This week, we’re sharing stories by Reeves Wiedeman, Monica Mark, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Daniel Duane, and Danny Chau.

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1. The Dirtbag Left’s Man in Syria

Reeves Wiedeman | New York Magazine | April 3, 2017 | 22 minutes (5,546 words)

A profile of Brace Belden, a Jewish 27-year-old anarchist and former punk musician from San Francisco who spent six months in Syria fighting against ISIS with Kurdish rebels.

2. Poor, Gifted, and Black

Monica Mark | BuzzFeed | March 30, 2017 | 23 minutes (5,909 words)

In South Africa, students of color still struggle with the long-lasting effects of apartheid, because education, like society, is still run by and for the white minority.

3. The High Price of Leaving the Ultra-Orthodox Life

Taffy Brodesser-Akner | New York Times Magazine | March 30, 2017 | 20 minutes (5,000 words)

Footsteps is an organization for formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews, or those thinking about leaving their strict religious communities. Each week the members struggle with issues of sex, modesty, whether they should stay with their religious spouses, kiss on a first date, or even eat the non-kosher pizza provided at meetings.

4. Cooking Lessons

Daniel Duane | The California Sunday Magazine | March 30, 2017 | 27 minutes (6,952 words)

Two successful chefs decided to open a chain of healthy fast food restaurants in lower income neighborhoods where fresh, nutritious food is scarce. They started in Watts and hired in Watts. They kept prices low, wages fair, and quality high. They were disrupting conventional fast food. Their model had a mandate. Making it work has been difficult.

5. The Burning Desire for Hot Chicken

Danny Chau | The Ringer | August 31, 2016 | 20 minutes (5,244 words)

How a decades-old standby dish in Nashville found its way into stardom.