Radio Diaries

Radio Diaries

United States

Extraordinary stories of ordinary life.


#3: A Mother, Then and Now  

In celebration of Mother’s Day and Radio Diaries’ 20th anniversary this month, we’re revisiting Melissa’s story. As an 18 year old, Melissa recorded an audio diary as she gave birth to her son Issaiah. Over the next two decades, Melissa and her son faced many challenges, from eviction notices to a life-threatening medical diagnosis. Melissa recently recorded a new “grown-up” diary chronicling her life as a single working mother and introducing listeners to teenage Issaiah. In this episode, listen to both of her diaries and a behind-the-scenes interview.

#48: Radio Diaries Turns 20!  

20 years ago, NPR’s All Things Considered began running our occasional series, Teenage Diaries… which then grew up to become Radio Diaries. Today on the podcast, we check in with our very first diarist, Amanda Brand.

#47: The Man in the Zoo  

In 1906, New York's Bronx Zoo was the largest zoo in the world. That year, the zoo introduced a new exhibit that would quickly became its most popular attraction. In the monkey house, right next to an orangutan, there was a man...inside a cage.

#30: Claudette Colvin: “A Teenage Rosa Parks”  

Nine months before Rosa Parks, a 15-year-old girl refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, AL.

#46: Identical Strangers  

Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein were both born in New York City and adopted as infants. When they were 35 years old, they met and found they were “identical strangers.”

#12: Frankie’s Second Chance (Updated)  

As a teenager, Frankie was a high school football star whose picture was in his hometown newspaper every week. Years after graduating, Frankie was back in the paper—as a criminal. In his new audio diary, Frankie is hoping for a second chance.

#45: Friday Night Lights  

Football, Frankie said, had completely changed him. He was no longer seen as a loser. Although the same couldn’t be said for the Valley Head Tigers.

#44: The Ski Troops of WWII  

The 10th Mountain Division fought in World War II for only four months, but it had one of the highest casualty rates of the war. The division started out as an experiment to train skiers and climbers to fight in the mountains. The men of the 10th went on to lead a series of daring assaults against the German army in the mountains of Italy.

#43: From Prison to President  

Four years after Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he became president of South Africa. And yet, those 4 years were among the bloodiest and most painful for all South Africans – black and white – as they struggled toward the transition to majority rule. A chapter from Mandela: An Audio History.

#42: The Last Place  

When you spend so much of your life getting to the next stage, thinking about the next move, what is it like to find yourself at...the Last Place? On this episode of the Radio Diaries Podcast, we bring you audio diaries from a retirement home.

#9: A Guitar, A Cello, And The Day That Changed Music  

November 23, 1936 was a good day for recorded music. Two men – an ocean apart – sat before a microphone and began to play. One was a cello prodigy who had performed for the Queen of Spain; the other played guitar and was a regular in the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta. But on this day, Pablo Casals and Robert Johnson both made recordings that would change music history.

#41: The Story of ‘Ballad for Americans’  

How a ten minute folk opera managed to unite Democrats, Republicans and Communists.

#40: Serving 9-5: Diaries from Prison Guards  

Audio diaries from officers who work behind bars at North Carolina's Polk Youth Institution.

#39: The Man Who Put the ‘P’ in NPR  

In this golden age of podcasting, a conversation about the past and future of public radio with the author of the original NPR mission statement.

#38: Crime Pays  

This month's podcast is about what it takes to get people to change. We focus on a group of people that might be the hardest to change - or at least they’ve had the most money thrown at them in hopes of change: Criminals.

#18: Strange Fruit  

An eerie photograph, a famous song, and the man who lived to tell the story.

#37: Mandela’s Prison Years  

While Mandela and other political leaders languished in prison, the government cracked down. It seemed that resistance to apartheid had been crushed. But on June 16, 1976, a student uprising in Soweto sparked a new generation of activism. This is Chapter 3 of our documentary (and 2015 Audiobook of the Year) Mandela: An Audio History.

#36: A Visit to the Memory Palace  

Big, happy announcement: The Memory Palace is the newest member of Radiotopia! To celebrate, we bring you an episode from The Memory Palace, by Nate DiMeo. It's the story of Guglielmo Marconi, sometimes called the inventor of radio…and his dreams of a super-radio that would allow him to hear every sound ever made. We pair Marconi's story with our sound portrait of Frank Schubert, the last civilian lighthouse keeper in the U.S.

#35: Matthew and the Judge  

We gave both Judge Jeremiah, a Rhode Island juvenile court judge, and Matthew, a 16-year-old repeat offender, tape recorders. Judge Jeremiah released Matthew early, for good behavior. Two weeks later, Matthew was arrested again for selling drugs. Through their diaries, Matthew and the judge tell the same story from two different sides of the bench.

#34: Seeing the Forrest Through the Little Trees  

The Education of Little Tree is an iconic best-selling book, with a message about living in harmony with nature, and compassion for people of all kinds. But there’s a very different story behind the book. It begins with the most infamous racist political speech in American History. This week on the Radio Diaries Podcast, the true story of the untrue story of The Education of Little Tree.

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