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The miracle of middle age with Miranda July : It's Been a Minute

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The miracle of middle age with Miranda July : It's Been a Minute

Author Miranda July poses next to her novel, “All Fours”

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Author Miranda July poses next to her novel, “All Fours”

Elizabeth Weinberg/Amazon

Our culture is full of stories about what it’s like to be young: to find yourself, to fall in love, to leave home. But there aren’t nearly as many scripts for what middle age might look like, especially for women. This week, host Brittany Luse is joined by author and filmmaker Miranda July, whose new novel ‘All Fours’ dives deep into the mystery and miracle of being a middle aged woman.

Want to be featured on the show? Record a question via voice memo for ‘Hey Brittany’ and send it to ibam@npr.org.

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This episode was produced by Liam McBain and Corey Antonio Rose. It was edited by Jessica Placzek. Engineering support came from Tiffany Vera. Our executive producer is Veralyn Williams. Our VP of programming is Yolanda Sangweni.

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Lifestyle

'Wait Wait' for May 25, 2024: With Not My Job guest J. Kenji López-Alt

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'Wait Wait' for May 25, 2024: With Not My Job guest J. Kenji López-Alt

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt attends the 2023 James Beard Media Awards at Columbia College Chicago in Chicago.

Jeff Schear/Getty Images for The James Beard/Getty Images North America


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This week’s show was recorded at the Paramount Theater in Seattle with host Peter Sagal, judge and scorekeeper Bill Kurtis, Not My Job guest J. Kenji López-Alt and panelists Shantira Jackson, Luke Burbank and Jessi Klein. Click the audio link above to hear the whole show.

Who’s Bill This Time
Till Indictment Do We Part, An AI No No, Sleepy Chic

Panel Questions
Not Your Grandma’s Land of 10,000 Lakes

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Bluff The Listener
Our panelists tell us three stories about stain-blocking ceiling paint in the news, only one of which is true.

Not My Job: We quiz Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt on Serious Feet
J. Kenji López-Alt is a food genius. The two-time James Beard Award winner and creator of “The Food Lab” is one of the world’s smartest people when it comes to cooking, but can he survive our game called “Serious Eats, Meet Serious Feets”?

Panel Questions
Caught Red (or Possibly Blue) Handed, The Dog Ate My….What?!?

Limericks
Bill Kurtis reads three news-related limericks: A Study Abroad Souvenir, A Pie Goodbye, Eau de Teen

Lightning Fill In The Blank
All the news we couldn’t fit anywhere else

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Predictions
Our panelists predict, after Senator Bob Menendez and Justice Samuel Alito did it, who will blame their spouse next?

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Jax Taylor Hanging Out at Bar with Mystery Woman Amid Brittany Cartwright Split

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Jax Taylor Hanging Out at Bar with Mystery Woman Amid Brittany Cartwright Split

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When Baby Sloth tumbles out of a tree, Mama Sloth comes for him — s l o w l y

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When Baby Sloth tumbles out of a tree, Mama Sloth comes for him — s l o w l y

Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books


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Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books


Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books

Doreen and Brian Cronin aren’t related — as far as they know. They first stumbled across each other on Facebook: two Cronins, both working in the world of children’s books — Doreen as an author and Brian as an illustrator — and living in the same city? They should probably get a cup of coffee!

“We decided to meet up. We both live in Brooklyn and we met on a bench in Prospect Park just to chat,” explains Doreen Cronin, “and that was three years ago.”

They didn’t let the perfect meet-cute go to waste — they hit it off, both personally and professionally. Soon, they were dating and working together.

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“We’re in it now!” Doreen laughs.

The Cronins admit they were at first a touch apprehensive about working together as a new couple. Brian had never collaborated with an author before. But they couldn’t really help it, says Doreen.

“It’s what we were both doing all day long,” she explains. “We’re always talking about books. We’re always talking about ideas.” Luckily, it’s worked out.

“I really love it,” says Brian. “I think it’s made us stronger.”

Their first picture book together was last year’s Lawrence and Sophia. They quickly followed up with Mama in the Moon, about a baby sloth who falls out of a tree at night and has to wait for his mom to s l o w l y come get him.

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Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books


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Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books

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Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books

They got the idea for Mama in the Moon over breakfast — Doreen says they create a lot over coffee and food — and that morning Brian had just read a news story.

“It was a news story about a sloth who had fallen out of a tree,” he says. “It felt real. It is real.” That’s because sloths do, in fact, fall out of trees about once a week for their whole lives. “It kind of wrote itself, really,” Brian says. By the time they left the diner, Doreen already had jotted down some notes and Brian already had some sketches for their second children’s book.

“Baby loved sleeping between his mama and the moon,” Doreen Cronin writes.

“One night, Baby tumbled from the tree. He landed in a soft patch of vines and leaves.

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‘Mama, where are you?’ he called.”

Mama in the Moon

Mama in the Moon

Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books


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Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books

Mama in the Moon

Mama in the Moon

Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books

“We were, like, in tears when we finished it and kind of read it for the first time,” says Doreen.

“I was, actually,” adds Brian.

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“We’re both parents, right, so we kind of know that — well, all parents know this — feeling of separation from your child,” explains Doreen. “When they’re waiting for you to come back or they need your comfort, and you can’t always get there.”

In the story, Mama Sloth comforts and reassures Baby Sloth. ‘I’m coming,’ she says. She distracts him, asking him to use all his senses to explore the dark world around him.

“‘Are you close now, Mama,’” the baby sloth calls up from the ground.

“‘I’m closer, Baby. I’m close enough to smell the flowers opening for the night. Can you smell them, too?’”

“Baby watched the bright petals of the flowers bend and fold. He could smell their sweet perfume,” Doreen Cronin writes.

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Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books


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Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books

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Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books

The tenderness of the mama sloth to her baby sloth really comes through in Brian’s art, says Doreen. “I’ve seen the art so many times. I can still feel her love and her comfort and her calm.”

Brian Cronin says his process for creating art is very simple — he doesn’t have one. “Every time I start something, it’s like a kind of a beginning.” For Mama in the Moon, he started with pencil sketches. Then he used poster paints and a marker for the trees to create a broken-line effect.

“I wanted it to feel like there was a human behind the thing,” he says.

One of the challenges in illustrating this story is that it takes place at night —how do you add light so it doesn’t feel too scary and dark? “The moon,” Brian says. The bright, fuzzy orb (fuzzy to mimic the fur on the sloths) is on most of the pages, or else lighting up the night sky. The baby sloth is a bright salmon pink amidst the dark foliage. And when Mama Sloth points out all the things Baby Sloth can smell (like the flowers opening for the night), and hear (like the worms wriggling in the fallen leaves), and feel (like the flutter of moths dancing in the air), they come to life against the charcoal pages in bright, almost neon, yellows, pinks, blues and greens.

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Brian Cronin says he hopes the book helps kids fall asleep.

“The reason I wanted to do the dark pages was so that they’re in bed and the mommy and daddy, or whoever it is reading the book, they’re not disturbed by the text or the brightness of anything, and they can just kind of soak it up,” he explains. “It’s fairly relaxing, I think.”

Doreen Cronin agrees.

“I think it’s comfort, safety, and I think it puts us in kind of a quiet space,” she says, “and I hope it does, out in the world. Give us some quiet space. Give kids a quiet space.”

Illustrations © 2024 by Brian Cronin/Rocky Pond Books

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