Sean Usher has built a fascinating career reading other people's mail. 

Best of all, he's not about to be arrested for it, since he compiles letters from people no longer alive. 

Usher visited a couple of years ago with the first Letters of Note; he's back with a second volume.  Highlights include letters written by J.K. Rowling, Che Guevara, and Marge Simpson. 

Marge Simpson? 


The world can seem like a troubled place right now. 

And Michael Meade not only acknowledges that feeling, but knows of times in the past when the world seemed troubled. 

Meade is a scholar of mythology, anthropology, and sociology, and he visits Southern Oregon University tonight (October 21st).  He says the adversity in the world can trigger a time of renewal. 


"Attica" is one of those names that seems familiar to many Americans, even people who know nothing of the story attached to the name. 

Heather Ann Thompson, a historian who researches mass incarceration, fills in the story of the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York, in her book Blood in the Water

Prisoners took over Attica to protest the conditions, and prison bosses were negotiating with them.  But then the state mounted an assault on its prison, and 39 people died.  A major crackdown followed. 


One benefit of writing historical fiction: you already know what happens to the major characters, even if they're in the background of the book. 

So Candace Robb knows which pretender dethroned which king, but she can create and flesh out characters off to the side.  And people have to read her books to find out what happens to them. 

Her latest novel is The Service of the Dead, set in England at the turn of the 15th century. 

National Archives

Nearly 80 years and counting.  Amelia Earhart made as much news by vanishing as she did by flying planes when few women did so. 

Now an expedition is getting ready to follow Earhart's trail as the 80th anniversary approaches in July 2017. 

The Archaeological Legacy Institute based in Eugene plans to send a film crew to document the search for Earhart's plane. 

FDR Library

For 12 years, Franklin and Eleanor were the power couple in the White House.  At least to the public. 

Within the White House, Marguerite "Missy" LeHand was the right hand of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, functioning as a de facto chief of staff and more. 

In Kathryn Smith's book The Gatekeeper, the author works to give LeHand a full and fair assessment aimed only at her life, not as a supporting character in another's biography. 


You only have to hear Paul Robeson sing "Ol' Man River" once to have it stamped on your brain forever.

There's simply nothing like it, and nothing like the talent-filled and turbulent life of the late actor and singer. 

Tayo Aluko created a one-man stage play, "Call Mr. Robeson," which he has performed on several continents and brings to Ashland this week (September 8-11). 


It's not just the natural beauty that makes our region what it is.  We've also got a wonderful collection of population centers scattered across the landscape. 

Southern Oregon Public Television--SOPTV--embarks on a project to tell the stories of these communities in its "Our Town" project. 

The first episode, September 6th at 8 PM, focuses on Gold Hill, the small city on the Rogue River northwest of Medford. 

The story is told through the pictures and words of the residents, in this and future installments of "Our Town." 

OSU Press

Marie Equi may be the most amazing woman you never heard of. 

She was born when child labor was still legal, got out of textile work, and fled New England for the West Coast. 

Equi attended medical school at a time when few women did so, fought for women's suffrage and other rights, and was perhaps the first well-known lesbian in Oregon. 

Equi is the focus of the new book Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions, from Oregon State University Press. 

Even people and programs that celebrate history can make a bit of history themselves. 

So it is with "As It Was," the two-minute regional history program that airs weekdays on JPR (and immediately following the second hour of the Exchange). 

The current series of "As It Was" airs its 3,000th installment next week.  And the people involved still like doing it. 

Simon & Schuster

He was a 19-year-old sailor ashore in Japan.  She was a 31-year-old Japanese woman. 

It sounds like the beginning to a song, but it's a true story for Paul Brinkley-Rogers, former sailor and Pulitzer-winning journalist. 

It's a love story too big to fit in a web caption... but fits well in Brinkley-Rogers' memoir Please Enjoy Your Happiness


The feel of the Old West came through in the novels of Zane Grey. 

Grey came to love the Rogue River Valley, and built himself a cabin near the river.  The cabin recently earned designation on the National Register of Historic Places, giving it a firmer shot at survival. 

The Bureau of Land Management has been owner of the cabin for much of the last decade. 

Warren K. Leffler/Library of Congress

This year in America has been compared with 1968, largely because of the sour public mood, coinciding with a presidential election. 

1968 was the year Robert Kennedy, brother of the late president, decided to run for the White House himself.  By the middle of the year, RFK was dead himself from an assassin's bullet. 

In the new book Bobby Kennedy: The Making Of A Liberal Icon, author Larry Tye tracks the formation of Kennedy's political persona through the straightlaced 1950s. 

Oregon State Parks

The history of our region is rich in detail, and a crowd of people will get their hands dirty this summer digging into it.  Quite literally.  

  The Geisel Homestead on the Southern Oregon Coast and other sites of hostilities between white settlers and native Americans are the focus of a summer archaeology project by the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology (SOULA).  

Restore Oregon

Before the multiplex with the dozen-or-more smallish movies screens, we had big theaters downtown.

Medford's a great example: the historic Craterian got a major renovation 20 years ago, and the Holly is set for a major reworking. 

People like old theaters, especially when they are made to look new again.  Restore Oregon is holding a series of theater restoration workshops around the state. 

Randy McKay, boss of the Holly project, visits with details of the workshop and an update on his project. 


Our society is, in theory, supposed to protect its most vulnerable members. 

But society failed The Boys in the Bunkhouse for years. 

The boys of the title in Dan Barry's book were men with intellectual disabilities who were warehoused and kept in slavery-like conditions. 

Until, that is, social workers, journalists, and a lawyer took up their case. 

Penguin Books

Quick, name the federal agency you most recently had contact with.  For a lot of people, the answer would be the Postal Service. 

Its mission and importance have changed in the age of email, but it certainly can be argued that the postal agency is of vital importance. 

In fact, that IS the argument of Winifred Gallagher's book How The Post Office Created America

Gallagher points out that the Continental Congress created a postal agency before it did almost anything else.  It predates the Declaration of Independence by a year. 

luminare press

Eugene is now home to about five times as many people as it held in 1950. 

"Leaps and bounds" might be an understatement when it comes to growth. 

Sara Jeanne Duncan Widness remembers the quiet days, and shares her memories in her book The Dusky Afternoon

Harvard University Press

Whether Hillary Clinton wins the White House or not, she is NOT the first woman to try, not by a long shot.

The first woman to seek the presidency did so before women even had the right to vote in America; does the name Victoria Woodhull ring a bell?  Woodhull and the later seekers are profiled in Ellen Fitzpatrick's book The Highest Glass Ceiling

Fitzpatrick dazzled us a few years back with Letters to Jackie

Penguin Random House

It was what the world wanted: the end of the Soviet Union, the "evil empire," the Communist stronghold.  And the USSR did, in fact, dissolve. 

So why is the world generally unhappy with what followed?  Because the Russia we got, with the autocratic Vladimir Putin in command, is a far cry from the democratic republic we hoped for. 

Russian native Arkady Ostrovsky goes back to the Cold War to explain how we got here, in his book The Invention of Russia