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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.

Greta Thunberg led a protest at the White House on Friday. But she wasn't looking to go inside — "I don't want to meet with people who don't accept the science," she says.

The young Swedish activist joined a large crowd of protesters who had gathered outside, calling for immediate action to help the environment and reverse an alarming warming trend in average global temperatures.

She says her message for President Trump is the same thing she tells other politicians: Listen to science, and take responsibility.

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Nanfu Wang grew up in rural China under the country's one-child policy, which was announced in 1979 and not officially rescinded until 2015.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

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.

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.

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.

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).

NPR's Planet Money has learned that more than 13,500 immigrants, mostly Chinese, who were granted asylum status years ago by the U.S. government, are facing possible deportation.

As the Trump administration turns away asylum-seekers at the border under more restrictive guidance issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Executive Office for Immigration Review are considering stripping asylum status from immigrants who won it years ago.

Last year, NPR Music picked the 150 greatest albums made by women for the first year of the Turning The Tables series, an ongoing project dedicated to recasting the popular music canon in more inclusive ways.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Trump has a heaping plate of foreign policy background to consume in May, which will see a possible summit with the leader of North Korea, a deadline to decide on restoring Iranian sanctions, and the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In the past, most presidents have leaned on the intelligence community for guidance and context — but Trump has made plain his differences with the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.

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.

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