Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

The NPR Music Tiny Desk Contest may be over this year — NPR Music was proud to award the honor this year to Naia Izumi — but Weekend Edition isn't done highlighting the impressive talent who entered this year's contest.

What does it take to become an American? In 2015, This American Life told the story of a Somali refugee who was finally issued a visa to come and live in the United States. "This big smile was on my face. I've never had such a big smile," Abdi Nor Iftin said at the time.

The #MeToo movement has been a cultural reckoning across industries, from Hollywood to restaurants — but one of the oldest that's been affected is classical music. In March, James Levine, a longtime conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, was fired for allegations of sexual misconduct. And now, centuries-old works from Carmen to Don Giovanni are being challenged for misogynistic plots and themes.

Bernard "Pretty" Purdie is on the shortlist of the hardest-working drummers in the history of recorded music. The list of artists he's worked with, on the other hand, is quite long: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Lloyd Price, James Brown, Steely Dan — on and on stretching back to 1962. On many of those recordings, you can hear a triplet rhythm that's come to be known as the Purdie Shuffle.

Many consider the running back Jim Brown the greatest American football player ever. But he's known as much more than an athlete — he's an activist, an actor, a thinker and a man with an alleged history of violence against women.

Here's how he's described in the opening paragraph of Dave Zirin's new biography, Jim Brown: Last Man Standing.

Milk is not the unassuming refrigerator staple you may have thought it was. In fact, debates about milk touch on a host of topics — cultural, genetic, medicinal, and economic — that have been going on for centuries and continue today.

NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro sat down with author Mark Kurlansky to discuss his new book, Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas, and unpack some of the controversies surrounding what he calls "the most over-argued food in history."

The first time Rumaan Alam appeared on NPR, Linda Wertheimer asked him how he developed "a nearly flawless ear for the way women talk." His debut novel Rich And Pretty followed two young women, best friends who grow up and, necessarily, apart.

How do we find a real connection in a digital world?

In Mary H.K. Choi's debut novel, Emergency Contact, Penny and Sam strike up a text-based romance, and soon become take-your-phone-to-the-bathroom inseparable. But for different reasons, they have trouble making it real.

Last week, a van plowed into a busy Toronto sidewalk, killing 10 people in what appeared to be a deliberate act.

The suspect in the attack, Alek Minassian, was quickly linked to an online community of trolls and violent misogynists who call themselves "incels" — a term that stands for "involuntarily celibate."

Last year, when neo-Nazis and members of the so called alt-right demonstrated in Charlottesville, Va., many Americans evinced shock that such a thing could happen: A demonstration of the white power movement, in 2017. But it's only the latest in a history of social activism that goes back decades — and, as Kathleen Belew argues in her new book, Bring the War Home, we ignore that history at our peril.

Zoologist Lucy Cooke says humans have got it all wrong about sloths. "People think that because the animal is slow that it's somehow useless and redundant," she says. But in fact, "they are incredibly successful creatures."

Cooke is the founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society and the author of a new book called The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife. The book aims to set the record straight on some long-held misconceptions about the animal world.

When The Exorcist, based on the novel by William Blatty, came to theaters in 1973, it captured the public imagination. Or more accurately, the public's nightmares.

Exorcisms aren't just the stuff of horror movies — hundreds of thousands of Italian Catholics reportedly request them each year. But when William Friedkin directed the movie, he'd never actually seen an exorcism. It would be four more decades before he actually witnessed one.

Juliana Hatfield was a darling of the '90s indie music scene. She played with Blake Babies and The Lemonheads and had a hit with the edgy pop song, "My Sister." Hatfield released a string of alternative albums since those days, full of distorted guitars and strong vocals.

John B. McLemore is probably best known as the charismatic, obsessive, antique-clock-repairing, hedge-maze-building, dog-loving, murder investigating, tattooed focus of S-Town, the hit podcast from 2017. But he was also was a composer, who remixed the music of an artist he never met.

Orquesta Akokán takes its name from the Yoruba word meaning "from the heart." The group's self-titled debut album, released in March, draws deep from the soul and history of Cuba, reviving the spirit of the big-band orquestas of decades past like Buena Vista Social Club and Orquesta Aragón.

Bailey Davis was a Saintsation — a cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints. That is, until she posted a photo of herself in a one-piece lace bodysuit on her private Instagram account.

Kali Uchis has been practicing for her debut release since she was 18 years old. Shut in her room in suburban Virginia, Kali was making mixtapes and dreaming up treatments for imaginary music videos. The Colombian-born singer's major label debut Isolation, out now, is a tribute to overcoming heartache and being your own hero and an appreciation for the musical inspirations that have brought her to this moment.

The romance genre is a juggernaut that continues unabated.

It's a billion-dollar industry that outperforms all other book genres, and it's remarkably innovative, with a strong tradition of independent and self-publishing.

Marriage ... is what brings us together today. So naturally, we're talking to a divorce lawyer!

"We're raised to look at marriage as this milestone and we keep signing up for it," says James Sexton. "There are very few behaviors that end so badly so frequently that we would just sign up for it with such reckless abandon!"

The Arabic word habibi means "my love," an apt descriptor for Rahill Jamalifard's feelings about her Iranian upbringing and the music she creates. Jamalifard is the frontwoman for Habibi, the Brooklyn-based band that mixes Detroit garage rock with girl group harmonies and surf guitar. The band's newest EP, Cardamom Garden, houses lyrics that move seamlessly between English and Farsi.

When Von Diaz was growing up, her mother sent her away from her home outside Atlanta to spend summers in Puerto Rico. Diaz was born on the island in Rio Piedras, but she found the trips back disorienting. She didn't speak Spanish well. She lay awake at night, pestered by mosquitoes and wilting heat. In her grandmother's kitchen, she found relief in grilled cheese loaded with ground beef picadillo, aromatic olive oil infused with garlic and oregano, and fried cinnamon donuts.

Less than two years after Donald Trump won a western Pennsylvania congressional district by double digits, a special election race between a young Democrat and a deeply conservative Republican is now closer than either side had expected. The congressional race is being run in Pennsylvania's 18th district, but the March 13 election is expected to offer clues about how voters will turn out in the November midterms.

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