NPR Staff

In his latest novel, Iraqi author Sinan Antoon gives readers a stark portrait of contemporary Iraq. Originally written in Arabic and translated into English by Antoon himself, The Corpse Washer was nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize this year.

The book's protagonist is a young man named Jawad, an aspiring artist from a family of traditional Shiite corpse washers and shrouders in Baghdad. Jawad breaks from the family business and attends art school, where he devotes himself to the celebration of life rather than the ritual surrounding death.

As part of a series called "My Big Break," All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

Long before Cesar Millan became the "Dog Whisperer," with TV shows and a best-selling series of books, he had to learn how to ask for a job in English.

Thirty years ago, the small town of Denmark, S.C., had one of the state's highest teen pregnancy rates.

"We had very young grandparents, grandparents were maybe [in their] 30s," says Michelle Nimmons, who has worked for the past 30 years on the issue of teen pregnancy. "Great-grandmamas were in their 40s, and parents were in their teens, so a lot of education had to happen."

The video uploaded to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell's YouTube channel on March 11 is no ordinary campaign ad:

Army Capt. Drew Pham, 26, returned from a tour in Afghanistan in October 2011. Since Drew's been back, it's been hard for him to make sense of what he saw there and adjust to his life at home. It's been difficult for his wife, Molly Pearl, to respond to some of the things he would tell her, too.

Pham called once to tell her he had shot a man. He says she didn't know what to say, so she replied, "Well, we'll deal with it when you get home."

Thirty-nine year old widower A.J. Fikry is an unlikely romantic hero: He's cranky, he drinks too much, his bookstore is failing and don't get him started on the state of publishing. He's also at the center of Gabrielle Zevin's new novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

Have you ever had a sentence stop you in your tracks? Editors at The American Scholar magazine have put out their list of the "Ten Best Sentences" in fiction and nonfiction. Associate editor Margaret Foster says the inspiration came from water cooler talk around the office.

"We're sometimes struck by a beautiful sentence or maybe a lousy sentence, and we'll just say, 'Hey, listen to this,' " she says.

Many colleges and universities use race as a factor in admissions, but the approach has been a hot-button issue for decades — even making its way to the Supreme Court several times since the late 1970s.

It's been said you can judge the quality of a civilization by the way it treats its prisoners. If that's true, California in 2011 was in poor condition, at least according to the Supreme Court.

As part of a series called "My Big Break," All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

Hari Kondabolu is an Indian-American comedian whose "Konda Bulletins" you might have seen on the FXX show Totally Biased.

Kondabolu's new comedy album is Waiting For 2042 — the year when white people will be the statistical minority in the United States. On the cover, Kondabolu stands proudly perched on a rickshaw, pulled by a white guy in a suit.

There's growing concern in Hollywood over film crews' safety, as crews feel mounting pressure to push their limits on set. The call for attention to the issue amplified after the death of 27-year-old Sarah Jones.

On Feb. 20, the camera assistant was killed in an accident on the set of the film Midnight Rider, a biopic about the musician Gregg Allman.

Editor's note: To hear our full interview with Jimmy Carter, tune into Weekend Edition on Sunday, March 23.

President Jimmy Carter has written more than two dozen books over the course of his career, about everything from the art of aging to how to achieve peace in the Middle East. All his writing is anchored by a deep-seated belief in the equality of all people.

Ask award-winning chef John Currence for a comfort food recipe, and you may hear him tell a story filled with a hefty share of discomfort. In his cookbook, Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey, he shares a simple, hearty soup that he's taken to calling "my purgatory on Earth — I love to hate it, and I hate to love it." For short, he calls it Punish Stew.

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