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Terry Gross

Journalist Alex Wagner was 12 years old when a line cook in a diner asked her if she was adopted. Wagner was taken aback — her father's family came generations ago from Luxembourg, and her mother came to the U.S. from what was then Burma.

"It was the first time in my life that I realized [that] ... I conceived of myself as generically American, but not everybody else did," Wagner says. "To some Americans, there was no possible way I could naturally be the daughter of this white American; I had to be from someplace else."

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As CNN's chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper is often focused on breaking news and the latest political stories, but the host of The Lead and State of the Union switched things up a bit for his latest project.

Tapper's new novel, The Hellfire Club, takes place in 1954 Washington, D.C., during Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Communist "witch hunt." He says that although 64 years separate his characters from today's political players, many of the themes apply.

In Aug. 2017, many Americans were shocked to see neo-Nazis and members of the so called alt-right demonstrating in Charlottesville, Va. But author Kathleen Belew says the roots of the rally were actually decades in the making.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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Just who controls the Twitter handle @realDonaldTrump? If you guessed the president, journalist Robert Draper says you might be only partially correct.

Draper's recent New York Times Magazine article profiles White House social media director Dan Scavino — a man Draper estimates helps craft about half of the president's tweets.

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Former first lady Barbara Bush died Tuesday after a series of hospitalizations. She was the wife of former President George H.W. Bush and the mother of former President George W. Bush.

Born Barbara Pierce in New York City, Bush initially thought she'd grow up to become a nurse. "But then I met that marvelous George Bush and the nursing went out the window," she told Fresh Air in 1994.

It's been almost a year since since James Comey first learned that President Trump had fired him. The former FBI director was in Los Angeles visiting the field office for a diversity event when a ticker announcing his ouster scrolled across the bottom of a TV screen.

"I thought it was a scam," Comey says. "I went back to talking to the people who were gathered in front of me."

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross.

For many poor families in America, eviction is a real and ongoing threat. Sociologist Matthew Desmond estimates that 2.3 million evictions were filed in the U.S. in 2016 — a rate of four every minute.

"Eviction isn't just a condition of poverty; it's a cause of poverty," Desmond says. "Eviction is a direct cause of homelessness, but it also is a cause of residential instability, school instability [and] community instability."

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

In 2016, Brady Jandreau was thrown from a horse while riding in a rodeo. The horse stepped on the Lakota cowboy's head, crushing his skull.

Doctors told him that he wouldn't ride again — and he considered giving it up — but couldn't. "I knew what I had to do and I knew what I was going to do," Jandreau says. "The rest was up to faith and my connection with the animal."

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Four years ago, Eels founder Mark Oliver Everett decided to take a break. After 25 years of making music, he says, "I got to the point where if you do any one thing too much in your life, it catches up to you and makes it clear that you need to do something else."

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright describes herself as an "optimist who worries a lot." And lately, it seems, there has been much to worry about.

Albright's new book, Fascism: A Warning, starts by describing how Hitler and Mussolini came to power in the 20th century, then warns about today's authoritarian rulers in Eastern Europe, North Korea, Turkey and Russia.

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Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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When journalist Maya Dusenbery was in her 20s, she started experiencing progressive pain in her joints, which she learned was caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

As she began to research her own condition, Dusenbery realized how lucky she was to have been diagnosed relatively easily. Other women with similar symptoms, she says, "experienced very long diagnostic delays and felt ... that their symptoms were not taken seriously."

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Comic Roy Wood Jr. is now a correspondent for The Daily Show, but he got his start performing in comedy clubs in the South and Midwest — sometimes in places where he felt unsafe as a black man.

"I did a lot of shows in a lot of strange places," he says. "I've been called the n-word from the stage by somebody in the crowd and the club owner did nothing to defend me."

For years, religion scholar Bart Ehrman wanted to write a book about the early spread of Christianity, but he shied away from it because the topic seemed too big.

Eventually, Ehrman decided that the massive scope is what made the project so compelling: "The entire history of the West was transformed by the fact that Christianity took over the Roman Empire and then became the dominant religious and political and cultural force in our civilization," he says.

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