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Books Unbound

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

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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Books Unbound – “American Girls Horror Stories, Part Two: The Host”


A cultural horror of women’s bodies is the theme of the second episode of “American Girls Horror Stories,” juxtaposing two 19th-century American ghost stories and contemporary poems on birth, female rites of passage, mother and child relations, anorexia and suicide. The title alludes to a remark made by a Virginia state senator in 2014 in a debate over reproductive privacy …

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Books Unbound – American Girls Horror Stories: ‘Darkwater’ by W.E.B. Du Bois

A month of sci-fi, fantasy, gothic, and horror begins with two stories from W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1920 collection Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil. Du Bois (1868–1963) is one of the outstanding figures of American literature in the first half of the 20th century, and a prominent voice on African American issues. Du Bois was also an advocate for feminism, …

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Books Unbound – Elizabeth Stoddard and the 1860s, Conclusion: ‘Two Men,’ Chapters 33-38

Marking the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, Books Unbound’s summer series “Elizabeth Stoddard and the 1860s” concludes with the final chapters of the novel Two Men. Writing during the war, Elizabeth Stoddard (1823–1902) set her novel in the antebellum period—probably the 1840s—and published it a few weeks after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Throughout, Stoddard has …

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Books Unbound – Elizabeth Stoddard and the 1860s, Part Twelve: ‘Two Men,’ Chapters 29-32

The Civil War-era novel Two Men by Elizabeth Stoddard (1823–1902) heads into its final chapters. Spoiled by what we now label “white male privilege,” the heir to a Mayflower family fortune loses his prestige after an interracial love affair turns to tragedy. Following the death of the matriarch, his departure threatens the continuation of the family dynasty. Stoddard’s solution to …

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