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Eduardo Montes-Bradley / Cover Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

James Madison was the fourth president of the United States, one of the founders of our country and author of the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Dr. Bettye Kearse grew up being told that he was her great-great-great-great-grandfather.

“Always remember, you’re a Madison,” her mother often told her.


Tony Pearce / Cover Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Author Sue Monk Kidd was raised in a conventionally Baptist family in Sylvester, Georgia. Her memoir, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, follows her turn from fundamentalism into sacred feminine traditions.

While best known for The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd has written three bestselling novels. Her newest novel, The Book of Longings, imagines the life of a first century woman named Ana, who becomes the wife of Jesus of Nazareth.


Bill Pierce / Cover Courtesy of Algonquin Books

“The Squad” gets a lot of media attention, but they are just one part of the record number of women elected to Congress in 2018. 

 

In fact, it was the most diverse freshman class ever elected: the first Muslim women representatives ever, the first Native women, the first two Latina members from Texas, two black women from New England, and the two youngest members ever elected to the House of Representatives. 

 

 


Courtsey of Wahida Clark Publishing

When Wahida Clark went to federal prison in 1999, she knew she needed some way to support her teenage daughters from behind bars. She never thought it would be writing that sustained her.

The Atlanta-based author has come to be known as the “queen of street-lit.” She’s published 15 novels, including four New York Times bestsellers. Clark now runs a company helping other inmates find their voices and publish their own books.


Courtesy of Yale University Press

Richard Hasen was worried about voting long before the Iowa caucuses — and before fears of coronavirus threatened to keep people away from primaries. 

As professor of election law at the University of California, Irvine, his concern is what undermines public trust in the fairness and accuracy of American elections. Hasen joined On Second Thought to discuss his new book, Election Meltdown, which digs into the factors that corrode public trust in elections. 

 

On May 10, 1940, Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium, and Winston Churchill was named Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He addressed the House of Commons three days later, saying, “We have nothing to give but blood and sweat and tears and toil.”

Six weeks later, France fell. In a broadcast to the nation, Churchill warned the British of a likely Nazi invasion. From early September to the following May, German planes pummeled London and other cities from the air, almost nightly. Landmarks were pulverized, and some 29,000 died in London alone.


Carol Chu

The Oscars nominations were announced this year with no women nominated for Best Director, the hashtag #OscarsSoMale began trending online. In the past 92 years, only five women have ever been nominated in the category.

For some, this outrage is nothing new. In a TED Talk that went viral, Atlanta-based actress, writer and producer Naomi McDougall Jones proposed that nothing short of a revolution would break the predominantly male hold on power in the film industry.


Emilia Brock/GPB

Millions of NPR listeners trust Steve Inskeep to help them make sense of the news. The Morning Edition anchor manages to sound simultaneously knowledgeable about the facts and curious about the human side of stories — attributes of an incisive interviewer and author.  

Inskeep’s third book, Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War, follows an ambitious couple through some decisive events in American history. On Second Thought host Virginia Prescott spoke with Inskeep about the book onstage at The Carter Presidential Library at an event for A Cappella books.


Dey Street Books

Marriage can be tricky. That’s why Joseph “Rev Run” and Justine Simmons wrote a book about their successful union.

The story begins in New York, where the couple met. That was at a Long Island roller skate rink in 1982. Joseph Simmons was then known as DJ Run — of the famed “new school” rap group, Run D.M.C.


Garden & Gun

"Southern women  ⁠— unlike women from Boston, Des Moines or Albuquerque , are leashed to history."  Editor Alison Glock wrote those words in a 2011 essay for Garden & Gun.

The piece, titled "Redefining the Southern Belle" got more responses than anything she'd written in her nearly 30-year career. Much was positive, some not, but all opening up further exploration of what a "Southern woman" meant then and now. 


John Paul Filo / CBS Broadcasting Inc

Mo Rocca follows the world of the living as correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning, panelist for Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, and host of The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation.

His other beat is the departed. He is host of the Mobituaries podcast, now in its second season. In it, Rocca tells stories of people and things that have passed through this earthly plain with too little notice, and uncovers little known facets of iconic figures who did get a lot of ink.


Abrams Press

On Tuesday, July 30, 1996, Richard Jewell was praised as a hero on NBC’s Today Show. The security guard hired for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta spotted a suspicious knapsack at Centennial Olympic Park, where tens of thousands of visitors gathered.

Two people died and 111 were injured when the bomb inside the knapsack exploded. Jewell’s vigilance and the evacuation that followed likely saved hundreds of lives. But less than 12 hours after chatting with Katie Couric, Jewell was being questioned by the FBI as the primary suspect in that bombing.


Heidi Ross

Singer-songwriter Allison Moorer has recently released her 11th album, along with a companion memoir. They are both called Blood.

They tell a story she's avoided talking about directly throughout her career. When Allison was 14 years old, her father killed her mother — and then himself — leaving Moorer and her sister, the singer Shelby Lynne, orphans.


Melissa Schmidt

Ava King is a newly divorced mother of a teenage son when she moves into her grandmother’s posh New Orleans home. Ava is the descendant of slaves, grandma Martha is about as WASP-y as they come, and their connected pasts are one of the plot twists in The Revisioners, a new novel by National Book Award finalist Margaret Wilkerson Sexton.

There is some magic in The Revisioners, but it’s less fantasy than testament to intergenerational bonds — in this case between Ava and her great-great-great grandmother, born enslaved on a Louisiana plantation.

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton joined On Second Thought to unpack her vision for The Revisioners, and her aim to look deeper at the power passed down through generations of African American families.


Ben Selkow

Anthony Bourdain was highly regarded as a chef, author, TV show host and world traveler who, for many, epitomized the essence of cool. He was seen as a stylish and sophisticated character with good taste and a subversive edge.

It has been about a year and a half since the famed food connoisseur died by suicide. His death was unexpected by many — from family and friends to his vast and devoted fanbase — and revealed a stark contrast to what many people perceived as the enviable lifestyle he led.


Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Laurel Snyder has made a career of picture books and middle-grade novels that don't shy away from the facts of life. Her newest novel, My Jasper June, follows Jasper and Leah as they embark on a summer of urban adventures and navigate the messy path between childhood fantasy and grown-up realities.


Leighton Rowell / GPB

Whether you go yellow or white, sweet or savory, grits are a Southern food staple now popping up on menus all over the country.

Food writer Erin Byers Murray goes deep in Grits: A Cultural and Culinary Journey Through the South, talking with growers, millers and chefs to understand the origins and evolution of grits. Along the way, she examines how race, gender and politics simmer in the significance of grits.


Vadim Ghirda / AP Images

Dacre Stoker tells On Second Thought "Dracula" derives from old folk tales and superstitions. For decades, Stoker has been piecing together clues about what moved his great grand-uncle, Bram Stoker to write Dracula.


AP

Atlanta-based author and primatologist Frans de Waal has observed animal behavior for 40 years. He's since challenged prevailing scientific notions of animals as stimulus response machines. His new book, Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions, details findings on jealousy and reconciliation.

La'Raven Taylor/GPB

You may have heard of Ruby Bridges or the "Little Rock Nine" walking through a gauntlet of jeering protestors as they made their way to school. Just a few states over in Georgia, Dr. Michael McBay was among less-photographed pioneers.

In 1967, McBay along with six other students were among the first African-American students to attend the Westminster Schools, an elite private school in Buckhead. McBay's younger brother, Ron, later enrolled at Westminster Schools in 1968. Shortly after, Vic Bolton enrolled in the institution.