Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.
Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.
1. They Went to Bible College to Deepen Their Faith. Then They Were Assaulted—and Blamed for It.
Becca Andrews | Mother Jones | September 30, 2021 | 8,500 words
“But you drank the alcohol, right?” he asked. “What did you do to deserve to be hit?” That’s what Dean Timothy Arens of Moody Bible Institute asked student Anna Heyward when she described abuse, including rape, perpetrated by her boyfriend, who was also a student. That’s just the tip of the iceberg: Becca Andrews’ investigation into the impact of “purity culture” on MBI’s response to reports of sexual abuse and harassment on campus is deep and far-reaching. It’s enough to make your blood boil. Andrews exposes a robust culture of blaming victims and side-stepping accountability, all in the name of God. She describes the weakening of Title IX protections at religious institutions under Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, which makes future Anna Heywards more vulnerable to judgment, humiliation, or worse at MBI, Liberty University, and other evangelical colleges. “All the women I spoke to who were survivors of sexual violence at Moody say they experienced … difficulty in finding the language to express what had happened, because it was impossible to see beyond the constraints imposed by Moody’s specific interpretation of Christianity,” Andrews writes. “It can be hard to recognize harassment when it is at the hands of a brother or a sister in Christ.” —SD
2. Reporter’s Diary: Finding Forgiveness in Burundi’s Mass Graves
Désiré Nimubona | The New Humanitarian | September 14, 2021 | 3,921
I live in Canada, and Thursday September 30th marked our first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a new statutory holiday introduced to reflect on Canada’s history of abuse against Indigenous people — made particularly poignant by the recent discoveries of mass grave sites at former residential schools. Sadly, Canada’s troubled history is far from unique and this piece is about a small and often overlooked African country called Burundi — a place only just starting to peer down dark roads with its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Désiré Nimubona, a new writer to Longreads, spent 2020 following this Commission as they explored atrocities which started in the 19th century, when Burundi was first colonized by a European power, to 2008. It’s not comfortable reading. Nimubona literally watches mass graves being uncovered, with search teams holding up “belts, shoes, clothes, and other items pulled from the ground in the hope that residents would recognize who they belonged to.” In 1972, somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 Hutus were killed in Burundi. Nimubona was born six years after this bloodshed, but his life was shaped by it, displayed in the matter-of-fact way he tells us that in 1996, Tutsi soldiers made him and some friends lie in front of an armored truck: his friends were crushed to death. Still, amazingly, Nimubona does not seek pity in this essay, nor retribution. Rather, he finds hope in seeing Hutus and Tutsis uniting to inform the Commission. Where possible truth and reconciliation is, after all, about healing. —CW
3. I Had a Chance to Travel Anywhere. Why Did I Pick Spokane?
Jon Mooallem | The New York Times Magazine | September 21, 2021 | 5,138 words
I’ve never been to (or have any interest in visiting) Spokane, Washington. I’m not into minor-league baseball, either. So I read Seattle writer Jon Mooallem’s essay with no expectations, yet was surprised to come out the other side with a slight ache in my heart. On his first real trip after 17 months inside a pandemic bubble with his wife and two young daughters, Mooallem visits and experiences Spokane — a place he’d been genuinely curious about for years — at a baseball game of the city’s minor-league team, the Spokane Indians. With the Delta variant causing a surge in cases in the city, the idea of sitting in an open-air stadium seemed like “a manageable, belated step into the mid-pandemic lifestyle that people were calling post-pandemic life.” Mooallem’s piece explores the unique history of the team, and its special partnership with the Spokane Tribe of Indians (“we are not their mascot,” says the Spokane Tribal Business Council’s chairwoman). But, even more, it’s an unexpectedly lovely meditation on reentering the world: an anxious parent navigating life with an unvaccinated child; dealing with everyday stressors like wildfire smoke, COVID spikes, and survivor’s guilt; and pushing through pandemic lockdown inertia — which I’m personally trying to overcome. —CLR
Jesse Lee Kercheval | New England Review | June 21, 2021 | 1,925 words
This essay from Jesse Lee Kercheval at New England Review is a piece of writing that does not allow you to look away. Imagine you’re a child, eating deliciously salty, forbidden French fries after a swim at the beach on an idyllic summer day. Suddenly, you’re witnessing a horrific split-second car accident when someone fails to stop at a stop sign. Decades later, as Kercheval recounts this experience, she is unable to recall the most horrifying visual details from the scene, yet she cannot escape the sound. “I remember this. I can close my eyes and feel that metal on metal in my body,” Kercheval writes. The words she chose are simple, but their power teleported me to a car accident I was in in my late teens. The crunch of metal on metal is something I’ll never forget. This piece reminds me that writing has the power to connect us all across time and culture when it comes to what the body remembers from extraordinary experiences. —KS
5. An Interview With Chuck Palahniuk
Kathryn Borel | The Believer | September 27, 2021 | 5,659 words
I may not be a Chuck Palahniuk superfan, but I am 100% a smart-conversation-with-smart-people superfan, so this Believer Q&A had me from moment one. The last few years have been tough on the Choke novelist (and newly minted Substack writer), as they have been on so many of us; in addition to the usual psychic burdens, he went bankrupt after losing millions to an embezzling accountant. But prompted by knowing, empathic questions from Borel, he delves into his own regrets and coping mechanisms — both pre- and post-sobriety — and adds to our ever-accreting sense of a writer who’s as protective as he is prolific. “You know, I will stand on my head and whistle Dixie and do all these crazy things,” he says at once point, “because to me, being a genuine writer means that you’re able to shed all human dignity in a moment. People depend on you to express something that they can’t express. But I don’t want to betray people I love.” The first rule of a great interview is you share that great interview. —PR