The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Caroline Kitchener, Sarah Treleaven, Ilana Bean, Dan Kois, and Alan Siegel.

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

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1. A Texas Teen Wanted an Abortion. Now She Has Twins.

Caroline Kitchener | The Washington Post | June 20th, 2022 | 4,100 words

If I were a journalism teacher, I would assign this story to my class immediately. Not only because it is wrenching — and my god, it is — but also because it demonstrates the value of beat reporting, editorial foresight, and covering the ripple effects of major news stories. Caroline Kitchener writes about abortion for one of the biggest newspapers in the country. The so-called “heartbeat bill” in Texas went into effect nine months ago, which means the first women in the state who couldn’t get abortions because of the law are now having babies. Therein lies the seed of a story idea, in the form of a question: What happened to those women? Kitchener found one of them, a teenager who gave birth to twins several weeks ago, and crafted an intimate narrative that simmers with pathos yet lets the facts speak for themselves. I won’t soon forget the scene in which antiabortion activists hold up the subject of Kitchener’s piece as a political victory — even lighting a candle in her honor — without any knowledge of what their shameful advocacy has meant for her well-being, her sense of self, or her future. This is complex, award-worthy storytelling. —SD

2. How Three Sisters (and their Mom) Tried to Swindle the CRA out of Millions

Sarah Treleaven | Maclean’s | June 21st, 2022 | 4,359 words

Who doesn’t love a Canadian grift story? When Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employee Carol Power was asked to audit the Saker sisters from Nova Scotia — deemed to “be the model of rural ingenuity” for their diverse portfolio of interests — she had no idea that she had stumbled on to a complicated web of serious tax fraud going back years. When the CRA prodded, the sisters doubled down on the fraud, inventing false paperwork to cover their crimes. When taken to court, they proclaimed themselves victims of a vast CRA conspiracy against them. “The CRA investigators were looking for books, records, documentation, and electronic hardware and storage devices. They subsequently spent nearly three years combing through the Saker family bank records, sales receipts and invoices and searching for T4 slips, trying to track the Sakers’ behaviour and establish their patterns. Boudreau learned that many of the businesses had been operating largely without bank accounts, and most appeared to have no employees, supplier contracts or even production expenses. When CRA investigators asked the Sakers to provide supporting documentation to prove they were entitled to the refund amounts they claimed, the Sakers produced a huge volume of vendor invoices and sales receipts…One of the many vendors listed by the Sakers was Vandalee Industries, a name nearly identical to that of George Costanza’s fake employer on Seinfeld. It was almost like the Sakers were having a good time.” —KS

3. Safety Town

Ilana Bean | Guernica | June 20th, 2022 | 3,839 words

My most vivid childhood memories are the ones where I’m on my bike, at 4 years old, just after I learned how to ride. Our family’s home has an unusually long driveway: We can fit over a dozen parked cars during parties. There was so much space: to play, to ride, to create my own little whimsical world. I thought of this formative time as I read Ilana Bean’s piece on traffic gardens, those small-scale street systems through which kids can learn about road safety. In the imaginary world I built in front of our house, cracks in the concrete became turns. Carefully laid sticks became dividers. Rocks I collected from the neighborhood became coins for the toll bridge. But this curiosity in the built physical space I moved in quickly faded, and cars — driven by adults — would take me wherever I needed to go. Bean’s mother, Fionnuala Quinn, is a traffic safety expert, focused on building more intuitive relationships between children and our streets; car culture in the U.S. means that many of us “don’t actively interact with transportation until we reach the magic age of sixteen,” and at that point, we’re then expected to master the art of driving after a minimal amount of training. This is a thoughtful read on road safety and design — which I admit I’ve spent very little time thinking about in my life, despite the amount of power and responsibility I have each time I get behind the wheel. Even more, it’s a lovely, unexpected essay on the dedication of a mother, and the potential for a world in which children are raised with the skills to navigate their environments independently and safely and people are empowered to ask for and help build better streets. —CLR

4. How OXO Conquered the American Kitchen

Dan Kois | Slate | June 20th, 2022 | 3,066 words

When the second season of the brilliant sketch series I Think You Should Leave dropped last year, one of its oddest moments was the trailer for Detective Crashmore, a hardboiled action movie starring Santa Claus as the titular cop. There’s much more I’d like to say about it, but for our purposes today the thing that matters is a single line Crashmore utters: “Everything has sucked lately.” You know why? Because he’s right! We’re all mad and sad and worried. And when we’re all mad and sad and worried, that’s exactly when you need to read something like Dan Kois’ cheerful dive into the inner workings of OXO. You probably have a salad spinner or garlic press or measuring cup from the obsessively utilitarian housewares company; maybe you’ve marveled at it, maybe you haven’t. But in a time when the clearest articulation of our global mood comes from an irascible Santa-Claus-portrayed maniac, it’s worth taking a few minutes to concentrate on something small and good. Even when that something small and good is a vegetable peeler. —PR

5. A Marriage Story

Alan Siegel | The Ringer | June 14th, 2022 | 2,330 words

“It is, without a doubt, one of the most moving film sequences of the past 20 years.” I saw Up a long time ago, in a part of my life I’d like to forget. I don’t remember much about that time in my life (thankfully!) or much about the movie itself, other than what it reduced me to: a sobbing heap on the couch. I don’t think the term “ugly cry” had been invented yet, but that’s an accurate description of my response. How could two animated film characters conjure such a powerful emotional response in a hapless viewer in a mere 10 minutes? At The Ringer, Up director Pete Docter and codirector Bob Peterson reflect on the care and craft that went into making Carl and Ellie, as well as the specifics of imprinting them and their shared history on the hearts of an unsuspecting audience in that seminal first part of the film. —KS