The new British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her cabinet today.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


'The Moonstone' Is A Hidden Gem Of A Detective Novel

Aug 4, 2013

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's latest book is Oleander Girl.

I was about 12 when I first encountered The Moonstone — or a Classics Illustrated version of it — digging through an old trunk in my grandfather's house on a rainy Bengali afternoon. I loved the Classics Illustrated series (the graphic novels of my youth that simplified famous novels for children), presenting us with swashbuckling plotlines, and heroes and villains that were unmistakably, unashamedly, what they were supposed to be.

The Moonstone was all I could have hoped for. A mysterious, cursed jewel, wrested from India, only to be stolen later from a great British mansion. Enigmatic, dangerous priests who follow it across the ocean in hopes of wresting it back. A young, beautiful, rich and courageous heroine (who in my mind looked very like me). Deaths. Disappearances. Romance. Bungling policemen. A smart butler. And enough twists and turns to keep a reader on tenterhooks until a highly satisfying ending is delivered. I devoured it in a day, and thought back on it with pleasure over the years.

So when I came across a copy of The Moonstone recently in a used bookstore, I picked it up at once — but surreptitiously. As a student of post-colonialism, I knew Wilkie Collins' portrayal of an exotic India (temples, turbaned priests, curses, magical jewels) was suspect. As a teacher of creative writing, I was dismissive of books that hinged upon plot. As a reader I was afraid that I would be disappointed this time around, that the magician's amazing powers might turn out to be a scarf hidden in a sleeve. And I knew the punch line — the criminal's identity — already.

But I was surprised and delighted to discover a whole new set of pleasures in The Moonstone. As a writer, I was struck by how masterfully Collins pulls together the different strands of a complicated plot. T.S. Eliot called The Moonstone "the first, the longest, and the best of the modern English detective novel." I could see why. Reading the book was a little like seeing the Wright brothers maneuvering their first aircraft, except there was no awkward bucking, no crashes.

Many conventions of the detective novel that we take for granted — a mysterious crime that is systematically unraveled through a process of inquiry, a detective with unusual powers of analysis, the surprise when the criminal turns out to be someone unexpected — are being used by Collins for the first time.

The plot with its hairpin twists held my interest and invited me to happily suspend disbelief, but it did not overwhelm the characters. The heroine, Rachel Verinder, complicated and stubborn, is unlike the "legless angels" popular in Victorian literature. The dilemmas she faces remain significant today: Should we marry where our passions lead us, or choose a life partner whose values are compatible with ours? If the person we love turns out to be a criminal, should we turn him in or allow someone else to be blamed?

And Collins' portrayal of India is much more nuanced than I had credited him with. It is an Englishman who turns out to be the real villain of The Moonstone. By contrast, the three Indian priests who dedicate their lives to returning the jewel to its proper home in the temple, though they have nothing personal to gain by doing so, are positively heroic. A frisson of vindicated delight went through me as I came across this rare depiction of Indian moral superiority in a Victorian novel — and that was my ultimate guilty pleasure.

My Guilty Pleasure is produced and edited by the team at NPR Books.

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