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Criminal justice reporter Maurice Chammah recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about the power of music programs in prison. He says at a time when the criminal system is at an impasse, music, and art can cultivate hope and dignity for prisoners and possibly change how we think about the people who make it. "It allows you to really hold in your mind anger about a crime, and then separately an understanding that this is a human being and there's more to say about them than their crime." Chammah also talks with us about the rich history of prison music in the U.S., dating all the way back to the 1930s.
Playrwright and humorist R. Thomas' new book, Congratulations, the Best Is Over!, is about middle age, and what it was like to reluctantly return to his hometown of Baltimore as an adult — when both he and the city had changed. He spoke with Tonya Mosley about life transitions, church, and why he doesn't want to talk about The Wire. Also, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews a new Blue Note box set by pianist Sonny Clark.
Washington Post reporter Laura Meckler tells the story of Shaker Heights, Ohio, a town with high-performing, diverse schools — and also a pronounced achievement gap between white and Black students. Meckler's book is Dream Town.John Powers reviews Naomi Hirahara's mystery novel Evergreen.
Christopher Nolan talks about writing and directing the new film Oppenheimer, about the man who's known as the father of the atom bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer. Nolan also directed the WWII movie Dunkirk, The Dark Knight, and Inception. The film is about Oppenheimer's leading role in the race to develop the bomb before the Nazis. But after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he became an arms control advocate, opposed building the hydrogen bomb, and was targeted during the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s.Later, Maureen Corrigan reviews the new novel by James McBride.
Pianist Jason Moran joins us at the piano to play his take on the WWI-era music of James Reese Europe. And we'll hear from writer Andre Dubus III. His new novel, Such Kindness, asks how a person gets on with life after an accident that leads to disability and flames of chronic pain.
78 years ago this week atomic bombs destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and questions linger about the U.S. decision to use the weapons. For the anniversary, we're revisiting archival interviews about the bombings. Author and psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton says American justifications are based on a myth. Writer Evan Thomas concludes using the weapons likely saved countless lives — including Japanese soldiers and civilians. And Lesley M.M. Blume focuses on what U.S. military censors hid from the American public about the effects of the bombs.
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jennifer Senior shares the pain of her family in a new piece for The Atlantic titled, "The Ones We Sent Away." In it, Senior tells the story of her Aunt Adele, who was institutionalized for her entire life because of her intellectual and developmental disability, beginning at 21 months old. Senior found out about her aunt when she herself was 12, believing up until then that her mother was an only child.Also, TV critic David Bianculli reviews the new season of Only Murders in the Building.
When Shane McCrae was 3, his maternal grandparents, who were white supremacists, kidnapped him from his father, who is Black. His new memoir is Pulling the Chariot of the Sun.Also, Ken Tucker reviews MeShell Ndegeocello's album The Omnichord Real Book.
Andrew Leland started losing his sight 20 years ago. He's now legally blind, although he still has a narrow field of vision, which allows him to see about 6% of what a fully-sighted person sees. In his new memoir, The Country of the Blind, he explores different kinds of perception, and shares his experience adapting to his new reality. Also, Justin Chang reviews the film Passages.
Moran talks jazz and plays selections from his latest recording, which borrows from the music of James Reese Europe, the composer and musician who led the Harlem Hellfighters regiment band during WWI. Moran's new album is called 'From the Dancehall to the Battlefield,' and it features Moran's take on Europe's compositions and pop music of that time. It's available only on Bandcamp.