A Life-Changing Phone Call and More: The Week in Reporter Reads
Five articles from around The Times, narrated just for you.
This weekend, listen to a collection of articles from around The New York Times, read aloud by the reporters who wrote them.
‘Hi, This Is Oprah Winfrey. I Read Your Novel and Loved It So Much.’
Written and narrated by Elisabeth Egan
Ann Napolitano toiled in obscurity for years. Novels went unpublished; agents turned her down. She found recognition with “Dear Edward.” Then came the call from Oprah Winfrey: “Hello Beautiful” was the 100th pick for what is arguably the most influential book club in the world.
Oprah’s Book Club is the O.G. reading group, a trusty launching pad to the best-seller list and a sourdough starter for dozens of iterations, celebrity sponsored and otherwise. Its machinations are still shrouded in mystery. Boxes of anointed books arrive at stores the day before a title’s publication date, to reduce the risk that customers will catch a glimpse of the club’s signature seal on a cover. Authors, agents and publishers are asked to sign nondisclosure agreements.
Napolitano was taking the trash out when she received the phone call. She was so afraid of losing the connection that she stood stock-still in the tiny vestibule of her Park Slope apartment building, clutching her bag of trash, for the duration of the 27-minute call.
So how did “Hello Beautiful” land on Winfrey’s radar? And what was it like for Napolitano to get the nod? The short answers are simple and obvious (It’s a great book! She was thrilled!), but the expanded versions prove the equalizing power of a good story.
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Which Stores Are Scanning Your Face? No One Knows.
Written and narrated by Kashmir Hill
When Kashmir Hill spent $171.59 to see the Rangers play the Canucks at Madison Square Garden in February, she had no plans to watch the hockey game. Rather, she wanted to find out whether her guest, Tia Garcia, a personal injury lawyer, could get into the building. After being identified by facial recognition technology while waiting in line, Ms. Garcia, who is one of thousands of lawyers on a ban list because their firms are involved in litigation against the arena’s parent company, was denied entry.
When New York City Council convened a hearing last month to discuss how Madison Square Garden and other local businesses were using the technology, there were lots of questions to be asked. Who is using it? Who are the people they’re trying to keep out of their businesses? What do they do when the technology gets it wrong and flags a look-alike? No one at the hearing knew which other businesses were using the technology.
Ms. Hill decided to find out. Follow along as she spends four hours and 14,000 steps around New York City trying to spot signs informing customers that facial recognition software is being used, as has only recently been required by law in New York City.
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Highest Heating Costs in Years Strain Many in New England
Written and narrated by Jenna Russell
As early March battered western Maine with a pair of back-to-back snowstorms, and the heating oil in her basement tank dwindled, Casie Blodgett wondered again how she would find the $1,000 to fill the 250-gallon tank.
“It’s overwhelming, and it feels hopeless, too,” Ms. Blodgett, 35, said. “It feels like I’m failing as a mother, because I’m doing everything I can, and I’m falling short.”
Across New England, where more households rely on oil for heat than anywhere else in the nation and cold weather can persist well into April, families with fixed or limited incomes have been hit with exceptionally high heating bills this winter.
Even in a winter far from the coldest on record, oil-dependent New England has faced a perfect storm of challenges, said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, a policy group in Washington. The price of home heating oil has nearly doubled in two years, driven by a slew of supply-sapping factors including the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, as well as reduced refinery capacity linked to pandemic closures and deferred maintenance. At the same time, economic disruptions at home — surging inflation and the end of the expanded pandemic child tax credit — depleted household resources.
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Her Doctor Said Her Illness Was All in Her Head. This Scientist Was Determined to Find the Truth.
Written and narrated by Alice Callahan
When Dr. Marlena Fejzo was 31, she endured the worst ordeal of her life. A little nausea and vomiting in pregnancy were normal, she knew. But she experienced weeks of debilitating illness when she was pregnant with her son, and when expecting her second child, Dr. Fejzo was so ill that she couldn’t move without vomiting. It turned out that she suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, a rare complication affecting about 2 percent of pregnancies.
“Every living moment was torture,” she said.
Yet despite the gravity of hyperemesis, as it’s colloquially called, doctors are often slow to treat it. Sometimes, they dismiss it as a temporary discomfort, or even a psychological disorder.
As Dr. Fejzo, now 55, regained her strength, she made two life-altering decisions. First, she said, she wouldn’t try another pregnancy; her twin daughters would later be born with the help of a surrogate. Second, she was determined to find the cause of hyperemesis.
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UPenn Accuses a Law Professor of Racist Statements. Should She Be Fired?
Written and narrated by Vimal Patel
Amy Wax, a tenured law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has said publicly that “on average, Blacks have lower cognitive ability than whites,” that the country is “better off with fewer Asians” as long as they tend to vote for Democrats and that non-Western people feel a “tremendous amount of resentment and shame.”
Professor Wax has denied saying anything belittling or racist to students, and her supporters see her as a truth teller about affirmative action, immigration and race. They agree with her argument that she is the target of censorship and “wokeism” because of her conservative views. After long resisting the call of students, the dean of the law school, Theodore W. Ruger, has taken a rare step: He has filed a complaint and requested a faculty hearing to consider imposing a “major sanction” on the professor.
His about-face prompted protests from free speech groups, which cited one of tenure’s key tenets — the right of academics to speak freely, without fear of punishment, whether in public or in the classroom.
All of which poses a conundrum for the University of Pennsylvania: Should it fire Amy Wax?
The Times’s narrated articles are made by Tally Abecassis, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Aaron Esposito, Dan Farrell, Elena Hecht, Adrienne Hurst, Emma Kehlbeck, Tanya Pérez, Krish Seenivasan, Kate Winslett, John Woo and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Ryan Wegner, Julia Simon and Desiree Ibekwe.