WYSO

Terry Gross

Host, Fresh Air

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air's interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by host and executive producer Terry Gross' unique approach. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says The San Francisco Chronicle.

Gross isn't afraid to ask tough questions, but she sets an atmosphere in which her guests volunteer the answers rather than surrender them. What often puts those guests at ease is Gross' understanding of their work. "Anyone who agrees to be interviewed must decide where to draw the line between what is public and what is private. But the line can shift, depending on who is asking the questions," observes Gross. "What puts someone on guard isn't necessarily the fear of being 'found out.' It sometimes is just the fear of being misunderstood."

Gross began her radio career in 1973 at public radio station WBFO in Buffalo, New York. There she hosted and produced several arts, women's and public affairs programs, including This Is Radio, a live, three-hour magazine program that aired daily. Two years later, she joined the staff of WHYY-FM in Philadelphia as producer and host of Fresh Air, then a local, daily interview and music program. In 1985, WHYY-FM launched a weekly half-hour edition of Fresh Air with Terry Gross, which was distributed nationally by NPR. Since 1987, a daily, one-hour national edition of Fresh Air has been produced by WHYY-FM; it now airs on more than 450 stations. Compilation CDs of Fresh Air are available in the NPR Shop.

Gross's book All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists was published by Hyperion in 2004.

In addition to her work on Fresh Air, Gross has served as guest host for the weekday and weekend editions of NPR's All Things Considered. Her appearances include a spot as co-anchor of the PBS show, The Great Comet Crash, produced by WHYY-TV, a short series of interviews for WGBH-TV/Boston, and an appearance as guest-host for CBS Nightwatch.

In 1994, Fresh Air received a Peabody Award, which cited Gross for her "probing questions and unusual insights." In 1999, America Women in Radio and Television gave Gross a Gracie Award in the category of National Network Radio Personality. In 2003, Gross received the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, for advancing the "growth, quality and positive image of radio." She has received honorary degrees from Princeton University, Haverford College and Drexel University. She received a bachelor's degree in English and an M. ED. in Communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her alma mater awarded her an honorary degree in 2007 and a 1993 Distinguished Alumni Award. Gross was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.

As the American-born child of parents who emigrated from India, comic Hasan Minhaj often feels a little out of place. "I exist in this hyphen," he says. "I'm an Indian-American-Muslim kid, but am I more Indian or am I more American? What part of my identity am I?"

Susan Burton knows just how hard it is to get back on track after being released from prison. It's an experience she lived through six times, once for each of the prison terms she served.

"One of the things about incarceration is that you're deprived. You lose all of your identity and then its given back one day and you're ill-equipped to actually embrace it and work it," Burton says. "Each time I left prison I left with the resolve to get my life together, to get a job, to get back on track. And each time the task became more and more and more daunting."

Rhiannon Giddens' new solo album, Freedom Highway, is an exploration of African-American experiences, accompanied by an instrument with its own uniquely African-American story: the banjo.

Growing up, Jill Soloway had a hard time relating to women as they were portrayed on TV. Soloway would watch The Love Boat or Fantasy Island and feel uncomfortable with the version of femininity the shows put forth.

"In fact, all the way up through watching Sex and the City, I would feel incredibly upset by what I thought was an expectation of me," Soloway says. "[It] was, 'You should really love cute shoes,' and, 'Because you're a woman, you're going to go crazy for a particular dress.' "

Growing up in Brooklyn with a mother from the South and father from Senegal, Gabourey Sidibe spent much of her youth feeling anxious. She was mocked for being part-African and for being overweight, and she worried she would never find her true calling.

As a young woman, Sidibe struggled to find work and ultimately took a job as a phone sex operator where the rule of business was to sound "100 percent white." Then, when she was 24, she auditioned for the role that would change her life.

In 1933, faced with a housing shortage, the federal government began a program explicitly designed to increase — and segregate — America's housing stock. Author Richard Rothstein says the housing programs begun under the New Deal were tantamount to a "state-sponsored system of segregation."

The government's efforts were "primarily designed to provide housing to white, middle-class, lower-middle-class families," he says. African-Americans and other people of color were left out of the new suburban communities — and pushed instead into urban housing projects.

Comic W. Kamau Bell has spent much of his life feeling awkward. A self-described "tall, rangy black dude," Bell was often mistaken for a basketball player growing up — except that serious asthma and allergies meant he spent the bulk of his childhood indoors watching TV.

He says, "There was this weird sense of guilt about the fact that I wasn't using the physical shell that God had given me, and that I wasn't taking advantage of my physical gifts."

When mentally ill inmates in New York City's Rikers Island jail become too sick, violent, delusional or suicidal for the jail to handle, they're sent to Bellevue Hospital Prison Ward for treatment.

The inmates in Bellevue are awaiting trial for a variety of offenses, ranging from sleeping on the subway to murder. But for Dr. Elizabeth Ford, a psychiatrist who treats them, the charges against her patients are secondary.

As the first American president to be elected with no prior political or military experience, Donald Trump has had to adapt quickly to the responsibilities of public office.

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