Mallory Yu

After breaking through in 2019 and collaborating with Beyonce in early 2020, Megan Thee Stallion has been riding an even bigger wave of popularity this summer due to the song she's featured in with superstar Cardi B. "WAP" shot to No. 1 on iTunes' songs chart, in spite of controversy over its sexually explicit lyrics. But the rapper is also involved in another recent controversy, which has raised important questions about Black women and violence.

"If history is written by winners," author Maria Sherman says, "music history is written by rock critics, and they don't typically get along with boy bands."

For reasons that she explores in her new book, Larger Than Life: A History Of Boy Bands From NKOTB To BTS, Sherman says boy bands don't get the same respect as other music acts, especially their rock peers.

What are you reading during the pandemic? We've been asking that question to a range of writers and they've responded with suggestions for fantasy, poetry, new fiction, old fiction, web comics, fairy tales and more. You can find recommendations below from Ben Philippe, Jade Chang, Raina Telgemeier, Tess Taylor and Thomas Pierce — and we'll add more as the summer goes on.

This past weekend, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling brought a lot of criticism on herself with a series of tweets that many read as transphobic. She seemed to have been set off by an article on access to menstrual hygiene supplies during a global pandemic that referenced "people who menstruate."

Over her decades-long career, Tracee Ellis Ross has starred in beloved shows such as Black-ish and Girlfriends. But as she sees it, her latest role is her most daunting one yet. In The High Note, available to stream on Apple TV on May 29, she plays a superstar singer named Grace Davis, who's facing career stagnancy. Meanwhile, Davis' personal assistant Maggie (played by Dakota Johnson) has musical ambitions of her own as an aspiring producer.

In a decade, Harry Styles has gone from teenage heartthrob to a global pop star in his own right. As he's distanced himself from his adolescent years as a member of One Direction, he's become his own person, starring in the 2017 blockbuster Dunkirk, hosting Saturday Night Live and creating music that pulls from a variety of influences.

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What if the scariest thing isn't a monster in your life, but the emotional demons in your own family? That is an idea Shaun Hamill writes about in his debut novel. NPR's Mallory Yu treats us to the story.

In the industrial city of Dongguan, China, the effects of the trade war on the Chinese economy are measured in idled machinery and empty bar stools.

"One year ago, you probably couldn't even get through the crowd because it would be so busy. But right now, even the smallest vendors can't survive," says Song Guanghui, the owner of Crowdbar, a tricked-out food stall in an open-air market in Dongguan.

Seventy years ago, Mao Zedong appeared on a balcony overlooking Tiananmen Square and conjured a new country into being. On Tuesday, Xi Jinping, arguably the strongest leader since Mao, appeared on that same balcony to reaffirm his vision of modern China.

That vision includes what Xi has repeatedly referred to as the "Chinese Dream," one pillar of which is the idea that all Chinese should have access to the shared prosperity of the nation.

Petra: It's Saturday! (Or actually, as we're posting this it's now Sunday) I feel the need to reiterate this, lest I forget what day it is or which direction is up! Saturday tends to be the day people bust out their best cosplays — I saw some truly amazing getups, including countless Deadpools (Deadspool?), a lot of women dressed as Loki and Doctor Strange, a really well-done armored Cersei Lannister, Missandei of Naath carrying her own head, and my personal favorite, Logan and Jessica from Logan's Run, complete with life-clocks in their palms.

Mallory: It's Friday! By this point in the con, the crowds are much crowdier, the lines for everything are much longer, the cosplay is starting to come out ... we're in the full swing of things, folks.

Welcome to the 50th San Diego Comic-Con!

A good convention is almost a ritual space — a time and place away from time and place. Once you step through that glass door and swipe your badge, you could be anywhere, anywhen; the hours pass by outside and you don't notice. It's almost as if the rest of the world doesn't exist — you are at Comic-Con. You have always been at Comic-Con. What I'm trying to say, here, is that I've barely been here 24 hours and I already don't know which way is up or really what day it is. Mallory, I hope you're less disoriented than I am.

Sarah Kuhn's I Love You So Mochi begins with Japanese American student Kimi Nakamura at a crossroad. Her last spring break of high school is coming up, she's about to graduate and start attending a prestigious art school. But here's the thing: She's not so sure anymore that she wants to be a painter like her mom. She's not sure what she wants.

I don't remember when the concept of consent as it relates to sex became part of my vocabulary, but it shapes how I approach my personal relationships and affects the way I move through the world. I was shaken when the #MeToo movement exploded, not only by the stories of sexual assault and harassment but also by the stories of women who had felt pressured or coerced into having sex they didn't want.

It's been 50 years since Woodstock Music & Arts Festival. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of three days of peace, love and music, Woodstock 50 will take place Aug. 16–18, 2019, in Watkins Glen, N.Y. Festival co-founder Michael Lang has announced the official lineup for the anniversary festival with Jay-Z, Dead & Company and The Killers as headliners.

The late pop star Michael Jackson, once hailed as the King of Pop, is the focus of the new documentary Leaving Neverland, which airs this weekend on HBO. The four-hour documentary centers on two of Jackson's alleged sexual abuse victims, Wade Robson and James Safechuck. Robson and Safechuck, now both in their 30s, say that Jackson sexually abused them for years when they were as young as 7 and 10 years old. Filmmaker Dan Reed spent three years putting this documentary together.

Director Dan Gilroy is back with a new film called Velvet Buzzsaw.

Like his last movie, Nightcrawler, Gilroy is the writer and director. And also like his last film, this one stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. Gyllenhaal plays an art critic named Morf Vandewalt, Russo a gallery owner named Rhodora Haze. And the movie hinges around the work of the late artist Vetril Dease.

As the names may give away, Velvet Buzzsaw is a comedy. It's also a horror movie, where the killer is — wait for it — the works of art.

When comics creator Taneka Stotts accepted an Eisner Award — the comics industry's highest honor — this year for her anthology Elements: Fire — A Comic Anthology by Creators of Color, she was fired up.

"I hold this award," she said, "and I declare war on the antiquated mentality that tells us our voices and stories aren't 'profitable' enough ... we're not waiting for you to catch up anymore. We are here, we have always been here, and we will do as you've always told us. We will make it ourselves."

The new movie If Beale Street Could Talk is based on a James Baldwin novel of the same title.

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) adapted and directed the film. And in working with the Baldwin estate, he received a leather notebook filled with Baldwin's handwritten notes about how he would have approached a film version.

The breakout star of Crazy Rich Asians goes by one name: Awkwafina. Clever and profane, the 5-foot-1 rapper-actress catapulted to Internet fame in 2012 when she released a music video that we can't really name on this site.

Writer and artist Emil Ferris won three Eisner Awards — the highest award in mainstream comics — for her graphic novel My Favorite Thing is Monsters. It's a huge tome, full of inky, scratchy drawings done in ballpoint pen, ranging from loose sketches to lovingly rendered covers of pulp horror magazines.

One of the freshest reboots in the world of comic books is based on a kids show that debuted back in the '60s: The Flintstones. But this isn't the "modern Stone Age family" you might remember from your childhood.

Cartoonist Thi Bui's Eisner Award-nominated graphic memoir is called The Best We Could Do; it's the story of her family in the years before, during and after the Vietnam War. The Eisners — mainstream comics' top award — are given out every year at San Diego Comic-Con, where Bui was one of this year's featured guests.

San Diego Comic-Con wrapped up on Sunday. NPR comic buffs Mallory Yu and Petra Mayer discuss highlights of the convention's last day, in which women, writers of color — and monsters — took front and center.

Petra: Mallory, oh, my God, we made it. We made it. We almost got sidetracked just trying to find a place to sit down and eat some crummy convention concession pizza (although by Grabthar's hammer, crummy convention concession pizza was what my soul desired) but we made it through the week.

Actor Lakeith Stanfield is having a moment. He was in Jordan Peele's Oscar-winning horror satire, Get Out. He's in the FX show show Atlanta, where he plays Darius, the stoner sidekick to a rap star who often says pretty outrageous things — like speculating what life would be like if you could use a rat as a cell phone (people in New York City would be doing pretty well, for example). And this summer, Stanfield is in the new movie, Sorry to Bother You, which he calls "an absurdist dark comedy with magical realism that's set in the world of telemarketing.

Hereditary has been called "emotionally devastating" and "disturbing" by critics and audiences alike. It's a supernatural horror film, with sinister things lurking just out of sight, but when writer-director Ari Aster was pitching his first feature-length film to studios, he says he was careful not to call it horror: "The film is a horror film, it's unabashedly one, but as I was pitching it, I was describing it as a family tragedy that curdles into a nightmare."

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Actor Doug Jones has had a long and prolific career in Hollywood, though many wouldn't recognize him on the street. That's because he's usually masked by latex, silicone and makeup, playing some of Hollywood's most recognizable monsters – including the so-called Amphibian Man in Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water. Underneath it all, Jones infuses his characters with real emotion, communicating not with words but with movement and touch.

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The movie "The Shape Of Water" is up for 13 Oscars, the most of any film this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SHAPE OF WATER")

RICHARD JENKINS: (As Giles) A tale of love and loss and the monster who tried to destroy it all.

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