The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Greg Tate, Alicia Inez Guzmán, Christian Wallace, Laura Hoffman, and Connie Wang.

Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. Say It Loud

Greg Tate | The Wire | June 2017 | 1,904 words

After the news this week that legendary culture critic Greg Tate had died, the outpouring of grief on social media was one of this year’s least surprising phenomena: He is, in too many cases to count, your favorite writer’s favorite writer. When he began writing for The Village Voice in the ’80s, no one did more to treat hip-hop — the music and the culture — with the depth and care it deserved. (Flyboy in the Buttermilk, a 1992 collection of that work, lit up the brain of many a young writer, this one included.) The Wire has lifted its paywall for all of Tate’s work, and you can’t go wrong choosing one at random, but I’m highlighting this 2017 essay about the evolution of the avant-garde in Black music because it highlights so much of his genius: encyclopedic knowledge, a mind for synthesis, and a singular voice born of the very culture he chronicled. “Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid observed as far back as 1985 and LL Cool J’s ‘Rock The Bells’ that the rage one used to hear in jazz had migrated to hiphop,” wrote Tate. A similar sentiment led this astute painter of our acquaintance to declare that jazz fell into a death-spiral as soon as it became divorced from Radical Black Politics. No one could throw a bomb quite like Tate — let alone be armed with so damn many of them. —PR

2. The Day the War on Drugs Came to Chimayó

Alicia Inez Guzmán | Searchlight New Mexico | November 30, 2021 | 4,200 Words

On September 29, 1999, helicopters thundered in the sky as agents in SWAT gear descended on Chimayó, New Mexico. Chimayó (pop. 3,000) was the smallest target in a sweeping federal crackdown on drug trafficking — specifically, the flow of heroin from Mexico into the United States. The Chimayó raid, which netted dozens of dealers and their associates, was supposed to rid the village of addiction and the people who abetted it. But that didn’t happen. Writer Alicia Inez Guzmán, who grew up near Chimayó, details how the hammer of law enforcement only made things worse. “The arrests touched nearly every family,” she writes. “But one thing stayed remarkably the same after the bust…. Addiction in Chimayó is still so intergenerational that some residents can hardly envision a future without drugs and overdoses.” What also remains is the stigma, or “stamp of deviance,” ascribed to Chimayó and its environs by the media. Guzmán’s reporting offers a cautionary tale. As her own mother puts it, describing the day the feds came to Chimayó, “que lástima” — what a tragedy. —SD

3. It’s Hard Out Here — Way, Way, Way Out Here — for a Medic

Christian Wallace | Texas Monthly | December 6 2021 | 6,816 words

It’s mainly oil and gas workers posted to Loving County, Texas (pop. 64), however a handful of resilient medics also live in this “desolate frontier of sandstorms and creosote bush.” I had never considered the rawness of a life spent looking after oil-field workers and rodeo cowboys until spending time with this spellbinding essay, in which Christian Wallace details his stint embedded with the team at the Occupational Health and Safety International (OHSI) clinic. Wallace masterfully depicts the camaraderie of his team, the challenges of the work, and the characters of Loving County. Even though life is rough, there are some beautiful moments, and by the end of this essay I had a lump in my throat. —CW

4. Keep This to Yourself

Laura Hoffman | Kenyon Review | November 3, 2021 2021 | 4,749 words

“X-rays are my first form of portraiture, images of my bones bright against a background of light.” In this gorgeous essay by Laura Hoffman — her first published piece, and one that she’s worked on for eight years — she chronicles the discovery and awareness of her own body over time. Hoffman and her siblings — triplets — were born prematurely; this led to a misshapen body and a left side that was smaller than her right. She recounts a childhood full of hospital visits and medical procedures, and a body routinely monitored and studied. “Since birth I’ve been propped up like a sapling, supported with braces and splints, made to grow upright.” As a child, she knew no shame: “I am carried, cared for, not yet touched by our culture’s casting of my body as other, as divergent.” In adolescence, as her body changes, so does her self-perception, bringing embarrassment, emptiness, and silence. This is an intimate, affecting piece on body image, disability, and identity, and I love and appreciate how Hoffman has shared her experience with us. —CLR

5. Love In The Shape Of Cut Fruit

Connie Wang | Refinery 29 | May 1, 2020 | 950 words

At Refinery 29, Connie Wang remembers the pleasures of eating fruits carefully pared, cut, and peeled by her mother. “Cut fruit tastes like love,” she says. What starts out as a fond remembrance of culinary childhood delight becomes a metaphor for life. “But more importantly, cut fruit is a gift. Life is filled with bitter and hard things. When you extract pits, piths, and peels, fruit becomes an accessible and reliable source of pure sweetness, only softness.” Participating in the ritual of cutting fruit becomes a way for Wang to cope with the loss, isolation, and frustration of the pandemic. “Cut fruit, like love, doesn’t take much to serve but patience and practice. It’s the willingness to swallow some bitterness so someone else enjoys only sweetness. I needed the reminder.” —KS