All posts by Francesca Rheannon

About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca Rheannon is an award-winning independent radio producer. In addition to hosting Writer's Voice, she's a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and its affiliates. Recipient of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for reporting on substance abuse issues for her news series, VOICES OF HIV, produced for 88.5 WFCR public radio in western Massachusetts. She is also finishing a book on Provence (PROVINCE OF THE HEART) and working on a memoir of her father, THE ARGONAUTS.

Podcast

John Duberstein, THE BRIGHT HOUR by Nina Riggs & Joseph Luzzi, IN A DARK WOOD

We talk with John Duberstein about his late wife’s powerful and lyrical memoir, The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying. Nina Riggs died just shortly before the book was published from metastatic breast cancer, leaving her husband and two young children behind.

Then we play a clip from our interview in 2015 with Joseph Luzzi about his memoir, In A Dark Wood. After he lost his wife to a car accident, he was helped to heal from his grief by his study of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Continue reading

Book Excerpt

THE BRIGHT HOUR by Nina Riggs

Dispatch from the Dark

Speaking of the dark: It’s past midnight, and we’re lying in bed. “I just can’t wait for things to get back to normal,” says John from his side of the moon.

I’m not sure how to respond. I hadn’t realized how attached I have become to the idea that, even in all of this, we are moving ahead somehow, and that dealing with all this is something to value. I feel a sharpness in my throat, the slip of the sureness beneath me.

“I can’t handle you saying that,” I say after a silence, even though I know he isn’t trying to fight. “Thinking that way kind of invalidates my whole life right now. I have to love these days in the same way I love any other. There might not be a ‘normal’ from here on out.”

He’s not happy. I feel the cool bricks of an invisible wall settling into place between us. I turn away to face the window, a heavy orange haze filtering in through the trees. It’s not as dark out as it should be.

“I don’t believe you,” he says. “I don’t think you’re being honest.” It’s the tone I’ve heard him use when I’ve told him I think he’s being a shitty parent. Or that no matter what I’m probably never going to like watching hockey. Anger that morphs from hurt. “I really think you’re in some kind of whacked-out denial right now if you think these days are loveable.”

“These days are days,” I say, calm and furious. “We choose how we hold them. Good night.”

Around 4 a.m. I feel his hand on my back. “I’m so afraid I can’t breathe,” he whispers.

“I know,” I say, scootching a little toward him but still facing away. “So am I.”

Montaigne: “I learn to mistrust my steps everywhere, and I take care to control them.”

He also believes in lively shouting matches before meals and only “begetting children” before sleep. We are doing it all wrong.

[From The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs. Copyright © 2017 by Rinna Riggs. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.]

Podcast

Jean & David Stiles, BUILDING SMALL and Karen Flett, LIVING THE AIRSTREAM LIFE

We talk with the mavens of backyard building Jean and David Stiles about their new book, Building Small.

Then, the Airstream is the icon of travel trailers with a passionately devoted following. We talk all things Airstream with Karen Flett. Her book is Living the Airstream Life. Continue reading

Podcast

Leslie Sharpe, The Quarry Fox and David Gessner, Soaring With Fidel

Writer and naturalist Leslie Sharpe talks about her new book, The Quarry Fox and Other Tales of the Wild Catskills. Then we air part of my 2007 interview with David Gessner about his book, Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond. Continue reading

Podcast

Deborah Campbell, A DISAPPEARANCE IN DAMASCUS & Melissa Fleming, A HOPE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE SEA

As this show was being produced, the news came that the Supreme Court has upheld part of Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban — the part blocking new refugees coming from six majority-Muslim nations. The justices reversed rulings by a federal judge in Hawaii and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The ban will affect some 24,000 refugees seeking asylum, among them those fleeing war-torn Syria.

We focus today on the human cost of war. Journalist Deborah Campbell tells us about her book, A Disappearance in Damascus: Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War. Then, we re-air our interview earlier this year with Melissa Fleming about her book, A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival.

The books tell the stories of two refugees, one who fled Iraq into Syria and then had to flee Syria to the United States — long before Trump’s Muslim ban. The other story is about a Syrian refugee who barely survived the treacherous crossing from Turkey to Europe to resettled in the far more welcoming country of Sweden. Both stories are about the real cost of war — a cost few Americans ever get to see. Continue reading

Podcast

Marc Fasanella: RALPH FASANELLA, IMAGES OF OPTIMISM

We talk with Marc Fasanella about his father, painter and labor organizer Ralph Fasanella and the new book he wrote about him, Ralph Fasanella: Images of Optimism (with an introduction by Leslie Umberger). Then, we turn to Marc Fasanella’s own project, the Ecological Culture Initiative. Continue reading

Podcast

Wilmer Leon, POLITICS ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE & Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

WV talks with with political analyst, author and radio host Wilmer Leon about his collection of essays spanning part of the Bush era and both terms of the Obama administration, Politics Another Perspective: Commentary and Analysis on Race, War, Ethics and the American Political Landscape in the Age of Obama.

Also,  we air an edited version of our interview with investigative journalist Greg Palast about his book and movie, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. He says the GOP and its billionaire funders have been stealing the votes of millions of Americans. Continue reading

Podcast

John Tepper Marlin, TAKE UP THE SONG & Marge Piercy, SEX WARS

August 26 is Women’s Equality Day. It marks the anniversary of the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution granting women the right to vote. In this episode, WV features two women who were important to the fight for women’s suffrage but whose names are less known than those of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

We talk with John Tepper Marlin about his great aunt, suffragette Inez Milholland.  He’s the author of a play about  the women’s suffrage movement, Take Up The Song. Then we re-play our 2007 interview with writer Marge Piercy about her novel, Sex Wars.  It’s about another great figure of the first women’s equality movement, Victoria Woodhull — the first woman to run for president. Continue reading

Podcast

Cory Doctorow, WALKAWAY & Zach Roberts on De’Andre Harris Assault in Charlottesville

When disaster strikes, will we descend into dystopia — or cooperate? We talk with Cory Doctorow about his new work of speculative fiction, Walkaway (Macmillan). It’s an “optimistic disaster novel” about what motivates humans to do good in the face of civilizational crisis.

Then, De’Andre Harris was assaulted August 12 by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. We talk with videographer and photojournalist Zach Roberts about his witnessing of the assault. His image of the beating (above) went viral. Continue reading

Podcast

Alexandra Chasin, ASSASSIN OF YOUTH & Mason Tvert, MARIJUANA IS SAFER

With his threats to ramp up the war on drugs, is Attorney General Jeff Sessions channeling the spirit of the man who started us down this perilous path?

We speak with Alexandra Chasin about her biography/cultural-political critique of America’s first drug czar, Harry J. Anslinger, Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger’s War On Drugs. Then we re-air our 2010 interview with cannabis legalization advocate Mason Tvert about his book, Marijuana Is Safer. Continue reading

Podcast

Anthony Horowitz, MAGPIE MURDERS, Saving Net Neutrality & Summer Reading Picks

Anthony Horowitz talks about his latest novel, Magpie Murders and about writing great mystery fiction. Then, the Battle to Save Net Neutrality is gearing up. We reach back into our archives for some very prescient conversations about the threats to the open internet and what to do about them. We talk with Rebecca McKinnon, author of Consent of the Networked and with Josh Silver, formerly of Free Press. Then we give our picks for summer reading. Continue reading

Podcast

Protecting Ourselves From Tyranny: Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny & Ryan Alford, Permanent State of Emergency

We talk with historian Timothy Snyder about his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. The book is a kind of vaccine to inoculate us against acquiescing to authoritarianism.

Then, we talk with legal scholar Ryan Alford about his chilling study of how national security claims on the part of the executive branch have undermined the rule of law. His book is Permanent State of Emergency: The Demise of The Rule Of Law In The United States. Continue reading

Podcast

AMERICA & WORLD WAR ONE: Margaret Wagner & Richard Rubin

On the 103rd anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, we talk with two authors who have written books about the war. Margaret Wagner talks about her illustrated history, America and The Great War (Bloomsbury 2017). Then Richard Rubin tells us about his journey to visit the former battlefields of WWI, recounted in his book, Back Over There. Continue reading

Podcast

James Forman, Jr., LOCKING UP OUR OWN

Writer’s Voice spends the hour with James Forman, Jr., talking about his groundbreaking book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, April 2017). 

It’s a groundbreaking look at how black civil rights leaders and other leaders in the black community contributed to the phenomenon of mass incarceration out of the best of intentions: a fierce desire to protect their communities and the young people in them. Continue reading

Podcast

Thrity Umrigar, EVERYBODY’S SON & Marianne Lavelle, Carl Safina

Thrity Umrigar talks about her new novel, Everybody’s Son. It’s about the adoption of a poor black child by a powerful rich white family.

Then, we talk with climate journalist Marianne Lavelle about Trump’s Paris pullout and the Exxon shareholder revolt. Finally, we celebrate World Ocean Week with Carl Safina. Continue reading