Author Archives

Hope Reese is a journalist based in Louisville, KY. Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Undark Magazine, Vox, and other publications. Find her on Twitter: @hope_reese

‘I Was Trapped Forever In This Present Tense’: Carmen Maria Machado on Surviving Abuse

“At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her.” Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, color lithograph by Arthur Rackham, 1907. (Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Hope Reese | Longreads | November 2019 | 8 minutes (2,125 words)

“The nature of archival silence is that certain people’s narratives and their nuances are swallowed by history,” Carmen Maria Machado writes in her memoir In the Dream House. “We see only what pokes through because it is sufficiently salacious for the majority to pay attention.” In this new book, which draws attention to the rarely-written issue of abuse in queer relationships, she hopes to provide an antidote to the problem.

In her elegant and piercing story, Machado, whose 2017 collection Her Body And Other Parties was a finalist for the National Book Award, fits fragmented memories together to tell her own story of abuse (chapters appear as vignettes, with titles such as “The Dream House as Utopia,” or “The Dream House as Diagnosis”).

“The Dream House” — although entirely real — is a bit fantastical, and Machado writes in the second person to turn the lens around. Her partner is, simply, “the woman in the dream house.” And Machado’s use of footnotes from the Motif Index of Folk Literature is uniquely striking. Read more…

‘We Live in an Atmosphere of General Inexorability’: An Interview with Jia Tolentino

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Hope Reese | Longreads | August 2019 | 10 minutes (2,578 words)

 

Should we trust what we think we know? That question lies at the heart of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, critic Jia Tolentino’s debut essay collection, in which she draws on her life experiences — from being raised in a Texas megachurch to starring on the teen reality-TV show Girls v. Boys: Puerto Rico — and uses them as a lens to explore the blurry line between what is real and what we present to our audience, regardless of whether we are journalists, actors, or Instagrammers. Tolentino, formerly a Jezebel editor and currently a staff writer at The New Yorker, is skeptical of the structural forces that compel us to craft a perfect image of ourselves, and Trick Mirror examines the implications of our many modern façades.

I spoke with Tolentino about her nine-essay collection on the phone while she was in New York City, ahead of her book launch. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Read more…

The Growing Power of Prosecutors

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Hope Reese | Longreads | May 2019 | 16 minutes (4,345 words)

In our current criminal justice system, there is one person who has the power to determine someone’s fate: the American prosecutor. While other players are important — police officers, judges, jury — the most essential link in the system is the prosecutor, who is critical in determining charges, setting bail, and negotiating plea bargains. And whose influence often falls under the radar.

Journalist Emily Bazelon’s new book, Charged, The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration, brings to light some of the invisible consequences of our current judicial system — one in which in which prosecutors have “breathtaking power” that she argues is out of balance.

In Charged, a deeply-reported work of narrative nonfiction, Bazelon tells the parallel stories of Kevin, charged with possession of a weapon in Brooklyn, New York, and Noura, who was charged with killing her mother in Memphis, Tennessee, to illustrate the immense authority that prosecutors currently hold, how deeply consequential their decisions are for defendants, and how different approaches to prosecution yield different outcomes. Between these stories, she weaves in the recent push for prosecutorial reform, which gained momentum in the 2018 local midterm elections, and the movement away from mass incarceration. Read more…

‘There’s Virtually No Conversation In Chicago … About the Aftershocks of the Violence.’

Residents, activists, and friends and family members of victims of gun violence march down Michigan Avenue carrying nearly 800 wooden crosses bearing the names of people murdered in the city in 2016 on December 31, 2016 in Chicago. (Scott Olson / Getty)

Hope Reese | Longreads | April 2019 | 11 minutes (3,002 words)

 

In recent years Chicago has had more homicides than any other city in America. From 1990-2010, roughly 14,000 people were killed there — more than the combined number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, giving a horrifying legitimacy to the city’s infamous nickname Chiraq. It’s not clear, exactly, why this is so — the rest of the country is experiencing a period of historically low crime. In fact, Chicago contributed nearly half of the country’s overall uptick in homicides in 2016.

Veteran reporter Alex Kotlowitz, author of the bestseller There Are No Children Here and producer of the award-winning documentary The Interrupters, has been chronicling the effects of violence on the city’s neighborhoods for decades. Kotlowitz, whose recent book, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago, presents the cumulative effects of violence on the city through 14 vignettes. “For reasons I don’t fully understand, we just seem to be in the place where we have this extraordinarily tragic [violence],” he tells me. “Anybody who tells you they found the answer is just lying to you. Because nobody really knows.”

The book documents the complicated relationships between victims and perpetrators, the nature of the killing — how it is often cyclical and retributive — the way that violence scars communities, and his awe at surviors’ resiliency. Read more…

‘I Cannot Name Any Emotion That Is Uniquely Human.’

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Hope Reese | Longreads | March 2019 | 10 minutes (2,624 words)

 

Humans are not exceptional — at least not when it comes to our status in the animal kingdom, according to primatologist Frans de Waal. De Waal has been studying primates for decades, researching their capacity for cooperation and ability to express guilt, shame, and other nuanced emotions, and has written more than a dozen books on these topics.

In his latest book, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal and Human Emotions, de Waal delivers persuasive evidence that shows exactly how animals can display deep and complex emotions — which are, it must be noted, different from feelings — and how closely connected to humans our primate siblings really are. Despite the inclination of many researchers to dismiss the concept that animals have rich emotional lives, de Waal illustrates how behavioral research provides evidence that not only do animals experience the same emotions as humans, but that there are no “uniquely human emotions.” Read more…

Guy Gunaratne on the ‘Push-Pull of Ancestry and Meaning’ in London

Pedestrian crossings in London are painted with bold letters telling you exactly in which direction to look for cars before stepping out in the street. (Photo by Athanasios Gioumpasis/Getty Images)

Hope Reese | Longreads | December 2018 | 11 minutes (3,036 words)

 

“We were London’s scowling youth,” is how narrator Yusuf, whose family came to the city from Pakistan, introduces himself and his peers in Guy Gunaratne’s debut novel In Our Mad and Furious City. Depicting the struggle of city life from the perspectives of three young second-generation immigrants from the Caribbean, Pakistan, and Ireland — Selvon, Yusuf, and Ardan — and two of their parents, the novel investigates precisely what those “scowling youth” experience in London — a complicated and sometimes hostile place.

The fictional work, which takes place over a 48-hour period, was inspired by the 2013 murder of Lee Rigby, a soldier, by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, Islamic extremists. Gunarate tells me he was struck by his “perverse identification” with the killer, and set out on a journey to explore the way violence and extremism can develop in a multicultural city.

Gunaratne tells the story as an insider. As the son of a Sri Lankan immigrant, he grew up in northwest London and has seen firsthand how the city can be viewed from the perspective of the two generations. And in his work as a documentary filmmaker and journalist, he has also become interested in exploring human rights issues, which he says have taught him the habit of “zeroing in on the parts of… stories that most disturb you and provoke a response within you.” Read more…

Women Are Really, Really Mad Right Now

Simon and Schuster

Hope Reese | Longreads | October 2018 | 14 minutes (3,838 words)

 

“Women’s anger is not taken seriously,” author, journalist, and political commentator Rebecca Traister told me. “It’s not taken seriously as politically valid expression.”

That’s a major oversight, Traister argues in her new book Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. Women’s anger has the power to spark major social and political movements; it’s an essential ingredient for democracy. In Good and Mad, both a political history and critical reflection, Traister chronicles women’s anger and shows the ways in which it’s been downplayed, stifled, and underestimated — from the anger of suffragettes to the achievements of activists like Florynce Kennedy, Rosa Parks, and Shirley Chisholm, to the groundswell of anger that erupted in 2017 with the #MeToo movement. Traister, a writer-at-large for New York magazine and contributing editor at Elle, has devoted a large part of her career to writing about women in politics, spending years covering Hillary Clinton, authoring All the Single Ladies in 2009 — a deep dive into the sociological significance of the rising number of unmarried women — and most recently covering women’s anger in our current political moment, like the response to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Justice. Read more…

Dead Girls: An Interview with Alice Bolin

Laura Palmer, Twin Peaks, American Broadcasting Company

Hope Reese | Longreads | July 2018 | 12 minutes (3,114 words)

“It’s clear we love the Dead Girl, enough to rehash and reproduce her story, to kill her again and again,” writes Alice Bolin. “But not enough to see a pattern. She is always singular, an anomaly, the juicy new mystery.”

In her debut collection Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, Bolin takes aim at what she calls the “Dead Girl Show” — a genre of entertainment that centers around solving the mystery of a dead, or missing, girl. Approaching the subject with deep intellectual curiosity, Bolin dissects texts and manuscripts — from Joan Didion’s nonfiction to Veronica Mars — that reveal how dead “girls” or women have become a trope of entertainment, serving as a vehicle for sleuthing or as a venue to sort out “male problems.” The result is a compelling case that these plotlines are not merely problematic and inaccurate, but are damaging to society.

The “Dead Girl” genre, Bolin tells me, is not just about gender — it’s equally about race. “There is a lot of privilege wrapped up in the dead girl body, and in the ways that the body is sanctified. That’s a better reason than any to let some of these stories go: the overvaluing of a white woman’s body,” she said. “It’s not good for anyone.” Read more…

A Person Alone: Leaning Out with Ottessa Moshfegh

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Hope Reese | Longreads | July 2018 | 9 minutes (2,416 words)

The narrator of Ottessa Moshfegh’s new novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a 24-year-old New Yorker, wants to shut the world out — by sedating herself into a near-constant slumber made possible by a cornucopia of prescription drugs. In various states of semi-consciousness, she begins “Sleepwalking, sleeptalking, sleep-online-chatting, sleepeating… sleepshopping on the computer and sleepordered Chinese delivery. I’d sleepsmoked. I’d sleeptexted and sleeptelephoned.” Her daily life revolves around sleeping as much as possible, and when she’s not sleeping, she’s pretty much obsessed with strategizing how to knock herself out for even longer the next time, constantly counting out her supply of pills.

Her behavior is so extreme — at one point, she seals her cell phone into a tupperware container, which she discovers floating in a pool of water in the tub the following morning — that a New York Times reviewer dubbed Moshfegh’s work an “antisocial” novel. Moshfegh, the author of Homesick for Another World and Eileen, which was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize, has a knack for creating offbeat characters who don’t fit into neat categories. Like other women in Moshfegh’s stories, the heroine in My Year of Rest and Relaxation is unsettling. She is beautiful, thin, privileged — and deeply troubled. Read more…

‘I Was a Storm of Confetti’: Michael Pollan On Why It’s a Good Idea To Lose Your Self

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Hope Reese | Longreads | May 2018 | 17 minutes (4,468 words)

On April 19, 1943, the Swiss chemist Albert Hoffmann ingested a quarter milligram of LSD to confirm that it had caused the oddly fantastical journey he had experienced the day before. To his surprise and delight, he was not mistaken –– the drug opened up a new window of consciousness. The discovery caught the attention of other researchers, and by the 1950s, psychedelic testing was in full bloom, yielding promising results for people suffering from neurosis, schizophrenia, and psychopathy.

But as counter-cultural experimentation progressed and the drugs were taken out of the lab and into the wild –– think of Tim Leary, dubbed “the most dangerous man in America” by Nixon, and his controversial LSD experiments –– there was a backlash. According to the writer Michael Pollan, society “turned on a dime” against psychedelics. “You’d have to go back to the Inquisition and Galileo for a time when scientific inquiry was stigmatized quite the way this was,” he tells me. “And it’s a measure of how powerful that backlash was and how threatened powerful interests felt about what psychedelics were doing to society.” Read more…