Ailsa Chang

We're back for our annual tradition: Channeling another year's worth of jealousy and self-loathing into a whole episode just for you. Happy Valentine's Day!

Here at Planet Money, we spend a lot of time digging around for stories and new ideas. So when we come across something that we think brilliantly explains our economy--we're often like, "Why the heck didn't we come up with that?!"

The government is shut down again. Here at Planet Money, we wondered: just how long has this been going on? The answer is: It started a long time ago, but then it didn't happen again for nearly a hundred years.

Today on the show, we go back in time to 1879. There was a fight between President Rutherford B. Hayes and Congress about African-Americans voting. It ended in the first ever government shutdown.

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.

Tayari Jones says there are two things to consider as a book matchmaker: "You have to match what you think your friend would like to read, with what you think your friend should read — and you have to make a Venn diagram of that," she says.

As Congress prepares to adjourn for the holidays, one piece of legislation that's still on the table is a bipartisan criminal justice bill known as the First Step Act.

It aims to improve federal prison conditions and reduce some prison sentences, a sticking point for some lawmakers. But the bill also contains a less controversial provision: a ban on shackling pregnant women.

Incarcerated people outside prison walls are considered potential flight risks. That label applies even to pregnant women when they leave prisons for medical care or to give birth.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A couple years ago, author Gabrielle Moss was feeling "worn down by the world" and found herself impulse buying an entire crate of "Sweet Valley High" books on eBay for $25.

At first, Moss was binging these books — "Sweet Valley" and other series — as "nostalgic stress relief." Moss had devoured these pastel-colored paperbacks during her own preteen years — she estimates she read two per week.

Cooking is about community. But it can also be about solitude.

That's where chef Anita Lo's latest cookbook, Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One, comes in.

"Food is culture, food is identity. So it's reaffirming to cook the things that either you grew up with or the things that you love," Lo says — whether it's for your whole family or just yourself.

When "Rooster" Bogle — born Dale Vincent Bogle — used to drive by the Oregon State Correctional Institution with his young sons, he'd gaze out at the prison with nostalgia.

"Look carefully, because when you grow up, you guys are going to end up there," he told his boys.

This wasn't a warning: It was a challenge. And so began the competition for who could be the meanest, baddest Bogle.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

What if — instead of compulsively reaching for your phone — you could reach for a book? A kind of comfort object that could keep you company all day long.

That's exactly what illustrator Jonny Sun says he wanted to do in his new collaboration with Lin-Manuel Miranda (yeah, that Lin-Manuel Miranda).

Today on the show, we have a special report. We've learned that as many as 13,000 immigrants, most of them Chinese, may be at risk of being deported. They were all granted asylum years ago.

Now, the government is scrutinizing their cases. It goes back to an investigation called Operation Fiction Writer, which was announced in 2012. Dozens of people were rounded up for helping immigrants lie on their asylum applications.

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