Ailsa Chang | WYPR

Ailsa Chang

The past is prologue in Steph Cha's new novel, Your House Will Pay.

In the industrial city of Dongguan, China, the effects of the trade war on the Chinese economy are measured in idled machinery and empty bar stools.

"One year ago, you probably couldn't even get through the crowd because it would be so busy. But right now, even the smallest vendors can't survive," says Song Guanghui, the owner of Crowdbar, a tricked-out food stall in an open-air market in Dongguan.

Seventy years ago, Mao Zedong appeared on a balcony overlooking Tiananmen Square and conjured a new country into being. On Tuesday, Xi Jinping, arguably the strongest leader since Mao, appeared on that same balcony to reaffirm his vision of modern China.

That vision includes what Xi has repeatedly referred to as the "Chinese Dream," one pillar of which is the idea that all Chinese should have access to the shared prosperity of the nation.

Common is no stranger to showing emotion. With more than 20 years in the spotlight, the Chicago-hailing rapper, actor and activist has worn his heart on his sleeve publicly for years and won plenty of accolades for it. Common is one of the few distinguished artists to have won an Emmy, Grammy and Oscar award in the span of his career.

Filmmaker Nanfu Wang grew up in rural China under the country's one-child policy, which was announced in 1979 and not officially rescinded until 2015.

Born in 1985, Wang never knew a life without it — as a kid, she remembers seeing propaganda promoting the rule everywhere.

"At some point, it just became a normal part of life, just like the air, the water, the tree," she says. "And you just stop paying attention, stop questioning, because it has always been there."

There were propaganda matchboxes, lunchboxes, murals and songs on TV.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In jails and prisons across the United States, mental illness is prevalent and psychiatric disorders often worsen because inmates don't get the treatment they need, says journalist Alisa Roth.

In her new book Insane: America's Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness, Roth investigates the widespread incarceration of the mentally ill in the U.S., and what she sees as impossible burdens placed on correctional officers to act as mental health providers when they're not adequately trained.

In 1993, Alex Wagner saw a familiar face on the cover of Time magazine: It was a computer-generated picture of a multiethnic woman who reminded her of ... herself.

Wagner's father is white and from the Midwest; her mother is from what was then Burma. And after reading the Time story on "The New Face of America," Wagner, then a teenager, decided to embrace her identity as a "futureface."

Desiree Linden became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985 — finishing 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 39 minutes and 54 seconds on Monday.

The 34-year-old two-time Olympian lives in Michigan, and she finished second at the Boston Marathon in 2011. But her victory this week almost didn't happen.

In the cold rain and wind, Linden says she wasn't feeling well and thought about bailing out of the race.

The Flushing neighborhood of New York's Queens borough is home to the largest population of Chinese immigrants in any city outside Asia.

Zhuang Liehong is one of those immigrants. He arrived in 2014 from Wukan, a small village in the Guangdong province of southern China.

When he first arrived in Flushing, he says it felt like a city in China.

"Other than the buildings and Chinese store signs, just look at the pedestrians on the streets," he says. "They're mainly Chinese people."

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Next week the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether state lawmakers in Wisconsin went too far in preserving their political power. The case could be the first time the justices set limits on what's known as partisan gerrymandering. That's when the party in power deliberately redraws district lines to keep control of the legislature.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Gucci Mane has an extensive resume. As a founding father of trap music, Mane's been carving out the rap genre since 2001 when he put out his first underground release: Str8 Drop Records Presents Gucci Mane La Flare. Since then, he has amassed a long list of musical achievements: dozens of mixtapes, singles, collaborations and eight studio albums.

But before all of that, he was Radric Davis, growing up in Atlanta and watching his dad hustle people on the streets for money.

Madison Holleran ran track at the University of Pennsylvania. She was popular and beautiful — and raised in a big, supportive family in a New Jersey suburb. "By all accounts, Madison in high school was this young, happy, vibrant, wildly successful human being, who was destined — according to everyone around her — to do amazing things with her life," says sportswriter Kate Fagan.

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Susan Collins has broken both of her ankles. She broke her left one when she was running in high heels to the Senate chamber because she so desperately refused to miss a vote. The Maine Republican has the second-longest voting streak in the Senate, by the way, after fellow Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

"He has a longer streak, but I'm the only one who's never missed a single vote," said Collins in a recent interview in her office, referring to Grassley missing votes early in his Senate career.

Not that she's keeping track.

President Trump has made his pick to fill the ninth seat on the Supreme Court.

So now what?

Pages