The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, our editors recommend stories by Caitlin Dickerson, Samira Shackle, Mitchell S. Jackson, Roberto José Andrade Franco, and Ian Dille.

Here are five standout pieces we read this week. You can always visit our editors’ picks or our Twitter feed to see what other recommendations you may have missed.

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Caitlin Dickerson | The Atlantic | August 8th, 2022 | 28,600 words

Go ahead and give Caitlin Dickerson a Pulitzer. Her examination of the Trump administration’s family separation policy is a reporting tour de force and an American horror story that should be read and studied as long as the republic stands. I could only read it in pieces. One go was too much — my heart couldn’t take it. Dickerson shows that some elected officials and bureaucrats acted out of a toxic combination of malice and ambition, while even more did nothing because they were too cowardly or navel-gazing. She holds them all to account, particularly those with children of their own. “‘Can you hold on? My daughter is about to get in her car to leave and I need to kiss her goodbye,’ one government official said as she was in the middle of describing a spreadsheet of hundreds of complaints from parents searching for their children,” Dickerson writes. A single phrase came to mind when I finished reading: “.” —SD

2. Seven Stowaways and a Hijacked Oil Tanker: The Strange Case of The Nave Andromeda

Samira Shackle | The Guardian | June 9th, 2022 | 5,925 words

Samira Shackle’s investigation is a gripping lesson in not taking things at face value. Exploring the story of “a heroic mission to defeat a hijacking in the Channel,” instead of finding “marauding Nigerian pirates,” she discovers scared and lonely men, still coming to terms with what happened to them after being brought ashore in the U.K. Any threat is dubious at best. The crew of the Nave Andromeda was likely just desperate to find a way to dock — perhaps even through a feigned distress call — having been turned away from Spain and France for having seven stowaways aboard. Shackle offers tremendous reporting on both this one event and the broader immigration issue of which it is part — while managing to keep humanity at the forefront. Her words paint an all too vivid picture of the rudder stock — the space around a pole that links the rudder to the steering room inside the ship — where the seven men clung on for nine days before being discovered, too scared to fall asleep in case they fell into the swirling sea below. Shackle focuses on Michael, fleeing from a gang in Lagos that killed his mother, and his bewilderment at being put into detention is heartbreaking. It is Shackle who helps clarify what has happened: “[H]e handed me a crumpled bail notice from the police and asked me to explain it. When I said that the case had been dropped, pulling up a BBC report from the previous January on my phone, he began to cry. ‘I didn’t know that,’ he said.” —CW

3. Looking for Clarence Thomas

Mitchell S. Jackson | Esquire | August 8th, 2022 | 6,500 words

“My god, dude, what the hell happened to you?” That’s the central question of Pulitzer Prize winner Mitchell S. Jackson’s new profile of Clarence Thomas. Except it’s not a profile in the traditional sense. It’s a rumination, a scream, a plea. Jackson, whose writing always seems to pour from his veins as much as it unspools from his brain, visits Thomas’ boyhood home in low country Georgia, where he was nicknamed “Boy” and grew up speaking Gullah, and his current home in Fairfax, Virginia, where Thomas “retires to on days he and his colleagues announce the usurping of more rights.” Jackson is seeking clues for how a Black man could come to make his life’s work the subjugation of his own people, among many other long-marginalized groups. I was moved by the honest desperation of this piece. Jackson’s work shimmers with pain. —SD

4. ‘She Made Us Happy’: The All-Star Dreams of Uvalde’s Biggest José Altuve Fan

Roberto José Andrade Franco | ESPN | July 27th, 2022 | 7,314 words

Two weeks ago, I read Roberto José Andrade Franco’s piece on the devastating loss of one Uvalde family, and I’m still thinking about it. Franco traces a history of Texas shaped by guns, violence, and segregation, but also comes in close to share the story of 10-year-old Tess Mata, one of the children murdered in the Robb Elementary School shooting, who loved softball and dancing — and had her entire life ahead of her. The photographs by Verónica G. Cárdenas are haunting — snapshots of Tess, her family, her bedroom and belongings — but so are the scenes from Tess’ life conjured from Franco’s words. I can’t stop imagining, for instance, a determined Tess throwing a softball in her family’s backyard, aiming practice pitches at a sugar maple tree in the Texas heat. A heartbreaking but necessary read. —CLR

Ian Dille | Texas Monthly | August 10th, 2022 | 3,938 words

Recent years have seen an explosion of discussion around racial gaps in outdoor recreation — finally. Despite rapidly proliferating groups like Outdoor Afro and the Major Taylor Cycling Club, retail brands and shops seemed almost inertially resistant to reaching beyond their assumed audience. (“I love Patagonia products, but their marketing materials make the luxury of intentionally living in your van seem admirable, even altruistic,” Nicholas Russell wrote in 2020. “The activities that outdoor companies present, whether climbing or running or snowboarding, isn’t correlated to what’s possible; it’s more about who fits the concept of that activity, who is likely to afford to buy into it.”) It’s that pattern that Jahmichah Dawes has sought to disrupt, opening an outdoors shop in small-town Texas. As such, Dawes has found himself a poster child of sorts, a symbol of something far bigger than just a man and his dream — whether he wanted to be or not. But as Ian Dille’s Texas Monthly profile makes clear, it’s a challenge he’s met with perseverance and mission clarity. And outdoor enthusiasts everywhere are better for it. —PR