WNYC Studios and The New Yorker presents
The New Yorker Radio Hour
Profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations, hosted by David Remnick.
June 14, 2021
A Rift over Racism Divides the Southern Baptist Convention, Plus, the Fallout from Gamestop
The largest Protestant denomination in America is in crisis over the group’s reluctance to acknowledge systemic racism; our reporter talks with the Reverend Dwight McKissic, who considered himself a loyalist but may have reached a breaking point. Plus, our producer looks at the GameStop squeeze of last winter and tries to figure out the motives of the small investors on r/WallStreetBets. Are they out for vengeance on the Man? Are they after lulz? Or are they just trying to make a buck?
June 11, 2021
Jon M. Chu on “In the Heights”
It’s easy to see why the director Jon M. Chu was adamant that the release of “In the Heights” wait until this summer, when more people could see it in theatres: it’s big, it’s colorful, the dance sequences are complex—it’s a spectacle in the best sense of the term. “In the Heights,” based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit stage musical, is a love letter to the largely Latino community in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan. The characters are dreaming big and wrestling with what happens when those dreams start to pull them away from the neighborhood. For Chu, who directed the enormous hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” directing the film was a risk—it’s said that Miranda teased him by writing “Don’t fuck this up” on his copy of the script. As an Asian-American from California, Chu “was already one step removed from this neighborhood,” he tells David Remnick. “How do you make sure you don’t miss a detail? The director is probably the only person on set who can stop everything and say, ‘Let’s discuss this.’ . . . That’s what made me nervous, making sure I was always present to hear those things.”
June 8, 2021
Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax on Beethoven’s Politics of the Cello
Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax have both been playing Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 3 in A Major for over forty years. But it took a global pandemic for the two of them to fully understand it. “This is such open, hopeful music,” Ax said. But when Beethoven dedicated the original piece to a friend, he signed the manuscript, “amid tears and sorrow.” Beethoven, Ma and Ax reflected, finished the sonata during a tumultuous period in which Napoleon was at war with Austria and the composer was losing his hearing. “I thought this was a good piece for this moment,” Ma told The New Yorker’s music critic . “Because people are suffering, and we do think that music can give comfort.” The musicians spoke to Ross and performed from an empty concert hall as part of the New Yorker Festival. The segment originally aired November 13, 2020.
June 4, 2021
A Vaccinated Day at the Ballpark, and Sarah Schulman on ACT-UP
The staff writer Patricia Marx checks out the new vaccinated sections at New York’s Major League Baseball parks. The author and activist Sarah Schulman talks with David Remnick about her new book on the early years of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. The group’s radical tactics forced changes in government policy and transformed how America saw gay people and AIDS patients.
June 1, 2021
Looking Back at the Year of Protest Since the Death of George Floyd
We look back on the year since the murder of George Floyd galvanized the nation. David Remnick talks with Vanita Gupta, the No. 3 official in the Justice Department, who is charged with delivering on President Biden’s bold promises to address racial injustice. A Minneapolis activist explains why it is so hard to abolish the police. Plus, Hilton Als on why America finally rose up against long-standing abuses of Black people.
May 28, 2021
Spike Lee on the Knicks’ Resurgence
Spike Lee is one of the most passionate and committed fans of the New York Knicks—not to mention one of the most celebrated filmmakers of our time. Underdogs for many years, the Knicks are enjoying a renaissance, and Lee is in his glory. David Remnick and called Lee to talk about a life of fandom, the politics of activism in the N.B.A. and the N.F.L., and Lee’s multipart documentary about life in New York since September 11th, which will be released to mark the twentieth anniversary of the attacks.
May 21, 2021
Can We Finally End School Segregation?
By many accounts, American schools are as segregated today as they were in the nineteen-sixties, in the years after Brown v. Board of Education. WNYC’s podcast “The United States of Anxiety” chronicled the efforts of one small school district, Sausalito Marin City Schools, in California, to desegregate. Fifty years after parents and educators there first attempted integration, the state’s attorney general found that the district “knowingly and intentionally” maintained a segregated system, violating the equal-protection clause of the Constitution. The district’s older public school, which served mostly Black and Latino students, was underfunded and suffered neglect; a well-appointed new charter school, meanwhile, enrolled virtually all the white children in the district. The reporter Marianne McCune explored how one community overcame decades of distrust to finally integrate.
May 18, 2021
“Fire in Little Africa,” A Rap Album about a Historical Tragedy
The Tulsa massacre of 1921 was a coördinated assault on and destruction of the thriving Black community known as Greenwood, Black Wall Street, or Little Africa. Even today, the death toll remains unknown. In fact, for generations, most people—including many Tulsans—did not know about the massacre at all. This year marks its hundredth anniversary, and it is being commemorated with documentaries, official events in Tulsa, and one very unusual rap album: “Fire in Little Africa,” which comes out in May on Motown Records. It features about forty rappers, and thirty other singers, musicians, and producers who tell the story of Greenwood at its height—and of their dreams of a revitalized Black Tulsa. The freelance producer Taylor Hosking explains the creation of the album to The New Yorker’s .
May 11, 2021
The Post-Pandemic Dress Code, Plus Hilton Als on Alice Neel
When a very long year of doing business from home—in sweatshirts and pajamas and slippers—is over, how much effort will people be willing to expend on dressing for the office? Richard Thompson Ford, a law professor and the author of “Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History,” tackles that question along with the New Yorker editor Henry Finder. Clothing, he says, has mostly been used to maintain social hierarchies, but it has also occasionally helped to overthrow them. Dressing up, he says, can be a form of transgression: historically, in Black communities, refined dress has been used to demand dignity and resist white supremacy. Plus, the celebrated critic Als on the work of Alice Neel, who painted her neighbors, friends, and colleagues in a multicultural New York.
May 7, 2021
Atul Gawande and Siddhartha Mukherjee on the State of the Pandemic
After a year of battling COVID-19, parts of the United States are celebrating a gradual turn toward normalcy, but the pandemic isn’t over—and it may never be over, exactly. tells David Remnick that a hard core of vaccine resisters, along with reservoirs of the virus in domestic animals, may make herd immunity elusive. Rather, he says, the correct goal is to bring the impact of COVID-19 down to that of something like the flu. Meanwhile, India is now overwhelmed by a devastating death toll, reported at around four thousand per day but likely much higher. Siddhartha Mukherjee, who
May 4, 2021
Thomas McGuane Reads “Balloons”
Thomas McGuane reads from the May 10, 2021, issue of the magazine. McGuane has published more than a dozen books of fiction, including the story collections “Gallatin Canyon,” “Crow Fair,” and “Cloudbursts: Collected and New Stories,” which came out in 2018.
May 4, 2021
Three Women Who Changed the World
“The Agitators” is a book about three women—three revolutionaries—who changed the world at a time when women weren’t supposed to be in public life at all. Frances Seward was a committed abolitionist who settled with her husband in the small town of Auburn, in western New York. One of their neighbors was a Quaker named Martha Coffin Wright, who helped organize the first convention for women’s rights, at Seneca Falls. Both women harbored fugitives when it was a violation of federal law. And, after they met Harriet Tubman, through the Underground Railroad, Tubman also settled in Auburn. “The Agitators,” by The New Yorker’s executive editor, , tells their interlocking stories. “These people were outsiders, and they were revolutionaries,” Wickenden tells David Remnick. “They were only two generations separated from the Declaration of Independence, which they believed in literally. They did not understand why women and Black Americans could not have exactly the same rights that had been promised.”
April 30, 2021
Are U.F.O.s a National Security Threat?
In June, the director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense are expected to deliver a report about what the government knows on the subject of “unidentified aerial phenomena,” more commonly known as U.F.O.s. The issue is nonpartisan: while he was the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, a Democrat, secured funding for a secret Pentagon project to investigate the subject; John Podesta, a chief of staff in the Clinton White House, argued for government transparency on the topic; most recently, the Republican senator Marco Rubio introduced language in last year’s Intelligence Authorization Act calling for the forthcoming report. This is a shocking turn of events. For generations, U.F.O.s were in the purview of late-night call-in radio shows and supermarket tabloids, not the Department of Defense. reports on how this change came about. The journalist Leslie Kean, who published a in the New York Times, explains how the C.I.A. got involved in casting doubt on U.F.O. sightings. Reid tells Lewis-Kraus that the Pentagon refused to authorize his inspection of contractor facilities which, it was rumored, held U.F.O. crash debris. And a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Christopher Mellon, says that the phenomena observed in many sightings cannot be explained as advanced technology built by one of our rivals. “I really doubt that the Russians or Chinese could be that far ahead of us,” he says. “It looks like centuries ahead.” So, whereas the word “aliens” still seems like taboo in serious conversation, he adds, “it's hard to come up with a hypothesis to explain that without considering the possibility that some other civilization is involved.” Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s “” appears in the May 10th issue of The New Yorker. This segment features scoring by Pablo Vergara. Additional archival clips were provided courtesy of James Fox.
April 27, 2021
A Surge at the Border, and the Children of Morelia
Nearly a century ago, during the Spanish Civil War, a group of parents put five hundred of their children on a boat and sent them across the ocean to find safety in Mexico. Few of the refugees ever saw their parents again. The youngest of the children was Rosita Daroca Martinez, who was just three. On this week’s show, her granddaughter, the writer and radio producer Destry Maria Sibley, traces the impact of her grandmother’s trauma down through the generations. Plus, the immigration reporter Jonathan Blitzer ties the story to today’s refugee crisis at the U.S. southern border, where a surge in arrivals has put the Biden Administration on its heels.
April 23, 2021
Jelani Cobb on Derek Chauvin’s Conviction and the Future of Police Reform
The murder of George Floyd galvanized the public and led to the largest protests in American history. Even Donald Trump said of the videos of Floyd’s killing, “It doesn't get any more obvious or it doesn't get any worse than that,” presumably referring to the use of force by police. America waited anxiously for the outcome of the murder trial of the former police officer Derek Chauvin. The prosecution’s case was notable for the unusually candid and definitive statements against Chauvin’s actions that were made by senior figures in the Minneapolis Police Department. The New Yorker’s covered the trial and says that this testimony sends a message to law enforcement. “There are now circumstances where public scrutiny and public outrage and egregious offenses that come to light can actually generate enough outrage that you actually will not be defended by your fellow-officers,” he tells David Remnick. “It may seem like a low bar. But, given what we’ve seen previously, that’s a pretty astounding development.”
April 16, 2021
What Is Happening in the Internment Camps in Xinjiang
In a special episode on the crisis in Xinjiang region of China, the staff writer Raffi Khatchadourian investigates Xi Jinping’s government’s severe repression of Muslim minorities, principally Uyghurs and Kazhaks. Accounts from a camp survivor and a woman who fled detainment show how, even outside the camps, life in the province of Xinjiang became a prison. The crisis meets the United Nations’ definition of genocide, and the U.S. State Department has also made that determination. With the 2022 Winter Olympics coming up in Beijing, what can the world do about Xinjiang?
April 13, 2021
Rickie Lee Jones’s Life on the Road
Rickie Lee Jones emerged into the pop world fully formed; her début album was nominated for five Grammys, in 1980, and she won for Best New Artist. One of the songs on that record was “The Last Chance Texaco,” and Jones has made that the title of her new memoir. The song evokes a service station on a long stretch of highway, and Jones’s book reflects on her almost obsessive need to travel and uproot herself at almost any cost. “All I wanted to do was leave” from a very young age, she says.“When I talk about it from here, it seems like it was so horribly dangerous.” She adds, “Suddenly I’ll [say], ‘I think I’ll go to Big Sur,’ and I’m in a car, going. But the chaos and trouble that brings to a life!” The producer Scott Carrier, who hosts the podcast “Home of the Brave,” interviewed Jones near her home in New Orleans.
April 9, 2021
The Brody Awards, and Louis Menand on “The Free World”
Oscars, schmoscars! Richard Brody is a critic of wide tastes and eccentric enthusiasms. His list of the best films of the year rarely lines up with the Academy’s. Each year, he joins David Remnick and the staff writer Alexandra Schwartz to talk about the year’s cinematic highlights. Plus, the staff writer Louis Menand talks with Remnick about his new work of cultural history, “The Free World.” Menand writes about the postwar flowering of American culture, when the United States evolved from an economic and military giant into a global creative force. Modern jazz and rock and roll were exported and celebrated around the world. Painters got out from under the long shadow of Europe and led the way into new forms of abstraction and social commentary. Writers like James Baldwin turned a spotlight back on America’s fundamental, unexamined flaws. It was a time, Menand writes, when “ideas mattered. Painting mattered. Movies mattered. Poetry mattered.”
April 6, 2021
David Fincher on “Mank,” and Daniel Alarcón’s Favorite Children’s Books
David Fincher made his name in Hollywood as the director of movies that pushed people’s buttons—dark thrillers like “Fight Club,” “The Game,” “Seven,” and “Gone Girl”—but his new film belongs to one of Hollywood’s most esteemed genres: stories about Hollywood. Around thirty years ago, his father, the late Jack Fincher, gave him the draft of a screenplay about Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote “Citizen Kane” and other classics. Fincher tells David Remnick that Mankiewicz was a key figure in film—one of that first generation of writers who invented a vibrant language for movies as they came into the sound era. Nominated for ten Academy Awards (including a Best Director nomination for Fincher), “Mank” is the story of the writer’s conflict with Orson Welles in the making of “Citizen Kane,” and their struggle is one that has bedevilled creators and critics down the decades: Who really authors a film? Plus, the journalist and fiction writer Daniel Alarcón talks about three children’s books he’s been enjoying with his son during the pandemic.
April 2, 2021
Race and Taxes, and Jane Mayer on How to Kill a Bill
The investigative reporter recently received a recording of a meeting attended by conservative power brokers including Grover Norquist, representatives of PACs funded by Charles Koch, and an aide to Senator Mitch McConnell. The subject was the voting-rights bill H.R. 1, and the mood was anxious. The bill (which we a professor of tax law, uncovers how the seemingly race-neutral tax code compounds many inequalities in American life, and prevents Black people from building wealth. She talks with Sheelah Kolhatkar about her new book, “The Whiteness of Wealth.”