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  • Ta-Nehisi Coates' first novel, 'The Water Dancer,' has been a long and eventful journey. Begun a decade ago, his chronicle of a slave with an extraordinary memory who joins the Underground Railroad is the result of countless drafts, a shift from multiple narrators to a single voice, some needed advice from fellow writers and hundreds of thousands of words discarded. Coates' research ranged from reading interviews with ex-slaves and consulting a 19th-century Farmer's Almanac — books duly pictured on his Instagram account — to his numerous and revelatory visits to former plantations. And then came that call from Oprah Winfrey. 'I was just as surprised as anybody. I pretty much write for myself and the only people I think about are my wife and my editor,' says Coates, whose novel is her latest book club pick. 'I was really happy (about the news from Winfrey). But I think the most encouraging part was that she's a reader. It was clear from the conversation that she's a reader. This is not a marketing ploy. There's nothing to be cynical about.' Winfrey announced Monday that she chose 'The Water Dancer' to formally begin her new book club partnership with Apple, for which she plans a selection every other month. In October, she will interview Coates before a live audience at Apple Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C., a conversation that will air Nov. 1 on Apple TV Plus, the new streaming service. During a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press, Winfrey became tearful as she described the novel's emotional impact, how it captured the devastation and resilience of those enslaved. 'I have not felt this way about a book since 'Beloved,'' Winfrey said of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by her friend and literary idol Toni Morrison, who died in August. The 43-year-old Coates spoke to The Associated Press during a recent afternoon at a SoHo cafe, where he drank strong iced coffee and received the occasional greeting from a friend or fellow customer. He said that he began the novel after completing his first book, the memoir 'The Beautiful Struggle,' and acting on editor Chris Jackson's suggestion that he try fiction. Jackson told the AP in a recent statement that 'The Beautiful Struggle' demonstrated Coates' 'ability to dive so deeply and imaginatively into a character's interior life and invent an idiom to tell the story that was more Joyce-ian than journalistic.' Coates, who had been reading extensively about the Civil War at the time, wanted to open readers to the 'inner lives of enslaved black folks,' a 'thriller' that would also dramatize the most profound questions of freedom and identity. He worked off and on over the next few years on 'The Water Dancer,' while honing a literary voice — of realism and poetry, outrage and exploration — that Morrison would liken to James Baldwin's. As a national correspondent for The Atlantic, he wrote a highly influential and debated piece on reparations for blacks. He received a Hugo nomination for his contribution to the newly launched Black Panther comics series, 'A Nation Under Our Feet.' In 2015, he published 'Between the World and Me,' a letter to his son about being black in the United States that won the National Book Award, topped The New York Times best-seller list and helped confirm his status as one of the country's leading social commentators. 'It wasn't really that difficult,' he said of finding time for his novel. 'I really liked writing 'The Water Dancer.' It was like I get to go play again.' Winfrey's original book club was started in 1996. She has since helped turn dozens of books into best-sellers, from novels by William Faulkner to a memoir by Sidney Poitier. For 'The Water Dancer' and her upcoming choices, Apple has pledged that for each copy purchased through Apple Books, it will make a contribution to the American Library Association to support local libraries. Winfrey said she was wary at first of 'The Water Dancer,' if only because she found Coates such a 'beautiful essayist' and wondered if he could move beyond the factual world. Journalists from George Orwell to Tom Wolfe have found success as novelists, but the switch from nonfiction to fiction can frustrate the most gifted writer. Nonfiction doesn't only require adherence to the truth, but a kind of control over the narrative that the fiction writer has to surrender, at least in part. Novelists often speak of their stories becoming so real to them that a given character might lead them in a direction they hadn't otherwise intended. Coates felt that with the protagonist of 'The Water Dancer,' Hiram Walker, who did not start out at the center of the story, or even with the name Hiram. 'I really liked his story, and I said, 'This is it,'' Coates explained. While working on the book, Coates showed early drafts to peers such as novelist Michael Chabon, who suggested he 'paint the whole scene,' Coates recalls, tell everything from how the sunlight looks in the trees to the smell of the air. 'The Water Dancer' combines the most everyday details and the freest stretches of imagination, from the supernatural quality of Hiram's mind to his encounters with historical figures such as the abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Coates' favorite authors include E.L. Doctorow, known for mixing real and fictional people in such historical novels as 'Ragtime,' and Morrison. 'She just had this mastery of the sentence,' Coates said of the late Nobel laureate. 'She had a beautiful economy of words. I don't that mean that in the sense that she was a sparse writer; she filled every sentence with so much emotion and feeling and information — visceral information, literary information. She wrote the way poets write. I took that from her early on.' Coates, who says he has many ideas for another novel, left The Atlantic in 2018 and has no plans to resume his journalistic career. But even while working on fiction, he was reminded of the importance of reporting and the difference between reading about a subject and absorbing it on sight, how 'you have to be there in order to feel it, in a way you can't through books.' Coates cited the importance of actually standing on plantations and Civil War battlefields, notably a trip last year to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville, Virginia. 'The house is beautiful, stunning, gorgeous — and it was enslaved people who built it,' he says. 'There's a tunnel under Monticello that enslaved people walked through. When I walked through that tunnel, it was like, 'Man, I get it now.' I could see so much. I could feel my people talking to me at that point. I could feel it. But that was after 10 years of work. I don't know how it happens without that.
  • Ava DuVernay, the writer and director of 'When They See Us,' brought five special guests to the 2019 Emmy Awards on Sunday night. >> Read more trending news  According to The Associated Press and People magazine, the Exonerated Five, formerly known as the Central Park Five, appeared on the red carpet with DuVernay, whose Netflix miniseries focuses on the men's wrongful conviction in a 1989 rape case. 'My dates,' she tweeted before the show, sharing a photo of the men: Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise. 'When They See Us' star Jharrel Jerome, who took home the Emmy for best actor in a miniseries, also gave them an emotional shout-out as he accepted his award. 'Most importantly, this is for the men that we know as the Exonerated Five,' Jerome said as the men stood, drawing applause and cheers. 'This is for Raymond, Yusef, Antron, Kevin and King Korey Wise. Thank you so much. It's an honor. It's a blessing.' Read more here or here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Sophia Loren and Valentino received a standing ovation from a packed house of fashion and Hollywood A-listers during the third edition of the Green Carpet Awards honoring progress toward sustainability. Loren, stunning in a black gown and glistening diamond necklace, presented Valentino with an award for legacy achievement at Milan's famed La Scala Opera house. Loren said the 87-year-old designer was 'a friend, a master, a legend, a man who revolutionized the world of fashion through his elegance, passion and style.' The award capped an evening to mark progress in creating more ecological and social consciousness in the fashion industry — recognized as the second-most polluting after oil. Honorees included women in India trained to transform discarded saris into contemporary, hand-embroidered attire through the 'I was a Sari' initiative and divers from the group Healthy Seas who recover lost fishing nets from the sea floor, some of which are upcycled into nylon for fashion houses like Prada. Stella McCartney received the groundbreaker award for founding her brand 25 years ago on sustainable principles, when it was still considered a fringe notion. Wearing a black minidress made entirely of sustainable viscose that took three years to develop, McCartney told the fashion attendees that she was willing to share her knowledge with them to help accelerate the sustainability transition. 'Finally, I don't feel like I'm the freak in the room anymore, of fashion,' McCartney said. The Stella McCartney brand uses no animal byproducts of any kind, including leather, fur and animal glues, and is committed to creating textiles that preserve the environment. McCartney said that 17% of the Amazon rainforest over the past 50 years has been cut down for animal farming, and that 150 million trees are cut each year to make viscose and rayon. Sustainability awards went to Max Mara for a program to upcycle camel fibers from its coats to make insulation called CameLux, and Zegna for creating a collection including 10% of looks made completely out of upcycled materials under a program promoted by the #usetheexisting hashtag. Dutch model Doutzen Kroes, wearing a fully recycled look by Max Mara, was honored for using her social media platform to raise money to help protect elephants from being killed for their ivory through the Knot on My Planet initiative. Livia Firth, the founder of the Eco-Age consultancy that founded the awards with the Italian Fashion Chamber, credited the protest movement launched by Greta Thunberg with sharpening the commitment to sustainability in the past year. In Italy, fashion chamber members representing 60% of all Italian luxury revenues are working together to establish guidelines that they aim to make European standards on such things as the use of chemicals and fair wages. 'We cannot solve this crisis, without treating it like a crisis,' said Carlo Capasa, fashion chamber president. 'We want to make sustainability measurable, traceable and transparent.' ___ This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Sophia Loren's first name.
  • Kim Kardashian West and Kendall Jenner may star in 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians,' but can they keep up with the jokes? >> Read more trending news  According to 'Entertainment Tonight' and Cosmopolitan, the celebrity sisters took the stage Sunday night to present the Emmy for best competition series – and drew some possibly unexpected laughs in the process. Kardashian West appeared straight-faced as she began, 'Our family knows firsthand how truly compelling television comes from real people just being themselves.' As chuckles erupted from the audience, a wide-eyed Jenner added, 'Telling their stories, unfiltered and unscripted.' Viewers flocked to Twitter to weigh in on the awkward moment. Read more here or here.
  • Billy Porter took home the Emmy for best lead actor in a drama Sunday night – and made history in the process. >> Read more trending news  According to The Associated Press, the 'Pose' star is the first openly gay man to claim the coveted award, which he earned for playing Pray Tell in the FX series. 'The category is love, y'all – love!' Porter said after he took the stage for his acceptance speech. 'I am so overwhelmed and I am so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day.' >> Watch the speech here Porter, who previously won a Tony and Grammy for his role in Broadway's 'Kinky Boots,' continued with a quote from writer James Baldwin. ''It took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this Earth like I had the right to be here,'' Porter read before adding, 'I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right.' Porter went on to thank his family, manager Bill Butler, 'Pose' casting director Alexa Fogel, series co-creator Ryan Murphy and his co-stars. 'Oh, my goodness,' Porter said. 'We are the people. We as artists are the people that get to change the molecular structure of the hearts and minds of the people who live on this planet. Please don’t ever stop doing that. Please don’t stop ever telling the truth. I love you all.' He then quipped: 'They’re telling me to please stop. God bless you.' Other nominees in the category included actors Jason Bateman, 'Ozark'; Kit Harington, 'Game of Thrones'; Bob Odenkirk, 'Better Call Saul'; Milo Ventimiglia, 'This Is Us'; and Sterling K. Brown, also of 'This Is Us.' Read more here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.

News

  • They take their football seriously in Philadelphia. Even scholarly types can go overboard when their beloved Eagles lose. >> Read more trending news  During the fourth quarter of Philadelphia's 27-24 televised loss to the Detroit Lions, the Fox network handling the broadcast showed an angry Eagles fan shouting as the telecast broke for a commercial. The angry fan was identified as Eric Furda, the University of Pennsylvania's dean of admissions since 2008, according to the The Philadelphia Inquirer. The clip quickly went viral, as it resonated with other angry Eagles fans. Furda admitted he was the culprit on Twitter, but only after he posted Sunday that he was 'not sure what the refs were looking at today.' Furda took a more apologetic tone Monday morning. 'After further review of the play I will take the 15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct,' Furda tweeted. 'But I will not lose my passion for Philadelphia and Penn sports!' The Eagles, who have lost two straight games after beating Washington in their season opener, travel to Green Bay to face the Packers at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.
  • A Michigan toddler died last week after authorities said her head became stuck in a car's power window in Detroit. >> Read more trending news  According to WXYZ-TV, Kierre Allen, 2, was inside the parked 2005 Mazda 3 with her father, who had fallen asleep, last Monday when the window somehow closed on her head, authorities said. The 21-year-old man awoke to find the child caught in the window, he told police. Kierre's uncle took the pair to a nearby hospital as the father tried to revive the girl, WJBK-TV reported. Doctors said she was dead when she arrived. Police arrested the girl's father, who had outstanding traffic warrants, authorities said. He has not been charged in connection with Kierre's death, the Detroit News reported.
  • A Cobb County school nurse was arrested Thursday after administrators noticed students’ medications were missing. Lindsey Waggoner, 38, is accused of stealing more than $1,500 of medication from Barber Middle School in Acworth, according to an arrest warrant obtained Monday by AJC.com. Cobb County school police allegedly found her in possession of 209 pills, including Adderall, generic forms of Ritalin and Focalin, and Evekeo. The drugs are commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD. Principal Tia Amlett sent a letter home to parents alerting them to the investigation and arrest of a staff member, although the employee was not named.  “We have made contact with families who were directly affected by this situation and will continue to pursue policies that ensure such behavior does not go unnoticed,” she said. It was not immediately clear if Waggoner was fired following her arrest. As of Monday morning, she was still listed on Barber’s website. Amlett said she was being dealt with “according to district policy and state laws.” Waggoner, who is from Kennesaw, is facing a single felony charge of theft by taking. She was booked into the county jail Thursday afternoon and released a few hours later on a $15,000 bond.  In other news: 
  • The 178-year-old tour company Thomas Cook has shut down, potentially stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers who booked their trips with the company stranded across the globe. Thomas Cook was known for the package tour industry, The Associated Press reported. It had four airlines and 21,000 employees in 16 countries. All of the employees have been laid off and will lose their jobs. The ripple effect of Thomas Cook's collapse is expected to be felt across all of Europe and North Africa, the AP reported.  Officials at hotels are now worried about confirmed bookings that had been made for winter. About 600,000 people had been scheduled to travel with Thomas Cook through Sunday. Some subsidiaries were trying to get local connections to get people home, the AP reported.  The British government has stepped in to get 150,000 U.K. customers back to their homes starting Monday. The government has hired charter planes to get people home free of charge, and officials expect the process to fly everyone back to the U.K. will take about two weeks, the AP reported. >> Read more trending news  There are 50,000 people stranded in Greece, up to 30,000 in Spain's Canary Islands, 21,000 in Turkey and 15,000 in Cyprus all trying to find a way home, the AP reported. Thomas Cook officials blame competition from budget airlines and travelers booking their trips themselves though the internet as to why the company struggled financially and eventually shut down, the AP reported. The uncertainty also was brought on by Brexit and the drop in the pound that made it more expensive for British travelers to afford trips abroad, the AP reported. Despite the fact they no longer are being paid for their work, some Thomas Cook employees are still reporting for their shifts to help make sure those who are stranded can return home, Metro reported. One now-former employee said on Twitter that she will be at her post to help stranded customers. Employees at a different Thomas Cook location also posted a sign on their location saying they would open Monday morning to help customers, Metro reported. 
  • A second-year Georgia Tech student was confirmed dead Sunday after a swimming accident in the Chattahoochee River. James Strock was last seen Saturday afternoon swimming in the area of the West Palisades Trail at Paces Mill Park, according to school officials. Teams searched through dusk before turning to recovery efforts Sunday morning, dean of students John M. Stein said in a letter to the Georgia Tech community. A Georgia Tech spokeswoman confirmed Strock’s death Sunday evening. It is unknown if his body was recovered from the river. Strock was pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer engineering and was interested in robotics and quantum computing, according to his LinkedIn page. He was set to graduate in 2022. According to Tech officials, Strock was from Uganda and moved to the United States at age 16. He was an active member of the campus community, attended a campus ministry and could often be found in the recreational center. Strock completed a co-op program with DataPath, a communications and computer software company, in Lawrenceville over the summer. “On behalf of Georgia Tech, we offer our deepest condolences to James’ family and friends during this difficult time,” Stein said in the letter to students, faculty and staff, which was shared on Reddit. “I have been in constant contact with his family and will continue to be there to support them.” Grief counseling is available on campus from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the week at the campus Counseling Center and in the student services building. Students may also call 404-894-2575 for support after hours. — Please return to AJC.com for updates. In other news: 
  • A federal judge will hear the arguments Monday for the first time from opponents of Georgia’s new anti-abortion law as they ask him to stop the measure from going into effect. Gov. Brian Kemp in May signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, outlawing the procedure in most cases once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity. It is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has asked U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones to stop the law from going into effect while the case makes its way through the court system. The ACLU argued in a June complaint that the law violates a woman’s constitutional right of access to abortion until about 24 weeks of pregnancy, as established in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. The ACLU has argued that “politicians should not be second-guessing women’s health care decisions.” In its response, the state said Georgia’s new anti-abortion law is “constitutional and justified” and asked Jones to dismiss the lawsuit challenging the measure. “Defendants deny all allegations in the complaint that killing a living unborn child constitutes ‘medical care’ or ‘health care,’” attorneys wrote. The state hired Virginia-based attorney to represent Gov. Brian Kemp, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey, members of the Georgia Composite Medical Board and its executive director. ACLU is representing SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood Southeast and other abortion rights advocates and providers.