Ari Shapiro

Marlon James could have chosen to write about anything after his last novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings; that kaleidoscopic account of Jamaica won the prestigious Man Booker Prize. So there were a few gasps when the author revealed that his new book would be what some people dismiss as genre fiction.

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 teacher Alicia D. Williams asked kindergartners to pick out a crayon that reflected their skin tone, she says something heartbreaking happened: Out of a spectrum of multicultural options, "Never, never, never do our kids of color choose a skin tone that's close to theirs. They go as light as possible."

For government workers who haven't been paid in more than a month, the shutdown is feeling increasingly dire. Savings are drying up; bills are coming due.

The people of Oakdale, La., are among those feeling the pressure. The city of about 8,000 is in the middle of the state — more than three hours' drive from New Orleans or Houston.

A federal prison there was one of the most reliable employers, providing good salaries and benefits. The typical family in Oakdale has an income of about $30,000 a year. The starting salary at the prison is about $35,000.

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As the government shutdown enters its fourth week — becoming the longest in United States history — federal workers around the country are struggling to make ends meet. But according to Jamiles Lartey, a reporter with The Guardian, the shutdown is having a disproportionate effect on black workers and their families.

In late December, we sometimes talk to people who've had a very big year, but author N.K. Jemisin has had a very big three years. In 2016, she became the first African-American writer to win the Hugo Award for best novel. She went on to win the same prize last year, and again this year, making her the only author ever to win the award in three consecutive years — for her Broken Earth trilogy: The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky.

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Before the Woolsey Fire raged near Malibu, Calif., in November, hundreds of bikers gathered each weekend at the Rock Store for pancakes or a cup of coffee before riding through the Santa Monica Mountains on the twisty road called "The Snake."

After the fire swept through the area, not much was left standing – except, somewhat miraculously, the popular biker bar.

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Carmen Gonzalez is 17 years old, and her life took a turn a couple of years ago when a community newspaper called Boyle Heights Beat showed up at her high school in Los Angeles. They were recruiting students to work as reporters.

When Los Angeles Times photographer Wally Skalij photographed a tiny owl sitting on the beach in Malibu as the flames of the Woolsey Fire burned in the background, he had no idea how many people would connect with the image.

In a windowless classroom at the John J. Moran medium-security prison in Cranston, R.I., three men sit around a table to share how and when they began using opioids.

For Josh, now 39, it was when he was just 13 years old. "I got grounded for a week in my house, so I grabbed a bundle of heroin and just sat inside and sniffed it all week."

"I started using heroin at 19," says Ray, now 23. "I was shooting it. It was with a group of friends that I was working with, doing roof work."

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