NPR Staff

For decades, the story of Hannah Reynolds' death read like a tragedy of historical circumstance.

In 1865, Reynolds was a slave in the household of Samuel Coleman in the Virginia village of Appomattox Court House. And as Union and Confederate troops fought the Battle of Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, a cannonball tore through the Coleman house.

The Coleman family had left the day before, but Reynolds had stayed behind. The cannonball struck her in the arm and, it was thought, she died that same day, as the battle's only civilian casualty.

It's 1963 Cuba and a woman named Maria Sirena is taking shelter from a hurricane inside the former governor's mansion, along with a small group of other Cuban women. Maria distracts the women at their request by recounting stories of her childhood — personal stories that trace the history of Cuba's long fight for independence.

That's the premise of Chantel Acevedo's latest novel, The Distant Marvels. Acevedo, herself the daughter of Cuban immigrants, tells NPR's Rachel Martin that she intentionally made Maria part of a unique generation in Cuba.

When English journalist Graham Holliday got tired of his office job in the U.K., he knew he wanted a change — a big one.

So he packed up and moved to Asia, first to Korea to teach English and ultimately, to the place that would be his home for nine years: Vietnam. As soon as he arrived, he was determined to immerse himself in Vietnamese culture — and for him, that meant food.

Businessman Mokhtar Alkhanshali was used to the complications of traveling to Yemen. He'd been traveling there and back for years; sometimes the American Embassy would close for a few days amid turmoil, but it always opened back up.

But on March 27, the situation changed dramatically. "Overnight, the country went to war," he says.

The Yemeni-American coffee importer had been in Sana'a, Yemen's capital, on business when the city was rocked by explosions. He stepped outside at 2 a.m. to find anti-aircraft guns lighting up the night sky.

Action, espionage and secrets fill the new NBC show American Odyssey.

But Peter Horton, the show's co-creator and executive producer, says it's easiest to describe the show by saying what it's not. "It's not a police show, it's not an FBI show, it's not a CIA show," he tell's NPR's Arun Rath. "It's a modern-day thriller told in three story bubbles, basically, about three very ordinary people."

The Captain, a Communist sympathizer who's risen through the ranks of the South Vietnamese Army, has a confession:

I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides.

So begins Viet Thanh Nguyen's new novel, The Sympathizer.

Jazz pianist and composer Myra Melford's latest album is a suite of music inspired by the Memory Of Fire trilogy — a three-volume history of the Americas by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano.

More simply, it's the recorded debut of what she calls a "killer band."

In an interview with NPR's Arun Rath, she explains the genesis of Snowy Egret — the name of both her new album and the group behind it.

There's not a whole lot to do in prison, so inmates spend a fair amount of time playing cards.

For several years, law enforcement officials around the country have been putting that prisoners' pastime to good use. They've been putting facts and photos from unsolved crimes in front of prisoners' eyes by printing them on decks of cards, hoping to generate leads.

Even if you don't know Kate Mulgrew's name, you know her work. She currently plays Red, the formidable prison kitchen manager in the series Orange Is the New Black. And for seven seasons she was Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager.

"Nothing could be more challenging, more arduous, or more rewarding than that part on that series," Mulgrew tells NPR's Tamara Keith, referring to the role of Janeway.

It's an overcast morning outside President Lincoln's Cottage, a national historic site in Washington, D.C., and Erin Carlson Mast is struggling to open a pair of huge, historic wooden pocket doors.

"When we began the restoration these had been closed for over 100 years," Carlson Mast, the site's executive director, tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.

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