Daniel Hajek

Duane "Yellow Feather" Shepard stands at the top of a narrow park that slopes downward toward a lifeguard training center and panoramic views of the Pacific coast.

"We're looking over the horizon at a beautiful, beautiful ocean," Shepard says. "It's blue, serene — it's quiet. It's just a gorgeous, gorgeous view."

For Shepard, this oceanfront park known as Bruce's Beach — located in Manhattan Beach, Calif., just south of Los Angeles — holds a painful history. "This is the land that our family used to own," he says.

On a warm May night, the sound of footsteps and a stranger's voice in the darkness outside his home startled a man in Afghanistan. Alarmed, he went to investigate. He saw that someone had affixed something to his door.

He found a handwritten note: "You have been helping U.S. occupier forces and ... you are an ally and spy of infidels, we will never leave you alive."

Youn Yuh-jung is an institution in Korean cinema. Her career spans five decades and includes starring roles in classic Korean films and famous TV dramas. Now, at 73, she has newfound fame in the U.S. for her role in the Oscar-nominated film Minari.

Youn is nominated for Best Supporting Actress, making her the first South Korean woman ever to be nominated for an Academy Award in an acting category.

Dr. Angela Chen, an emergency medicine doctor at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says she is pretty good at dealing with the unexpected. It's part of what drew her to emergency medicine, and her work on emergency cases trained her to navigate uncertain times.

Then, there was COVID-19.

Most mornings, Paulino Ramos sat under the small tree at the entrance of a busy Home Depot parking lot near Downtown Los Angeles. Other day laborers hanging around on the corner knew they could find their friend there, waiting in the shade for construction jobs. But in early September, they noticed Ramos, the sturdily built demolition worker, looked weak.

For art and architecture lovers who can't make it to the recently reopened Guggenheim Museum in New York City, there's an audio listening guide that can transport you there.

It's been a brutal year for Americans.

The relentless spread of COVID-19, the ensuing economic crisis and the reckoning around social injustice has made this a year like none other.

NPR wanted to know how these cataclysmic, consequential events have affected American families and how those experiences might shape their political choices in the upcoming presidential election.

In June, Marcel Lopez and his cousins set up a Zoom video call to say goodbye to their grandfather. Retired physician, José Gabriel López-Plascencia — Dr. López for short — was near death at his home in Phoenix. He was unable to speak, but he let his grandchildren know he was listening.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Last month, Raj Patel was talking with his friend, a doctor, who sounded absolutely exhausted.

RAJ PATEL: We were talking over dinner, and I come to find out that he was sleeping in his garage.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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