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Books

Gary Scott

Desperate for a better connection with his kids, writer and editor Dan Kois uprooted his family from their busy lives. Kois documents this journey in his book, "How To Be a Family: The Year I Dragged My Kids Around the World to Find a New Way to Be Together.”

Before hitting the road, Kois said, his family was in "crisis." Though they lived under the same roof in Arlington, Virginia, everyone seemed to be living apart from one another.

Segment 1: Can trust in the American electoral system be restored?

As the 2020 election season takes shape, the fairness and security of our electoral systems are being questioned by regular voters, politicians and the intelligence community alike. From voter supression to foreign influence campaigns, we get a threat assessment for electoral integrity in the U.S.

Segment 1: When it comes to what makes a president's speech memorable "ideas are the most important thing."

Rhetoric expert Robert Rowland acknowledged that not every U.S. president has produced a memorable speech like Lincoln's second inaugural address. Rowland laid out the ingredients found in the ones that have stood the test of time and gave examples of those which met or missed the criteria, including speeches by Reagan, Obama and Trump.

Segment 1: Weaving a memorable presidential speech is a difficult art.

A good speech can do wonders for a those who deliver them, but behind many famous orations are the writers who craft them. From George Washington's innaugural address, written by James Madison, to Richard Nixon's efforts to formalize the speechwriter position, the efforts of these writers have literally served to narrate history.

Segment 1: A key player in Kansas City's hip hop community died unexpectedly.

In addition to being a producer for Ces Cru, Justin "Info Gates" Gillespie started the Beat Academy of Kansas City at the Plaza Academy, touching a lot of teens. Now the hip hop community is banding together to carry on his legacy and make sure those teens will continue to be supported.

Segment 1: "Tough love, to me, means you love fiercely but not uncritically," said Susan Rice. 

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice recounted stories of her time as the 24th national security advisor, and what it was like to work so closely with President Barack Obama. Today, we take a second listen to a conversation on some of the best and worst things she saw during her time in Washington.

Segment 1: Analyzing impeachment from a historical perspective

Amidst the trial in Washington, it can be enlightening to look at how impeachment has evolved from since its beginnings in 13th-century England. We also discussed where this historical process fits into modern government.

Vladimir Sainte

As a teenager in Queens, New York, Vladimir Sainte often didn't want to go home after school. So he didn't. His parents, Haitian immigrants, worked several jobs, and Sainte had become a defiant and anxious boy.

When his parents decided they could no longer manage him, they shipped him to Kansas City to live with his uncle. He was 16 then. But now, years later in his career as a social worker, he sees he could have been taught to manage his emotions better.

Children, he notes, don't have the "verbal literacy" of adults.

Segment 1: A Kansas native moderated the last Democratic debate in Iowa.

Brianne Pfannenstiel grew up in Lawrence and got her first job in journalism at the Kansas City Star. Now that she's in a state with a huge voice in this year's election, we wanted to know: How does she feel the Midwest is represented in national discourse today? What does she think of Iowa's role specifically? And, what is it like to moderate a national debate?

Segment 1: What's the deal with this Bike Plan that advocates are trying to push through?

There is a plan for increasing bicycle safety in Kansas City that's been languishing in City Hall for almost a year. The death of a cyclist has ignited a groundswell of urgency for the city to take some kind of action. 

Segment 1: What 2020 could bring for health care

Health care is one of the hottest issues across the country, and Missouri and Kansas are no exception. We previewed what this year might bring for a variety of health-related issues and storylines.

Segment 1: A new book from an MU professor says hidden fees are chipping away at the middle class.

A professor of History, Black Studies, and Public Affairs at Mizzou says banking fees, mortgage fees, student loan fees, and payday loan fees disproportionately affect people, with the wealthy being able to largely avoid them. 

Segment 1: Some institutions of higher education use tracking software to assess prospective applicants.

Karen Craigo

Karen Craigo is Missouri's new poet laureate. Gov. Mike Parson announced the decision last month that the "Marshfield Mail" editor and general manager will have the two-year position, replacing Aliki Barnstone.

Enjoy this guide to the best books read by our Bibliofiles and KCUR staffers in 2019.

courtesy of Charlie Mylie

Gift-giving can be challenging enough when you're human. But when you're a mouse, it's really tough. Kansas City artist Charlie Mylie has just released his first children's book about this difficulty.

"Something for You" is about a mouse who delivers a cake to a friend and finds her unwell, not in cake-eating spirits at all. He must find something to cheer her up, so he takes to the surrounding streets, meadows and mountains.

Logan Action

Artist Hugh Merrill, who is white, had troubling memories from what he saw growing up in the Jim Crow South of the 1950s and '60s. And when he started looking into his family history, he was shocked by what he found out.

"It's a little bit like finding out that not only, if you were German, that your ancestors, that your uncles, were guards at Auschwitz — it's like finding out they ran Auschwitz," he says. "I had to make a decision about what to do with this. And it was absolutely clear what had to be done. I had to tell the truth."

Segment 1: Morgan Orozco is a sixteen-year old who's playing an active part in local government. 

Sick of waiting for adults to do something about climate change, this high schooler is taking matters into her own hands.

  • Morgan Orozco, Sustainability Advisory Board member, City of Lawrence; vice chair, Kansas High School Democrats

Segment 2, beginning at 23:16: A tale of mice, friendship and what's really important.

Megan Phelps-Roper

The cover of Megan Phelps-Roper's book "Unfollow" gives away the ending. We know the hero leaps far beyond her old confines and goes on to live a healthy, happy life reaching out to others in need.

But in this case, the ending isn't as captivating as the middle of the story.

"A lot of people had these very personal experiences with Westboro and there's a lot of confusion, I think, people don't understand why we were doing what we were doing," Phelps-Roper says of Topeka's infamous  Westboro Baptist Church.

Simon and Schuster

How did Harry Houdini make an elephant disappear?

It happened in 1918 in New York. One night, the great magician showed the audience a huge cabinet. After feeding Jennie the elephant some sugar, she was led inside. Curtains were closed around the cabinet. And when they reopened, Jennie was gone.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Local, independent bookstores in the Kansas City area are making a comeback. 

Buoyed by growing consumer unease with online retail giant Amazon, "indies" here and around the country are trying to capitalize on customer sentiment that favors brick-and-mortar intimacy and community spirit. 

Segment 1: Environmentalism and the outdoors have long been seen as safe spaces for white people.

The concerns of climate change action organizations are wide-ranging and well-founded, but membership is largely white and adult. Learn the benefits and challenges of adding young people of color to these groups, apart from just making them more reflective of the communities they serve. The founder of an Atlanta group and the head of a Kansas City organization explained how they are bringing diversity and youth to the environmental ranks.

Segment 1: 2019 report shows black Kansas Citians are still separate and unequal.

By comparing things like poverty and homeownership rates by race, a report from the Urban League of Greater Kansas City found black people are only 73% as equal as whites in Kansas City. The report is released every few years, and is used to educate community members and elected oficials about progress in economics, education and social justice. 

Segment 1: The new structures and businesses making news in Downtown Kansas City.

Some of the more noteworthy announcements in recent downtown development projects include the United States Department of Agriculture relocation and Waddell & Reed's move from Overland Park. We learn about these and other projects, and discuss the use of property tax abatements to attract new growth.

Farooq Ahmed

News about border wars in other nations can feel so distant that it's easy to tune out. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has raged for decades and so has the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, though that one has recently escalated.

But writer Farooq Ahmed asks everyone to hold up for a minute and recall that the years leading to the United States' Civil War offered much the same sort of fighting. In his novel "Kansastan," Ahmed adds a twist to that part of Kansas-Missouri history.

Segment 1: One professor's move from New York City to rural North Carolina taught him lessons in bridging America's partisan divide.

Segment 1: One oncologist says cancer research is not progressing, and she offers new ideas.

Dr. Azra Raza says the public believes cancer research and treatments are advancing, but that's not the case. The death rate from the most common cancers is no lower now than it was 5o years ago. She suggests an alternative to radition and chemotherapy and says more interdisciplinary collaboration could advance the cause.

Steve Willis Photography

In her telling of Kansas City history, writer Karla Deel made room for people and topics she says wouldn't have a place in other history books — "vulnerable voices that are often hushed," she calls them.

Segment 1: Voters will next month determine the fate of the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard name.

Residents displeased with the process of renaming The Paseo petitioned to restore its original name, leaving a heated debate to be settled by voters on November 5. The Rev. Vernon Howard Jr., an advocate for renaming the boulevard after the civil rights leader, says "this issue is also about race," but the group that collected more than 2,000 signatures says they reflect people of all backgrounds who want their voices heard.

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