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Audie Cornish

As a child, author Minh Lê had a deep and loving relationship with his grandparents, but he also remembers a lot of "awkward silence."

"There were those moments where we just didn't know what to say to each other," he says.

Lê was born in the U.S. and grew up in Connecticut. His grandparents were from Vietnam. His new picture book — a collaboration with Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat — explores how a young boy and his Thai grandfather learn to bridge barriers of language, culture and age.

A chat room for bird lovers. A summit on genocide. A superstore where someone's abandoned a baby. These are the settings for just a few of the short stories in A.M.Homes' new collection, Days of Awe — her first in more than 15 years. "I think there's a compression to short stories, and a kind of sense that there's something already happening by the time you get there," she says. "I describe it as, the train has already left the station, and the reader comes in, say, in Chicago.

André Leon Talley is best known for his time as a fashion editor for Vogue — and for what he wears on his large 6'6" frame.

"I'm wearing a caftan and a shirt from Marrakech," he says, "and I'm wearing a vintage scarf made out of two vintage saris ... The colors are red, burgundy, gray, and light pink. And that is my signature look for the day."

Talley — and his signature look — is the subject of a new documentary, The Gospel According to André.

Dylan Marron has a lot of haters. The actor and activist makes online videos about social justice — and the comments that appear on those videos can be harsh, to say the least.

Plenty of people would just ignore all that negativity, but not Marron. He decided to reach out to his harshest critics to ask about what set them off, and why. The first season of his podcast, Conversations with People Who Hate Me, featured Skype calls between Marron and his detractors.

These days, it's not uncommon to open up the paper and read about a dying town that lost its factory. Or about families struggling economically. Or about a political battle tearing a community apart.

In his latest book, Dave Eggers folds those elements into a supernatural story for kids. The Lifters is about a young boy who discovers that a dangerous force is literally feeding on the despair in his community — and even threatening his family.

Back in 2015, Rachel Dolezal became a walking Rorschach test for America's racial dysfunction. She was the president of the Spokane, Wash., NAACP chapter, and she was outed as white after spending years claiming she was black.

The public backlash, and fascination, was intense.

As a DJ, music and television producer, one-time NYU professor, founder of the online community Okayplayer — and, oh yeah, the drummer and bandleader of The Roots — Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson can't seem to stop adding hyphens to his job.

America has had its first black baseball player, its first black astronaut, its first black president — but after the firsts, the world is still full of onlies. Sometimes the only-ness is existential — like the only black student in a private school. Sometimes it's incidental — the only black woman in an hour-long yoga class.

For the first time ever, imports of elastic knit pants surpassed imports of jeans in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But big denim-makers are fighting back, says Bloomberg reporter Kim Bhasin.

The blue jeans-stretchy pants rivalry started around 2011, says Bhasin, with athleisure brand Lululemon's push to sell yoga pants and leggings.

"People were really wanting this kind of comfortable feeling on their legs instead of thick denim," he says. "And they would wear it in the gym and slowly that trickled out of the gym and onto the streets."

David Pascall is in search of the perfect murder — a murder so beautiful, so moving that it could be the subject of his new podcast for OPR. That would be Onion Public Radio. He narrates:

I know that this is the most compelling murder in America. I know that the victim was a supple young girl in the prime of her life. And I know that she was killed by simultaneous gunshot-stabbing-strangling-drowning.

First, the bad news: Earth has been taken over by blob-shaped, toxic aliens, which kill humans on contact.

The good news: Although they have conquered humanity, they've left things more or less intact. You can keep your office job — but there's a catch. Each human is required to go through the painless but off-putting procedure of replacing their hands with metal claws.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For the first time, a generation of children is going through adolescence with smartphones ever-present. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, has a name for these young people born between 1995 and 2012: "iGen."

She says members of this generation are physically safer than those who came before them. They drink less, they learn to drive later and they're holding off on having sex. But psychologically, she argues, they are far more vulnerable.

For students starting medical school, the first year can involve a lot of time in a lecture hall. There are hundreds of terms to master and pages upon pages of notes to take.

But when the new class of medical students begins at the University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine next week, a lot of that learning won't take place with a professor at a lectern.

The school has begun to phase out lectures in favor of what's known as "active learning" and plans to be done with lectures altogether by 2019.

Two summers ago, we met a woman who went by the name Teacup.

"I'm an active heroin user," she told us. "Thirty-three years as a matter of fact."

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

On the surface, comedian Kumail Nanjiani's new movie, The Big Sick, sounds like a rom-com: He plays a struggling stand-up comedian, also named Kumail, who meets a cute girl, Emily, at one of his shows. Sparks fly and they start dating. But then she finds out he's been keeping her a secret from his Pakistani family; there's a huge fight and they break up. But that's just the beginning.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is one of a handful of dystopian novels that have seen a boost in sales since the 2016 election. The book tells the story of what happens when a theocratic dictatorship takes over the government and gets rid of women's rights.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been at the forefront of progressive politics over the last year.

She has sparred with President Trump on Twitter, and she was reprimanded by Republicans on the Senate floor earlier this year. Now she has written a new book, This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle To Save America's Middle Class.

A few years ago, Chimamanda Adichie received a message from a childhood friend asking for advice: She wanted to know how to raise her newborn daughter to be a feminist.

Democrat Michelle Frankard of Wisconsin voted for President Trump, and she's hoping she won't regret it.

At the Garden of Eatin', a bustling diner in picturesque Galesville, Frankard is having breakfast with her adopted father, Ken Horton. A dozen shiny electric guitars line the walls, each next to a black-and-white framed poster with the likes of Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin. The deep-seated booths host a variety of regulars and those just passing through.

If you've been watching the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on TV, you've probably seen it happen a few times already: Every few minutes, a fresh wave of brightly colored signs — bearing campaign slogans like "Stronger Together" or "Love Trumps Hate" — spreads across the convention floor like wildfire.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Across the U.S., more than 20 million people abuse drugs or alcohol or both. Only about 1 in 10 is getting treatment.

People seeking treatment often have to wait weeks or months for help. The delays can jeopardize the chances they'll be able to recover from their addiction.

If you took a map of Chicago and put down a tack for each person shot last year, you'd need nearly 3,000 tacks.

Of those, 101 would be clustered in the neighborhood of East Garfield Park. That's where 15-year-old Jim Courtney-Clarks lives.

"To be honest, I really don't like it," Courtney-Clarks says. "Every time you look up somebody else is getting killed, and I never know if it's me or somebody I am really close to."

The protests in Chicago have been mostly peaceful. But it's not just about police. This is all happening against a backdrop of gang violence, including the recent killing of a 9-year-old boy who police say was apparently targeted because of his father's alleged gang ties.

These incidents are forcing difficult conversations between parents and kids. And for African-American families, the conversation hits close to home.

Every Thursday night you can find Nathan Fields making the rounds of Baltimore's red light district, known to locals as The Block.

An outreach worker with the Baltimore City Health Department, Fields, 55, is a welcome sight outside strip clubs like Circus, Club Harem and Jewel Box.

In the early evening before the clubs get busy, he talks with dancers, bouncers and anyone else passing by about preventing drug overdoses and how to stop the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

A suspected case of measles. A rabid fox on the loose. A recall of a dye used in tattoos. A drug epidemic that's claiming hundreds of lives.

Those are just a few of the problems that Dr. Leana Wen confronts in a typical week as the Baltimore City Health Commissioner. While they all have to be dealt with, it's clear that heroin is among Wen's gravest concerns. Right now, she's focused on stopping overdoses and saving lives.

On a hot, sunny Monday in mid-July, Dr. Leana Wen stood on a sidewalk in West Baltimore flanked by city leaders: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, interim police commissioner Kevin Davis, Rep. Elijah Cummings. Under a huge billboard with the web address dontdie.org, she proudly unveiled a 10-point plan for tackling the city's heroin epidemic.

Wen, the city's health commissioner, said she aims to create a 24/7 treatment center, an emergency room of sorts for substance abuse and mental health. She spoke of targeting those most in need, starting with those in jail.

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