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Fresh Air

Weekdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on WABE's Live Stream; Monday through Thursday at 3 p.m. on WABE News's Stream

An award-winning show and one of public radio's most iconic programs,"Fresh Air" is a weekday "talk show" that hardly fits the mold.

"Fresh Air" opens the window on contemporary arts and issues with guests from worlds as diverse as literature and economics. Terry Gross is known for her extraordinary ability to engage guests of all dispositions.

Dani Shapiro's new memoir, Hourglass, opens on a scene from a marriage: On a winter's day, Shapiro looks out a window of her old house in Connecticut, and spots her husband. Now pushing 60, he is standing in the driveway in his bathrobe, his pale legs stuffed into galoshes, aiming a rifle at the woodpecker, who for months has been jackhammering holes into the side of their house.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

'I Basically Ran On Adrenaline': A Staffer Remembers Obama's White House: Alyssa Mastromonaco worked in the West Wing for six exhilarating and exhausting years. She describes that era in her new memoir, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

As the first American president to be elected with no prior political or military experience, Donald Trump has had to adapt quickly to the responsibilities of public office.

In 2017 alone, Merriam-Webster added more than 1,000 words to its dictionary.

The 1996 Coen Brothers movie Fargo was so good, and so original, that when the FX cable network announced it was making a new version for television, I expected it to be awful — especially since the creator of the adaptation was Noah Hawley, a writer-producer who hadn't really done much.

Former Obama staffer Alyssa Mastromonaco is well acquainted with the privilege — and sleeplessness — of working in the White House: "I basically ran on adrenaline, almost, for six years," she says.

Mastromonaco began as President Obama's director of scheduling and advance, then became his deputy chief of staff for operations. Her responsibilities ran the gamut from overseeing the confirmation process for Cabinet secretaries to managing the president's daily schedule and foreign travel.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Sasheer Zamata clearly remembers the feeling she got when she did stand-up for the first time: "I went to an open mic by myself, didn't tell anybody," Zamata says. "I came offstage and ... was like, 'This is my life forever! I can do this forever now!' "

On Nov. 18, 1978, an itinerant preacher, faith healer and civil rights activist named the Rev. Jim Jones led more than 900 of his followers to kill themselves by drinking cyanide-laced Flavor Aid at their Jonestown settlement in the jungle of Guyana. Nearly 40 years later, questions still linger regarding the Jonestown massacre and the man who inspired it.

Journalist Jeff Guinn details how Jones captivated his followers in his new book, The Road to Jonestown. He calls Jones a "tremendous performer" who exhibited "the classic tendencies of the demagogue."

You don't need to know all about Breaking Bad, and the meth-making, drug-dealing former schoolteacher Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, to enjoy Better Call Saul. This spinoff series more than stands on its own — and, as TV spinoffs go, is the best in the business since Cheers begat Frasier.

Health care is a trillion-dollar industry in America, but are we getting what we pay for? Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, a medical journalist who formerly worked as a medical doctor, warns that the existing system too often focuses on financial incentives over health or science.

Back in the 1980s, Salman Rushdie wrote that the defining figure of the 20th century was the migrant. I think his claim may be even truer of the 21st century.

Alec Baldwin has been keeping busy lately. The star of the animated film The Boss Baby has a new memoir out and also keeps popping up on Saturday Night Live to play President Trump.

Baldwin tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that his impression of the president is purposefully exaggerated. "We're doing it live on a TV show at 11:30 at night in front of a live audience, so there's a kind of volume to it," he says. "It's kind of the Macy's Day Parade [version] of Trump — it's a very larger-than-life thing."

Growing up, punk rocker Laura Jane Grace always felt conflicted about gender. She tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that she felt like two "twin souls" were warring inside of her, fighting for control. "I thought that I was quite possibly schizophrenic," she says.

It wasn't until Grace was 19 that she heard the term "transgender" and had a context for what she was feeling. In 2012, at the age of 31, she transitioned from male to female.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

In 'Monsters,' Graphic Novelist Emil Ferris Embraces The Darkness Within: After West Nile virus left her paralyzed, the Chicago illustrator had to relearn how to draw. She says that experience was key to the publication of My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.

Chicago illustrator Emil Ferris has always be fascinated by monsters. As a kid, she would watch werewolf movies and find herself sympathizing with the wolf. Now 55, she's recently published her first graphic novel, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.

"I always felt like [monsters] were kind of heroic because they were facing something," Ferris tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Becoming a monster sometimes isn't a choice that you have. We're all that; we're all 'the other' in one way or another."

I was in the mood for reading "lite" this week. It was a nice fleeting thought. Instead, I took a detour because I got curious about Daniel Magariel's slim debut novel, One of the Boys, which is adorned with raves from writers who mostly don't generate such blurbs.

I found myself reading the novel in one still afternoon. A slim, deeply affecting and brutal story, One of the Boys is about the fierce power of a father-son relationship, which, in these pages, all but grinds a young boy to a pulp.

For-profit colleges have faced federal and state investigations in recent years for their aggressive recruiting tactics — accusations that come as no surprise to author Tressie McMillan Cottom.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Comic Pete Holmes Draws On His Early Career And 'Churchy' Roots In 'Crashing': Holmes, who grew up a devout Christian, says he saw himself as a "Good Boy" comic in the early stages of his career. "I was basically picturing [Jesus] in the back of the club."

A few days ago, one of my students asked me what I was reading, so I told her about Jean Hanff Korelitz's new novel, called The Devil and Webster. My student's eyes got wider as I finished lightly summarizing the plot, and she said, with some concern about Korelitz: "I hope she's ready for all the angry tweets and emails."

Yeah, I think she probably is.

Coming up in the New York City stand-up scene, Pete Holmes was something of an anomaly, working clean alongside other comics whose jokes were raunchy or sexually explicit. Holmes, who grew up a devout Christian, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he saw himself as the "Good Boy" in the early days of his career.

"I was trying to do the comedy that I thought my parents wanted me to do," Holmes says. "I was basically picturing [Jesus] in the back of the club, and if I could go up and not say the F-word I thought he would love me more."

As the father of two sons with schizophrenia, author Ron Powers is familiar with the pain and frustration of dealing with a chronic, incurable disease of the brain.

Powers' younger son, Kevin, was a talented musician whose struggles with schizophrenia began at age 17. Just before his 21st birthday, in 2005, Kevin took his own life.

A few years later, Powers' older son, Dean, started experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia and had a psychotic break.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

On Friday, the streaming service Netflix unveils the entire first season — all 13 episodes — of its newest children's series, called Julie's Greenroom. It stars Julie Andrews, who also is its executive producer along with her daughter, children's book author Emma Walton Hamilton.

One morning in early March, I got into my car and drove to see the Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery in Northeast Philadelphia. The graveyard is 20 minutes from my house. It's filled with the remains of Jewish Philadelphians, the majority of them from the 19th century.

The new film, Get Out, defies easy classification. Though it has funny moments, it's primarily a horror film, with racial anxiety at its center. Writer-director Jordan Peele tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he thinks of Get Out as a "social thriller."

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

You might say that Heretics, a sprawling novel by celebrated Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, has been in the works since the early 1990s. It was back then that Padura began writing a series of books featuring an ex-police detective in Havana named Mario Conde. Funny and philosophical, Conde, like the sharpest of detectives, devotes more time to investigating the mysteries of his own society than he does to investigating crime.

In 1944, World War II was dragging on and the Nazi forces seemed to be faltering. Yet, in military briefings, Adolf Hitler's optimism did not wane. His generals wondered if he had a secret weapon up his sleeve, something that would change the war around in the last second.

Last week, when news surfaced about various meetings between the Russian ambassador and members of Donald Trump's campaign, Huffington Post editor Howard Fineman appeared on MSNBC and said, "If you think the Russian ambassador is just an ambassador, you haven't been watching The Americans."

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