Terry Gross

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 interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gross, who has been host of Fresh Air since 1975, when it was broadcast only in greater Philadelphia, isn't afraid to ask tough questions. But Gross sets an atmosphere in which her guests volunteer the answers rather than surrendering 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," Gross says. "But the line can shift, depending on who is asking the questions. 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. The program is broadcast on 566 stations and became the first non-drive time show in public radio history to reach more than five million listeners each week in fall 2008, a presidential election season. In fall 2011, Fresh Air reached 4.4 million listeners a week.

Fresh Air with Terry Gross has received a number of awards, including the prestigious Peabody Award in 1994 for its "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insight." America Women in Radio and Television presented Gross with a Gracie Award in 1999 in the category of National Network Radio Personality. In 2003, she received the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Edward R. Murrow Award for her "outstanding contributions to public radio" and for advancing the "growth, quality and positive image of radio." In 2007, Gross received the Literarian Award. In 2011, she received the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community.

Gross is the author of All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists, published by Hyperion in 2004.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gross received a bachelor's degree in English and M.Ed. in communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Gross was recognized with the Columbia Journalism Award from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2008 and an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Princeton University in 2002. She received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993 and Doctor of Humane Letters in 2007, both from SUNY–Buffalo. She also received a Doctor of Letters from Haverford College in 1998 and Honorary Doctor of Letters from Drexel University in 1989.

During Donald Trump's campaign for president, there were times at his rallies when he singled out one reporter for criticism. Katy Tur, who covered the Trump campaign for NBC News and MSNBC, remembers those instances vividly.

Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, first responders rushed to ground zero in Manhattan, where they braved dangerous conditions to rescue people buried in the rubble, retrieve the remains of the dead and clear the debris. Among them was demolition supervisor John Feal.

Feal arrived at ground zero on Sept. 12; just five days later, he was seriously injured when an 8,000-pound piece of steel fell and crushed his foot.

You know that feeling when you envy someone because they're more successful, or you think they have a better life? That kind of jealousy can hit you in an almost physical way, even though you know better.

If John le Carré's espionage novels seem particularly authentic, it may be because the author has first-hand experience. Le Carré worked as a spy for the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6 early in his writing career, and only left the field after his third book, 1963's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, became an international best-seller.

Comedian, actor and director Jerry Lewis died Sunday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 91.

When comic and cabaret performer Bridget Everett takes the stage, she really takes over. Everett, who is 6 feet tall and plus size, has been known to sit in audience members' laps and even coddle their heads between her breasts during her raunchy live act. "Somebody used to call me a cabaret hurricane," she says.

In the event of a zombie attack, author Max Brooks will be ready. His books The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z are fictional manifestations of his own fears and anxieties — and his impulse to overcome them by preparing for the worst.

"The notion of learning how to survive when the old world rules no longer apply ... pretty much sums up everything I write about," Brooks says.

Growing up in southwestern Virginia in recent decades, poet Molly McCully Brown often passed by a state institution in Amherst County that was once known as the "Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded."

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Today, the typical American grocery store might devote an entire aisle to breakfast cereal, but that wasn't always the case. In fact, boxed cereals were an invention of the 20th century, designed and marketed by two brothers from Michigan.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg had first conceived of a healthy, plant-based breakfast in his capacity as the director of the Seventh-day Adventist sanitarium in Battle Creek, Mich. His younger brother, Will, was the business innovator, who figured out how to market John's creation.

Are human beings hard-wired to be perpetually dissatisfied? Author Robert Wright, who teaches about the interface of evolutionary biology and religion, thinks so.

Wright points out that evolution rewards people for seeking out pleasure rather than pain, which helps ensure that human beings are frequently unsatisfied: "We are condemned to always want things to be a little different, always want a little more," he says. "We're not designed by natural selection to be happy."

As a climate change activist, former Vice President Al Gore is used to speaking in front of both hostile and friendly audiences. But there is one individual he has all but given up on.

"I have no illusions about the possibility of changing Donald Trump's mind," Gore says. "I think he has made it abundantly clear that he's throwing his lot in with the climate deniers."

New Yorker staff writer Ariel Levy was five months pregnant when she went to Mongolia on assignment. Her doctor had cleared her for travel, and she was excited to pursue one last adventurous story before settling down with an infant.

But things didn't go as planned: Alone in her hotel room, Levy suffered a placental abruption; her baby boy lived for only 10 minutes. Afterward, Levy was haunted by the notion that she had caused her child's death:

"It's a terrible feeling ... that you made this life and failed to bring it through," she says.

It's a time-honored tradition for novelists to draw material from their own lives, and author Tom Perrotta is no exception. His 2004 book, Little Children, sprang from his experience as the parent of young kids. Three years later, he published The Abstinence Teacher, which was inspired, in part, by the junior-high and high-school sports his children played at the time.

Many comics struggle for years before making it big, but Jessica Williams' lucky break came early. She was just 22 and still in college when she landed a gig as a correspondent on The Daily Show in 2012.

Despite her early success, Williams says that her career before that wasn't always smooth sailing: "I am a 6-foot tall black woman and I have been since I was about 13 years old. ... As a comedian and improviser and somebody who did a lot of sketch and was an actress, I got tons of rejection early on."

It's hard to believe, but before the 1950s, guitars were rarely heard in British music. Billy Bragg says the first guitars to hit the British pop scene came as a part of skiffle, a musical movement inspired by African-American roots musicians.

In August 2016, three months before the presidential election, Republican nominee Donald Trump was behind in the polls. Instead of staying on message, the candidate was engaged in a politically damaging fight with the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq.

It sounds like something dreamed up by a team of romantic comedy writers: A Pakistani-American comic falls in love with an American graduate student, but because of cultural pressures from his family, he is forced to keep the relationship a secret. It is only when she becomes mysteriously ill and is put into a medically induced coma that he decides to tell his family about the woman he loves.

That is the plot of the new film The Big Sick, but it is also the story of how the film's co-writers, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, met and fell in love in real life.

In 2013, acclaimed ballerina Wendy Whelan underwent reconstructive surgery that left her hobbled, both physically and emotionally. For Whelan, it wasn't just her career with the New York City Ballet that was at stake; it was also her artistic voice.

Growing up in New England as a first-generation Pakistani-American, Haroon Moghul was taught that practicing his Islamic faith would make life his better. What he didn't anticipate was how challenging it could be to be Muslim in America.

In 2001, Moghul was the student leader of New York University's Islamic Center when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. Shortly thereafter, he was called upon to be a spokesperson for the Muslim community in New York — a role he describes as both a "civic responsibility" and a "tremendous burden."

Several years ago, when Garrett Graff was working at Washingtonian magazine, a coworker brought him a lost ID badge that he'd found on the floor of a parking garage.

"It was a government ID for someone from the intelligence community, and he gave it to me since I write about that subject, and he's like, "I figure you can get this back to this guy,' " Graff recalls.

On his first day in the seventh grade, Sherman Alexie opened up his school-assigned math book and found his mother's maiden name written in it. "I was looking at a 30-year-old math book," he says — and that was the moment he knew that he needed to leave his home.

Roxane Gay has finally written the book that she "wanted to write the least."

The author of Bad Feminist and Difficult Women says the moment she realized that she would "never want to write about fatness" was the same moment she knew this was the book she needed to write. The result is Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has figured something out: "I learned how to become one of the most popular politicians in America," he says. "Announce that you are not running for president, and be authentic."

Biden shared that secret with Fresh Air on Tuesday in front of a live audience at WHYY studios in Philadelphia, where he received WHYY's Lifelong Learning Award for his distinguished career in public service and commitment to education.

When it comes to comedy, Late Night host Seth Meyers is clear about what drew him in: "I got into it because it looked like the most fun job in the world," he says. "And it has not led me astray."

Indeed, Meyers' resume is packed with fun. Before taking over the reins at Late Night, he spent 13 years at Saturday Night Live, first as a performer, then as head writer and the co-host, alongside Amy Poehler, of the show's "Weekend Update" segment.

Manal al-Sharif's path to activism began simply enough: In 2011, the Saudi woman filmed herself driving a car, then uploaded the video to YouTube. Ordinarily such a video might not get much notice, but because it's not socially acceptable for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, where there is a de facto ban, Sharif's video went viral.

In the annals of TV villains, actor Giancarlo Esposito's Breaking Bad character, Gus Fring, stands out. Gus was an upstanding, impeccably dressed, New Mexico businessman who spoke with an elegant Chilean accent — and also happened to be a vicious drug lord.

Esposito describes the character as resembling "someone who may live next door, who is successful and very caring, but who is also ruthless."

Conservation photographer Paul Nicklen has spent more than two decades documenting the ice and wildlife in some of the most inhospitable places on Earth — the Arctic and the Antarctic.

Humorist David Sedaris admits that his latest work, Theft by Finding, isn't exactly the book he set out to publish. It was originally meant to be a collection of funny diary entries, but then Sedaris' editor had a suggestion that changed its course.

"My editor said, 'Why don't you go back to the very beginning and find things that aren't necessarily funny and put those in as well?' " Sedaris says. "Soon those [entries] outweighed the funny ones, and the funny ones seemed almost over-produced, so I got rid of a lot of them."

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