Journalist Masha Gessen
Journalist Masha Gessen. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Masha Gessen, Molly Osberg, T. S. Mendola, Alexander Chee, and George Murray.

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1. To Be, or Not to Be

Masha Gessen | New York Review of Books | January 29, 2018 | 16 minutes (4,037 words)

A personal essay in which Russian emigre Masha Gessen ruminates on the culture’s tendency to privilege those who’ve suffered for a lack of choice — in becoming refugees, in picking their gender — and the choices that have impacted her life.

2. How to Not Die in America

Molly Osberg | Splinter | January 31, 2018 | 16 minutes (4,031 words)

Molly Osberg’s harrowing essay — a mysterious illness that wastes away her body in days and nearly threatens her life — outlines in painstaking detail how (or if) she would have survived and recovered from her ordeal without medical insurance or a safety net.

3. Rivers of Babylon: The Story of a Third-Trimester Abortion

T. S. Mendola | The Rumpus | January 30, 2018 | 27 minutes (6,905 words)

A bracing essay on late-term abortion, and how American politics have made an impossibly difficult situation even more painful and dangerous for women.

4. My Inheritance Was My Father’s Last Lesson To Me And I Am Still Learning It

Alexander Chee | BuzzFeed | January 28, 2018 | 18 minutes (4,530 words)

When Alexander Chee’s father died at the age of 43 he didn’t leave behind a will, and his estate was divided among his wife and three children. When he turned 18, Chee was bequeathed a trust, and the first thing he bought was something he thought his father would want for him — a black Alfa Romeo.

5. Send the Barbarian in First

George Murray | The Walrus | January 23, 2018 | 9 minutes (2,382 words)

Bullied as a child in school in the ’80s, Canadian poet George Murray once found solace in the make-believe world of Dungeons & Dragons, where he could become “a seven-foot-tall warrior who could punch the face off a troll.” At The Walrus, Murray writes of the role-playing game’s renaissance — about how it helped his blended family bond — and about how he’s “playing it forward” by acting as dungeon master for local families who want to learn to play.