The Nonfiction Podcast digs into the art and science of nonfiction writing. We look at one nonfiction article a week and break it down, talking with the writers about how they researched, reported, and put their stories together.
"His American Dream died. His town got over it" by Robert Samuels
In this episode, I talk with Robert Samuels about his story for the Washington Post: “His American Dream died. His town got over it.” The story explores what he found when he went to Granger, Indiana one year after a popular local restaurant owner was deported.
Robert Samuels is a national politics reporter for the Washington Post. His official bio says that he “focuses on the intersection of politics, policy, and people.” It also says that Robert “travels the country to chronicle how the vivacious political discussion in the nation's capital is impacting the lives of everyday Americans.” [Editor's note: that's possibly the best job description I've ever read]
Before working for the Post, Robert spent five years at the Miami Herald. He’s a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism and the former editor in chief of the school newspaper, The Daily Northwestern. (Go Cats!)
"This Is How They Saved Me" by Neda Semnani
“This is How They Saved Me” is writer Neda Semnani's narrative story about how she escaped Iran with her family in 1982, and how close they came to not making it at all. In this episode, I talk with Neda about the unique challenges of reporting her own family history and piecing together what really happened 36 years ago.
Neda Toloui-Semnani is a journalist and writer whose work has appeared in various online and print publications, including the Washington Post, New York, LA Review of Books, The Baffler, The Week, BuzzFeed, and Roll Call among others. Her work has also been featured in The Rumpus and This American Life.
Episode 19: "The Making of a Mexican-American Dream" by Sarah Menkedick
“The Making of a Mexican-American Dream” looks at how one young woman faces the challenges of assimilation, identity, and acceptance in modern American culture. In this episode, I talk with author Sarah Menkedick about her story and what it says about America in 2017.
Sarah Menkedick's writing has been featured in Harper's, Pacific Standard, Oxford American, Aeon, The Paris Review Daily, Guernica, Amazon's Kindle Singles, and elsewhere. She is the founder of Vela, an online magazine of nonfiction writing by women. Her first book, Homing Instincts, is forthcoming from Pantheon on May 2nd.
Episode 18: "How's Amanda" by Eli Saslow
I talk with Washington Post reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Eli Saslow about his story, “How’s Amanda,” which ran in July 2016. The story takes a close, personal look at a woman fighting to overcome drug addiction, and what that struggle means for her mother.
Eli Saslow writes for the Washington Post, where he covered the 2008 presidential campaign and has chronicled the president’s life inside the White House. He won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for his year-long series about food stamps in America. He has won multiple awards for news and feature writing.
Episode 17: "Truther Love" by Sabine Heinlein
In today’s show, I talk with Sabine Heinlein about her story, “Truther Love,” which appeared at Longreads.com in November 2016.
Sabine Heinlein is the author of the narrative nonfiction book Among Murderers: Life After Prison. Her work can be found in The New York Times, The Guardian, Psychology Today, Poets & Writers, Longreads, and many other publications. She has received a Pushcart Prize, a Margolis Award, a Sidney Gross Award for Investigative Reporting, and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell and the New York Foundation for the Arts.
"Truther Love” looks at the social lives of conspiracy theorists, also known as “truthers,” and how one new dating site is trying to bring them together.
For the article I mentioned in the interview about a Sandy Hook victim's father (but couldn't remember the name of the article or the author), it's here: "The Sandy Hook Hoax" by Reeves Wiedeman for New York Magazine, 9.5.2016. Another good read.
And yes, the truther dating site in the story is real. If you're curious about it, or just "awake" and looking for love, here you go.
Episode 16: "Telling JJ" by John Woodrow Cox
On this episode, I talk with John Woodrow Cox about his story, “Telling JJ,” which appeared in the Washington Post in September 2015. "Telling JJ” is the story of a 10-year-old girl who is about to learn that she has been HIV positive since birth. The story explores the critical juncture she has reached in life as she is about to learn the truth.
John Woodrow Cox is an reporter at the Washington Post. Prior to joining the Post, he worked at the Tampa Bay Times in Florida and at the Valley News in New Hampshire.
For a follow-up on JJ, one year later, check out John's follow-up story from August 2016:
Telling JJ: A year after learning she has HIV, an 11-year-old has a breakthrough
Customer ReviewsSee All
Should be required for every American who has lost faith in journalism.
I enjoy this podcast immensely
What a wonderful listen on important pieces to read that are fresh, interesting, and current. It is always a pleasure to listen to. Thanks Matt!
A thoughtful and well articulated interview with Ms. Harris. There are many key points that I'm still simmering on. As a mother I wonder how I would feel and if I could handle Christopher's medical mystery with as much grace as Ms. Harris. Also, as a teacher I wonder how and if many teachers would even have the appropriate space in their lexicon to even begin to understand. Thank you for this poweful story and interview.