NPR Staff

Dolen Perkins-Valdez wants to change readers' perspective on the Civil War. Her best-selling debut novel, Wench, explored the lives of slave women — not on Southern plantations, but in a resort for slaveowners' mistresses in Ohio. Her new book, Balm, is set in the postwar period, and it's also in an unexpected place: Chicago.

"The monastic life is very plain and ordinary," says Father Cassian Folsom, the founder and prior of the Monks of Norcia, ensconced in the St. Benedict Monastery in central Italy. "You get up, and you pray, and you do your work and go to bed and then the next day you do the same thing."

A large portion of the monks' daily routine is singing. "We chant the Divine Office and the Mass every day," Folsom tells NPR's Scott Simon. "And if you put all of those moments together it takes about five hours a day. Three hundred sixty-five days a year."

It's the end of a tough week in Baltimore. Tensions continue in the Freddie Gray case. And now the murder rate has spiked to a 40-year high. One man who understands well what the city is going through is Kurt Schmoke. He's a native son and was elected as Baltimore's first black mayor in 1987. He served three terms, grappling with high unemployment, poor schools and violent crime.

Now the president of the University of Baltimore, Schmoke shares his memories of the city and his thoughts about moving it forward with Morning Edition.

Gen. Martin Dempsey has spent more than a decade dealing with Iraq, and as his tenure as chairman of the Joint Chiefs winds down, he sees a conflict that will long outlast his time in uniform.

Dempsey helped train the Iraqi military from 2005 to 2007 in what he describes as a "debacle" in the early stages. He saw the rapid rise of the self-described Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. And now he oversees the U.S.-led bombing campaign against the extremist group in both Iraq and Syria.

And he has no illusions it will be quick or easy.

Maybe you've noticed a dish that keeps popping up in more restaurants across the U.S.

Peru is one of the countries that lays claim to ceviche, which is made of raw fish and chilies, cured in lime juice.

So how do you know you're tasting a perfect ceviche?

"In the first bite, you want to find a strong citrus flavor balanced with the fish, and a little bit spicy, but a fresh spicy given by a fresh chili," says chef Gaston Acurio.

On the hunt from a good public school for her son, Wednesday Martin moved from her old home in downtown Manhattan to a new one just a few miles north. The spots were no more than a short cab ride away from one another, yet she soon found they were galaxies apart in personality.

For one thing, the moms around her looked entirely different.

Nora Jane Struthers may never have become a singer-songwriter if her identity hadn't been stolen. Rebuilding her life allowed her to take a risk and do something she'd wanted to for years. It paid off: She has a new album out titled Wake.

Her story begins at a charter school in Brooklyn where Struthers worked as an English teacher.

"I started teaching sophomores and moved to teaching seniors in my last year," Struthers says. "I loved it."

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