Ira talks to a woman about a childhood friend of hers who mysteriously shows up after decades, for reasons that are only revealed as their correspondence unfolds.
Susan Burton rereads her parents' divorce papers—the fine print that changed her life forever.
Reporter Mary Wiltenburg tells the story of a little boy stymied by the question "Where do you come from?" (8 minutes)
Actor Matt Malloy reads a short piece of fiction called "Shoes," about a boy trying not to be a turncoat. It's from Etgar Keret's book of short fiction The Busdriver Who Wanted to Be God, and Other Stories.
Sara was raised in a fancy suburban neighborhood with strict parents who liked to flaunt their wealth—with his and hers Porsches, for instance. But when Sara was 12, her mother and father sat her down in the den with her siblings, and told them that their father had done a terrible thing, and their lives were about to change forever.
Production manager Seth Lind explains how he ended up watching Stanley Kubrick's The Shining when he was six years old, and how it led to two years where every night he had trouble falling asleep and nightmares. Seth is a member of the improv comedy group Thank You, Robot and hosts a live storytelling show in New York called Told.
Host Ira Glass talks with Kayla Hernandez, a seventh-grader who likes to reminisce about when she was a child, back in fifth grade. She visits Room 211 in her school, where her fifth grade class met, and looks at her old books, thinks about what happened there.
Alex Blumberg sets out to find a woman named Susan Jordan, who babysat him and his sister for a year when he was nine. He discovers that each of them remembered something about the other that the other would just as soon forget.
Growing up, Clevins Browne moved all over New York with his mother, indifferent apartments and homeless shelters. But that all changed when he was12, and they got an apartment in a public housing complex in Brooklyn.
Anthony Pico was a foster kid for most of his life. His mother was a crack addict who abandoned him, and he bounced around from house to house, relative to relative.
When Jack Hitt was 11, he did the worst thing his father could have imagined. Neither Jack nor his four siblings will ever forget the punishment.
Robin Epstein talks about her old job, as producer and chief question writer on a game show for teen-age girls called Plugged In. It was one of the first shows to air on the Oxygen network, the TV channel for women created by Oprah Winfrey. Robin had hoped that the show could serve as a role model for young women, showing smart teen girls answering tough questions.
Host Ira Glass talks to Jonathan Gold about the bully in high school who knocked Jonathan and his cello down the stairs one day as he was walking to history class—and why Jonathan felt a sudden surge of satisfaction about this almost three decades later.
Jon Ronson goes to his high school reunion to try to figure out why his schoolmates—his friends!—threw him in a lake when he was sixteen. The only trouble is, no one at the reunion seems to remember it quite the way he does.
When Emily Helfgot was ten, her dad was a sex therapist on a call-in radio show, which thoroughly embarrassed her. He also kept a stack of Playboy magazines in their house, in plain sight.
Host Ira Glass talks to Adam Stein about the very real cat-and-mouse game between his friends and the vice principal of his high school that preoccupied them throughout their high school careers.
When Elspeth was a girl, she wanted nothing more than her father's attention. He was busy, a doctor, and distant.
Jonathan Goldstein decides to find out—once and for all—if his dad Buzz thinks he's manly enough.
This American Life producer Alex Blumberg investigates a little-studied phenomenon: Children who get a mistaken idea in their heads about how something works or what something means, and then don't figure out until well into adulthood that they were wrong. Includes the tale of a girl who received a tissue box for Christmas, allegedly painted by trained monkeys.
When Aric Knuth was a little kid, his dad would leave for six months at a time. He was a merchant marine.
One day Virginia Holman's mother announced she was taking Virginia and her little sister to their cottage at the beach. At the time, Virginia didn't realize they were being kidnapped—that they'd be held for months, hostage to her mother's mental illness.
Starlee Kine gets answers about her parents marriage from her dad...after a lifetime of mystery. She and her sister had wanted her parents to divorce since they were little.
Contributor Starlee Kine tells a story about getting as close to one promised land—Disneyland—as you possibly can, without actually going in.
Host Ira Glass talks to two people about their real-life stories of theory and practice. Subject 1: Michael.