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Longreads’ Best of WordPress, Vol. 2

Here are 10 of our favorite stories right now from Autostraddle, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Toast, Walrus Magazine, and more.
AUTHOR:Mike Dang
PUBLISHED: July 23, 2014

Stand Down

The victims of police shootings are often people with mental illness. Memphis, Tennessee may have a solution.
PUBLISHED: July 1, 2014
LENGTH: 23 minutes (5796 words)

The Talk

A new kind of sex ed for teenage boys includes having discussions about healthy relationships, sexual orientation, and how to trust, communicate, negotiate, and empathize:

Vanier was the first of five junior high schools across Calgary to host WiseGuyz, almost four years ago now. Principal Martin Poirier, a dapper man in a blue bow tie, tells me the younger students look forward to signing up in grade nine. Though the program is voluntary, some are encouraged to enroll, the ones who act inappropriately, or who seem immature and might need more confidence. “What these boys learn,” he says, “has an impact on the whole school. They become role models.”

The curriculum follows a carefully plotted schedule. After the unit on human rights and values, it moves on to the nuts and bolts: anatomy, sex, and contraception. The third unit focuses on gender and sexuality, and the course wraps up in the spring by addressing healthy relationships. It’s heavy stuff, and WiseGuyz takes it seriously, basing the content on current research and constant evaluation. The Calgary Sexual Health Centre study that informed the program drew on surveys from health and social service organizations that serve young people, as well as focus groups and academic literature. A couple of years ago, WiseGuyz commissioned another report measuring its impact and collecting feedback from interviews with teachers and past participants.

PUBLISHED: April 1, 2014
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6011 words)

The Story Behind The Rob Ford Story

How a little-known Supreme Court ruling unmuzzled reporters—and changed Canadian journalism:

The truth about Rob Ford was dragged into public view one story at a time, in every case without the benefit of irrefutable proof. There were no Breathalyzer tests proving that the mayor had a drinking problem, and while three journalists reported seeing the video of the mayor smoking crack, it would be months before the police confirmed that it even existed. Through it all, Ford and his older brother Doug, a city councillor, fought back by vigorously advancing versions of events that were the exact opposite of what happened. How, then, did Doolittle and others manage to get at the truth without risking the mother of all defamation suits?

PUBLISHED: March 1, 2014
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6275 words)

Boy Next Door

The writer on growing up with news reports of a serial rapist and killer who eluded capture for years before finally getting arrested, and how it impacted her own experience with sexual assault:

According to media reports, after Bernardo’s arrest a police officer assigned to prepare the official transcript of the footage of French’s and Mahaffy’s torture collapsed, weeping, and couldn’t continue. I had a similar reaction while reading it. The smallest details haunted me: during one prolonged assault, Bernardo took a break to rent a movie and grab a pizza, and another time Homolka cooked a chicken dinner for the couple and their victim.

The real terror was that it felt so ordinary and suburban, that the vilest acts occurred in the spaces we thought were safe. I was struck by the same sense of banality, looking at the home where Bernardo grew up.

Evil was not foreign to our idyllic community. It had been with us all along.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 18, 2013
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4047 words)

Afghanistan Undone

CBC reporter Mellissa Fung was kidnapped, stabbed, and thrown down a hole outside Kabul where she spent 28 days in captivity. Five years later, she returned to Afghanistan:

"Back at home after my ordeal, I refused to let my nightmares rise out of the darkness. I took on the cause of wounded soldiers as a personal journalistic mission. I visited almost every Canadian Forces base in the country, reporting on soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injuries or PTSD, or struggling over disputed claims with the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. But I couldn’t shake the guilt that nagged at me. I sought the help of a therapist, who assured me that my anxiety—a sense of something unfinished—was part of my 'new normal.' Still, I was haunted by those I had left behind. I had gone to Afghanistan to expose the plight of displaced people, abused women, and orphaned children. Instead, because of my kidnapping, I had become the story.

"All of this left me desperate to go back, even though some of my friends and family thought I was crazy. CBC was reluctant to send me to Afghanistan: what if I was kidnapped again? My inability to return made me feel like a hostage all over again, helpless and powerless. Unable to let it rest, I read articles and books, and set up a Google Alert on anything to do with the country I thought I would never set foot in again. I didn’t realize it then, but I was slowly becoming a stakeholder in the futures of those girls and women."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 11, 2013
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5272 words)

Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our story picks of the week, featuring Outside, Rolling Stone, Humanities Magazine, Walrus Magazine and The New York Times, with a guest pick by Tessa Wegert.
PUBLISHED: Sept. 20, 2013

Portrait of a Ten-year-old Girl

An intimate look at the life of Caitlyn Pinto, a ten-year-old girl living in Canada who loves Justin Bieber and has thoughtful ideas about racism and bullying:

"Caitlyn has an iPod touch, which allows her to surf the Internet, though she uses it mostly for iMessage, and FaceTime, a kind of one-on-one video chat. She and her friends message several times a day, about dumb stuff: school, music, what are you eating, whatever. On Fridays, they group-message, with everyone texting online at once. The family rule is that Facebook is not allowed until grade seven, and Caitlyn is fine with that. After much discussion at school about cyberstalking and cyberbullying, the prospect of sharing too much in cyberspace makes her nervous. Friends talk about the suicide of Amanda Todd, the BC teen bullied so callously across the Internet and at school. Caitlyn has heard stories about grade seven girls being teased online, and this is scary: an electronic footprint fixes a young girl’s identity when she is most in flux, and it can’t be erased. 'I like texting more than Facebook, because you know where it’s going. It’ll just go to one friend, and you can’t forward things.'"

(Related: Susan Orlean's classic profile, "The American Male at Age Ten," which was published in Esquire in 1992)
PUBLISHED: Sept. 11, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5622 words)

Body and Soul

The writer recalls an accident that left his friend paralyzed. A memoir about friendship and disability:

"'You can move your leg!' I said. When a nurse came in, I pointed. 'That’s not a muscle spasm, right? He can move his leg.'

"The nurse looked at Dan, then shifted her gaze to the floor. She was silent for a moment.

"'I’m pretty sure,' she said softly, 'that’s a muscle spasm.'

"The blood drained from my face. The nurse left the room, and for the first time since Dan was injured I felt tears in my eyes. He would never walk again, and there was no point in pretending otherwise. I stood at the foot of his bed, watching his leg, which was now twitching uncontrollably. My face began to move in spasms, too, and I wept."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6225 words)