Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie

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What to expect

A group biography of four beloved women who fought sexism, covered decades of American news, and whose voices defined NPR

In the years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, women in the workplace still found themselves relegated to secretarial positions or locked out of jobs entirely. This was especially true in the news business, a backwater of male chauvinism in which a woman might be lucky to get a foothold on the “women’s pages.” But when a pioneering nonprofit called National Public Radio came along in the 1970s and the door to serious journalism opened a crack, four remarkable women came along and blew it off the hinges.

Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie is journalist Lisa Napoli’s captivating account of these four women, their deep and enduring friendships, and the trail they blazed to becoming icons. They had radically different stories. Cokie Roberts was born into a political dynasty, roamed the halls of Congress as a child, and felt a tug toward public service. Susan Stamberg, who had lived in India with her husband who worked for the State Department, was the first woman to anchor a nightly news program and pressed for accommodations to balance work and home life. Linda Wertheimer, the daughter of shopkeepers in New Mexico, fought her way to a scholarship and a spot on-air. And Nina Totenberg, the network’s legal affairs correspondent, invented a new way to cover the Supreme Court.

Based on extensive interviews and calling on the author’s deep connections in news and public radio, Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie is as beguiling and sharp as its formidable subjects.

Critics Review

  • “Illuminates the terrifying, thrilling energy of NPR as start-up…[in] the network’s endearingly experimental, chaotic beginning.”

    New York Times Book Review
  • “Napoli honors not the dog-eat-dog variety of journalist but the fortitude of sisterhood, of women supporting each other.”

    Oprah.com
  • “The founding mothers, in word and deed, offer a powerful lesson on what can happen when we carry as we climb.”

    Washington Post
  • “[A] vivid and engrossing group biography…Napoli also tracks the battle for women’s equality in newsrooms…[and] tells the instructive story of NPR’s growth.”

    Booklist (starred review)
  • “[A] well-researched deep dive into the careers of the journalists who helped make NPR a household name.”

    Kirkus Reviews
  • “Inspiring insights into the pathbreaking work of these four women…[nd] how the status of some women and the role of the media have both changed in the last fifty years.”

    Library Journal

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