida. She was 83. Oliver won many awards for her poems, which often explore the link between nature and the spiritual world; she also won a legion of loyal readers who found both solace and joy in her work.

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When thousands of young people descended on the National Mall earlier this year for the student-led March for Our Lives, singer Jennifer Hudson ended the event with an emotional rendition of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'"

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Some of the best stories begin at home — and in fact, that's where Tony DiTerlizzi got the idea for his latest book. The Caldecott Award-winning author and illustrator, perhaps best known for The Spiderwick Chronicles, is taking a big leap into the unknown with his first Christmas book, The Broken Ornament.

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It has been 10 years since "The Hunger Games" was published. That was the first book in a trilogy that became a blockbuster film series. Now, a lot has changed in the last decade. There are some new political realities. NPR's Lynn Neary has the story.

Madame Tussaud is a familiar name — you may have visited one of her wax museums. But chances are, you don't know a thing about the life of the real Marie Tussaud. For example, she was tiny, which is why writer and artist Edward Carey has called his new novel about her Little.

I met him at the Madame Tussaud's location in New York's Times Square (the biggest one in the U.S.) to find out more about what inspired the book. The massive video billboards and the cacophony of 42nd Street feel like the right setting for a museum filled with famous figures built from wax.

Eight-year-old Lucy Gray is wide-eyed and quivering with anticipation when I arrive at her house in suburban Maryland. I am sorry to report that I am not the object of her excitement. She is thrilled because she will soon be cooking with my companion, Molly Birnbaum, editor in chief of America's Test Kitchen Kids.

For the first time, a writer from Northern Ireland has won the prestigious Man Booker Award. The prize, given to works of fiction written in English and published in the U.K., was announced at a ceremony Tuesday evening in London.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Writers often have ambivalent feelings when their book are adapted for film.

They may enjoy the fame and fortune a movie can bring, but remain loathe to give up control over their creation. Some have famously hated the final adaptation.

But Justin Torres loves the film based on his debut novel We the Animals. That's because Torres worked closely with director Jeremiah Zagar.

Zagar is a documentary filmmaker, but he always wanted to direct a narrative feature film. For a long time, he just couldn't find the right story.

Perhaps best known for his novel A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul was a controversial figure in the literary world. The Nobel Prize-winning writer died on Saturday at his London home, the author's agent confirms to NPR. He was 85.

His wife Nadira Naipaul, who was at his side when he passed, said he was "a giant in all that he achieved and he died surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavor," The Associated Press reports.

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