Topic: Fiction

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ELA High School

Dystopia and 'The Handmaid's Tale'

Gender Fiction Dystopian Fiction

"The Handmaid’s Tale" is a dystopian novel set in a near future version of America. It was published in 1985, and tells the story of Offred, a woman living in the theocratic, authoritarian country of Gilead. More than 30 years after publication, a TV adaptation has sparked renewed interest in the novel. Listen to hear three journalists discuss connections between Offred’s story and contemporary American society.

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ELA Middle School

Zora Neale Hurston Broke Barriers with ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’

Race Fiction

Zora Neale Hurston was an anthropologist, folklorist and writer. She had a deep love for Eatonville, Florida, the town where she grew up and one of the first all-black towns created after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. In this story you’ll hear a commentator explain that Hurston’s writing “instantly transports” her to Hurston’s world, and she is moved and inspired by the strong women characters Hurston created. Listen to learn more about Hurston and why the commentator believes the author deserves the recognition she has received.

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Original watercolor by antoine de saint exupe%cc%81ry from the little prince

ELA Middle School

‘The Little Prince,' a Commentary on the Human Spirit

Fiction Classics

“The Little Prince” is one of the most beloved books of all time. It was published in 1943 and has been translated into over 250 languages. Even today, it sells more than two million copies a year, making it one of the best selling books ever published. Although, on its surface, it appears to be a simple, illustrated children’s book, “The Little Prince” is actually a deeply philosophical work, full of allegory and commentary on human nature. Listen to learn more about its French author, Antoine Saint-Exupery, and the creative process that produced “The Little Prince.”

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Mosley

ELA High School

Easy Rawlins and Walter Mosley’s Los Angeles

Fiction Mystery

Walter Mosley, an African-American writer, is one of the country’s best known mystery writers. The Los Angeles-based private detective, Easy Rawlins, is his most popular character. Rawlins has been the main character in over a dozen mystery novels that examine the black experience in postwar Los Angeles. In this interview, Mosley discusses Easy Rawlins’ journey, and the importance of Los Angeles in his novels. Listen to learn more about how Mosley uses Easy Rawlins to tell the stories of a hidden Los Angeles.

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Henrik ibsen portrait

ELA High School

Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ Meets Robots

Gender Fiction Drama Classics Theater

The play "Hedda Gabler" by Henrik Ibsen was written in 1891. It features a female protagonist who feels trapped and bored by her loveless marriage and the rules of Victorian society, and relieves her frustration through manipulating others. A play called "Heddatron," is a comedic reinterpretation of "Hedda Gabler." The producers of "Heddatron" updated the play for a 21st century audience by incorporating robots into the cast. As new forms of technology are showing up in unexpected places, the integration of robots in this play challenges our thinking about the role of technology in our culture and our society. Listen to this story to learn why the producers decided to bring robots into a century-old play, and what challenges they faced in bringing their reinterpretation to the stage.

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The kite runner

ELA High School

Exploring Afghanistan through ‘The Kite Runner’

Middle East Fiction World Literature Coming of Age

In recent decades, Afghanistan has been a country plagued by war. Author Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, “The Kite Runner,” is set in Afghanistan in the 1960s and 1970s through the 2000s. The book tells the story of two young friends, Amir and Hassan, who are from very different classes and ethnic groups. The story follows them as they navigate life before and after the coup that toppled the Afghan king in 1973, the Russian occupation in the 1980s, and the rule of the Taliban in the 1990s. Listen as the author Afghan-native Hosseini describes how his life experiences are significant to his novel and how he has set out to change the public perception of this Middle Eastern country.

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ELA High School

Hemingway's Choices

Fiction American Literature Classics

In 1928, Ernest Hemingway began writing "A Farewell to Arms," a novel with big themes: the horrors of war, the power and pain of love, the inescapable cycle of life and death. The novel is set in World War I era Italy and tells the story of an American ambulance driver who falls in love with an English nurse. Although unmarried, the two conceive a baby and escape together to Switzerland, where tragedy strikes: the woman dies in childbirth. The heartbreaking ending—famous for bringing the most stoic readers to tears—is a major discussion point of this audio story, as it was discovered in recent years that Hemingway wrote over forty endings for the novel. Listen to hear why Hemingway wrote so many endings and why, ultimately, he chose to stick with his original, heart-wrenching conclusion.

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The bell jar sylvia plath

ELA High School

The Life of Sylvia Plath

Fiction American Literature

Though writer Sylvia Plath died more than a half century ago, her life, legacy and work still captivate audiences today. Much of Plath’s work, including her renowned novel “The Bell Jar”, explore issues related to death and mental illness. Plath famously committed suicide, prompting many readers to wonder about her motivations and state of mind. Her passionate and tragic relationship with her husband, Ted Hughes, has also attracted attention. Today, contemporary artists inspired by Plath’s powerful work have reimagined parts of her life through books and movies. Listen to learn more about Sylvia Plath, who died too young but left behind a lasting legacy.

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A raisin in the sun 1959 2

ELA High School

Motivation for Writing 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Race Fiction

The play "A Raisin in the Sun," by Lorraine Hansberry, reveals the struggles black families faced as they attempted to achieve the American dream in the 1950s. The play follows the lives of a working class family - the Youngers - from the South Side of Chicago. The Younger family recently received an insurance check, and have an opportunity to make positive changes in their lives. The audio story offers listeners a glimpse into an alarming event that happened to author Hansberry’s family when they moved into a white neighborhood during segregation. Learn about the play, "A Raisin in the Sun," as well as why "A Raisin in the Sun" made such an impact on American theater. Perhaps most importantly, listen to this story to find what Lorraine Hansberry’s motivation was for writing this iconic story.

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The hobbit

ELA Middle School

A Ring from 'The Hobbit'

Fiction Archaeology Fantasy European Literature

The famous ring featured in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” may have actually existed. This story reveals how Tolkien encountered a supposedly cursed ring from the Roman period shortly before he wrote “The Hobbit.” Many believe that this ring and the details surrounding it might have inspired Tolkien’s novels. Today, the ring is on public display at an English estate. Listen to learn more about the fascinating connections between history, archaeology and J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved fantasy series.

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Atwood

ELA High School

Genres of Margaret Atwood

Fiction Fantasy Dystopian Fiction

The Canadian writer Margaret Atwood has published collections of poetry, short stories and essays, books for children, numerous novellas, and—the works for which she is best known—fifteen novels. Atwood’s early novels were mainly works of realistic literary fiction, the sort of novels that literary critics and academics distinguish from “genre fiction” such as mysteries and thrillers, romance novels, and science fiction and fantasy novels. Atwood has written several novels that some critics and readers would call science fiction, but which she prefers to call “speculative fiction.” In this audio story, Atwood discusses her most recent novel, "The Heart Goes Last" and explains why she feels this is not a time for realistic fiction.

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Catcher in the rye red cover

ELA High School

Does ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Still Resonate?

Literature Culture Fiction American Literature Classics Young Adult Literature Censorship Realistic Fiction

J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel “The Catcher in the Rye” has long been a staple of high school reading lists, though it has also frequently been banned from them. The story is told by Holden Caulfield, a rebellious 17-year old who has just been expelled from prep school. The novel is considered a classic of American literature, and Holden is thought to be a character every teenager can relate to—but is this still true today? Listen to hear about how this novel earned its status as a classic and the arguments in the debate about whether it should still be required reading for high school students.

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ELA Middle School

Themes of Belonging: Sandra Cisneros

Culture Fiction Memoir

Sandra Cisneros writes about working class Latino life in America and has won many awards for her writing. She is best known for her book, “The House on Mango Street.” The themes in her writing include the meaning of home, belonging, crossing boundaries and cultural expectations of women. Her new memoir, “A House of my Own,” describes how her own life also reflects these themes. In this interview, she talks about being connected to Mexico and to the United States, and how she hopes to be an ambassador passing between the two cultures. Furthermore, she works to honor the women in her family while also being an independent woman and breaking some cultural traditions. Listen to hear more about how Sandra Cisneros has created a house of her own.

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John green square

Current Event August 14, 2015

John Green and the Teenage Experience

Literature Fiction Writing

Author John Green is called the Teen Whisperer. His novel, 'The Fault in our Stars,' has sold over a million copies and his young adult novels have huge numbers of fans. Green’s 2009 novel, 'Paper Town,' also focuses on the lives of teenagers and has been made into a movie. Listen to John Green and find out why he sees teenagers as inspirational.

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ELA High School

Poet Emily Dickinson, An Eccentric Recluse

Gender Poetry Biography Fiction

American poet Emily Dickinson was known as an eccentric recluse throughout her life. Dickinson maintained many of her friendships through letter writing, while she wrote poetry privately. Her unusual poetry style wasn’t truly discovered until after her death in 1886, when her sister Lavinia found nearly 1,800 of her sister’s poems. Though Lavinia had promised to destroy her sister’s papers, she instead had the poems published, which led to Emily’s fame as a great American poet. Listen to learn how her poetry continues to be an inspiration today.

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Relief of the light brigade

ELA High School

The True Story of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'

World History II Poetry Fiction war

Alfred Tennyson, better known as Lord Tennyson, was Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland for 42 years during the reign of Queen Victoria. His short lyrical poems appealed to the people of the 19th century, many of whom couldn’t read. One of this most famous poems “The Charge of the Light Brigade” describes a real event during the Crimean War. This charge, during the Battle of Balaclava in 1854, became the most well-known action of the war thanks to Tennyson’s poem, even though the poem wasn’t entirely accurate. Listen to learn more about the Crimean War, the real charge and how Tennyson’s words brought this event to life for the British people.

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ELA High School

The Real Story Behind Shakespeare's Sonnets

Poetry World History I Fiction Writing Romance

William Shakespeare wrote some of the most famous and recognizable love poems of all time, but some historians think that Shakespeare had no intention of publishing these private messages. His sonnets were largely biographical and it is believed they were written to another man. When a collection of these personal sonnets were published by a shady publisher named Thomas Thorpe, Shakespeare tried to stop their distribution. Listen to learn more about Shakespeare’s sonnets and their unwanted publication.

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Jane eyre.square

Current Event May 29, 2015

Jane Eyre Reimagined

Literature Gender Fiction

Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” is a classic coming of age tale of orphan Jane Eyre’s growth and morality. The original novel was published in England in 1847 and reflected the culture and standards of the time. A new novel by author Patricia Park, “Re Jane,” reimagines the tale, placing it in modern Korean American culture. Listen to hear from the author about how she was influenced by Jane Eyre and how the story resonates with her own culture and experience.

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The characterization of jo march and the lasting impact of little women

ELA Middle School

The Lasting Legacy of 'Little Women'

Gender Fiction American Literature Women's Rights

When Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women” at the request of her publisher it became an instant hit. The story of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March, still inspires young women nearly 150 years later. What do these four women represent? How can we understand Jo’s independence in the context of her era? And how does the novel reflect and differ from the life of its author Louisa May Alcott? Listen to learn more about the lasting legacy of “Little Women.”

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Letters to juliet

ELA Middle School

Letters to Juliet

Fiction Writing Drama

William Shakespeare’s tragic romance of star crossed lovers, based on an Italian tale, graced stages in the 1590’s and continues to capture audiences and imagination today. Modern adaptations demonstrate the timelessness of this romantic tragedy. Juliet appeals so directly to people that they actually write to her! Listen to learn more about the Juliet Club and the 6,000 letters they receive a year.

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