WNYC Studios and The New Yorker
Profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations, hosted by David Remnick.
At The New Yorker Festival, Dave Grohl talked with Kelefa Sanneh about Grohl’s new book, “The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music.” Grohl, who was the drummer for Nirvana and then the frontman of the Foo Fighters, recalls his earliest experiences of taking music seriously—harmonizing with his mom to Carly Simon on the car radio. Grohl also talks about what it was like to collaborate with Kurt Cobain, who was known for his capricious genius, and about stepping out from behind the drums to lead his own band. “After Kurt died, I was, like, I’m not playing music anymore—it’s painful,” he remembers. “And then I eventually realized that if music saved my life, my entire life, this is what’s going to save my life again.”
29 min 7 sec
Mexico is a deeply Catholic nation where abortion was, for a long time, criminalized in many states; just a few years ago Coahuilla, near the U.S. border, imposed jail time on women who had the procedure. This year, Stephania Taladrid reported, Mexico’s ten-member Supreme Court voted unanimously to deciminalize abortion throughout the country—to the shock even of activists. But before they had finished celebrating they turned their attention north, to Texas, which has practically banned most abortions with the S.B. 8 law, which is currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court. Texans may find themselves crossing the border to obtain legal abortions. Taladrid spoke to activists who are sending medications that induce abortion—which are available over the counter in Mexico—across the border into Texas. But they may face risk in doing so. As the legal scholar Jeannie Suk Gersen explains, a new Texas law criminalizes delivering those medications to pregnant women.
14 min 21 sec
The Supreme Court, with a six-to-three majority of conservative justices, is hearing critical cases on abortion rights. If it approves restrictive state laws, large swaths of the country might quickly ban abortion. Jia Tolentino co-hosts a special episode on the future of abortion rights for Americans, which includes a discussion of the legal issues at stake and the doctrine of privacy that is now in jeopardy, and a visit to the Mississippi clinic at the center of one of the court cases.
39 min 4 sec
After storms and other climate disasters, legions of workers appear overnight to cover blown-out buildings with construction tarps, rip out ruined walls and floors, and start putting cities back together. They are largely migrants, predominantly undocumented, and lack basic protections for construction work. Their efforts are critical in an era of increasing climate-related disasters, but the workers are subject to hazards including accidents, wage theft, and deportation. “Right now, there is a base camp for the National Guard; FEMA officials in Louisiana are staying in hotels,” Saket Soni, the founder of the nonprofit group Resilience Force, tells Sarah Stillman. “But the workers who are doing the rebuilding with their hands are sleeping under their cars to protect themselves from rain.” Stillman travelled to Louisiana, to the parking lot of a Home Depot, to report on Soni’s effort to organize and win recognition for these laborers as a distinct workforce performing essential work. “These years ahead,” she notes, “are going to bring more brutal hurricanes, more awful floods, more terrifying wildfires, and heatwaves—more than any of us is really prepared to handle. … And what’s at stake is not just these workers’ fates but also our collective shared survival.”
33 min 7 sec
“Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” premièred nearly thirty years ago, but it’s one of the most current and important plays on Broadway right now. Anna Deavere Smith pioneered a form now known as verbatim theatre: instead of creating characters and writing dialogue, she would interview dozens or hundreds of people about an event, and weave a story from those real characters and their words. “Twilight” is about the deadly violence and unrest that erupted after police officers were acquitted of the ferocious beating of Rodney King—one of the first episodes of police brutality caught on videotape and broadcast to the nation. Her form, she tells David Remnick, let her complicate the racial dynamics of Black and white people, to include the voices of Asian Americans and Latinx people involved in the uprising. Deavere talks about how the play reads now, after George Floyd’s murder and the uprising that followed, and about what still hasn’t changed in the cultural climate for Black theatre artists.
20 min 7 sec
Growing up, Rachel Held Evans was a fiercely enthusiastic evangelizer for her faith, the kind of kid who relished the chance to sit next to an atheist. But when she experienced doubt, that sense of certainty began to crumble. “We went to all these conferences about how to defend your faith, how to have an answer for what you believe,” her sister Amanda Held told Eliza Griswold. “That’s why it was particularly unsettling to have questions, because we were taught to have answers.” Held Evans began to blog and then wrote a string of best-sellers about her faith, beginning with “Evolving in Monkey Town,” in which she separated the Jesus she believed in from the conservative doctrine she was raised with. Her work spoke to the millions of Christians who have left evangelical churches since 2006. “There’s this common misperception that either you are a conservative evangelical Christian or . . . you become agnostic or atheist,” Griswold explains, but many Christians were turning away from politics and still retaining their faith. She calls Held Evans “the patron saint of this emerging movement.” After Held Evans died, at thirty-seven, after a sudden illness, her final, incomplete manuscript was finished by a friend, Jeff Chu. Griswold travelled to Held Evans’s home town of Dayton, Tennessee, to meet with her widower, Dan Evans, as well as Chu and others. “I think people resonate so much with her work [because] she was giving words that people couldn’t say themselves,” Evans says. “It’s not going to stop for them just because Rachel died. There’s going to be one less traveller. One less person to translate for them. But there’s more people born every day.”
36 min 14 sec
Cal Newport, the author of “A World without Email” and other books, has been writing about how the shutdown has affected businesses and the culture of work. Remote operation, he says, has raised fundamental questions about the purpose of work, its role in our lives, and how productivity is measured. While most companies are asking employees to return to the office as the pandemic eases, Newport predicts that economic forces will eventually drive an exodus toward permanent remote work. Tech companies that launched as fully remote operations, he thinks, have a head start on the economic advantages of ditching the office for good.
19 min 1 sec
Wole Soyinka is a giant of world literature. A Nobel laureate, he’s written more than two dozen plays, a vast amount of poetry, several memoirs, and countless essays and short stories—but, up until recently, only two novels. His third novel was published this past September, forty-eight years after the previous one. It's called “Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth.” The book is both a political satire and a murder mystery involving four friends, with subplots that include a secret society dealing in human body parts and more corruption than any one country can bear. Like his cousin the Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, Soyinka has made social commentary integral to his work. Soyinka’s journey into political activism began at a young age, and, in 1965, when he was twenty-one, he was arrested for armed robbery. But Soyinka tells Vinson Cunningham that political opposition didn’t come naturally to him. “I love my peace of mind and my tranquility,” he says, “[but] I cannot attain that if I have not attended to an issue or problem which I know is . . . manifesting itself in a dehumanizing way in others.” “Chronicles” explores not only how the governments are corrupt but the effect of corruption on societies and peoples. Soyinka also talks about why he waited so long to write another novel, and what the medium offers that theatre does not.
21 min 19 sec
The roughly ten thousand company documents that make up the Facebook Papers show a company in turmoil—and one that prioritizes its economic interests over known harms to public interest. Among other things, they catalogue the company’s persistent failure to control disinformation and hate speech. David Remnick spoke with Maria Ressa, an investigative journalist, in the Philippines, who runs the news organization Rappler. She has been the target of hate campaigns by supporters of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and in October Ressa (along with the Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov) received the Nobel Peace Prize for working to protect freedom of expression. Ressa is also a co-founder of what’s called the Real Facebook Oversight Board, a group of expert observers and critics who are not affiliated with Facebook’s own quasi-independent Oversight Board. She doesn’t see easy tweaks to ameliorate the damage; the fundamental approach of steering content to users to maximize engagement, she feels, is inherently destructive. “We’ve adapted this hook, line, and sinker: ‘personalization is better,’ ” Ressa points out. “It does make the company more money, but is that the right thing? Personalization also tears apart a shared reality.” Plus, a disinformation researcher says that, to understand dangerous conspiracy stories like QAnon, you have to look at the online horror genre known as creepypasta.
32 min 44 sec
Jane Goodall is as revered a figure as modern science has to offer, though she prefers to call herself a naturalist rather than a scientist. Goodall learned a great deal about being human by studying our close relatives among the primates. When she began working, some of her research habits, such as naming her subjects and describing their personalities, caused consternation among other primatologists, who insisted that intelligence and emotion were the exclusive province of human intellect; Goodall persevered, and shifted how we conceive of the relationship between humans and other creatures. She’s the author of more than thirty books for adults and children, including a new volume called “The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times.” In her work as a conservationist and a United Nations “Messenger of Peace,” the eighty-seven-year-old Goodall used to travel as many as three hundred days per year. Since the pandemic began, she’s been at her home in England, in the house where she grew up. In a conversation for the New Yorker Festival, The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz (known primarily as a humorist) asked Goodall about the secrets to her success as both a researcher and an advocate. “I’m very passionate,” she told him. “Secondly, I’m probably obstinate and I’m pretty resilient. So knock me over and I’m going to bounce back up. Because I will not be defeated.”
31 min 23 sec
In the summer, Shabana Basij-Rasikh came on the Radio Hour to speak with Sue Halpern about founding the School of Leadership Afghanistan—known as SOLA—which was the country’s only boarding school for girls. She and those around her were watching the Taliban’s resurgence in the provinces anxiously, but with determination. “It’s likely that Taliban could disrupt life temporarily here in Kabul,” one woman told Basij-Rasikh, “but we’re not going to go back to that time. We’re going to fight them.” In fact, Basij-Rasikh had already been forming a plan to take her girls’ school abroad, and soon settled on Rwanda. When the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan led to a precipitous collapse of the government, she suddenly had to sneak nearly two hundred and fifty students, staff, faculty, and family members to the airport to flee as refugees. She seems traumatized by the terror of that experience. “That thought still haunts me—it suddenly takes over all my senses in a way, just this idea of ‘what if’? What if we lost a student?” She spoke with Halpern about the evacuation to Rwanda, and what she hopes for as the school resettles.
20 min 36 sec
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” defined an era. For more than sixteen years, Stewart and his many correspondents skewered American politics. At the 2021 New Yorker Festival, Stewart spoke with David Remnick about his new show, “The Problem with Jon Stewart”; the potential return of Donald Trump to the White House; and the controversy around cancel culture in comedy. “What do we do for a living?” Stewart asks, of comedians. “We criticize, we postulate, we opine, we make jokes, and now other people are having their say. And that’s not cancel culture, that’s relentlessness.”
22 min 56 sec
Daniel Craig made his career as an actor in the theatre and in British indie films. When he showed up in Hollywood, it was usually in smaller roles, often as a villain. So, in 2005, when Craig was cast as the original superspy, James Bond, he seemed as surprised as anyone. In “No Time to Die,” Craig gives his final performance as Bond—a role, he tells David Remnick, that sometimes grated on him. Craig hasn’t lost his love of theatre, and is set to play Macbeth on Broadway. “I try not to differentiate” between Shakespeare’s work and Ian Fleming’s, he tells David Remnick. “You’re trying to aim for some truth, to ground things in reality,” and “both require the same muscles.” Though he admits that “there’s a lot more chat” in a Shakespeare script. Plus, the beloved comic character actor Carol Kane discusses her Oscar-nominated turn in 1975’s “Hester Street,” which is being re-released.
29 min 43 sec
Kara Walker is one of our most influential living artists. Walker won a MacArthur Fellowship (the “genius” grant) before she turned thirty, and became well known for her silhouettes, works constructed from cut black paper using a technique that refers to craft forms of the Victorian era. Walker has put modest materials to work to address very large concerns: the lived experience and historical legacy of American slavery. Though she often depicts the racial and sexual violence that went largely unspoken for centuries in the past, her work is aimed squarely at the modern world. “What I set out to do, in a way, worked too well,” she said, “which was to say, if I pretty everything up with hoop skirts and Southern belles then nobody will recognize that I’m talking about them. And then they didn’t! They said, ‘The past is so bad.’ But I’m not from the past. . . . I do live here now. And so do you.” Walker was interviewed at The New Yorker Festival by Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem.
17 min 20 sec
At The New Yorker Festival, the renowned investigative journalist Jane Mayer asked Attorney General Merrick Garland about the prosecution of January 6th insurrectionists, the threat of domestic terrorism, and what the Justice Department can do to protect abortion rights. Plus, the staff writer Susan Orlean talks with David Remnick about her obsession with animal stories, and her new book, “On Animals.”
36 min 29 sec
Broadway theatres are welcoming audiences to a new season, mounting original works and restaging shows that closed in March, 2020. In this unusual season, Broadway is featuring atypical works such as “Is this a Room,” directed by Tina Satter, which stages the F.B.I. interrogation of the whistle-blower Reality Winner using the official transcript verbatim for all of its dialogues. But the most notable thing about Broadway this season is the record-breaking eight plays by Black playwrights, including Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s “Pass Over,” and the reopening of Jeremy O. Harris’s “Slave Play.” Two theatre critics, Alexandra Schwartz and Vinson Cunningham, discuss whether this diversity is a sign of change on Broadway or a short-term response to the racial reckoning that began in 2020. Plus, the music critic Amanda Petrusich shares three tracks from her playlist for a new baby—featuring Aretha Franklin, Paul and Linda McCartney, and the Velvet Underground.
25 min 42 sec
Jonathan Franzen’s sixth novel, “Crossroads,” is set in 1971, and the title is firmly on the nose: the Hildebrand family is at a crossroads itself, just as the America of that moment seemed poised to come apart. In the course of his career, Franzen has evolved away from an early postmodernist sensibility that highlighted “bravura” writing, and “with this book I threw away all the po-mo hijinks and the grand plot elements,” he tells David Remnick. “It’s really only in the course of writing ‘Crossroads’ that I have said to myself, What I am is a novelist of character and psychology. . . . It’s not about formal experimentation and it’s certainly not about changing the world through my social commentary.” Franzen also discusses the complex ethics behind writing a character of another race, and takes issue with the belief of some in the academy (and much of the political right) that leftist sensibilities are stifling free expression; he declined to sign the “Harper’s Letter” last year. Despite political polarization, Franzen says, “It’s a much better time to be an American writer than I would have guessed twenty-five years ago.”
31 min 18 sec
Andreas Malm, a climate activist and senior lecturer at Lund University, in Sweden, studies the relationship between climate change and capitalism. With the United Nations climate meeting in Glasgow rapidly approaching—it begins on October 31st—Malm tells David Remnick that he believes environmentalists should not place too much faith in talks or treaties of this kind. Instead, he insists that the climate movement rethinks its roots in nonviolence. His book is provocatively titled “How to Blow Up a Pipeline,” though it is not exactly an instruction manual. Malm advocates for “intelligent sabotage” of fossil-fuel infrastructure to prevent more carbon from being emitted in the atmosphere. “I am in favor of destroying machines, property—not harming people. That’s a very important distinction,” he tells Remnick. Plus: Parul Sehgal, The New Yorker’s newest staff writer, introduces David Remnick to some notable works off the syllabus of a class she is teaching. It’s called “Writing the Unspeakable,” about the literature of trauma and atrocity.
38 min 42 sec
In 1967, in the wake of a violent uprising in Detroit, President Lyndon B. Johnson assembled the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders to investigate what had happened. This seemed futile: another panel to investigate yet another uprising. “A lot of people felt that way—‘We don’t need more studies, nothing’s going to come out of that commission,’ ” Fred Harris, a former senator from Oklahoma and the commission’s last surviving member, tells Jelani Cobb. But the conclusions were not typical at all. In the final analysis, known as the Kerner Report, the commission named white racism—no euphemisms—as the root cause of unrest in the United States, and said that the country was “moving toward two societies, one Black, one White—separate and unequal.” The report called for sweeping changes and investments in jobs, housing, policing, and more; the recommendations went so far beyond Johnson’s anti-poverty programs of the nineteen-sixties that the President shelved the report and refused to meet with his own commission. The Kerner Report, Cobb says, was “an unheeded warning,” as America still struggles today to acknowledge the reality of systemic racism. Jelani Cobb co-edited and wrote the introduction to “The Essential Kerner Commission Report,” which was published this year.
21 min 49 sec
On Tuesday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a preliminary report on the long-standing underrepresentation of Latinos in the media. While most people consider Hollywood a relatively liberal industry, “the system as a whole is actually quite regressive and . . . exclusionary,” Joaquin Castro, the representative of a Texas district that includes much of San Antonio, says. “I’m convinced that Americans don’t know who Latinos are,” Castro tells Stephania Taladrid. Unlike Black Americans, who are linked in the white imagination to the civil-rights era and other historical turning points, Castro says, non-Latinos “don’t associate us with any particular time period in American history. They don’t know who among us has contributed to the nation’s prosperity or success. And they have no sense where to place us within American society.” What Castro calls a “void” in America’s narrative gets filled by pernicious stereotypes of Latinos as criminals and “illegals.” “There has been now, for several years at least, this dangerous nexus between representation, portrayal, and the abuse of Latino stereotypes . . . by politicians who abuse them for their own political gain. And, in that dangerous mix, in its worst form, you get what happened in El Paso in August of 2019, where a madman drove ten hours and killed twenty-three people because he considered them Hispanic invaders.” Castro suggests that states and local governments should do more to hold the media accountable, for example, by tying tax breaks for entertainment production to improvements on diversity.
23 min 55 sec
“I wanted to do a French movie, and I had this idea of wanting to do a New Yorker movie,” Wes Anderson explains. “Somehow, I also wanted to do one of those omnibus-type things where it was a collection of short stories.” The result is the new film “The French Dispatch.” Anderson describes his interest in The New Yorker as “almost fetishistic.” Each of the movie’s four story lines was inspired by a work from the magazine or by one of its writers, though Anderson has played freely with biography. Jeffrey Wright, for example, plays Roebuck Wright, an amalgam of James Baldwin, a Black American expatriate in provincial France, and A. J. Liebling, a beloved writer on food and much else from The New Yorker’s early years. “Even in exile,” the actor says, his character “realizes that he’s only at home within himself, that there is no home for him. And maybe there is no home for anyone, really, other than within one’s own body and one’s own soul.” Anderson and Wright join David Remnick to discuss “The French Dispatch” and the classic New Yorker essays that inspired it.
30 min 11 sec
Wes Anderson’s new film, “The French Dispatch,” is about a magazine, and it was inspired by Anderson’s long-standing love of The New Yorker. In this special episode, introduced by the articles editor Susan Morrison, cast members read excerpts from classic works associated with the magazine. Bill Murray reads a letter from the editor Harold Ross to an angry writer, Steve Park reads James Thurber, and Elisabeth Moss reads E. B. White. Owen Wilson reads Joseph Mitchell’s piece on rats; Frances McDormand reads Mavis Gallant’s record of the 1968 student uprising in Paris; Tilda Swinton reads a Calvin Tomkins art-world profile; and Jeffrey Wright reads James Baldwin’s “Equal in Paris,” a remarkable indictment of French institutions.
28 min 34 sec
The new Texas law Senate Bill 8 effectively outlaws abortion in Texas, violating constitutional protections on reproductive rights. Yet the Supreme Court is in no rush to review it. The law professor and staff writer Jeannie Suk Gersen speaks with Leah Litman, a law professor at the University of Michigan. They examine the novel ways in which the law insulates itself from judicial review. “It seems like the Texas law is an onion, with layers upon layers of unconstitutionality,” Suk Gersen notes. “It’s basically saying to the courts, ‘We’ll do your job for you. You are cut out of this.’ ” Plus, Jia Tolentino talks with the pop musician Caroline Polachek, as the singer-songwriter gets ready to play her first live concert since March of 2020, for the biggest crowd of her career.
30 min 27 sec
Twenty years after the events of September 11th, the writer Edwidge Danticat reads from her essay “Flight,” about the way that tragedies are memorialized by those who survive them. And the New Yorker contributor Anand Gopal reports from Afghanistan, where, he says, the younger rank and file of the Taliban are hardly aware of the way that the 9/11 attacks have shaped the last two decades.
21 min 30 sec
David Remnick talks with Senator Michael Bennet, of Colorado, who campaigned for the Presidency in 2020 advocating for the child tax credit, which is now a centerpiece of the Democratic agenda. Bennet describes why direct cash payments make such a big difference. Our economics correspondent Sheelah Kolhatkar describes the policy as a scale model of universal basic income. She moderates a conversation between two academics on different sides of the issue: Michael Strain, a senior fellow and the director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and Amy Castro, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Plus, Radio Hour listeners go toe to toe in a round of The New Yorker’s Name Drop, a new quiz.
30 min 35 sec
As a rapper, Riz Ahmed has released critically acclaimed albums, and he was featured on the chart-topping “Hamilton Mixtape.” At the same time, he was becoming a leading man in the movies, with roles including a small part in the Star Wars picture “Rogue One” and an extraordinary, Oscar-nominated performance in “Sound of Metal.” Like his previous film, “Mogul Mowgli” is about a musical artist facing a health crisis that could end his career. Ahmed stars as the British-Pakistani rapper Zaheer—stage name Zed—and he co-wrote the film with Bassam Tariq. “It was very much a kind of inward journey,” Ahmed tells David Remnick. “It was very much about holding up a mirror and hoping that in the honesty and the vulnerability of that exercise, people would just connect emotionally—even if they couldn’t necessarily connect to the specificity of the experience. But for those who could connect to that specificity, you would be, like, ‘Jesus Christ, I never thought I’d see that onscreen!’ ”
21 min 27 sec
Our guest host, Vinson Cunningham, looks at the joys of the beach read, hitting Brighton Beach on a hot, muggy day to peer over readers’ shoulders. He relates his own fortuitous encounter with Lawrence Otis Graham’s “Our Kind of People,” after finding the book in a rented house on Martha’s Vineyard. Plus, Rachel Syme feels that “books have a season that they tell you to read them in,” and “summer is the season of the classic Hollywood memoir”; she shares three favorites with David Remnick.
32 min 18 sec
One of the premier writers of thinky sci-fi, Kim Stanley Robinson opened his book “The Ministry for the Future” with an all too plausible scenario: a lethal heat wave descends on India, with vast, horrifying consequences. It’s a sobering read, especially after July, 2021, was declared the hottest month on record. And yet Robinson tells Bill McKibben that his work is not dystopian; his central concern is how the globe could respond to such a disaster and begin to halt the momentum of global warming. “That whole dystopian postapocalyptic strain—it doesn’t serve as a warning, it doesn’t make you change your behavior,” Robinson notes. “I reject all that. I write as a utopian science-fiction writer.” But, “at the moment we’re at right now in world history,” he admits, “I have to set a pretty low bar for ‘utopia.’ If we dodge a mass-extinction event in this century, that’s utopian writing. That’s the best we can expect from where we are right now. Having put that story on the table as being possible, it suggests that we ought to be trying for it.”
19 min 54 sec
For generations of cooks, Jacques Pépin has been the master. Early in his career he cooked for eminences like Charles DeGaulle, and was offered a job at the White House. But after a serious car accident ended his time in restaurants, Pépin remade a new career as a teacher, cookbook author, chef, and broadcaster. On television—at first alongside his friend Julia Child—he brought the gospel of French cooking into so many American homes, at a time when there was no other fine cuisine. At eighty-five, he is still active on Facebook Live, with a notably humble variety of use-what-you-got cooking that’s well suited to the pandemic era. Pépin consented to a one-on-one lesson with David Remnick, a cooking novice, and together they tackled the subtle art of making a crêpe. Plus, Klancy Miller, the author of “Cooking Solo,” talks with the food correspondent Helen Rosner about her underlying philosophy: you should treat yourself as well as you would treat anyone else.
33 min 56 sec
Dexter Filkins covered the American invasion of Afghanistan when he was a reporter for the New York Times, and has continued to report on conflicts in the region for The New Yorker. Filkins’s best-seller from 2008 carried the resonant title “The Forever War.” Thirteen years after the book’s publication, the forever war is over, but its end has been the chaotic worst-case scenario that many feared. Filkins talks with David Remnick about whether it had to go this way, and whether twenty years of war changed America more than it did Afghanistan.
19 min 41 sec
Aretha Franklin was the Queen of Soul, the greatest voice of her generation, an eighteen-time Grammy Award winner whose career spanned five decades. She was also a famously private person, which makes the project of directing a film about her life challenging. The job of telling Aretha’s story went to a South African-born director named Liesl Tommy, known for her work in theatre and nominated for a Tony, in 2016. Tommy had also directed episodes of TV shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Jessica Jones,” but the movie about Franklin—called, almost inevitably, “Respect”—is her first feature film. Tommy’s long-standing passion for the singer, she says, made the job relatively easy, even though she first fell in love with Franklin’s voice as a child living on a different continent. “I don’t think I ever thought of her as American,” she told Vinson Cunningham. “I thought of her as a woman that I wanted to grow up to be.” As a small child, she recalls, “Even if I don’t understand the feelings specifically, I understand how the way she sang them made me feel. And that was, excited to be alive.”
15 min 39 sec
Amanda Petrusich describes herself as a “die-hard fan” of folk music, but not when it feels precious or sentimental. That’s why she loves the Weather Station, whose songs, she thinks, “could take a punch to the face.” A solo project of the songwriter and performer Tamara Lindeman, the Weather Station’s new album, “Ignorance,” focusses on the theme of climate grief: Lindeman was responding to a devastating report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the consequences of elevated carbon levels for human societies. If that sounds heady, Lindeman tells Petrusich that it may be her heritage. “There’s this thread in Canadian music of philosophical songwriting, and that’s how I like my lyrics to be. I like them to be about ideas as well as stories. . . . Most people want songs that just tell a story; they don’t want the complicated ideas. But I do.” The Weather Station performs “Robber” and “Tried to Tell You,” with Evan Cartwright on percussion and Karen Ng on saxophone. This segment originally aired February 5, 2021.
25 min 24 sec
For a few brief moments this summer, in places where the vaccination rate was high, we could imagine life after COVID-19: restaurants and theatres were filling up, gatherings of all kinds were taking place, and many businesses were planning to return to their offices after Labor Day. Then the story changed, as the highly contagious Delta variant began sweeping the nation. Atul Gawande, a professor of medicine and an internationally recognized expert on public health, tells David Remnick that the Delta surge has also caused a vaccination surge, which is promising. They discuss the idea of booster shots and the possibility of a future variant that would resist the vaccine and cause more severe breakthrough infections. The Lambda variant, Gawande says, has already reached the U.S., but little is known yet about how it responds to the vaccines in use here. Plus, forget the big white tent and the plate of rubber chicken: the real New York style is a City Hall wedding, complete with metal detectors. Vinson Cunningham tells us what it’s all about. (Gawande has been nominated by President Biden to lead global health development, including COVID-19 efforts, for the United States Agency for International Development. The appointment awaits confirmation in the Senate.)
26 min 18 sec
Jack Antonoff has had a busy pandemic. Sought out by Taylor Swift as a producer, he ultimately made two records for her—one of which, “Folklore,” won the Grammy for Album of the Year. He also worked on albums for Lorde, Lana Del Rey, and Clairo that are out or forthcoming this year. And Antonoff just released his own new record, “Take The Sadness out of Saturday Night,” his third album with the band Bleachers. It’s music for driving fast down the highway—heavy on the horns, the power chords, and the emotions. But, like his fellow New Jerseyan Bruce Springsteen, Antonoff tells intensely personal stories in his anthems. He talks with David Remnick about how growing up in the suburbs inspired him, and about a death in his family that shaped his songwriting.
19 min 10 sec
With the world overheating, glaciers melting, and landscapes in flames, it’s difficult to think of a harder or more important job than John Kerry’s. The former senator and Secretary of State is now the special Presidential envoy for climate, a Cabinet-level post created by President Biden. Kerry talks with David Remnick about reasserting the United States’ fitness to lead on global climate action in the wake of Trump Administration policies, and about how to get allies and adversaries to engage in the battle together. He is heading to Glasgow for talks that aim to hold the warming level to 1.5 degrees Celsius. “Imagine what happens at 1.5, if you already see what’s happening at 1.2,” Kerry exclaims. “Is that what we want? You would think not!” Plus, an evangelical historian who is the wife of a pastor breaks from her church’s doctrine, arguing that Biblical readings of female submission are mistakes. She has felt the personal consequences of taking this stance.
34 min 9 sec
The indictment reads like a not-so-great spy novel: the operatives would kidnap the dissident from her home in Brooklyn, deliver her to the waterfront to meet a speedboat, bring her by sea to Venezuela, and then move her on to Tehran—where she would, presumably, face a show trial, and perhaps execution. But this was no potboiler. The Iranian nationals charged in the indictment were allegedly researching an audacious plot to capture a naturalized American citizen, on U.S. soil. The target of the scheme was Masih Alinejad, a journalist and activist who has been critical of the Iranian theocracy and particularly vocal in speaking out against the compulsory wearing of hijab; she has a large following on social media and a show on Voice of America. Her brother has been jailed in Iran, and her sister was forced to renounce her on television. The F.B.I. took the threat to Alinejad seriously enough to sequester her and her husband, Kambiz Foroohar, in a series of safe houses, where they stayed for months. Alinejad and Foroohar spoke about their ordeal with David Remnick, and explained why the regime regards her as such a threat. “For Iran, hijab is like the Berlin Wall was to the Soviet system,” Foroohar points out. “The narrative of the Islamic Republic was that women are choosing to wear hijab, and Masih is challenging that narrative.” Plus, the revelations about Pegasus. Marketed as a tool against terrorism, the spyware was also deployed by governments against journalists and activists. Isaac Chotiner interviews one of the targets, the Indian journalist and scholar Siddharth Varadarajan.
28 min 18 sec
The New York City mayoral primary, which culminated in a vote held in June, was full of surprises, including the introduction of ranked-choice voting to a confused electorate, and the presence of Andrew Yang, a newcomer to municipal politics who quickly attained front-runner status. But the winning Democrat was no surprise. Eric Adams is the borough president of Brooklyn and a former state senator, making him an establishment favorite. He was also, for more than two decades, a police officer. With policing at the center of public attention since last year’s uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement, Adams occupies a unique position in the debate. He was a firebrand in the N.Y.P.D. and an advocate for Black officers; and he was, as a teen-age boy, a victim of police abuse himself. But Adams is also a strong defender of the police department. He has spoken about the correct way to implement stop-and-frisk policies, which have been previously carried out in ways that were ruled unconstitutional. He rebuked candidates to his left who talked about defunding the force. And he made the national spike in violent crime part of his candidacy, when others focussed their platforms elsewhere. The nation’s cities face a budgetary crisis, the COVID crisis, a crisis of confidence in policing, and more. Adams doesn’t seem fazed. “We need to be very honest that our city is dysfunctional. And it always has been for a large number of New Yorkers,” he told David Remnick. “I could take you throughout the city where the conditions have remained the same through mayor after mayor. What I must do is stop the dysfunctionality of a city that has normalized being dysfunctional.” Remnick spoke with Adams on July 21, 2021.
25 min 41 sec
Shabana Basij-Rasikh is the co-founder of Afghanistan’s only all-girls boarding school, and she is anxiously waiting to see if the Taliban—which brutally opposes the education of girls and women—will make inroads in Kabul. “I was speaking with a young woman,” Basij-Rasikh told the staff writer Sue Halpern, “and she said, ‘Yes, sure, the Taliban will kill more of us. The Taliban will kill a lot more of us. But they will never, ever rule over us.’ ” Plus, the food-and-drink writer Helen Rosner prepares three summer cocktails to toast a reopening world: a Cynar spritz; a Michelada made with nonalcoholic Upside Dawn Golden Ale; and a classic piña colada, complete with umbrella.
35 min 21 sec
Marcia Chatelain, a historian at Georgetown, recently won the Pulitzer Prize for History for her book “Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America.” Chatelain looks at how McDonald’s leveraged the social upheaval of the nineteen-sixties to gain a permanent foothold in Black communities across the country. McDonald’s strategically positioned franchise ownership as an economic goal for Black entrepreneurs. Black franchisees, she notes, have navigated the economic promise and the pitfalls of that corporate relationship, while the wages for fast-food workers, who are disproportionately Black and Latino, have remained notoriously low.
16 min 13 sec
The U.S. economy seems to be showing real signs of life, and lots of people are finally returning to the labor force—eight hundred and fifty thousand in the month of June alone. At the same time, job resignations are at a record high, and many workers are changing careers. With work life at top of mind, we asked three writers to tell us about the most memorable jobs they’ve had in the past. Gillian Flynn, the author of novels including “Sharp Objects” and “Gone Girl,” remembers having to wear a frozen-yogurt costume as a teen-ager. Akhil Sharma talks about lying his way into a lucrative gig as a banker, spinning stories that played into ethnic stereotypes, before becoming the author of books such as “Family Life” and “An Obedient Father.” Plus, the cartoonist Alison Bechdel shares how she rewarded herself after her shortest job ever. This story originally aired on August 25, 2017.
17 min 25 sec
In the winter of 2007, a songwriter by the name of Justin Vernon returned to the Wisconsin woods, not far from where he grew up. Just a few months later, he emerged with “For Emma, Forever Ago”—his first album produced under the name Bon Iver. Since then, Vernon and various bandmates have released three more records, won two Grammys, and collaborated with Kanye West, becoming one of the most celebrated bands in indie music. The music critic Amanda Petrusich spoke with Vernon at The New Yorker Festival, alongside his bandmates Brad Cook and Chris Messina. They discuss using made-up words as lyrics; Vernon’s deep, deep love of “Northern Exposure”; and how a group like Bon Iver engages with current events in today’s toxic political climate. Bon Iver performed “U (Man Like),” “Marion,” and “RABi”; Vernon was accompanied by Sean Carey, Jenn Wasner, and Mike Lewis. This story originally aired November 29, 2019
Janet Mock first heard the word “māhū,” a Native Hawaiian word for people who exist outside the male-female binary, when she was twelve. She had just moved back to Oahu, where she was born, from Texas, and, by that point, Mock knew that the gender she presented as didn’t feel right. “I don’t like to say the word ‘trapped,’ ” Mock tells The New Yorker’s Hilton Als. “But I was feeling very, very tightly contained in my body.” Eventually, Mock left Hawaii for New York, where she worked as an editor for People magazine. “[Everyone was] bigger and louder and smarter and bolder than me,” she tells Als. “So, in that sense, I could kind of blend in.” After working at People for five years, she came out publicly as trans; since then, she has emerged as a leading voice on trans issues. She’s written two books, produced a documentary, and signed a deal with Netflix. In 2018, she became the first trans woman of color to be hired as a writer on a TV series—Ryan Murphy’s FX series “Pose,” which just concluded its final season. This story originally aired January 4, 2019
24 min 54 sec
Britney Spears has been one of the world’s most prominent pop stars since her début, in the late nineteen-nineties. But, since 2008, she’s been under a court-ordered conservatorship—a form of legal guardianship—which has restricted nearly all aspects of her life. Details about the arrangement have been kept out of public view, all while Spears has continued to turn out records and perform lucrative shows, earning millions of dollars for those around her. But the pop star is now directly confronting the people and structures that have ruled her life for the past decade. In recent court testimony, Spears openly detailed her experience under the conservatorship for the first time. She demanded her liberty and expressed her anger, profound sadness, and frustration. She even alleged that her conservatorship, which is led by her father, prevented her from getting an IUD removed from her body, which the family denies. The staff writers Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino have investigated how Spears wound up in this situation, in the article “Britney Spears’s Conservatorship Nightmare.” They speak with David Remnick about Spears’s life under relentless public scrutiny, her cultural significance, and the thorny legal problems posed by conservatorships. “Conservatorships essentially deem someone incapacitated,” Tolentino says. “And from that point, because they do remove your rights by necessity, they sort of foreclose the possibility of proving or gaining capacity to anyone under it.”
32 min 54 sec
Across the country, COVID-19 vaccines are becoming available for teen-agers. But most states still require parental consent for minors to receive the shot. David Remnick spoke with a teen-ager who asked that we call him Aaron Williams. He is desperate to be vaccinated, but his parents are skeptical. “We waited three months, and, during the span of that time, they started going through all sorts of conspiracy rabbit holes,” reading fabrications about mRNA vaccines’ changing the recipient’s genetic code, he said. “They pushed it back to six months, to a year, to two years, until they just said, ‘You’re never getting the vaccine.’ ” Misinformation continues to pose a public-health risk around the world, but for this family the stakes are also personal. “I’m missing out on friends’ gatherings and other things at school,” Williams told Remnick. “But they’re saying that I’m hurting them because I’m causing stress.” Plus, Naomi Fry on a turning point for reality TV. As “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” comes to a close after almost a decade and a half, Fry talks with David Remnick about “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” “90 Day Fiancé,” and other shows that look at real social issues in unique, dramatic ways.
21 min 8 sec
In the years leading up to the horrific Tulsa massacre of 1921, the Greenwood district was a thriving Black metropolis, a city within a city. Buoyed by money from Oklahoma’s oil boom, it was home to the original Cotton Club and to one of the first Black-owned daily newspapers in the United States, the Tulsa Star. The Star’s founder and editor was A. J. Smitherman, a lawyer and the Alabama-born son of a coal miner. He addressed his eloquence and his ire at local nuisances like prostitution and gambling halls, as well as the gravest injustices of American life. The Radio Hour’s KalaLea is the host of “Blindspot: Tulsa Burning.” She looks in this story at how Smitherman documented Greenwood at its height, and how he tried to prevent its destruction. “Blind Spot: Tulsa Burning” is a six-part podcast co-produced by the History Channel and WNYC Studios, in collaboration with KOSU and Focus Black Oklahoma. The team includes Caroline Lester, Alana Casanova-Burgess, Joe Plourde, Emily Mann, Jenny Lawton, Emily Botein, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Bracken Klar, Rachel Hubbard, Anakwa Dwamena, Jami Floyd, and Cheryl Devall. The music is by Hannis Brown, Am’re Ford, Isaac Jones, and Chad Taylor. The executive producers at the History Channel are Eli Lehrer and Jessie Katz. Raven Majia Williams is a consulting producer. Special thanks to Herb Boyd, Kelly Gillespie, Shelley Miller, Jodi-Ann Malarbe, Jennifer Lazo, Andrew Golis, Celia Muller, and Andy Lanset. Maurice Jones was the voice of A. J. Smitherman. Additional voices: Terrance McKnight, Dar es Salaam Riser, Javana Mundy, John Biewen, Jack Fowler, Tangina Stone, Emani Johnston, Danny Wolohan, and Jay Allison.
37 min 11 sec
In 2013, David Remnick published a profile of Naftali Bennett. He wrote that Bennett was something new in Israeli politics, a man who would “build a sturdy electoral bridge between the religious and the secular, the hilltop outposts of the West Bank and the start-up suburbs.” Though religiously observant, Bennett was cosmopolitan: fluent on Facebook, and as quick to quote Seinfeld as he was the Talmud. He had been a leader of the settler movement, and, although he lived in a modern house in a well-to-do Tel Aviv suburb, there was no ambiguity about Bennett’s hard-line stance on the Palestinian question. He disdained the peace process of an earlier time. “I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state,” he told Remnick. “No more illusions.” Bennett has now unseated his former boss, Benjamin Netanyahu, as Prime Minister of Israeli. Remnick spoke with two writers in the region about this political upheaval. Raja Shehadeh, who is based in Ramallah, says that the changing of the guard will mean little on the West Bank, where the recent bloody conflict was a propaganda victory for Hamas. Ruth Margalit, who is based in Tel Aviv, says that, while the peace movement seems all but dead, the changing of a political epoch, and the presence of the first Arab-Israeli party ever represented in the Knesset, has to be seen as an opportunity for change.
14 min 32 sec
The largest Protestant denomination in America is in crisis over the group’s reluctance to acknowledge systemic racism; our reporter talks with the Reverend Dwight McKissic, who considered himself a loyalist but may have reached a breaking point. Plus, our producer looks at the GameStop squeeze of last winter and tries to figure out the motives of the small investors on r/WallStreetBets. Are they out for vengeance on the Man? Are they after lulz? Or are they just trying to make a buck?
35 min 9 sec
It’s easy to see why the director Jon M. Chu was adamant that the release of “In the Heights” wait until this summer, when more people could see it in theatres: it’s big, it’s colorful, the dance sequences are complex—it’s a spectacle in the best sense of the term. “In the Heights,” based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit stage musical, is a love letter to the largely Latino community in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan. The characters are dreaming big and wrestling with what happens when those dreams start to pull them away from the neighborhood. For Chu, who directed the enormous hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” directing the film was a risk—it’s said that Miranda teased him by writing “Don’t fuck this up” on his copy of the script. As an Asian-American from California, Chu “was already one step removed from this neighborhood,” he tells David Remnick. “How do you make sure you don’t miss a detail? The director is probably the only person on set who can stop everything and say, ‘Let’s discuss this.’ . . . That’s what made me nervous, making sure I was always present to hear those things.”
17 min 7 sec
Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax have both been playing Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 3 in A Major for over forty years. But it took a global pandemic for the two of them to fully understand it. “This is such open, hopeful music,” Ax said. But when Beethoven dedicated the original piece to a friend, he signed the manuscript, “amid tears and sorrow.” Beethoven, Ma and Ax reflected, finished the sonata during a tumultuous period in which Napoleon was at war with Austria and the composer was losing his hearing. “I thought this was a good piece for this moment,” Ma told The New Yorker’s music critic Alex Ross. “Because people are suffering, and we do think that music can give comfort.” The musicians spoke to Ross and performed from an empty concert hall as part of the New Yorker Festival. The segment originally aired November 13, 2020.
22 min 21 sec
The staff writer Patricia Marx checks out the new vaccinated sections at New York’s Major League Baseball parks. The author and activist Sarah Schulman talks with David Remnick about her new book on the early years of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. The group’s radical tactics forced changes in government policy and transformed how America saw gay people and AIDS patients.
29 min 52 sec