A selection of my radio & podcast stories
Geometry & Gerrymandering: Can Math Fix Politics?
A group of Boston-based mathematicians is on a mission to end gerrymandering, the practice of manipulating voting districts in order to give one political party an advantage over another. The math connection might not be obvious, until you consider the fact that gerrymandering has a lot to do with the shapes of voting districts – and therefore, with geometry. The Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (MGGG) was founded by a Tufts mathematician when she realized that her theoretical work had real-world applications. Now the MGGG is trying to engage the “mathematically-inclined” to help end unfair redistricting. August 8, 2017, NPR’s Here & Now, and August 4, 2017, WBUR’s Commonhealth Blog
How the Myaamia People Got their Language Back
Even the most endangered language has a few speakers left. But what happens when a language is no longer spoken? The last speaker of Myaamia died in the 1960s. The language had been spoken by the Myaamia people, Native Americans who originally lived in what is now Indiana. By the 1980s, everyone thought the language was gone – but it’s made an unlikely comeback. October 14, 2016, PRI’s The World in Words podcast, and PRI’s The World.
The Teacher’s an Israeli-Arab, the Students are American Jews, and the subject is Arabic
The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School of Greater Washington is one of several Jewish schools in the US that offer Arabic classes. It’s also my old high school. I visited my alma mater to talk with teacher Hani Abo Awad, an Arab from Israel’s Bedouin community, about what it’s like to teach Arabic at a Jewish school, and to ask the students what motivates them to learn Arabic.
July 15, 2016, PRI’s The World in Words podcast, and PRI’s The World.
Donald Trump’s Outer Hebridean Roots
Donald Trump has talked about immigration a lot, but he hasn’t talked much about his mother, who was an immigrant herself. Mary Anne MacLeod was born on the Isle of Lewis, the largest of Scotland’s Outer Hebridean islands. I’ve been to Lewis many times, but this time I’m here to explore something I’ve never really contemplated before: Donald J. Trump’s connection to this island. October 28, 2016, PRI’s The World
Roots 2.0: Using DNA to Trace My Ancestry
A vial of saliva, a DNA analysis — genealogy isn’t what it used to be. This is the story of how I used genetic testing to find out more about my family tree. Spit, scientists, and old recordings of my grandmother – this story has it all.
March 22, 2012 and December 25, 2012, PRI’s The World, and April 18, 2016 on PRI’s The World in Words podcast
Marianna Salzmann: Muttersprache Mameloschn
When Marianna Salzmann decided to write a play about the Jewish experience in the former East Germany, she was trying to work out some issues that she herself was grappling with. She wasn’t expecting the play to be popular, but Muttersprache Mameloschn was a hit with German audiences.
December 23, 2013, PRI’s The World
Seven Years and Nine Months
From Ireland’s RTÉ Radio, this documentary tells the story of Rachel and Daniel, an Irish couple who struggled with infertility for years before finally having a baby via a surrogate in Boston. It’s an honest look at what brought this couple to surrogacy, and an absorbing record of the twists and turns on their road to finally having a baby. Reported and produced by Mary-Elaine Tynan, with U.S. field reporting and recordings by Carol Zall. June 13, 2015, RTÉ Radio 1 Documentary On One.
The Larsson inheritance
Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson died before his “Millennium” trilogy – which featured “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” – became a worldwide publishing phenomenon. His books went on to earn millions of fans, and millions of dollars – a fortune disputed by Larsson’s partner, Eva Gabrielsson, and Larsson’s father and brother, who inherited Larsson’s money. Carol Zall reports on the latest chapter in the saga.
November 9, 2009, PRI’s The World
Remembering Scottish Gaelic Poet and Publisher Derick Thomson
Scottish poet Derick Thomson was one of the foremost Gaelic poets of his day. He also had a huge influence on Gaelic language and literature through “Gairm,” the Quarterly literary journal he co-founded in 1951. Carol Zall remembers him.
March 28, 2012, PRI’s The World
Faroe Islands’ Teitur Lets the Dog Drive Home
What’s it like to speak an “old Viking language” or to come from a little town in the middle of the ocean? Singer Teitur Lassen comes from the Faroe Islands, which are roughly equidistant between Iceland, Scotland and Norway. One of the songs on his latest CD is an ode to his hometown. “Torshavn is a little village,” he sings, “My lighthouse in the middle of the sea.” Carol Zall profiles the Faroese singer.
May 30, 2012, PRI’s The World
Carol Zall profiles Pakistani-British writer Nadeem Aslam. He was fourteen when he moved to England with his family. At the time he spoke no English, but he has since written three novels in his adopted tongue. Aslam says that although his work is deeply critical of injustices in Pakistani society today, his criticism is born out of love for his native land.
November 15, 2010, PRI’s The World.
Roots Redux: Using Crowdsourcing to Find Kashuki
Carol Zall talks with Lisa Mullins about how she tracked down her grandmother’s Belarussian hometown – with a little help from radio listeners who heard her Roots 2.0 story. Read more here.
April 19, 2012, PRI’s The World
Best-Selling Writer William Boyd Accepts Bond Mission
In recent years, Ian Fleming’s estate has commissioned new 007 novels, first by Sebastian Faulks in 2008 and then by Jeffrey Deaver in 2011. The latest writer to get the Bond assignment is best-selling British author, William Boyd. Carol Zall has the story.
April 12, 2012, PRI’s The World
Love, Politics, And New Music from Scottish Supergroup The Proclaimers
It’s been twenty-two years since The Proclaimers hit it big with their song “I’m Gonna Be” — better known as “500 Miles” — but as Carol Zall reports, Scottish identical twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid are still making music ten albums later.
May 20, 2010, PRI’s The World
Carol Zall Interviews The Proclaimers
May 20, 2010, PRI’s The World
Haggis: So Good, It’s Illegal
As Scotland celebrates the 251st birthday of national poet, Robert Burns – and as the U.S. contemplates lifting a ban on the importation of haggis, a dish made from the liver, lungs and heart of a sheep – Carol Zall gets the lowdown on a traditional “Burns Supper”.
January 25, 2010, PRI’s The World
Welsh Singer Fflur Dafydd’s Music Extends Beyond the Borders of Her “Small World”
You might not think “concept album” when you think of Welsh music, but singer Fflur Dafydd says that’s just what she wanted her new album, “Byd Bach” (“Small World”) to be. Carol Zall catches up with her to talk about her music.
March 2, 2010, PRI’s The World
Doctor Who Wears Tweed
Cue the scary “Doctor Who” music — Matt Smith is the latest actor to play the iconic “Doctor Who” character on British television. His choice of a Harris Tweed jacket for his incarnation of the Doctor has given the distinguished Scottish fabric an unexpected fashion boost. Carol Zall reports.
October 29, 2010, PRI’s The World.
The Woman Who Pushed A Piano Up A Mountain: Mhairi Hall
For Scottish musician Mhairi Hall, the music on her new album is about three things: It’s about traditional Scottish melodies, it’s about the piano and it’s about a place. Carol Zall reports.
September 6, 2010, PRI’s The World.
Holiday Reading Recommendations 2011
Carol Zall and Marco Werman discuss great book choices for the holiday season, suggested by editors and writers from around the world. Susan Glasser picks The Hare with Amber Eyes, Corby Kummer recommends The Food of Morocco, with more picks from Yiyun Li, John Freeman, Robert Kenner and others. December 15, 2011, PRI’s The World
‘Bookseller of Kabul’ author to pay damages
A court in Norway has ordered Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad to pay damages of about $40,000 to a member of an Afghan family she wrote about in her 2003 book “The Bookseller of Kabul.” The World’s Carol Zall reports. July 30, 2010, PRI’s The World
Carol Zall’s Kids’s Reading Picks for the Holidays – 2011
Carol Zall chooses top international children’s books for the holidays.
December 16, 2011, PRI’s The World
Personal Chemistry and the state of US–Israel Relations
Some say the poor state of relations between Israel and the U.S. is a matter of chemistry between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. But as Carol Zall reports, relations between the two countries come down to more than just chemistry between the two leaders.
July 6, 2010, PRI’s The World
Hobbit Rallies in New Zealand
New Zealandanders are pushing to make the country the filming location for the “Lord of the Rings” prequel, “The Hobbit.” Earlier plans to film in New Zealand were jeopardized after actors protested over working conditions. Carol Zall reports.
October 25, 2010, PRI’s The World.
Irish Band Lúnasa Rocks Trad Music With Bass and Guitar
Carol Zall catches up with members of the Irish band Lúnasa, a five-man band that focuses on instrumental arrangements of traditional tunes backed by the driving rhythms of double bass and guitar. April 14, 2010, PRI’s The World.
A Royal Affair
With worldwide attention on the upcoming nuptials of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton, Carol Zall ponders some of the OTHER royal families out there.
November 23, 2010, PRI’s The World.
Now Online: English and Welsh Wills
A searchable index to English and Welsh Wills for the period 1861-1941 is available online for the first time. The World’s Carol Zall reports.
August 11, 2010, PRI’s The World.
Slovakian Security Surprise
Carol Zall reports on what happens when Security officials at a Slovakian airport plant explosives in a passenger’s luggage without his knowledge as part of a security exercise — and the passenger gets through security and flies with the explosives to his destination.
January 6, 2010, PRI’s The World
The Battlefield Band at 40
Scotland’s “Battlefield Band” is a bit of an institution in the world of Scottish traditional music. The Batties, as they’re know to their fans, have been on the go since 1969; they take their name from the Battlefield suburb of Glasgow. As Carol Zall explains, they’re likely to be on the scene for quite some time to come.
March 4, 2009, PRI’s The World
Custer’s Last Stand
A damaged cavalry flag that was found on the battlefield at Little Bighorn has sold at auction for more than two million dollars. Carol Zall has the story.
December 10, 2010, PRI’s The World.
‘Tunnels’: The Next Harry Potter?
Since British author J.K. Rowling published the final book in the Harry Potter series, the search has been on for a new book to fill the void. Carol Zall meets the authors of “Tunnels,” another British children’s book that’s already being compared to Harry Potter.
February 21, 2008, PRI’s The World
Carol Zall reports on the friendly rivalry between Sweden and Norway over the Winter Olympics.
February 18, 2010, PRI’s The World
Ballads of the Book
Carol Zall reports on a Scottish project that set out to pair lyrics from well known novelists and poets with music by folk and pop bands. Collaborators included musicians Karine Polwart, Roddy Woomble, and the Trashcan Sinatras, and writers Edwin Morgan, A.L. Kennedy, Rody Gorman and Ali Smith. The result is a CD collection called “Ballads of the Book.”
October 1, 2007, PRI’s The World
Conference Seeks to Chart Afghan Future
A major international conference is taking place in Kabul. Amid concerns for security, representatives of more than sixty countries and international organizations will attend. Carol Zall reports on some of the challenges facing conference participants.
July 19, 2012, PRI’s The World
Alistair Cooke Remembered
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of British broadcaster Alistair Cooke. Most Americans probably know him for his many years as the erudite host of Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. But Cooke was known internationally for his long-running BBC radio series “Letter From America.” The weekly show ran for fifty-eight years. Carol Zall looks back on Cooke’s work and career.
November 20, 2008, PRI’s The World
Bagpipe Ban on the Royal Mile
What’s Scotland’s most famous street without bagpipes? Some on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile hope it will be a little quieter. They’ve been complaining about noise from bagpipe-playing street musicians. Now police have told the street pipers they have to stop, but not everyone is happy about the busking ban. Carol Zall has the story.
June 13, 2008, PRI’s The World
“Gaza Sderot” project highlights life on the border
An online project called “Gaza Sderot – Life in Spite of Everything” tracked people in Gaza and the southern Israeli town of Sderot for two months. Each day the project producers posted new two-minute videos showing a slice of life from each side of the border. Carol Zall has more.
December 30, 2008, PRI’s The World
‘The Eejits’: New Scots Translation of Roald Dahl’s ‘Twits’
Most people outside of Scotland are unfamiliar with the language known as “Scots” – but if you’ve ever heard of “Auld Lang Syne,” then you’ve heard some of the language. Carol Zall reports on a new Scots translation of the classic Roald Dahl story, “The Twits”.
December 28, 2006, PRI’s The World