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Books Unbound

Un-silencing voices of writers who embody the courage of free expression.

Books Unbound – The Edge of Christmas, Second Christmas: Classic Stories for the Season

Stories for the season from Langston Hughes, Willa Cather, and William S. Burroughs highlight themes of redemption and disillusion. “One Christmas Eve,” by the great Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes, is a sharply poignant story about a small boy’s first realization that the secular deity Santa Claus is for white people. The story, which first appeared in Hughes’ 1934 collection …

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Books Unbound – The Edge of Christmas, Part One: Classic Stories for the Season

Christmas is the setting as sly women turn the tables on their menfolk in a pair of overlooked short stories from the classic era of magazine fiction. “The Christmas Present” (1922) by Richmal Crompton, read by Katy Ratcliff, is a brief and humorous tale about a secret of self-preservation passed down by the women of a family through generations. Crompton …

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Books Unbound – The Wild Pigeon: Rejection of a Caged Life

Uyghur writer Nurmuhemmet Yasin’s poignant beast fable led to his imprisonment by the Chinese government on charges of inciting separatism. The tale can be read as a political or environmental allegory, and values freedom and spirituality over domination and exploitation. The author has remained in prison since the story’s publication ten years ago: 2015 was to have been the year …

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Books Unbound – Bad Girls Like Nice Shoes: Fairy Tales and Ballerinas for Nutcracker season

Contemporary women poets reimagine fairy tales and the cultural icon of the ballerina—especially of the black swan school—along with two unsettling stories from Hans Christian Andersen, “The Red Shoes” (read by Renee Reed) and “The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf” (Jack Hanek). Berklea Going reads three poems: “Obedience, or The Lying Tale” by Jennifer Chang, from her debut collection …

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Books Unbound – A Piece of Earth Is My Birthright: Writings from Native American Women for Thanksgiving

The Yankton Sioux writer Zitkala-Sa attended Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, in the 1890s. “Zitkala-Sa” (“Red Bird”) was the name she gave herself when she began her writing career in English: her birth name was Gertrude Simmons, and she often appears in literary histories under her married name of Gertrude Bonnin. “A piece of earth is my birthright” is a …

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Books Unbound – Killing Voltaire, November 13 Edition: An Observance for Charlie Hebdo (Audio Updated)

In response to the November 13 attacks in Paris, Books Unbound revisits an episode originally created in the wake of the January 7 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. (Note to WFHB broadcast listeners: The encore presentation of Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, previously announced for this date, has been postponed.) Classic and contemporary free-speech quotations from the Voice of …

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Books Unbound – The Massacre of Yangzhou

The protagonist of “The Massacre of Yangzhou” is the southern Chinese city of Yangzhou, a rich and beautiful center of the failing Ming Dynasty as it succumbed to the rising Qing Dynasty. The episode is based on “‘Horrid Beyond Description’: The Massacre of Yangzhou”, from the book Voices from the Ming-Qing Cataclysm: China in Tigers’ Jaws by Lynn Struve. Struve …

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Books Unbound – American Girls Horror Stories, Conclusion: Fall to Pieces

“Berenice” by Edgar Allan Poe is the featured story for the Halloween finale of “American Girls Horror Stories.” One of Poe’s lesser-known tales, “Berenice” so shocked its first readers in 1835 that in subsequent printings for the rest of the author’s life four paragraphs were censored. The bookish narrator prefers an intellectual fantasy world, but becomes obsessed with the enduring …

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Books Unbound – American Girls Horror Stories, Part Four: Body and Soul

Male fears of female domination form one of the strands of horror in “The Thing on the Doorstep” by H.P. Lovecraft, with marriage both transforming and threatening individual identity. Now recognized as a master of the genre, Lovecraft died in poverty after publishing his short fiction mainly in pulp magazines. His expressions of horror are often driven by the darkness …

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Books Unbound – American Girls Horror Stories, Part Three: Beast

A hallucinatory, apocalyptic fervor pervades the 1860 short story “Circumstance” by Harriet Prescott Spofford, about a woman held all night by a mysterious beast called the “Indian Devil”. A cacophony of hymns, supernatural ballad, and traditional folk music lies at the heart of this story, as the woman sings, like Scheherazade weaving tales, to pacify her captor and prolong her …

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