Karen Grigsby Bates

Karen Grigsby Bates is the Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News. Bates contributed commentaries to All Things Considered for about 10 years before she joined NPR in 2002 as the first correspondent and alternate host for The Tavis Smiley Show. In addition to general reporting and substitute hosting, she increased the show's coverage of international issues and its cultural coverage, especially in the field of literature and the arts.

In early 2003, Bates joined NPR's former midday news program Day to Day. She has reported on politics (California's precedent-making gubernatorial recall, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election campaign and the high-profile mayoral campaign of Los Angeles' Antonio Villaraigosa), media, and breaking news (the Abu Ghrarib scandal, the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams).

Bates' passion for food and things culinary has served her well: she's spent time with award-winning food critic Alan Richman and chef-entrepreneur Emeril Lagasse.

One of Bates' proudest contributions is making books and authors a high-profile part of NPR's coverage. "NPR listeners read a lot, and many of them share the same passion for books that I do, so this isn't work, it's a pleasure." She's had conversations with such writers as Walter Mosley, Joan Didion and Kazuo Ishiguru. Her bi-annual book lists (which are archived on the web) are listener favorites.

Before coming to NPR, Bates was a news reporter for People magazine. She was a contributing columnist to the Op Ed pages of the Los Angeles Times for ten years. Her work has appeared in Time, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Essence and Vogue. And she's been a guest on several news shows such as ABC's Nightline and the CBS Evening News.

In her non-NPR life, Bates is the author of Plain Brown Wrapper and Chosen People, mysteries featuring reporter-sleuth Alex Powell. She is co-author, with Karen E. Hudson, of Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times, a best-selling etiquette book now in its second edition. Her work also appears in several writers' anthologies.

Bates holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College. Additionally she studied at the University of Ghana and completed the executive management program at Yale University's School of Organization and Management.

You think you're accomplishing something in life until you realize that at age 29, playwright Lorraine Hansberry had a play produced on Broadway. Not only did she have a play, but her drama, A Raisin in the Sun, beat out Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill to win the prestigious New York Drama Critics' Circle for the best play of the year. Let that sink in.

I miss Bill Cunningham. There. I said it. I miss opening the Thursday and Sunday pages of the New York Times and seeing a whole cross-section of humanity, courtesy of Cunningham's photos, that had become a documentation of how New Yorkers lived and what they wore.

When Arthur Ashe won the men's singles final at the first U.S. Open in 1968, he made history as the first African-American man to win the Open. That record holds to this day. Photos show a pensive Ashe with his arm around his proud father, Arthur Ashe Sr., his silver trophy tray held in one hand.

Over the years, Ashe would be remembered as a tennis champion, but also as a champion of civil and human rights. Tennis was the portal through which he became famous, but by the time he died at age 49, he'd grown so much larger than the sport.

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Most of us remember the broad outlines of the story: 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was followed, shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., on the night of Feb. 26, 2012.

More than six weeks later, Zimmerman was arrested and, eventually, tried for second-degree murder in a case that would be as racially polarizing as the O.J. Simpson trial had been nearly 20 years earlier.

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Melissa DePino didn't take the infamous April video that showed two black men being handcuffed and ejected from a Philadelphia Starbucks—but she agreed to post it.

"I know these things happen," the writer says, "but I'd never actually witnessed it myself. And when I saw it I thought 'people need to see this.'"

So she uploaded and pressed "send." It got millions of views, and people are still talking about it.

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The police killings of unarmed black Americans impact the mental health of people far beyond those who knew the victim directly. A new study is delving into this, and Karen Grigsby Bates for a Code Switch team has more.

Third grade teacher Tony Osumi says he, like a lot of Americans, watched the recent news from the Southern US border with growing dismay. The images and sounds of wailing children being pulled from their tearful parents' arms and taken away to temporary shelters made him wince—and reminded him of the first day of school for children who hadn't been before.

Anthony Bourdain is being mourned, of course, by fellow chefs and foodies for his sardonic exposés about what really happens in the kitchens of some of America's best restaurants. And for his travels to explore the world's cuisines. But communities of color, women, people who are gender-different from the perceived norm — those people sent heartbroken tributes, too.

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The fashion world is mourning the death of one of their own. Designer Kate Spade died after an apparent suicide yesterday. She was 55 years old. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates looks back at her life and legacy.

Back in May, 1963, then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy invited a select group of black entertainers to meet with him at his father's apartment in New York City.

Singer-actor Harry Belafonte was there. So was Lorraine Hansberry, whose play about black upward mobility, A Raisin in the Sun, had received rapturous reviews when it debuted two years earlier. Writer James Baldwin came, as did singer Lena Horne. Each of the invitees was active in civil rights, and Bobby Kennedy was interested in hearing more about the movement.

A love story between a black Army nurse and a white German POW during World War II? You couldn't make that story up — and Alexis Clark didn't. The former editor at Town & Country is an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of Journalism. I spoke with her about her new book, Enemies in Love, and what she learned about hidden Army history and the human heart.

Below is an edited version of our conversation.


What was the inspiration for this book, what got you rolling?

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