NPR Staff

When the school year ends, some kids go to camp, summer school or daycare. But a lot of these options are expensive for families who have to come up with creative, cheaper alternatives, whether that means sending kids off to the city's rec center, or to stay with grandparents.

NPR's Lynn Neary spoke about the economic hardships of summer with KJ Dell'Antonia, who's written about the topic for The New York Times.

Cynthia Ozick is revered by those who love literature. She's written novels, but also short stories and essays. Her fiction has been nominated for various awards and she's received high praise from critics as well as her fellow writers.

But you won't find her on best-seller lists. Ozick seeks neither fame nor fortune from her writing. For Ozick, she feels it a necessity to write. "I can't not," she says.

Here's a different kind of thriller, of the sort often called "literary": Susie Steiner's Missing, Presumed follows British detective inspector Manon Bradshaw as she investigates the disappearance of Edith Hind, a university student from a well-off family.

For Jason Aaron Baca, a model from Los Gatos, Calif., his inspiration for romance cover modeling came randomly.

It sparked when he walked into a bookstore simply looking for something to read. There he saw a romance book cover.

"I said, 'You know what? This is something that I can actually do. This is something that, you know, it's going to take a lot of work to get a body like those guys on the cover," he tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "At that moment right there I kind of realized that this is something I am definitely going to go after."

If you've stepped foot in a comic book store in the past few years, you'll have noticed a distinct shift. Superheroes, once almost entirely white men, have become more diverse.

There's been a biracial Spider-Man, a Muslim Ms. Marvel, and just last week, Marvel announced that the new Iron Man will be a teenage African-American girl.

Joining this lineup today is Kong Kenan, a Chinese boy who, as part of a reboot of the DC comics universe, is one of four characters taking up Superman's mantle.

Journalist Gay Talese has never shied away from controversial topics. He took on the mafia in Honor Thy Father and dove deep into America's sex life in Thy Neighbor's Wife. But even Talese paused when he first heard about the Manor House Motel in Aurora Colo., back in 1980. Innkeeper Gerald Foos had outfitted his motel with a special platform which allowed him to spy on his guests — and he invited Talese to take a peek as well. Talese, a man of seemigly insatiable curiosity, did just that. But Foos demanded anonymity, so Talese decided not to write about the experience.

Hisham Matar spent his childhood in Libya. But then his father became a dissident, working against Libyan dictator, Moammar Ghadhafi.

The family eventually left Libya for Cairo. But even in exile, Ghadafi's men could find you. "If you said the wrong thing about someone in company that you weren't sure of, people could disappear," he tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. "So the sense that there was a ghost in every gathering, you know a potential transporter of what is being said, is something that all dictatorships instill in their people."

Maxwell does things on his own schedule. The 43-year-old R&B singer just celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, which helped inaugurate the neo-soul movement. Now, he's releasing his fifth studio album, blackSUMMERS'night.

"The middle class is disappearing" has been a standard line during this election cycle. As it turns out, it's not wrong.

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