Like his 2009 National Book Award-winning novel, Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann's TransAtlantic is a braided novel that weaves together the stories of various characters — some historical, others invented. The storylines illustrate the deep and complex connections tying Ireland and the U.S. over a span of some 150 years, beginning with Frederick Douglass, who visits Ireland in 1845 to drum up abolitionist support, and ending with Sen.
In 1845, Frederick Douglass sailed to Ireland on a speaking tour to raise money for the abolitionist cause back home. About 75 years later, two airmen, Jack Alcock and Teddy Brown, performed the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight, flying 16 hours from Newfoundland to land in an Irish bog. And 79 years after that, George J. Mitchell, the former senator from Maine, repeatedly crisscrossed the ocean — New York, Belfast, New York, Belfast — to steer the Northern Ireland peace process on behalf of President Clinton.
Rhubarb — like spring itself — is fleeting and lovely. A vegetable that often masquerades as a fruit in sweet dishes, it is a true harbinger of the season, appearing in April and, if we're lucky, lasting until July. But it is best to seize rhubarb's moment and take full advantage as soon as its delicate pink and green ribs start appearing in markets and gardens.
Two young men — foster brothers in love with the same woman — leave their small Pakistani town for Afghanistan in late 2001. Jeo, a medical student, wants to help wounded civilians and Mikal is there to look after Jeo, but their good intentions aren't enough to keep them safe in an increasingly dangerous war zone.
Srinivas Ayyagari onstage in 1992 (left); at right, Ayyagari today. "Seeing someone from ESPN commenting on your style and strategy was bizarre and weird. But it's the closest I'll ever come to being an athlete," Ayyagari says.
Credit Karla Miller
Karla Miller competed in the national bees of 1984, 1985 and 1986. Her best finish was 31st, when she went out on the word "dashiki." Today, Miller is a writer and editor. At right, a recent snapshot of Miller and her daughter.
Credit Raga Ramachandran
(Left) 1988 champion Raga Ramachandran gives a TV interview at age 13. Today, Ramachandran is a surgical pathologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
For an academic contest pitting young spellers against the dictionary, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has taken on the intensity of the fiercest athletic events. Feeling the warmth of television lights — not to mention nerves and distractions — all while sports commentators are analyzing your "style" and approach is something only a select club of young word-nerdy Americans gets to experience. How does that early experience affect these mostly middle-school-aged kids later in life?
For 20 years, Stephen King has had an image stuck in his head: It's a boy in a wheelchair flying a kite on a beach. "It wanted to be a story, but it wasn't a story," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. But little by little, the story took shape around the image — and focused on an amusement park called "Joyland" located just a little farther down the beach.
As children, we are allowed to be confused, lost, and full of wonder. As adults in the age of Google, we are expected to project confidence, knowledge and understanding. Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor for The Atlantic, talks about how learning a foreign language reignited his imagination.
Last night brought the premiere of the new season of The Bachelorette, in which Desiree, who was rejected by Sean on the last season of The Bachelor, was presented with 25 men from whom to choose. The theory is that if television producers choose 25 guys for you to pick from, surely one of them is your soul mate. Makes sense!
Hosts George and Kate welcome Principal Jan Labellarte and sixth-grader Mattie Bender from the Arts Academy Charter School in Bethlehem. They will talk about the school, their programs and their upcoming event, The Annual Celebration of the Arts, happening May 31 at the Davinci Science Center. (Original air date May 27, 2013.)