Today Things I Read That I Love turns 100, which means it’s four times as old as a quarter-life crisis. In celebration of this auspicious occasion, I have selected 140 of my favorite things I’ve posted in Things I Read That I Loves since starting this feature 100 weeks ago! Maybe you missed some of these and this will be your big chance to turn it all around and/or occupy yourself during long winter airplane flights to various holiday locales! As I explain before every edition of TIRTL, this ”column” is less feminist/queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is feminist/queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are. ARE YOU READY LET’S GO!
140 Of My Favorite Things We’ve Read and Loved:
- Celebrity Profiles
- Personal Essays
- Social Justice: Stories Where The Personal is Political
- Criminal Justice & Prison Reform
- Arts + Entertainment
- Gender + Feminism
- Sports, Adventure and The Great Outdoors
- Health + Medicine
Crime: 14 Stories About How People Are So Fucked Up
The Death-Wish Kids (October 1984) by Joe Morgenstern for Vanity Fair
“The teenage suicide pact that left one survivor and many questions.” Haunting, brilliantly written.
The Girl in the Closet (October 2013), by Scott Farwell for The Dallas Morning News
Lauren’s parents locked her in a closet and brutally tortured her for six years before she was rescued as an eight-year-old with brain atrophy who only weighed 23 pounds. But she survives.
At Trail’s End (2011), by Kathy Dobie for GQ
In Cleveland, Texas, eighteen men have been arrested and charged with rape of one 11-year-old girl. This is that horrific story, which is also a story about poverty, racism, sexism and rural decay.
The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia (August 2013), by Jean Friedman-Rudovsky for Vice
This is a horrifying and heartbreaking story about rape, sexual abuse, incest and terror within a small Mennonite community so isolated from society that women are powerless, even when their men poison and rape at least 130 women in their sleep.
Fatal Distraction (March 2009), by Gene Weingarten for The Washington Post
A Pulitzer-Prize winning essay on the 15 to 25 parents a year who, for various reasons, leave their small children in the car to bake to death in the summer heat.
The Child Exchange (August 2013) by REUTERS
Parents who adopt kids from overseas who turn out to be more than they can handle often pass the children off to other parents they meet on internet message boards on Yahoo about “adoption disruption.” Without government oversight, this means these kids often end up living in squalor with parents who are physically and sexually abusive or who have records or who’ve had their own kids taken away by Child Protective Services.
Hannah and Andrew (January 2012), by Pamela Coloff for Texas Monthly
“In October 2006 a four-year-old from Corpus Christi named Andrew Burd died mysteriously of salt poisoning. His foster mother, Hannah Overton, was charged with capital murder, vilified from all quarters, and sent to prison for life. But was this churchgoing young woman a vicious child killer? Or had the tragedy claimed its second victim?”
Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream (April 1966), by Joan Didion for The Saturday Evening Post
This is a crime story, basically, but she makes it into something so much bigger and more beautiful, about California and San Bernardino County.
18 Tigers, 17 Lions, 8 Bears, 3 Cougars,2 Wolves, 1 Baboon, 1 Macaque, and 1 Man Dead in Ohio (March 2012) by Chris Heath for GQ
“The miracle of the great Zanesville zoo escape—which began last fall when a depressed, desperate man named Terry Thompson set free his vast collection of exotic animals—was that not a single innocent person was hurt. The incident made global news. It also thrust into daylight, if only for a brief moment, a secret world of privately owned exotic animals living off the grid, and often right next door. We sent Chris Heath to Zanesville, Ohio, to find out where the wild things are—and what the hell they’re doing there.”
The Simple Truth About Gun Control (December 2012), by Adam Gopnik for The New Yorker
“There are complex, hand-wringing-worthy problems in our social life: deficits and debts and climate change. Gun violence, and the work of eliminating gun massacres in schools and movie houses and the like, is not one of them. Gun control works on gun violence as surely as antibiotics do on bacterial infections.”
Letters From Oslo (December 2012), by Julia Grønnevet for n+1
Julia Grønnevet covered Anders Behring Breivik‘s trial in Oslo for the AP, and also wrote about it for n+1, and it’s really interesting and ghosty and everything is explained so well.
The Nightmare of the West Memphis Three (March 2013), by Nathaniel Rich for The New York Review of Books
I’ve read and watched so much about these guys it’s insane, but this is the first thing I read that was really skeptical of the whole documentary situation? The author has a lot of feelings about the “unseemly solicitation of publicity” and the observer effect.
What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones? (December 2010), by Charlie LeDuff for Mother Jones
“A nighttime raid. A reality TV crew. A sleeping seven-year-old. What one tragedy can teach us about the unraveling of America’s middle class.”
Literature: 10 Stories About Stories and Storytelling
In Charm’s Way: Gone Girl‘s Sickening Worldview (September 2013), by Mary Gaitskill for Bookforum
Mary Gaitskill read Gone Girl and she hated it.
Interview: Lorrie Moore (October 2005), by Angela Pneuman for The Believer
This is a great interview with her from an old issue of The Believer, filled with tidbits of complete and total wisdom that may very well change your life forever.
You Are The Second Person (June 2013), by Kiese Laymon for Guernica
“You wondered out loud what writing “multiculturally” actually meant and what kind of black man would write the word “bro” in an email.”
On Spies and Purple Socks and Such (January/February 2005), by Kathleen T. Horning for The Horn Book
This is about Harriet the Spy and the queer subtext and the fact that the lady who wrote it is queer as a three-dollar bill, so.
How Your Sweet Valley High Gets Made (August 2012), by Grace Bello for The Hairpin
Interviewing one of the many people who worked with “book packaging” firm Alloy to churn out Sweet Valley High books in the 90′s. Apparently the writing procedure involved smoking a lot of weed.
Writer of Color (June 2013), by Zahir Janmohamed for Guernica
“I came to this workshop to understand if my sentences work, if my pacing is effective, and not to be told I need to write about countries I have never visited just because I share the same faith.”
In Conversation with Topside Press (April 2013), by Theodore Kerr for Lambda Literary
This interview is SO. GOOD. It’s with Tom Leger, Julie Blair, Red Durking and Riley MacLeod and they’re talking their press but also mostly the book “The Collection” which contains 28 short stories by transgender writers.
Nothing Like Being Scared (July 2013), by Victoria Best for Open Letters Monthly
On the life of author Shirley Jackson and her psychological deterioration while writing We Have Always Lived In the Castle.
When Books Could Change Your Life (September 2008), by Tim Kreider for City Paper
About why you might never love anything as much as we loved Little House on the Prairie.
Celebrity Profiles: 10 Human Beings With Faces You Know
Can You Say…Hero? (1998), by Tom Junod for Creative Nonfiction
An amazing article about Mr. Rogers. Really it’s amazing. Go read it right now. Trust me!
If He Hollers Let Him Go (September 2013), by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah for The Believer
A really really interesting well-written in-depth look at Dave Chapelle’s career, his family, his politics, Negritude, his family, comedy, black comedians, and Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Chloë’s Scene (November 1994), by Jay McInerny for The New Yorker
What’s so great about this article is how it really transports you to the 90′s in a major way. This is about Chloë Sevigny before Kids had even premiered and she was just this street fashion icon and club-goer and it girl.
I Wish I Knew How It Felt To Be Free, by Joe Hagan for The Believer
Amazing amazing story about Nina Simone, using information gleaned from her private diaries and an interview with her ex-husband.
Owning the Middle (June 2013), by Kate Fagan for ESPN Magazine
About Brittney Griner with a particular focus on her sexual orientation and gender presentation and how that has evolved over time and being harassed for her gender expression and also a lot about her fashion sense and what it was like to be forced into the closet at Baylor and all this other stuff. Photographs by Cass Bird!
The Tragedy of Britney Spears (February 2008), by Vanessa Grigoriadis for Rolling Stone
“If Britney was really who we believed her to be — a puppet, a grinning blonde without a cool thought in her head, a teasing coquette clueless to her own sexual power — none of this would have happened. She is not book-smart, granted. But she is intelligent enough to understand what the world wanted of her: that she was created as a virgin to be deflowered before us, for our amusement and titillation.”
Extinguishing Features: The Last Years of Richard Pryor (May 2007), by Julian Upton for Bright Lights Film Journal
This is the life & career of Richard Pryor, arguably the best stand-up comedian of all time, from his early groundbreaking days to his struggle with drugs and then MS and his film career. This is not mentioned.
How to Catch a Falling Star (January 2013), by Stephen Rodrick for The New York Times
The headline on this piece is “This is what happens when you cast Lindsay Lohan in your movie” but the headline on the cover of The New York Times Magazine is “How to catch a falling star” and I like that one better.
Ms. Kerry Goes to Washington: The First Lady of Scandal Speaks (July 2013), by David Kamp for Vanity Fair
“Kerry Washington says she’s not Olivia Pope, the powerful fixer—and presidential mistress—she plays on ABC’s hit drama Scandal. But whether it’s her political activism, the way she inspires her colleagues, or the strategic savvy that made the show a Twitter sensation, Washington flashes more than a little Pope in her offscreen persona. David Kamp explores the mind (and style) of the woman behind television’s complicated new heroine.”
Varieties of Disturbance (September 2013), by John Lahr for The New Yorker
Only the article about Claire Danes I’ve been waiting to read since 1994, and it was worth it, every minute. I can’t believe I didn’t know (or remember) that Alicia Silverstone was up for the role of Angela Chase!
Personal Essays: 10 Truer Things Were Never Written
The Illusion of Safety/The Safety of Illusion (August 2012), by Roxanne Gay for The Rumpus
“I used to think I didn’t have triggers because I told myself I was tough. I was steel. I was broken beneath the surface but my skin was forged, impenetrable. Then I realized I had all kinds of triggers. I simply buried them deep until there was no more room inside me. When the dam burst, I had to learn how to stare those triggers down. I had a lot of help, years and years of help.”
Where I Write #22: A Room Of One’s Own In The Middle Of Everything (August 2012), by Megan Stielstra for The Rumpus
“There are other things I’d like to teach them, as well; like the balance of writing and living, and how do you write and pay a mortgage, and is it possible to have a room of one’s own without a room?—but I haven’t figured it out yet.”
The Effects of the Rio Grande Valley on a Scholarship Boy (September 2013), by César Díaz for Guernica
“It is the writing found over a thousand miles west on a Tijuana border wall: Go, but do not forget me. Those who flee do so to escape living in the midst of everything they have seen or have been. It is a dream. It is a nightmare. This is the borderland, a land of misunderstanding, where you cling to the past because you are afraid to embrace the future. But it makes no sense. And it makes perfect sense.”
So That If I Died It Mattered (May 2013), by Jon Sands for The Millions
A poet returns to Ohio for a wedding, in New York he reads a poem in Tomkins Square Park, sits with his mother in the park while she cries, remembers his gay brother’s suicide attempt, talks about writing and parenting and mortality. It’s really lovely and you should read it.
Grief Magic (August 2013), by Emily Rapp for The Rumpus
“There are well-documented grief stages, most of which are too prescriptive and orderly to be true, but this is more like an addiction. An addiction to dread, or an otherworldy commitment to vigilance; an insistent grip on anxiety as the ultimate familiar feeling, an emotional safety zone.”
Laguna (August 3013), by David Perez for The Rumpus
People keep dying. He moves to San Francisco and also to Chicago. There are funerals and drug overdoses, and best friends and weddings. I will be a lagoon. I am a Laguna. I will live my life as a Laguna. I will be a separate body of water next to the ocean of my affiliated.
A Clear Presence (June 2013), by Aisha Sabatini Sloan for Guernica
This is about Rodney King, but also about swimming pools, and also about David Hockney’s paintings of Los Angeles and segregation and being black in a white neighborhood and lucid dreaming and Christopher Dorner and racism. It’s about a lot of things and it’s really beautiful.
I Was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (June 2013), by Laurie Penny for The New Statesman
I agree that “the experience of being her — or playing her — is so wildly different than it seems to appear from the outside.” There are so many things in this piece that I like, especially the end, and relate to.
Joyas Voladoras (Autumn 2004), by Brian Doyle for The American Scholar
“Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird’s heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird’s heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird’s heart is a lot of the hummingbird.”
My Month As A Slut (July 2013), by Lauren Quin for Vela Magazine
“I didn’t fit in either camp—I had the good grades and citizenship marks of the goody-goodies but the musical taste and angst of the partiers.” and “But what was real? I wanted to ask, cars speeding past us on the road. Where were the real girls, how did you find them? How did you become them?”
Journalism and Media: 8 Things We Talk About When We Talk About Talking In Print Or Online Or Whatnot
Shattered Glass (Sep 1998), by Buzz Bisinger for Vanity Fair
I’ve read a few stories and seen the movie about Stephen Glass, a New Republic reporter who made up like ten billion stories in the 90s and then got caught, but this one I found this week (via the writer who also wrote the book/article that became Friday Night Lights) I feel is an especially good overview.
Another Pretty Face Of A Generation (May 2008), by Rebecca Traister for Salon.com
“We have to remember: There is nothing wrong with women writing about themselves, their youth, their indiscretions, their habits and values and personal development. Men have been writing about this stuff for thousands of years; they call it the canon.”
Inside “The Chive” (July 2013), by Jordan Larson for The Awl
“The Chive is largely white, middle-class, heterosexual, pro-America and male. Chivers and Chivettes compose one of the most normative groups in America, and yet constantly describe feeling like outsiders, misfits, and people who “just don’t care,” as one Chiver told me. It’s an expression reminiscent of Fight Club, the desire for an all-inclusive largely male group that rejects the values of larger society—in this case, maybe, maturity and political correctness.”
My So-Called ‘Post-Feminist’ Life in Arts and Letters (April 2013), by Deborah Copaken Kogan for The Nation
“The lack of respectful coverage, the slut-shaming and name-calling, all the girly book covers and not-my-titles despite high literary aspirations, has worn me down, made me question everything: my abilities, my future, my life. This is what sexism does best: it makes you feel crazy for desiring parity and hopeless about ever achieving it.”
Look At Me! (May 2010), by Maureen Tkacik for The Columbia Journalism Review
“I also saw Gawker as American Apparel’s journalistic equivalent, and I justified taking the job by thinking of it as the next chapter in my immersion in the nothing-based economy, in which I would make the natural transition from creating demand for someone else’s brand to creating demand for my own. In hindsight, though, it seems obvious that Gawker had subconsciously inspired the whole book project in the first place.”
My So-Called Blog (January 2004), by Emily Nussbaum for The New York Times
Oh, 2004! Have you heard of this web site called Livejournal?! Or Xanga?! Teenagers have blogs!
Exposed (May 2008), by Emily Gould for The New York Times Magazine
“There was a harder truth that I refused to confront, though. After all, by going on TV and having a daily blog presence in front of thousands of people, I had put myself in the category of “people who make their livings in public,” and so, by my own declared value system, I was an appropriate target for the kind of flak I was getting. But that didn’t mean I could handle it.”
10 Stories About Government & Politics & The Economy: This Category Is Probably To Broad For These Words
The Ticking is The Bomb (January 2008), by Nick Flynn for Esquire
“Here’s a secret: Everyone, if they live long enough, will lose their way at some point. You will lose your way, you will wake up one morning and find yourself lost. This is a hard, simple truth. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, consider yourself lucky. When it does, when one day you look around and nothing is recognizable, when you find yourself alone in a dark wood having lost the way, you may find it easier to blame it on someone else — an errant lover, a missing father, a bad childhood — or it may be easier to blame the map you were given — folded too many times, out-of-date, tiny print — but mostly, if you are honest, you will only be able to blame yourself.”
In the Land of the Dear Leader, (July 1996), by Orville Schell for Harper’s
Fascinating piece about North Korea from an American journalist sent there right after Kim Jong Il’s father (“The Great Leader”) died.
The 1 Percent’s Problem (May 2012), by Joseph E. Stiglitz for Vanity Fair
“Put sentiment aside. There are good reasons why plutocrats should care about inequality anyway—even if they’re thinking only about themselves. The rich do not exist in a vacuum. They need a functioning society around them to sustain their position. Widely unequal societies do not function efficiently and their economies are neither stable nor sustainable. The evidence from history and from around the modern world is unequivocal: there comes a point when inequality spirals into economic dysfunction for the whole society, and when it does, even the rich pay a steep price.”
Should The Government Make Us Happy? (May 2008), by Ryan Blitstein for Miller-McCune Magazine -
Why do we judge how well a country is doing based on its GDP instead of the happiness of its citizens?
The Real Heroes Are Dead (February 2002), by James B. Stewart for The New Yorker
Alternately haunting, beautiful and compelling narrative. Keywords include Morristown, New Jersey, World Trade Center Bombing 2001, Middle Age, Dancing, Rescorla, Rhodesia and Greer, Susan.
Do You Really Want To Live Without The Post Office? (January 2013), by Jesse Lichtenstein for Esquire
It profiles the people who do the work on the ground and in the government, gets into the debate right now about the postal service budget and where the problem started, the evolution of the post office in general and the array of potential futures for the post office if the right people make the right decisions.
The Color of Law (July 2013), by Louis Menand for The New Yorker
This piece on “voting rights and the Southern way of life” uses the pillaging of the Voting Rights Act as a jumping-off point.
Million-Dollar Murray (February 2006), by Malcolm Gladwell for The New Yorker
It’s about how the impact of problems like homelessness are actually easier to fix than we think because the number of people who are causing the largest drain on the system is much smaller than you think. This also applies to car emissions.
The White Savior Industrial Complex (March 2012), by Teju Cole at The Atlantic
“If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.”
The Distress of the Privileged (September 2012), by Doug Muder for The Weekly Shift
“As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.”
Social Justice: 10 Stories Where The Personal Is Political
How to Slowly Kill Yourselves And Others in America, (July 2012), by Kiese Laymon
“I’m so sad and I can’t really see a way out of what I’m feeling but I’m leaning on memory for help. Faster. Slower. I think I want to hurt myself more than I’m already hurting. I’m not the smartest boy in the world by a long shot, but even in my funk I know that easy remedies like eating your way out of sad, or fucking your way out of sad, or lying your way out of sad, or slanging your way out of sad, or robbing your way out of sad, or gambling your way out of sad, or shooting your way out of sad, are just slower, more acceptable ways for desperate folks, and especially paroled black boys in our country, to kill ourselves and others close to us in America.”
My Father Is an African Immigrant and My Mother Is a White Girl from Kansas and I Am Not the President of the United States (July 2011), by Ahamefule J. Oluo for The Stranger
I have always been the overachiever in my family—the one who NOT ONLY got his GED, but also finished an ENTIRE YEAR of college. “He has his very own basement apartment!” my grandma proudly explains to her neighbor. “And he’s never stabbed anyone.”
In the Shadow of Wounded Knee (August 2012), by Alexandra Fuller for National Geographic
“I know why a lot of young girls try to kill themselves on the rez. We’re all in constant danger of losing ourselves, losing our identities. It’s a daily struggle for each and every one of us to be fully Lakota. And sometimes we lose the struggle, and then the men take out their feeling of worthlessness on the women, the women take out their feelings of worthlessness on themselves, and everyone takes out their feelings of worthlessness on the children.”
The Percentages: A Biography of Class (October 2011) by Sady Doyle for Tiger Beatdown
“You called us hicks, you made costumes out of us, you made jokes out of us, you have a bar in your big fancy city and it’s called “Trailer”: of course we want to hear that the “coastal elite” is worthless, of course we want to hear that we’re better than you, that we’re “real.”
The Sound of All Girls Screaming (October 2011), by Shani Boianjiu for Vice
“This is my chance. As long as I am choking, I am allowed. My talking serves a purpose, it is a matter of national security. A part of our training. I will be prepared for an attack by unconventional weapons. I could save the whole country, that’s how prepared I’ll be. My entire head is burning but my mouth rolls off words; they taste like apples, and they go on and on and on.”
Gang Rapes and Beatings, Brothers Filled with Teenage Prostitutes – The Depth of American Brutality in Vietnam (January 2013) by Nick Turse for Alternet
This is an excerpt from the author’s new book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. It’s profoundly jarring, especially because so many of us have relatives who fought in Vietnam, to think of the culture they lived in… this is all just so hard to stomach. It gets really horrifying.
Co-opting the Coop (December 2012), by Marianne Kirby for Bitch Magazine
“Homesteading, particularly urban homesteading, is for some folks an alternative to the dominant social paradigm—a different way of living in a country in prolonged economic flux… But for large portions of the poor and immigrant classes, homesteading skills are still survival skills. Can you really have a rebirth of something that never actually died out in the first place?”
Some Thoughts on Mercy (July 2013), by Ross Gay for The Sun
The author, a black man, talks about the way he’s been conditioned to see himself based on what white people always assume him to be — a monster, a criminal — and how he grew numb to racial slurs and other discrimination from the world-at-large. It’s also about gardening and bees and the “war on drugs” and fear and humanity and MERCY and you should read it.
Body and Soul (September 2013), by Drew Nelles for The Walrus
“Discrimination against physically disabled people is so insidious because it is material, built into the infrastructure of bipedal existence. Liberal meritocracy finds ways to subsume women and queers and ethnic minorities, but it freezes in the face of disabled people, who make clear the extent to which we must evolve if we want to broaden the scope of our empathies. It is one thing to change a law or a bigot’s mind; it is quite another to install a ramp and an elevator in every building in the world.”
Christmas in Baltimore City, 2009 (May 2011), by Lawrence Jackson for n+1
“There is something larger here, I know. There is something larger about the presidency of a black American man who admitted that he had sniffed illegal street drugs and who demoted the “drug Czar” from a Cabinet level position to signal an end to the Twenty Years War. There is something more profound about a year where I found myself discovering the ground in Virginia where my last ancestor walked in chains, to the wrong side of the barrel of .25 automatic held by a black hand, not so far from where a Spelman co-ed and an Olympic gold medalist had been felled by gunmen, to the funeral of an old friend shot four times in the back of his head exiting an appointment with his probation officer in the city of our birth. But I am not sure what it is, or that it has not come out all wrong in the end.”
Religion: 5 Stories On On Keeping The Faith Faithful
Did Christianity Cause the Crash? (December 2009), by Hanna Rosin for The Atlantic
“America’s mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated—one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now. Known as the prosperity gospel, and claiming tens of millions of adherents, it fosters risk-taking and intense material optimism. It pumped air into the housing bubble. And one year into the worst downturn since the Depression, it’s still going strong.”
Leaving the Witness (February 2013), by Amber Scorah for The Believer
This was fantastic, truly, just amazing. It’s about a girl who was raised Jehovah’s Witness and then moved to China to convert people there and her whole world opened up.
Under the Banner of Heaven (July 2003) by Jon Krakauer
“Although religious devotion is commonly extolled in this country, it has a troubling aspect that is often ignored or denied. As a means of motivating people to be cruel and inhumane—as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout—there may be no more potent force than religion.”
The Apostle: Paul Haggis Vs. The Church of Scientology (February 2011), by Lawrence Wright for The New Yorker
“I felt if I sent it to my friends they’d be as horrified as I was, and they’d ask questions as well. That turned out to be largely not the case. They were horrified that I’d send a letter like that.”
Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush (October 2004), by Ron Suskind for The New York Times
“All of this — the ”gut” and ”instincts,” the certainty and religiosity -connects to a single word, ”faith,” and faith asserts its hold ever more on debates in this country and abroad. That a deep Christian faith illuminated the personal journey of George W. Bush is common knowledge. But faith has also shaped his presidency in profound, nonreligious ways.”
10 Stories About Prison Reform & Criminal Justice
Deadly Secrets (August 2011), by Ali Winston for Colorlines
How California law shields Oakland police violence. Truly shocking stuff that you should probably know about.
The Run-On Sentence: Eddie Ellis On Life After Prison (July 2013), by Katti Gray for The Sun
Former Black Panther Party member Eddie Ellis spent 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit (the government was a big fan of incarcerating kickass black activists) and is this amazing activist, educator and advocate who has devoted his life to “helping the formerly incarcerated rejoin society.” The stuff he says on the last page of the interview is really killer.
Taken (August 2013), by Sarah Stillman for The New Yorker
The police department can pretty much steal all your shit whenever they want to and getting it back is nearly impossible if you’re a poor person!
The Wronged Man (November 2004), by Andrew Corsello for GQ
Calvin Willis was in jail for 22 years for rape of a child and was eventually exonerated by DNA evidence. Often when people are wrongly accused, there’s a thing tying them to the crime that you can blame for how it all went wrong — they were related to or otherwise knew the victim, they have no alibi, they had a shitty lawyer who gave shitty legal advice, there was a forced confession, something of theirs was found near the victim — but then there are stories like this one.
Dispatch From Angola: Faith-Based Slavery in a Louisiana Prison (August 2011), by Liliana Segura for Colorlines
Where most inmates work in the fields eight hours a day, locals flock to the Prison Rodeo (which opens with a black inmate on a horse carrying a Confederate flag while The Book of Revelations is quoted over the loudspeaker), and at least 90 percent of inmates will die there. Including probably the two guys who’ve been in solitary for 40 years.
The Caging of America: Why Are We Locking Up So Many People? (January 2012), by Adam Gopnick for The New Yorker
Our prison system is totally fucked, solitary confinement is fucked and crime rates are down but it’s not because we’re imprisoning everybody (because we are). This article is really thorough and gets into a lot of shit like the racism of the criminal justice system and the futility of marijuana laws, amongst other compelling topics.
Escape to Alcatraz (December 2012), by S.J Culver for Guernica
This was so awesome to read because, harboring fond memories of visiting Alcatraz as a child, Marni and I toured Alcatraz in the fall of 2010 and I was more or less horrified by how fucking backwards the whole thing was. It was like a shrine to “bad men” and the good guys who locked ‘em up, chock-full of false bravado and patriotic nonsense. He gets into that but mostly how Alcatraz totally obscures the truth of the racist and classist prison industry thriving today.
Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons (October 2012), by Shane Bauer for Mother Jones
Well, this is horrifying. How California prisons use sketchy “validation” procedures to declare inmates gang members or gang member associates and then lock them up in a shitty (but expensive for the taxpayer) closet-sized cell for years and years and years. Written by one of three American hikers imprisoned in Tehran’s Evin Prison after being apprehended on the Iraqi border in 2009, who notes that in Iran at least he had a window.
Barred From Freedom: How Pretrial Detention Ruins Lives (November 2012), by Albert Samaha for SF Weekly
How poor people who can’t afford bail are often stuck in prison for eons before their trial, and when they’re proven to be not guilty and return to the world, they find their lives are already in shambles.
Education: 8 Stories About How and Where We Learn
Joel Klein’s Misleading Autobiography (October 2012), by Richard Rothstein forThe Prospect
Wow, so, the former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, who’s a big name in education reform if you keep up with that stuff, basically has lied egregiously about his upbringing to make it seem like he can understand the struggles of children from poor families who live in housing projects. This article, written by a guy who grew up in very similar circumstances as Klein, is a pretty serious takedown
Getting In (October 2005), by Malcom Gladwell for The New Yorker
The ridiculousness of Ivy League admissions processes as analyzed by a Canadian. From 2005.
Lost in the Meritocracy (January/February 2005), by Walter Kirn for The Atlantic
“I drifted through classes and lectures, astonished anew by how little four years of college had affected me. The great poems and novels mystified me still, even the few I’d managed to read, and my math skills, once adequate for the SATs, had shriveled to nothing through lack of use. The lone science class I’d been required to take, an introductory geology course, was graded pass/fail, and though I’d passed it (barely), I still wasn’t sure what “igneous” meant.”
Leveling the Field: What I Learned From For-Profit Education (October 2011), by Christopher Beha for Harper’s
Every wonder about Phoenix University — the one that’s always advertising everywhere? Like who goes there? Me too! That’s why I read this article.
Everything You’ve Heard About Failing Schools Is Wrong (September 2012), by Kristina Rizga for Mother Jones
The author embedded herself in a public school in San Francisco — a difficult thing to enrage, apparently — to expose a school that changes the lives of its students but is still at risk of shutting down because of low test scores. A referendum on No Child Left Behind, etc.
Dispatch From Academia: Affirmative Action and Me (June 2013), by Eve Dunbar for Colorlines
“Will the young woman I imagine be able to outrun the boulder at her back? I fear the stories she might find buried in the archives will remain buried. And it’s this fear that compels me to harness the tools at my disposal as a member of academe to ensure that her access to stories, to options, to possibilities unknown and unimagined. I remember and I can tell a story and I’m here to work hard at maintaining institutional access in the face of its erosion. Because that fight is as much a part of our nation’s legacy as inequality, it’s the part of our legacy that affirmative action has always meant to redress.”
Battling College Costs, One Paycheck At A Time (February 2013), by Ron Lieber for The New York Times
Great piece looking at how kids are trying to get themselves through college without debt or parental support, and the sacrifices they must make in order to do so (lower grades, no social lives), and why the republicans who think college tuition isn’t a problem are totally full of it.
Freedom High (May 2008), by Pam Houston
“If there isn’t time, what is there? Simultaneity? Collective experience? One long continuous present tense? One day you receive an e-mail inviting you to write an essay on the subject of Prom. But I didn’t even go to my Prom, you are thinking, reading the e-mail, and that is the moment Prom loses whatever essential meaning it may have started with, and begins its long transmutation into something else.”
Even Artichokes Have Doubts (September 2011), by Marina Keegan for The Yale Daily News
25 percent of Yale graduates entered the finance industry this month, it’d seem, and this girl has some very serious feelings about it that I think she expressed in a way that is worth reading.
Arts + Entertainment: 10 Stories Mostly About Television and Music
Strange Times at the 2012 Gathering of the Juggalos (August 2012), by Nathan Rabin for The AV Club
If this article leads you into a Juggalo k-hole, I apologize, but wow this is some special shit.
Slash and Burn (November 2012), by Amanda Hess for Tomorrow Magazine
Gay One Direction fanfiction, the fans who write it, the fans who get really upset at the fans who really want two of the guys to be gay lovers for real — and how the outdated tired simplistic one-note conceptions of female sexuality and teenage love peddled by OD’s generic pop songs (and the songs of boy bands who have come before them) is perhaps part of what fuels the fans’ desires to create a more compelling and sophisticated narrative
Genius: The Nickleback Story (November 2012), by Ben Paynter for Bloomberg Businsssweek
If you’ve ever wondered why the fuck this terrible band is so successful then here’s your answer! Obviously I found this fascinating. Also I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Someday and How You Remind Me back in the day when I drove a vehicle and listened to loud music in said vehicle. It’s okay if you don’t respect me anymore.
Why You’re Addicted To TV (May 2013), by Andrew Romano for Newsweek
“We’re not only bingeing on shows like these—an adrenalinized meth saga, a pulpy vampire romp, a paranoid terrorism drama, a seedy political thriller—because we can. There’s more to it than that. Talk to the people behind Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and so on, and it soon becomes clear that they’ve designed these shows to be more bingeable—more propulsive and page-turning—than anything the networks ever pushed on us in the past. How We Watch may be changing. But it’s changing What We Watch as well.”
Very Deep in America (August 2011), by Lorrie Moore for The New York Review of Books -
Thoughts on the book, movie and television series Friday Night Lights.
Legends Never Die (May 2013), by Caroline Rothstein for Narrative.ly
“Those of us who watched Kids as adolescents, growing up in an era before iPhones, Facebook, and Tiger Moms, had our minds blown from wherever we were watching–whether it was the Angelika Film Center on the Lower East Side or our parents’ Midwestern basements. We were captivated by the entirely unsupervised teens smoking blunts, drinking forties, hooking up, running amok and reckless through the New York City streets. Simultaneously, the driving storyline highlighted the terror of HIV and AIDS, which was at its apex in the mid-nineties.”
Teenage Dreams (August 2012), by Emily Landau for The Walrus
“Degrassi treated such issues as teen pregnancy, abortion, and suicide with gravitas. It was the only place on television where kids could see themselves depicted honestly. There has never been anything else like it.”
Johnny & Winona (Die With Me) (December 2012), by Masha Tupitsyn for Berfrois
“For a while Gwyneth Paltrow, who was once good friends with Winona, talked about her first big love, Brad Pitt, that way. But after they broke up, she stopped talking like that, as many of us do; stopped talking about love period, which means that maybe a part of her stopped being able to feel that way.”
Freedomland Forever! (March 2013), by Garrett McGrath for narrative.ly -
This is about a huge park built in The Bronx that was supposed to be East Coast Disneyland and instead closed down in three years. Obvs I had to google the fuck out of it, and then I found another piece about Freedomland in The New York Times.
Difficult Women (July 2013), by Emily Nussbaum for The New Yorker
This is a really brilliant thing about Sex and the City and brooding men on television. About how SATC diverged from the traditional “single girls” shows like Mary Tyler Moore: “In contrast, Carrie and her friends — Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte — were odder birds by far, jagged, aggressive, and sometimes frightening figures, like a makeup mirror lit up by neon. They were simultaneously real and abstract, emotionally complex and philosophically stylized.” Then she says a bunch of other amazing things, and then “It’s a classic misunderstanding, I think, stemming from an unexamined hierarchy: the assumption that anything stylized (or formulaic, or pleasurable, or funny, or feminine, or explicit about sex rather than about violence, or made collaboratively) must be inferior.”
Gender and Feminism: 7 Stories About Being a Woman/Person
Free To Be (October 2012), by Dan Kois for DoubleX
This is a really cool three-part bit on the history of Free To Be You And Me, the album that I think is partially responsible for my mom’s decision to raise us “gender-neutral.” Also I just love it.
Explicit Violence (August 2012), by Lidia Yuknavitch for The Rumpus
“What I’m trying to tell you is that violence against girls and women is in every move we make, whether it is big violence or small, explicit or hidden behind the word father. Priest. Lover. Teacher. Coach. Friend. I’m trying to explain how you can be a girl and a woman and travel through male violence like it’s part of what living a life means. Getting into or out of a car. A plane. Going through a door to your own home. A church. School. Pool. It can seem normal. It can seem like just the way things are.”
Feminism’s Tipping Point: Who Benefits From Leaning In (March 2013), by Kate Losse for Dissent
Oh this totally blew my mind and challenged everything I thought I knew about Lean In, which I read two weeks ago and mostly liked, besides that it was really heteronormative and baby-focused. It’s by a former Facebook employee who has a very different perspective on what Sandburg’s book is trying to do for feminism and how that fits in to the Facebook ethos in general.
The Hair Down There (August 2013), by Caroline Rothstein for narrative.ly
At first I was like, ugh not another article about the feminist relationship to body hair and waxing, but it was actually really interesting and good! Like she did actual interviews with humans (with a concerted attempt to talk to people of diverse gender presentations and sexual orientations) instead of just talking about her own bikini line for 800 words. Definitely the best handling of the topic I’ve seen yet.
When Men Are Too Emotional to Have a Rational Argument (November 2012), by Jen Dziura for The Gloss
THERE IS SOME GOOD SHIT IN THIS ARTICLE. (not the quote from this other article that I hate, but the rest of it is pretty brill) “Not only do I think men are at least as emotional as women, I think that these stereotypically male emotions are more damaging to rational dialogue than are stereotypically female emotions. A hurt, crying person can still listen, think, and speak. A shouting, angry person? That person is crapping all over meaningful discourse.”
Natural Born Killers (May 2013), by Nathaniel Penn for GQ
“Women get flustered under fire. They’re too fragile, too emotional. They lack the ferocity required to take a life. They can’t handle pain. They’re a distraction, a threat to cohesion, a provocative tease to close-quartered men. These are the sort of myths you hear from people who oppose the U.S. military’s evolving new rules about women in combat. But for women who have already been in combat, who have earned medals fighting alongside men, the war stories they tell don’t sound a thing like myths.”
The Texas Legislature’s Sexist Little Secret (July 2013), by Olivia Messer for The Texas Observer
How the men in the Texas Legislature treat women like shit and why Wendy Davis is even more amazing than you imagined, considering, and how people put up with it but they shouldn’t. It sounds really bad so I think everybody should read this so everybody knows and maybe something could change.
Technology/Web: 4 Stories
Scamworld (May 2012) by Joseph L. Flatley for The Verge
This is an amazing really thorough look at how these douchebags scam people out of thousands and then millions of dollars through these “get rich quick” “Internet Marketing” work-from-home schemes. We’ve all seen the ads on teevee late at night or popping up in our faces here or there. These assholes email me often with money-making opportunities for my website blog marielynbernard dot blogspot dot com, or ever-so-often for Auto Straddle. What’s amazing is how persistent they are. They’ll keep emailing and emailing and if I keep ignoring them (which I always do), they just start to annoy Alex instead. Anyhow this is a multi-media article with videos and things, so set some time aside.
The Call of the Future (April 2012) by Tom Vanderbilt for The Wilson Quarterly
Nobody is talking on the phone anymore! Nobody! It’s not just you.
Who’s The Shop Steward On your Kickstarter? (February 2013), by Josh MacPhee for The Baffler
I’m really interested in the evolution of crowdfunding and kickstarter and so I found this piece really compelling. It gets into a lot of stuff including the impact of celebrities using kickstarter and the unexpectedly high cost of perks fulfillment.
The Bacon-Wrapped Economy (March 2013), by Ellen Cushing for The East Bay Express
“Tech has brought very young, very rich people to the Bay Area like never before. And the changes to our cultural and economic landscape aren’t necessarily for the better.”
Disaster and Tragedy: 5 Stories About Terrible Things
The Devil at 37,000 Feet (January 2009), by William Langewiesche for Vanity Fair
This was insanely gripping and also educational and also devastating. It’s about a plane crash that happened in Brazil in, I think, 2008.
“Is He Coming? Is He? Oh God I Think He Is” (August 2012), by Sean Flynn for GQ
This is hard and heavy. There’s also a bit about the lesbian couple I wrote about at the time.
Junkies in the Hurricane (October 2012), by Eliza Player for The Fix
It’s the story of a heroin addict who was stuck in New Orleans during Katrina, which she didn’t really even realize was happening because that’s where she was at with her addiction at the time. It’s wild.
The School (March 2007), by C.J. Chivers for Esquire
“On the first day of school in 2004, a Chechen terrorist group struck the Russian town of Beslan. Targeting children, they took more than eleven hundred hostages. The attack represented a horrifying innovation in human brutality. Here, an extraordinary accounting of the experience of terror in the age of terrorism.”
The Deadly Choices at Memorial Medical Center During And After Katrina (August 2009), by Sheri Fink for The New York Times Magazine
”The story of Memorial Medical Center raises other questions: Which patients should get a share of limited resources, and who decides? What does it mean to do the greatest good for the greatest number, and does that end justify all means? Where is the line between appropriate comfort care and mercy killing? How, if at all, should doctors and nurses be held accountable for their actions in the most desperate of circumstances, especially when their government fails them?”
Sports, Adventures & The Great Outdoors: 5 Stories
A Basketball Fairy Tale (November 2012), by Sam Anderson for The New York Times
I’ll read Sam Anderson write about anything, obviously, but this piece on the Oklahoma City Thunder and its “nice-guy susperstar” Kevin Durant is fantastic whether you are unnaturally obsessed with Sam Anderson or not.
Sunk: The Incredible Truth About A Ship That Never Should Have Sailed (February 2013), by Kathryn Miles for Outside
“When the Bounty went down during Hurricane Sandy, millions watched on TV as the Coast Guard rescued 14 survivors—but couldn’t save the captain and one of his crew. A huge question lingered in the aftermath: what was this vessel—a leaking replica built in 1960 for the film Mutiny on the Bounty—doing in the eye of the storm?”
The Killer in the Pool (July 2010), by Tim Zimmerman for Outside
There’s a documentary premiering in Sundance this week that you’re gonna hear about called Blackfish, and it’s about the conditions for sea mammals at Sea World. The filmmaker was inspired to make the film after reading this article, which tells the story of Dawn Brancheau, an experienced senior trainer at Sea World who was killed by Tilikum, the killer whale in her charge. It’s a good story.
Snow Fall (December 2012), by John Branch for The New York Times
This is amazing — stunning, everything. You have to read it on a computer though, not on a kindle or a phone. I found it through a tweet declaring this the hands-down winner for best web design of the year and it’s a longform piece about an avalanche that happened on a backcountry trail traversed by an all-star group of freeskiers in Washington, and the way it’s put together is probably the most ingenious employment of the internet’s narrative-enhancement possibilities of all time. It’s long, so settle in, but it’s good. It’s an experience.
How Chris McCandless Died (Septmber 2013), by Jon Krakauer for The New Yorker
A follow-up piece to the (also Required Reading) Death of An Innocent.
History: 8 Stories That Go Way Back
Monopoly is Theft (October 2012), by Christopher Ketcham for Harper’s
Genuinely fascinating history of Monopoly’s socialist roots and the progressive ideas of the economist Henry George.
Town of the Living Dead (October 2013), by Laurie Gwen Shapiro and Eric Pomerance for The Los Angeles Review of Books
Concord, MA is the fantasy camp for geeks. Living there was so fun. I was like nine or ten. I made a newspaper at The Orchard House. I wanted to be Jo March so bad. This article is about the people who dress up there.
Black is Beautiful: Why Black Dolls Matter (February 2013), by Lisa Hix for Collecters Weekly
A fascinating trip into doll-world discussing how hard it’s been historically difficult to find black dolls and the importance of black dolls for youth of color. There’s a black doll museum in Massachusetts!
No Man’s Land: Fear, Racism, and the Historically Troubling Attitude of American Pioneers (February 2008), by Eula Biss for The Believer
About Little House on the Prairie, and gentrification, and Rogers Park in Chicago, and Native Americans and our culture of fear. It’s mostly about fear, and how white people are implored to fear black people, and how that fear permeates everything in this country.
Naked Joe (April 2013), by Bill Donahue for Boston Magazine
“One hundred years ago, Joe Knowles stripped down to his jockstrap, said goodbye to civilization, and marched off into the woods to prove his survival skills. He was the reality star of his day. For eight weeks, rapt readers followed his adventures in the Boston Post, for whom he was filing stories on birch bark. When he finally staggered out of the wild, looking like a holdover from the Stone Age, he returned home to a hero’s welcome. That’s when things got interesting.”
All of America, and Parking Too (January 2008), by Joe Queenan for The New York Times
I laughed out loud five times reading this piece about mega-malls. Like laughed a lot.
Java Man (2001), by Malcom Gladwell for The New Yorker
”How caffeine created the modern world.” It’s really interesting for real, w/r/t how coffee changed the American workday and seemed to override a prior respect for actual rest over a cup of coffee.
Last Meals (September 2013) by Brent Cunningham for Lapham’s Quarterly
Well this was fucking fascinating. It’s about the practice of giving last meals to convicts before execution and the public fascination with said last meals, and it’s also about capital punishment in general, and there are lots of interesting tidbits I found really surprising and you will too!
Health & Medicine: 10 Stories On What Ails Us
Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us (February 2013), by Adam Brill for TIME
The point of this piece is how uninsured people paying out of pocket are getting FUCKED by 400% markups on everything from blood tests to ibuprofen to cancer drugs, which I also know from personal experience, but didn’t know the specifics as laid out in this piece.
Life and Death in Assisted Living (July 2013), produced by ProPublica, PBS Frontline and Guernica
A four-part investigation of Emeritus Assisted Living Facilities, which have increasingly prioritized profit over actual care of their residents, leading to mistreatment, neglect and often death, while offering big payoffs to investors on Wall Street.
When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind (June 2012), by Jeneen Interlandifor The New York Times
I’ve been where the author was — trying to do right by someone who is destroying your life (and their own) within a horrific “mental health system” which refuses to commit anybody unless they’re about to kill you or themselves, basically, which has dangerous repercussions. Great article, A+++. Must read. It’s always haunting how similar everybody’s cases are when it all comes down to it.
Food Desert, (June 2010), by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs for Ebony Magazine
“In Chicago, approximately 633,000 people, in a city with a population of 3 million, live in neighborhoods that lack a grocery store. Roughly half of Detroit’s residents live in an area devoid of a mainstream full-service supermarket, leaving 460,000 people who, without a car or food-delivery service, don’t have access to fresh fruit and vegetables.”
Do I Dare To Eat a Peach? (July 2011), by John Spong for The Texas Monthly
“There are major categories of things that affect how much pleasure we take from food. One is sensory, and that’s where the supertasters fit in. We don’t all taste things the same way. That’s hardwired. The other is experience, the pathologies you have encountered. That is all learned.”
Our Feel-Good War Against Breast Cancer (April 2013), by Peggy Orenstein for The New York Times
“Raising the public profile of breast cancer, a disease once spoken of only in whispers, was at one time critically important, as was emphasizing the benefits of screening. But there are unintended consequences to ever-greater “awareness” — and they, too, affect women’s health.”
How Long Can You Wait To Have a Baby? (July/August 2013), by Jean Twenge for The Atlantic
Well, this was an encouraging bit of news regarding the fact that the information we get about declining fertility with age is based on really problematic research, some of it conducted centuries ago. Especially after that other article I read that basically convinced me that if I’m ever gonna have a child, I will need to find an 18-year-old sperm donor for a chance in hell!
The Reality Show (August 2013), by Mike Jay for Aeon
Due to my extensive experience with people who have struggled with schizoaffective symptoms, I’ve always been REALLY interested in how nearly-identical the delusions of schizophrenics are from person to person, only varying slightly based on that person’s level of intelligence and their educational breakdown, really, and also how often these delusions do reflect fundamental truths about society, and how these delusions have evolved over time as new “influencing machines” come into popular consciousness. So this article was like everything I could ever want in an article.
MIRRORINGS (December 2010), by Lucy Grealy via Lost Angeles
Lucy Grealy, the author of this piece, wrote the 1994 bestseller Autobiography of a Face, based on her experiences with facial disfigurement resulting from cancer of the jaw, and died of a heroin overdose in 2002.
It Starts With A Nosebleed and Ends With A Dead Guy (June 2013), by John Weir for Gawker
Oh this is just gorgeous and sad all over. Sometimes I feel, as a 31-year-old human, that people these days really have forgotten the enormous tragedy of the AIDS crisis w/r/t the gay community. I don’t think anybody remembers how bad it was. Read this and remember.