It’s that time of year again, when for two weeks, my Twitter feed reads like a public radio fund-drive. That’s right, it’s Longreads’ annual member drive.

We’re working hard right now to raise $50,000 for our original story fund by Sunday, November 4th — a number that turns into $200,000 when you consider that matches every dollar contributed times three. We need your help to achieve this goal — to be able to fund more original stories.

At Longreads we pride ourselves on paying contributors fairly. The money we raise during our member drive is used to pay writers, editors, art directors, fact-checkers, copyeditors, illustrators, photographers, transcribers, translators and others who help us publish original pieces throughout the year.

It’s used to fund not only ground-breaking journalism — for instance Leah Sottile’s article and podcast series, Bundyville, a collaboration with Oregon Public Broadcasting — but also personal essays, which we’ve been publishing more of than ever before.

As Longreads’ Essays Editor — and a reader — I feel strongly that personal narratives have never been more important than they are now, when the world needs more awareness of, and empathy for, people’s different experiences. Publishing personal essays allows us to amplify diverse voices, and also to give chances to new writers who are just starting out. I believe personal essays can be as effective as hard reporting in conveying important ideas, and perhaps even more so in terms of opening people’s hearts and minds.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to get to work at a publication that recognizes the value of personal essays, pays writers fairly for them, and makes room in its editorial calendar for two or more of them each week.

Becoming a member — or making a one-time donation whether or not you already are a member — helps us to keep publishing a broad mix of essays from a wide variety of writers.

It’s impossible to choose my favorite particular essays that we’ve published, but in the interest of persuading you to contribute, I’d like to point to a few that have made me especially proud to have the opportunity to do this work, and to be part of the incredible Longreads team. Please notice, too, the art that accompanies these pieces — original illustrations by various artists, and collages by our art director, Katie Kosma. Member funding helps pay for these, too.

Headshot of the author at 18, courtesy of the author; body composite by Katie Kosma.

The Changeling

Alexander Chee considers the ways in which answering the question, “What are you?” turned him into a writer.

A Woman’s Work: Home Economics* (*I Took Woodworking Instead)

Carolita Johnson tallies the costs and benefits of love and cohabitation as a woman artist living in a patriarchy.

Plain Girl

How To Be a Plain Girl

A black woman’s hair biography.

Illustration by Wenting Li

Ten Translations of Care

Mary Wang recalls the ways in which she and her family in China conspired to hide her grandmother’s cancer diagnosis from her.

Mohammad Alizade / Unsplash, Getty Images, Collage by Katie Kosma

A Woman, Tree or Not

Terese Marie Mailhot questions the value of Native coming of age ceremonies she missed out on.

Mark Humphrey / AP, Illustration by Katie Kosma

Living with Dolly Parton

Asking difficult questions often comes at a cost.

Illustrations by Natalie Lima

Fat Girl Cries Herself to Sleep At Night: An Illustrated Essay

Living in a body can be hysterically complicated.

Illustration by Natalie Nelson

To Post, or Not to Post?

Eloghosa Osunde contemplates the role of marginalized artists in online activism.


A Remarkable Child

My friend Sam went back to Brooklyn and his gang of peculiar white buddies watching their endless Stanley Kubrick film festival. I shall not see him again.

Aaron Burden / Unsplash

A Birth Plan for Dying

Hanna Neuschwander grapples with ending a wanted pregnancy, and finds that “right” or “wrong” fail to describe the moral reckoning.

Illustration by Greta Kotz

Having the Wrong Conversations about Hate Activity

How a terrified mother tried — and failed — to be a walking-talking public service announcement.

Illustration by Loveis Wise

Brown Girl with Bubblegum

As a mixed-race kid with free-form hair, Lisa Rosenberg believed learning to blow bubblegum bubbles would be her ticket to an idealized (white) American girlhood.

iStock/Getty, Illustration by Katie Kosma

The Rub of Rough Sex

Chelsea G. Summers considers the ways in which outwardly ‘progressive’ men like former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman use kink as a cover for abuse.

Illustration by Ellice Weaver

Why I Lied to Everyone in High School About Knowing Karate

As a teen, Jabeen Akhtar discovered that trying to be an exceptional immigrant can make you do stupid things.


I’m really proud of all the personal essays we’ve published, and the illustrations that accompany them. (You can find a complete list here.) With your help, we can publish many more.