Weekend Edition Saturday

Saturday mornings are made for Weekend Edition Saturday, the program wraps up the week's news and offers a mix of analysis and features on a wide range of topics, including arts, sports, entertainment, and human interest stories. The two-hour program is hosted by NPR's Peabody Award-winning Scott Simon.

Drawing on his experience in covering 10 wars and stories in all 50 states and seven continents, Simon brings a humorous, sophisticated and often moving perspective to each show. He is as comfortable having a conversation with a major world leader as he is talking with a Hollywood celebrity or the guy next door.

Weekend Edition Saturday has a unique and entertaining roster of other regular contributors. Marin Alsop, conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, talks about music. Daniel Pinkwater, one of the biggest names in children's literature, talks about and reads stories with Simon. Financial journalist Joe Nocera follows the economy. Howard Bryant of EPSN.com and NPR's Tom Goldman chime in on sports. Keith Devlin, of Stanford University, unravels the mystery of math, and Will Grozier, a London cabbie, talks about good books that have just been released, and what well-read people leave in the back of his taxi. Simon contributes his own award-winning essays, which are sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant.

Weekend Edition Saturday is heard on NPR Member stations across the United States, and around the globe on NPR Worldwide. The conversation between the audience and the program staff continues throughout the social media world.

Visitors to the White House will now have something besides their memory to rely on when recounting their visit. That's because a 40-year-ban on photography during public tours has been lifted.

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Gods of Tango Book Cover...
Carolina de Robertis' new novel God of Tango centers on a 17-year-old widow, recently arrived from Italy with little besides a violin. It's Argentina, 1913 — and a magical new music fills the barrios.

In the dirty, crowded, and impoverished immigrant barrios of Buenos Aires of 1913, a 17-year-old girl arrives with little more than some clothes and her grandfather's violin.

Her name is Leda, and she's the character at the heart of Carolina de Robertis' third novel, The Gods of Tango.

Leda, an Italian girl, was sent for by her cousin-husband, but widowed before her ship even lands in South America. She soon finds comfort and excitement in a new kind of music that's filling the city's courtyards, bars and brothels: the tango.

"Many people in the United States think of the tango as a dance," de Robertis tells NPR's Eric Westervelt. "And it is a dance, it is a beautiful and erotic dance, but it is also a very rich historical and musical phenomenon."

In 1913, tango is new, it's vibrant; at first the domain of the poor and working classes, it's coming into its own and gaining an elite audience. The music entrances Leda. But to play the tango — and survive — she has to pass herself off as a man.

De Robertis tells Westervelt about her own immigrant background and why being queer means always coming out.


Interview Highlights

On the often-overlooked history of tango music

It includes people of African descent, immigrants from Russia, from Italy, from many parts of Europe who brought their instruments and their sounds and these sounds mixed in the cauldron of Buenos Aires to become a new music. So I wanted to explore the immigrant experience, and for a woman immigrant, the only way for her to fully access the underworld of the tango on her own terms without becoming a prostitute was to dress as a man.

On how tango expanded to gain an audience in Europe

The book opens in 1913; it's the year that the tango caught fire in Paris. And when it caught fire in Paris, then the elite of Buenos Aires began to pay attention and say, "Wow, we have this thing under out feet that we have disdained and Paris is listening. Maybe we should put it in our cabarets."

On whether, as an immigrant, she shared Leda's mix of fear and exhilaration

My parents left South America when my mother was pregnant with me, so I immigrated for the first time in the womb and I was born already an immigrant in England. And then my family moved to Switzerland when I was 5, and to California when I was 10, so I've had many layers of that experience of being an other, the loneliness that can arise from it, the sense of invisibility but also the potential for cultural freedom. When you're an outsider, it can give you room to shape your own relationship to culture on your own terms.

On how Leda's attraction to women factors into her choice to pass as a man

In the story, Leda is not conscious of that reason when she decides to start dressing as a man. She's thinking about her survival. And it's only later that this other piece rises into her conscious mind, and pretty soon she can't deny her attraction to women. She's spending all this time with these male tango musicians for whom it is normal to frequent brothels together that she really needs to figure out how she's going to engage with that.

On whether she based the character on Billy Tipton, the jazz musician who passed as a man

The idea for Leda arose before I encountered Billy Tipton's history, so finding the history was more of a beautiful confirmation of the work that I was doing and of the truth that women have passed as men to survive, to express their gender identity, to live more freely within their sexual identity and for many other reasons throughout history and that in fact there are silences around that history but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

On whether her own experiences inspired how she wrote about Leda's life

Certainly my personal experience doesn't exactly parallel the experience of Leda. But I am a queer woman, married to a woman and I think that all of us, as queers, have the experience of negotiating being out and not being out. As a queer person, you never finish coming out because you're always having new engagements with the world, and that's a constant negotiation that is part of the experience of being queer. ... one could see it as another beautiful and complex in-between.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Sisters Jackie Carter Christian (left) and Chloe Marie Christian at the beac...
What would you do if your 3-year-old son told you assuredly that he wanted to be a girl? An Oakland, Calif., couple told their child it was OK, and sad, sad boy became a joyful little girl.

It's controlled after-school anarchy at the Christian-Carter household. Seven-year-old Chloe has rolled herself up in an exercise mat in the living room of the family's lovely Oakland, Calif., home.

"Look I'm a burrito," Chloe shouts.

Her 4-year-old sister, Jackie, swoops in for a bite — and a hard push.

"Ow!" Chloe shouts. "Mom! Jackie pushed me!"

Just two sisters playing, occasionally sparring, as dad, James Christian, and mom, Mary Carter, watch nearby.

Jackie's birthday is in mid-October, but for Carter and Christian, a second date is seared in memory almost as intensely — what Carter calls "The Day."

Five Makeshift Ponytales

"It was May 15, 2014, and I remember the date because Jackie was out of school that day," she says. "We drove to drop her older sister off at kindergarten. And normally Jackie is quite happy and content to hang out with me and play."

Jackie was 3 then, and she was called Jack. Glancing into the backseat of her car, Mary noticed something different.

"Jackie just looked really, really sad; sadder than a 3-and-a-half-year-old should look," Carter says. "This weight that looked like it weighed more than she did, something she had to say and I didn't know what that was.

"So I asked. I said, 'Jackie, are you sad that you're not going to school today?' And Jackie was really quiet and put her head down and said 'No, I'm sad because I'm a boy.' "

Carter was taken aback. Her youngest had been wearing her big sister's dresses regularly and enjoyed donning pink boots. But this was new.

Carter wanted to confirm. "You're really not happy being a boy?" she asked.

"I thought a little bit longer and I said, 'Well, are you happy being you?' And that made Jackie smile," she says. "And I felt like for that moment, that was all that really mattered. That was 'The Day.' "

Carter took her to a chain drug store, and Jackie asked for elastic hair bands. Her hair wasn't long enough yet, but Carter put Jackie's hair up in five makeshift ponytails.

"And I've never seen such a happy child," she remembers. "To go from maybe an hour before this, this child who looks so sad, to that, I felt like I'd done something right by her."

In the months that followed, they started talking over girl names, with help from Jackie's pre-K teacher. On her fourth birthday, the family sang happy birthday for the first time to Jackie.

Jackie Stood Her Ground

A new job for Christian had prompted the family to move from Atlanta to Oakland two years ago. Carter and Christian say they feel lucky they've landed there. The Bay Area is one of the most LGBT friendly regions in the nation. The challenges ahead might be far greater, Christian says, if they'd stayed in the South.

He recalls the Fourth of July weekend last year, when they were back visiting Atlanta. At a community party, Christian noticed a group of kids gathering around Jackie, who still went by Jack back then.

"There was a point when some of the other boys, alpha males, talking about 15 kids surrounding Jackie," he says, "wanted to challenge this notion, 'Wait a minute, you said you're a boy but you're wearing a dress and have pony tails. I don't understand that.' "

Christian says he felt anger at first. "Then joy, when this girl of about 9 stepped in and said, 'This is Jack, he's my friend.' And Jackie stood her ground, and so that made me very proud," he says.

It's only been a little more than a year since Jack became Jackie. Neither of her parents has any illusions about the potential struggles ahead. Transgender people have alarmingly high rates of depression, substance abuse and suicide.

"There will be more challenges, certainly, as Jackie gets older and gets around more kids," Christian says. "Then puberty, and dating, and the challenges will be like a very steep curve. But I'm hoping that by the time she gets there, I hope, one, we've given her the tools and two, that there's more acceptance of this issue."

There is more acceptance now than there was even a few years ago, says psychologist Diane Ehrensaft at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. Ehrensaft has worked with transgender youth for more than 20 years.

"We as a culture have lifted the lid so that kids can start speaking up, showing themselves and that we have a lens to understand it from," she says. "That's all very new. We are now much more commonly hearing very little children speak up, 'Please let me be the gender I am rather than the gender you think I am.' "

Experts in the field diverge on how to approach gender identity issues in the very young. Jackie's parents know some people may not understand their approach. It is even hard for them at times.

As Carter explains, her daughter Chloe is the only one in the family Jackie still allows to occasionally refer to her as "Jack," as "he" and as "brother."

"Chloe is very loving and protective and supportive," she says. "But I think for Chloe, she still attaches this memory of her little brother, of Jack. And it's right now hard for her to let that go. It's that last piece she's holding on to."

"I myself have times when I miss my boy," says James Christian. "And I look at the old clothes and the old pictures and I will miss Jack. And that's probably never going to go away. That's just going to take some time."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.