Scott Simon

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

Simon's weekly show, Weekend Edition Saturday, has been called by the Washington Post, "the most literate, witty, moving, and just plain interesting news show on any dial," and by Brett Martin of Time-Out New York "the most eclectic, intelligent two hours of broadcasting on the airwaves." He has won every major award in broadcasting, including the Peabody, the Emmy, the Columbia-DuPont, the Ohio State Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sidney Hillman Award. Simon received the Presidential End Hunger Award for his coverage of the Ethiopian civil war and famine, and a special citation from the Peabody Awards for his weekly essays, which were cited as "consistently thoughtful, graceful, and challenging." He has also received the Barry M. Goldwater Award from the Human Rights Fund. Recently, he was awarded the Studs Terkel Award.

Simon has hosted many television specials, including the PBS's "State of Mind," "Voices of Vision," and "Need to Know." "The Paterson Project" won a national Emmy, as did his two-hour special from the Rio earth summit meeting. He co-anchored PBS's "Millennium 2000" coverage in concert with the BBC, and has co-hosted the televised Columbia-DuPont Awards. He also became familiar to viewers in Great Britain as host of the continuing BBC series, "Eyewitness," and a special on the White House press corps. He has appeared as a guest and commentator on all major networks, including BBC, NBC, CNN, and ESPN.

Simon has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Times of London, The Guardian, and Gourmet among other publications, and won a James Beard Award for his story, "Conflict Cuisine" in Gourmet. He has received numerous honorary degrees.

Sports Illustrated called his book Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan "extraordinary...uniformly superb...a memoir of such breadth and reach that it compares favorably with Fredrick Exley's A Fan's Notes." It was at the top of several non-fiction bestseller lists. His book, and Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball, was Barnes and Nobles' Sports Book of the Year. His novel, Pretty Birds, the story of two teenage girls in Sarajevo during the siege, received rave reviews, Scott Turow calling it, "the most auspicious fiction debut by a journalist of note since Tom Wolfe's. . . always gripping, always tender, and often painfully funny. It is a marvel of technical finesse, close observation, and a perfectly pitched heart." Windy City, Simon's second novel, is a political comedy set in the Chicago City Council. Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, an essay about the joys of adoption, was published in August 2010.

Simon's tweets to his 1.25 million Twitter followers from his mother's bedside in the summer of 2013 gathered major media attention around the world. He is completing a book on their last week together that will appear in time for Mother's Day 2015.

Simon is a native of Chicago and the son of comedian Ernie Simon and Patricia Lyons Simon. His hobbies are books, theater, ballet, British comedy, Mexican cooking and "bleeding for the Chicago Cubs." He appeared as Mother Ginger in the Ballet Austin production of The Nutcracker.

Alice Walker has a new collection of poems about issues of the world, and those in her own backyard.

The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author of the The Color Purple, The Temple of my Familiar and many other beloved works has now issued Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart. The book gathers 69 of her poems in both English and Spanish, the latter courtesy of translator Manuel García Verdecia.

She spoke to NPR about her adopted homes, the root of her poetry and human imperfection.

Buffy Sainte-Marie, native Canadian singer-songwriter, social activist and member of the Cree First Nation, is now in her 70s and has co-authored the first and only authorized biography that tells her story — a story of a woman whose career has stretched from the coffeehouses of Toronto and Greenwich Village in the early 1960s to concert halls around the world. Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography is co-authored with Andrea Warner.

Jose Antonio Vargas is an activist, journalist and filmmaker. In 2008, he was part of a Washington Post team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings.

But the kind of recognition that would make most journalists proud worried Vargas. It could lead to revealing a secret at the heart of his life — a secret that he himself didn't discover until he was 16.

Rick Pitino has an amazing record in college basketball. He coached three different teams — at Providence College, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville — to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. He's a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A River of Stars is a kind of road story.

Scarlett, a factory worker from China, and Daisy, a Taiwanese-American teenager, go on the lam. They're fleeing Perfume Bay, a secret home in Los Angeles where pregnant women from China are sent — by rich husbands, married lovers or prosperous parents — to give birth such that their babies may enjoy "the most precious gift of all": U.S. citizenship.

But Scarlett and Daisy have their own suspicions about what might happen to them after they give birth.

Growing up as a child in Bogotá, Ingrid Rojas Contreras was almost the victim of a terrible crime. Violence reigned in Colombia under drug lord Pablo Escobar — bombings, kidnappings and assassinations were commonplace. Contreras didn't know it at the time, but her mother was receiving threatening phone calls detailing the routines of her daughters' lives: "They got off the bus at this hour. We know what the bus route is. We know what they look like."

Anne Tyler's latest novel is about a woman in her 60s who marries young, has two children and is widowed young, remarries — and finds her life truly changed, late in the game, by a phone call asking for help, that was probably made in error. (Though that doesn't make it a mistake.)

The new book — Tyler's 21st — is called Clock Dance. It has a saguaro cactus on the cover, but Tyler's novels almost always lead to Baltimore, which is where she was when we spoke.


Interview Highlights

On the creation of Willa, her main character

Bobby Shafran got an unexpectedly warm welcome on his first day at college in 1980.

"Immediately everyone greeted him like he'd been there for years," says filmmaker Tim Wardle. "Guys coming up to him, slapping him on the back, girls are kissing him. He's never been there before — he doesn't know what they're talking about."

The new novel Confessions of the Fox is a mystery enrobed in a mystery.

Hugh Grant was finishing up his studies at Oxford in 1970s, when the scandal about British politician Jeremy Thorpe broke. "It was a source of much amusement and sort of schoolboy giggling at the time," Grant recalls.

Thorpe, also an Oxford man, was a savvy progressive, expected to make history as the leader of Britain's Liberal Party. But Norman Scott, a former groom and aspiring model, came forward to say he'd had a sexual relationship with the popular politician. Thorpe was later accused of hiring a hitman to murder Scott.

Deborah Epstein has spent her professional life fighting for victims of domestic violence. But protecting such victims is also what Epstein says led her to step down from a commission meant to tackle the issue of domestic violence in the National Football League.

At the age of 64, when some retired people would look at brochures for cruises, Nell Irvin Painter — professor emeritus of American history at Princeton University — decided to go to art school.

In 1978, Ron Stallworth was working as a detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department when he came across a classified ad to find out more about the Ku Klux Klan — and answered it. Two weeks later, he got a call on the police department's undercover operations line. It was the local KKK organizer. He asked why Stallworth wanted to join the Klan.

"I said I wanted to join because I was a pure, Aryan, white man who was tired of the abuse of the white race by blacks and other minorities," Stallworth recalls.

An Israeli television series with an Arabic name that shows Israelis and Palestinians plotting against each other — and themselves — has become a fan favorite in 190 countries around the world, including Israel and many Arab states.

Fauda — Arabic for "chaos" — is now streaming its second season on Netflix in the United States. Lior Raz stars as Doron, an Israeli Defense Forces special operative who defies authority, has a messy domestic life and complicates everything by both spying on and falling for a Palestinian doctor who gets married to a Hamas commander.

On the day this week that Roseanne was canceled because of a racist tweet, researchers from Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health estimated Hurricane Maria caused at least 4,645 deaths in Puerto Rico.

Now that is a story.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Aja Gabel's new novel has music cues for each new section. One of them is for Antonin Dvorak's "American" String Quartet in F, Op. 96, No. 12, which is performed in the opening of the book.

It's a love story, the famous violinist had said, and even though Jana knew it was not, those were the words that knocked around her brain when she began to play on stage.

Shakespeare wrote great tyrants. Macbeth, the Scot who plots a bloody route to the throne; Richard III, the brother of a king, and "rudely stamped," in Shakespeare's phrase, who murders his way into power and madness; Coriolanus, the Roman ruler who believes power in the hands of citizens is like permitting "crows to peck the eagles," and betrays his city; King Lear, Lady Macbeth, Henry VI, Julius Caesar — one of Shakespeare's themes is how men and women may lust for power, then use it in the worst way.

Meeting your college roommate used to be one of the anxieties of the first week of school. But these days, many freshmen meet in advance online and arrange to room together.

Now, some schools have decided to bring back largely random pairings in the interest of broadening their students' horizons. Duke University announced their change earlier this year.

One spring morning in 2015, Barbara Lipska got up as usual, dyed her hair and went for a jog in her suburban Virginia neighborhood.

But when she returned from a much longer than expected run, her husband Mirek was completely taken aback.

"I was lost in my own neighborhood," Lipska says. "The hair dye that I put in my hair that morning dripped down my neck. I looked like a monster when I came back home."

Pictures can be poems and vice versa: they're feelings captured in a phrase, a stroke, or an image. Leonardo da Vinci said, "Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen."

Lee Bennett Hopkins and the Metropolitan Museum of Art asked a number of poets to look at great classic art from the museum's collection and reflect their feelings in new poems.

The book that results is World Make Way: New Poems Inspired By Art From The Metropolitan Museum Of Art.

A generation after it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, Edward Albee's Three Tall Women makes its Broadway debut this week.

Three women of different generations — one in her 90s, one in her 50s, one in her 20s — are brought together around a deathbed. They bark, joke, bicker and compare their different vantages in life.

The narrator of Ariel Lawhon's new novel asks readers on the first page: "Am I truly Anastasia Romanov? A beloved daughter. A revered icon. A Russian grand duchess? Or am I an impostor?"

Mari Andrew is the dark-haired woman in black glasses, both in real life and in the cartoons she draws for her Instagram account. She illustrates what she learns as she goes along — about loss, love and trying to grow up by the time you're 30 and accused of being an adult.

In Am I There Yet?: The Loop-De-Loop, Zigzagging Journey To Adulthood, Andrew has produced a book of cartoons, short essays, and pointed observations drawn — in all ways — from a couple of difficult years.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Merry Spinster is one of the most anticipated books of the spring. Author Daniel Mallory Ortberg has recast classic tales, including "The Little Mermaid," The Velveteen Rabbit, "Beauty and the Beast," and even parts of the Old Testament, to make them resonate with new takes on romantic love, property rights, abusive relationships, gender roles and the stuffed animals we hold dear — and their unsparing lack of sentimentality.

Writer Stephanie Wittels Wachs got a phone call from her loving and accomplished brother Harris just three days before her wedding, in which he shared some surprising news.

What was it? "He told me he was a drug addict," Wachs says. He died two years later, of an overdose. Harris Wittels was a hilarious and respected Hollywood comic writer, who had become co-executive producer of NBC's Parks and Recreation by the time he was 30, and worked on award-winning shows like Master of None.

Chicago. David Mamet.

Maybe that's all that needs saying to introduce the first novel in more than 20 years by the celebrated and controversial playwright and screenwriter, who has so often made the city a signature in his works. It's a story of the mob era: hits ordered and adversaries iced; hooch in trucks which winds up in teapots; gunsels, madams, made men and molls.

Writer Michelle McNamara was fascinated by true crime. She created the website True Crime Diary and became mesmerized by a series of crimes from the 1970s and '80s: 50 sexual assaults and at least 10 brutal murders committed in Northern California by a violent psychopath who she called "The Golden State Killer."

McNamara was at work on a book she hoped might deliver the killer to justice — or at least comfort the victims' families — when she died suddenly in her sleep in 2016. She was 46.

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