When a Minivan Is a Music Machine, and the Return of Chucky: The Week in Narrated Articles

This weekend, listen to a collection of narrated articles from around The New York Times, read aloud by the reporters who wrote them.

If you live in certain parts of New York, you can hear the sound of bachata, dembow and merengue típico infiltrate city crevices on the weekends until the cops try to shut the music down. This is Dominican car audio culture, where customized sound systems are an art of their own.

At meets and shows, Dominican car enthusiasts — known as musicólogos — are like D.J.s and live engineers, selecting songs and mixing levels for maximum effect. Their vans are assembled in huge circles and tricked out with towering rows of speakers. Swarms of spectators gather inside the rings, and musicólogos blast songs over their rivals, hoping to drown them out. Some prefer a clean sound, while others go for volume that makes your eyeballs vibrate out of their sockets.

This is a culture born out of a love for sound, for community — a cradle of belonging in a country that is difficult to call yours.

Written and narrated by Helene Stapinski

When Stephen Ulrich, a guitarist and composer, saw a standup bass in a Jersey City pawnshop with the word “SMUTTY” written across the bottom in pink letters, he immediately knew whose it was.

He recalled seeing that bass onstage on the Lower East Side in the early 1980s, when a band called the Rockats — and particularly their bass player, Smutty Smiff — changed his life, inspiring him to pursue a career in music. “He was larger than life and wasn’t like anybody else I’d ever seen,” Mr. Ulrich said of Smutty. “He kind of rearranged my molecules.”

Wondering why Smutty would have hocked his big, beautiful bass, Mr. Ulrich posted a photo of it on Facebook. First, he was hit by hundreds of comments. Then, Mr. Ulrich’s cellphone rang. “Smutty Smiff here,” said the voice on the other end, in a thick Cockney accent. “I heard you found my bass.”

Written by Dana Goldstein and Jacey Fortin | Narrated by Dana Goldstein

A vast majority of the nation’s 50 million public school students have been in classrooms, full time and mostly uninterrupted, this fall — whether students are masked or unmasked, teachers vaccinated or not.

Now schools face the question of what comes next. In conservative areas like Wyoming, some schools want to figure out how to encourage more people to get vaccinated. In parts of Georgia that have started requiring masks in schools, there is debate over how much it will help. And in liberal districts like Boston, where infection rates are low, some parents are beginning to question how long masking will be necessary.

These debates reflect a larger societal question: How should we live with Covid, since it appears to be here to stay?

Written and narrated by Erik Piepenburg

For Don Mancini, the gay man who created Chucky, the foul-mouthed killer doll who first terrorized viewers in 1988, “Chucky” (premiering Tuesday on USA and Syfy) is more than just the franchise’s first foray into episodic television. Its eight episodes pursue deeply personal themes that Mancini wasn’t able to explore when “Child’s Play” hit theaters 33 years ago.

In the new show, Jake (Zackary Arthur), a 14-year-old boy who unknowingly purchases Chucky at a yard sale, is miffed that Chucky has read his diary entries about his crush on a classmate. That’s when Chucky tells Jake about his own queer and gender-fluid child.

Although television is no stranger to gay teenage characters in 2021, Mancini knows that Jake’s sexuality might rattle some horror fans. “But I’m in a position to do it, so why not?” Mancini said. “The idea of causing some people’s heads to explode was catnip to me.”

Written and narrated by Korsha Wilson

Bryant Terry is a celebrated cookbook author, but lately, he has been looking beyond the medium of food to understand how best to preserve Black food stories.

Mr. Terry is heading up a new imprint called 4 Color Books, which will bring two to three titles written by writers of color to market each year. The first, “Black Food,” will be released on Oct. 19 and is an attempt to showcase the breadth of Black culture around the world. It features a galaxy of Black voices sharing recipes, stories and artwork and analyzing their connection to food, drink, spirituality, culture, belonging, rest and self-care. It’s more spiritually aligned with a gallery exhibit than a cookbook.

“I think the most impactful part of 4 Color will be modeling how we want the publishing world to be,” Mr. Terry said. “The informal tagline is: 4 people of color, 4 coloring outside of the lines,” and, as a nod to Black women and Black culture, “4c hair.”

The Times’s narrated articles are made by Parin Behrooz, Claudine Ebeid, Carson Leigh Brown, Anna Diamond, Aaron Esposito, Elena Hecht, Elisheba Ittoop, Emma Kehlbeck, Marion Lozano, Anna Martin, Tracy Mumford, Tanya Perez, Margaret Willison, Kate Winslett and John Woo. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Ryan Wegner, Julia Simon and Desiree Ibekwe.