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Sarah Handel

Updated June 11, 2021 at 7:49 PM ET

Before there was Hamilton, there was In the Heights.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's exploration of the American dream started in his own hometown of Manhattan — which holds the first chapter in many American stories, he says. Specifically, Miranda's first Tony-winning musical takes place in the immigrant neighborhood of Washington Heights.

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As the number of people lost to coronavirus in the U.S. ticks towards 600,000, we wanted to take a moment to remember someone who lost her life at the peak of the winter surge.

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Let's go back to March 19, 2020. I know you'd probably rather not do that, but stay with me here. The pandemic had just begun, and Adam Weiner of the band Low Cut Connie was feeling just like the rest of us.

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When the pandemic began and lots of people moved to remote work, some also moved full stop to new places - places they would rather live in far from the offices they had long been tied to.

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Before she became a writer for TV, Sierra Teller Ornelas worked at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. And she remembers one year, teenagers kept coming in and asking about the Quileute Nation.

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President Biden imposed a tough new round of sanctions on Russia today.

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With nearly 30 years in show business, Kristin Chenoweth has won an Emmy and a Tony Award for both her singing and acting. In one of her most famous roles, she sang her way through Oz in a story about sisterhood — the award-winning musical Wicked. Still, Chenoweth says some people are surprised to learn that she's a singer.

"It's so funny when people come up to me and they're like, 'Oh, I didn't know you sang.' And I'm like, 'What?!,'" Chenoweth says.

If you've turned on your radio anytime over the past quarter century, there's a decent chance you heard the voice of Sheryl Crow. From "All I Wanna Do" to "If It Makes You Happy," the Missouri-born music-maker has been consistently pumping out feel-good pop rock for more than three decades. Now, after nine Grammys and more than 50 million albums sold, the singer-songwriter says her 11th album, Threads, out Aug. 30, will be her last.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom share pieces that have kept them reading. They share tidbits using the #NPRreads hashtag — and on Fridays, we highlight some of the best stories.

This week, we bring you four reads.

From NPR's Washington correspondent Don Gonyea:

It's only rock and roll.

This fall, the more than 38 million kids who get their lunches through the National School Lunch Program are seeing big changes on their trays.

Ben Gibbard, the man behind indie rock darlings Death Cab for Cutie, has been a Seattle Mariners fan since he was five-years-old, and is such an Ichiro Suzuki devotee he wrote a song about the outfielder.

When Talk of the Nation's Neal Conan asks for callers on a given topic, there's no telling what he'll get. Today, the show followed up with NPR's Tom Bowman on his series about the tremendous sacrifices of the "Darkhorse" Battalion — the Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment. Lance Cpl. Jake Romo lost both his legs in Afghanistan with the battalion, and he spoke with Conan and Bowman about his tour.

One of the strongest storms to hit western Alaska in almost 40 years tore through several coastal communities Wednesday, tearing up roofs and leaving many residents without power. Winds as high as 89 mph were recorded in some places, and flooding was a concern for many villages already soaked by rain.