Terrence Cheng – “Two Chinese Brothers”

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Sons of Heaven

In June of 1989, in Tienamin Square, in the justify of Beijing, China, one of the largest student protests ever to occur in that country took place. The “Sons of Heaven,” by Terrence Cheng, is a novel about three major players in this drama, Deng Xiao Ping, the leader of China at the time, and two brothers, one a soldier in the Red Army in Teinamin Square at the time, and the other the man who stood in front of the tanks.

Terrence Cheng recommends “Ghost Written,” by David Mitchell.

Originally Broadcast: August 1, 2002

Estelle Freedman – “The History of Feminism”

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No Turning Back—The History of Feminism and the Future of Women

The place of women in the world and in the American society has changed in many aspects in the recent past. Many people say this is due to the politics of feminism, and some inquire where it will lead.

I spoke with Professor Freedman by phone in April 2002 and asked her to talk about why feminism did not evolve as people evolved and civilization developed.

The books Professor Freedman recommends are “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood, and “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler.

Originally Broadcast: April 2, 2002

Judith Freeman – “A Deadly Trip West in 1857″

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Red Water

On September 11, 1857, a group of 120 emigrants en route to California was attacked and slaughtered by Mormon settlers and their Indian allies. Twenty years later, John D. Lee, a Mormon and a participant in the massacre, was executed by a firing squad at the same spot and thus entered history as the scapegoat for all those responsible for what came to be known as the Mountain Meadow Massacre in southern Utah. “Red Water,” by Judith Freeman, published in January 2002, is the story of the life of John D. Lee, as told by three of his nineteen wives. Judith Freeman describes early Mormon belief, the sense of persecution felt by the Mormons, and the sisterhood of his wives in marriage.

Judith Freeman recommends “Why Did I Ever,” by Mary Robinson.

Originally Broadcast: March 5, 2002

Randall Kennedy – “Can You Say This Word?”

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Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word

Few words in the English language have caused so much pain, hurt and emotion as the N-word. It is arguably the most consequential social insult in American history. The long history of the pejorative use of the N-word has given it an unusual power that extends to the judicial system, literature and social settings.

Randall Kennedy, a professor of Law at Harvard University Law School, is the author of “Nigger-the Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.”  His book chronicles the history of this word, in an effort to diffuse and neutralize it.

At the end of his book he writes, “There is much to be gained by allowing people all backgrounds to yank the N-word away from white supremacists to subvert its ugliest denotation, and to convert the N-work from a negative into a positive appellation.”

I spoke with Professor Randall Kennedy in the winter of 2002 while he was in California and asked him to begin our conversation by explaining this conclusion.

The book Randall Kennedy recommends in “The Negro in the American Revolution,” by Benjamin Quarles, written in 1961.

Originally Broadcast: March 19, 2002

“Ed Dolnick – The Grand Canyon, 1869″

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Down the Great Unknown, John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon

John Wesley Powell, a one-armed civil war veteran and passionate geologist, is a mostly unknown early explorer of the Grand Canyon. In 1869, he led a group of nine men on a 99 day adventure over 1,000 miles and almost 500 difficult rapids to a the vast chasm of the Grand Canyon. Edward Dolnick is the author of “Down the Great Unknown, John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon.” Dolnick based his book on the journals that Powell and other members of his crew kept as they made their journey.

Ed Dolnick recommends “Endurance,” by Alfred Lansing.

Originally Broadcast: December 18, 2001

“Paul R. Griffin – Sowing the Seeds of Racism”

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Seeds of Racism in the Soul of America

Racism, as a part of the American religious culture, can be traced to the religious concepts of some of the earliest European settlers in North America. Professor Paul R. Griffin explores these roots in his book, “Seeds of Racism in the Soul of America,” linking the concepts in the Puritan belief system to long lasting racist effects. He argues that racism is itself a religion in the United States and is closely related to America Christianity. He claims that efforts to erase racism have failed because they have concentrated on its visible manifestations rather than its ideological character.

Paul R. Griffin recommends “The Rage of the Privileged Class,” by Ellis Cose.

Originally Broadcast: March 1, 2001

 

“Kennedy, Randall — Can You Say This Word?”

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Few words in the English language have caused so much pain, hurt and emotion as the N-word. It is arguably the most consequential social insult in American history. The long history of the pejorative use of the N-word has given it an unusual power that extends to the judicial system, literature and social settings.

Randall Kennedy, a professor of Law at Harvard University Law School, is the author of “Nigger-the Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.”  His book chronicles the history of this word, in an effort to diffuse and neutralize it.

Originally Broadcast: March 19, 2002

“Wilkerson, Isabel — America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part Two”

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In part 2 of our conversation with Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” we continue our discussion of the migration of almost six million black American citizens from the south to northern and western cities between the years of 1915 and 1970. Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

The book Isabel Wilkerson recommends is “The Ark of Justice,” by Kevin Boyle.

“Wilkerson, Isabel — America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part One”

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In the years between 1915 and 1970 almost six million black American citizens from the south migrated to northern and western cities seeking freedom and a better life. Our guest is Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

In the first of two interviews recorded from Isabel Wilkerson’s home near Atlanta, Georgia, on September 28, 2012, she begins with a description of the “biggest untold story of the 20th century.”

The book Isabel Wilkerson recommends is “The Ark of Justice,” by Kevin Boyle.

“Patrick McGrath – Moving to America in 1774″

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Imagine leaving home and traveling by yourself to a new land where you don’t know the customs or the politics, on a trip that will take weeks to complete in what would now be considered a very small ship, on turbulent waters. Imagine making this voyage, never to return to your homeland, when you are 15 years old, and pregnant. Soon after you arrive a war begins that changes the face of the country and set a new type of government in motion. Imagine researching this story and then writing it. That is the work of Patrick McGrath, the author of “Martha Peake,” a book about a plucky young woman who came to American in 1774. I spoke with Patrick McGrath by phone in 2001 to talk about “Martha Peake,” how he researched and prepared to write it, and what British students are taught about the American Revolution.

Patrick McGrath recommends “The First American,” by H.W. Brown.

Originally Broadcast: January 16, 2001