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)
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)
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
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)
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)
The writer recalls working at a scandal-ridden theme park, and meets with other former workers to investigate his own memories:
"Matt and I laughed—a shameful admission. You know those hysterical giggles you get when a situation is so absurd, shocking, or terrifying that they’re more a form of damage control? The laughter boils up your throat with a fizzy club soda effervescence, impossible to tamp down, intent on releasing the poison inside you.
"I truly want to believe that’s what it was. Otherwise, it was just two cruel boys laughing as our supervisor kicked a dead sea lion in the head.
"The ice splintered. The sea lion spun on its axis like a compass needle seeking true north. We guided it from the freezer, its body skidding awkwardly down the ramp and onto a concrete platform set above the Barn’s floor. Rod backed up Big Blue, an ancient stake truck retrofitted as a trash hauler, until its bumper nearly touched the platform. Then we slid the sea lion into the bed."
PUBLISHED: June 24, 2013
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4665 words)
After her daughter is born with albinism, a mother looks to folklore for meaning and comfort:
"We mythologize even our routine birth stories. The most extraordinary reside in the world’s grand narratives, from ancient Greece to the foundations of Christianity. Like the detailed version of Noah’s birth, brought to public attention in the 1940s with the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls. In it, the boy is born with flesh as white as snow, hair as white as wool, and unusual eyes that illuminate the room. His father, Lamech, is disturbed by his newborn son’s appearance, so different from his own. He is suspicious, too. Recently, there were rumours that angels had been cavorting about with mortal women, and this child has definite angelic qualities. He consults his father, Methuselah, who in turn seeks the counsel of his father, Enoch. What Lamech ultimately discovers is that the white hair, luminous eyes, and pale flesh are attributes of the child’s divine calling. 'Call his name Noah,' Enoch advises. 'When all mankind who are on earth shall die, he shall be safe.'"
PUBLISHED: March 20, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5690 words)
A man develops Alzheimer's Disease, and his wife learns to cope with it:
"While most people associate Alzheimer’s with memory loss, its effects on reasoning and behaviour are no less defining, and arguably more problematic. The doctor scans his notes from their last visit and asks if their nights are still “disturbed.” Once or twice a week, Julie explains, Lowell has been getting up in the middle of the night to pull all of the bedding onto the floor. He will build a pile, move it back and forth between bed and floor, and then cruise the condo, amassing blankets, towels, sofa throws, any covering he might suitably add to the lot. His compulsiveness is most pronounced in the morning; he’ll pace between rooms, asking basic questions repeatedly, and it can take a few hours for Julie to ground him in the day. Since his nocturnal behaviour has been comparatively short lived and benign, she tries to leave him be. Earlier that week, however, he worried that the condo might catch fire, and set about giving his mountain of linens a cautionary soak in the tub. Julie intervened. Defusing her husband’s puzzlement was preferable to dealing with a flood.
"The doctor returns to short answer format. Does Lowell need help toileting? Occasionally. Incontinence? Rare. Exercise? 'We get him walking every day,' Julie says. 'He’s a trooper.'
"'Troop, troop, troop,' Lowell says."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 22, 2012
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4840 words)
A look at Degrassi, 25 years after resonating with teens:
"Degrassi ’s grassroots approach to social class served as a near-invisible narrative strategy, but it anticipated the show’s most memorable legacy: its unflinching, plain-spoken treatment of pregnancy, suicide, interracial dating (a big deal in 1987), and HIV/AIDS. What’s more, Degrassi didn’t treat its characters with benevolence. Spike’s pregnancy at age fourteen — the result of a clumsy first-time sexual encounter with Shane, a baby-faced ninth-grader — didn’t end with a convenient miscarriage. Her character spent the remainder of the series as a struggling single parent. Later that season, Shane experimented with LSD, fell off a bridge, and suffered permanent brain damage. Wheels, one of the most popular characters, lost his parents to a drunk driver, and later experienced a breakdown that culminated in a drunk driving incident that killed a child, blinded his friend Lucy, and landed him in prison. In the early years of HIV/AIDS, Dwayne contracted the virus after having unprotected sex with his girlfriend (a thoughtful plot choice in an era when many thought of it as a 'gay disease'). In a 1999 cast reunion on the CBC talk show Jonovision, actor Darrin Brown, who played Dwayne, was asked where his character would be now. 'Dwayne would probably be dead,' he replied."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 13, 2012
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2225 words)