Excitement, glamour and occasional gunfire: The life of a Pan Am stewardess

My review of Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan-Am by Julia Cooke recently ran in the Washington Post. A bit about the book:

In the earliest days of commercial air travel, cabin attendants were exclusively male, but by the 1950s, growing competition among carriers changed that: “Each airline tried to convince customers that it had the highest level of luxury and service, and the women who served a predominantly male clientele became a particular selling point,” Cooke writes. Pan Am — at the time, the only American airline to fly exclusively international routes — had a particular reputation for sophistication to maintain. “We must add to [our excellence] ‘a new dimension’ — that is, emphasis on what pleases people. And I know of nothing that pleases people more,” chief executive Najeeb Halaby would later explain, “than female people.”

In India, the complicated truth behind the killing of two teenagers

I wrote about The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro for this weekend’s Washington Post. Here’s a snippet of my review:

As Faleiro probes the case, an extensive supporting cast emerges: meddlesome uncles, drunken police officers, hopelessly unqualified coroners, sensationalizing TV newsmen, a sneering intelligence officer and grandstanding politicians, all with a part — however undignified — to play in this story. … Everyone agrees that the girls’ deaths are a tragedy; no one knows quite whom to blame.

British Podcast Awards

Screen Shot 2020-07-17 at 11.19.51 PMLast weekend, Today in Focus took the gold award for Best Current Affairs Podcast at the British Podcast Awards. Our team couldn’t be more delighted; it’s been a journey! The show also took silver awards in the categories of Best Interview and Best Daily.

Last year Hacks/Hackers invited me to talked about some of the things that go into launching a new daily podcast at one of their monthly meet-ups at Twitter’s London headquarters. They wrote about my presentation here. I’m not used to seeing myself quoted but I do stand by this: “In all creative processes, you don’t really know what you are doing until you dive in.”

Introducing: ‘Today in Focus’ from The Guardian

TIFIn September, I moved to London and began working with a fantastic team of radio producers to create a new, daily, current affairs podcast for The Guardian. We launched this week! The show is called Today in Focus and it’s hosted by former political editor Anushka Asthana. Our first episode is all about Brazil’s Jair Bolsanaro; in our second episode, we travel to Racine, Wisconsin with reporter Gary Younge ahead of U.S. midterm elections.  Listen, subscribe, and enjoy (and send feedback!).

What to Read This Summer

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 10.50.41 PMI was on The Takeaway today sharing my summer reading recommendations with host Tanzina Vega.  My picks: Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday, There There by Tommy Orange, Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes, Banthology, edited by Sarah Cleave, Air Traffic by Gregory Pardlo, and My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. Listen here for more about what makes these books so great.

Writing and Resistance Today

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 12.03.13 PM.pngI recently had the chance to sit down with Abdellah Taïa and Chiké Frankie Edozien at the CUNY Graduate Center for an evening of discussion put together by Words Without Borders, Belladonna* Series, and Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative. It was an absolute honor––Taïa and Edozien are talented, fiercely passionate writers whose work challenges political and social boundaries.  Video of the event is now available and you should also check out their work!

In Secret, a North Korean Writer Protests the Regime

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 8.37.02 PMThis week on The New Yorker Radio Hour, I interviewed Heinz Insu Fenkl. Fenkl is in the process of translating the poems included in that mysterious manuscript said to have been smuggled out of North Korea.  He talked about the unusual, propaganda-inspired poetic devices at work in “The Red Years,” and explained what the poems reveal about the North Korean dream of reunification.

“The Accusation: Dissident Fiction from North Korea” at NYPL

DTs4mNZWsAA9FtrEarlier this week, I interviewed South Korean human rights activist Do Hee-yun– the person said to be responsible for helping the manuscript of “The Accusation” escape North Korea– at the New York Public Library.  He told me that he hoped to make contact with the author, Bandi again this spring, and– incredibly– that he believed the stories in “The Accusation” may actually have been the work of not just one writer, but a group of writers (!). That conversation was part of an extraordinary evening, with readings from Min Jin Lee and Heinz Insu Fenkl, and a performance from the opera-in-progress based on one of Bandi’s stories. (UPDATE: Audio and video of the event are now online.) Here’s my original piece on “The Accusation” for The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/a-collection-of-north-korean-stories-and-the-mystery-of-their-origins