NPR Staff

In the new film Room — based on the novel by Emma Donoghue — a young woman, held captive for seven years, breaks free with her son, who's never seen the outside world. All he knows is the world of Room, of Table and Lamp and Skylight, and occasionally Old Nick, the man who kidnapped his mother.

So if I say Aunt Jemima, you think what? Fluffy pancakes and waffles?

For sure.

Loving hospitality?


But for some, the title, the image, even the updated version sans headwrap, evokes other feelings, including anger, over a racial stereotype of a black woman with no apparent life of her own. One who is happiest in the kitchen getting ready to serve her white folks.

Well, just who were the real Aunt Jemimas, the real black cooks and chefs whose craft and skill did so much to define American cuisine?

Gotta grab a reader with the first sentence? Here's one from Fredrick Forsyth: "We all make mistakes, but starting the Third World War would have been a rather large one."

Forsyth has written masterful thrillers for more than 40 years, from The Day of the Jackal to The Dogs of War to The Odessa File and The Kill List. He's said he won't write an autobiography. But he doesn't mind sharing a few stories about the life and times that have shaped him, and his work.

City on Fire, the new novel from Garth Risk Hallberg, bears a price tag that may give some people pause. Not the listed $30 purchase price on the store shelf — the $2 million advance he received to write his first novel.

Secretary of State John Kerry stepped before a packed auditorium Thursday. He was at Indiana University for the opening of a school of international studies.

"I have managed to completely forget that when running for president in 2004, I was crushed in Indiana," he quipped.

Kerry was welcomed Thursday as he promoted the Obama administration's recent international agreements, like deals on Pacific trade and Iran's nuclear program.

The transformation of a young boy protected from war into a child soldier perpetrating war is at the center of the new film Beasts of No Nation.

The boy — named Agu — lives in an unnamed African country. He loses his family and his world when government troops hunting down rebels destroy his village. Agu escapes into the forest, only to be recruited into the rebel cause: A battalion of child soldiers. For them, survival depends on the brutal acts they're ordered to carry out.

From floating old food in Jell-O molds to casseroles to cold pizza, the way we reuse and eat leftovers in America is special.

And it turns out that if you track our relationship with leftovers over time, you will understand a lot about our economy and how we live.

In mid-November, diners at the New York restaurants Gramercy Tavern and The Modern may notice something new on their menus: higher prices, across the board.

Many people have experienced the magic of a wonderful teacher, and we all know anecdotally that these instructors can change our lives. But what if a teacher and a student don't connect? How does that affect the education that child receives?

Is there a way to create a connection where there isn't one? And how might that change things, for teachers and students alike?

From his roles in Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the Dick Van Dyke Show and, most recently, the Night at the Museum movies, actor Dick Van Dyke has been in our collective consciousness for a very long time.

Though he seems to be ageless, the Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award-winning star turns 90 next month. And to help mark the occasion he's published a new book with author Todd Gold, Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging.

Colum McCann first won fans around the world with his bestselling novel Let The Great World Spin. The Irish author is now releasing a new collection of short fiction — a novella and three stories — called Thirteen Ways of Looking. They're tales that deal with parenthood, loss and just how arbitrary life can be. In one story, a mother searches desperately for her adopted and disabled son who has gone missing on coast of Ireland.

Steve Jobs was a man whose vision helped change how the world sees and uses technology. He was also an indifferent father, a selfish colleague and a mercurial, even abusive, boss.

A new film from director Danny Boyle shed light on all these facets of the complex founder of Apple. Boyle, together with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and leading man Michael Fassbender, set out to create a tightly wrought record of one of the late 20th century's most iconic figures — which Boyle found to be a tall order.

As the debate over gun ownership and gun control is renewed following the shooting deaths of nine people, including the gunman, at an Oregon community college earlier this month, there's the voice of an evangelical leader whose views might be different from what some would expect.

When you think of a nuclear meltdown, a lifeless wasteland likely comes to mind — a barren environment of strewn ashes and desolation. Yet nearly 30 years after the disaster at the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union, a very different reality has long since taken root.

In and around Chernobyl, wildlife now teems in a landscape long abandoned by humans. The area has been largely vacant of human life since 31 people died in the catastrophe and cleanup.

Ted Hughes left behind a path of personal tragedy and destruction — and also some of the most beautiful poetry in the English language. The British Poet Laureate was the husband of writer Sylvia Plath, who famously committed suicide following his affair with Assia Wevill. Just six years later, Wevill took her own life, and also the life of the young daughter she had with Hughes.

Shemekia Copeland has blues in her blood: She is the daughter of the late great Texas blues musician Johnny Clyde Copeland, and a lot of her early music sounded like it. Now, at 36, she's doing things a little differently. Her latest record, Outskirts of Love, carries the weight of her experiences and showcases the growing she's done since she began recording music as a teenager.

It's Oct. 1, two days before the season's first Saturday Night Live goes on air. Guest host Miley Cyrus is rehearsing, rumors are flying that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is going to be on the show — and executive producer Lorne Michaels is in his office overlooking studio 8H, worrying.

"Man, in New Orleans we really are fortunate — we got some of the best things in the world," Chef Paul Prudhomme once said. "And one of those things is the muffuletta sandwich."

And one of the best things about New Orleans was Prudhomme himself.

He was known for introducing blackened redfish to the rest of us, for his cooking demos and for his line of magic spices. Needless to say, Prudhomme changed the way the world saw Louisiana cooking.

He has died at the age of 75.

When comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick got the opportunity to reimagine Captain Marvel as a blond, blue-eyed fighter pilot named Carol, she made changes to the character that some fans didn't like.

Carol now wears a flight suit — not the sexy dominatrix outfit she used to wear back when she was Ms. Marvel. For that, DeConnick was accused of having a feminist agenda.

Ten years ago, Stephenie Meyer put a twist on the whole boy-meets-girl thing.

In her young adult novel Twilight, girl meets vampire and, later, werewolf. The supernatural romance between Bella and Edward sparked a saga that includes four best-selling books translated into more than 50 languages and five blockbuster movies.

For the past few years, crime has been mostly a good news story — the crime rate remains near record lows. But several major U.S. cities have been experiencing a rise in homicides and other violence this year.

Now, the Justice Department is bringing together police and prosecutors to figure out what's going on, and how the federal government can help.

For many students, Sandra Cisneros is required reading. She tells stories of working-class Latino life in America, particularly Chicago, where she grew up, and where she set her well-known book, The House on Mango Street.

The meaning of home has been a central theme in Cisneros' life and work. And in her new memoir, A House of My Own, she writes about leaving home, her parents' house — without getting married, which was a shock to her father.

In an interview with NPR's David Greene, Chrissie Hynde discusses her new memoir, Reckless: My Life as a Pretender. The interview touches on portions of the book that have generated some controversy, including Hynde's description of a possible sexual assault.

Anthony Marra writes about Russia like he was born there.

Actually, the 31-year-old American lived there only a semester, as a college student. "I arrived in January without knowing a lick of Russian," he tells Morning Edition host (and former Moscow correspondent) David Greene. "I just became immediately fascinated with the extremes of life, of geography, of political events that it almost seemed impossible not to want to set a story there."

Before there was Madonna or Lady Gaga, there was Grace Jones.

The creator of that gender-bending, hypersexual persona has been a supermodel, a muse for artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, and a musician whose influence is still felt throughout popular music to this day. Now, she's telling her story in a memoir titled I'll Never Write My Memoirs, which shines a spotlight on every side of her — including Beverly Grace Jones ("Bev"), the more reserved childhood version of the future star.

Catholic bishops and other representatives of the world's more than 1 billion Roman Catholics are meeting in Rome on Sunday for the start of the Synod on the Family. This meeting will guide Church teaching on issues like marriage, divorce and contraception.