Nadia Milleron, whose daughter Samya Stumo, was killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, holds a picture of Boeing 737 Max jet crash victims, during the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing examining the “design, development, and marketing,” of the Boeing 737 Max, on Wednesday, October 30, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
This week, we’re sharing stories from Alec MacGillis, Melissa Brown, Brendan I. Koerner, Christopher Mathias, and Yiyun Li.
A sorceress of the soul, the multi-lingual singer Lhasa de Sela captivated music fanatics around the world with her spellbinding songs and other-worldly performances. Yet ten years after her tragic death from breast cancer in Montreal at 37, America’s first world music chanteuse remains largely and inexplicably unknown here, an under-the-radar icon in her own country. Why Lhasa de Sela Matters, her first biography, charts Lhasa’s road to musical maturity. —Fred Goodman
The slowest nights for bars and clubs come early in the week, which is why many clubs are closed on Mondays, leaving Tuesday as the lightest night of the week. As a result, Lhasa de Sela didn’t waitress on Tuesdays. Instead, she found local Montreal bars that would let her sing a set a cappella. Wearing a black dress and a long knit hat, she cut a figure that was both striking and subdued.
Working on assorted standards and the Billie Holiday songs she loved, Lhasa was primarily focused on two tasks: overcoming her own shyness and learning how to hold a listener’s attention. She had a ways to go.
Vickie Vértiz | Excerpted fromGraffiti, the inaugural anthology from POC United | November 2019 | 8 minutes (2,111 words)
Spring break in LA is one long day at Magic Mountain. My friend Moses parks his 1985 Caprice Classic next to our chain-link gate. The engine clicks off and the Led Zeppelin guitar goes quiet. He brought Eva, Rudy, and my boyfriend Beto to pick me up. We’ll be on roller coasters if only we can get out of the alley I live in. From the family bedroom, I hear all four doors close. Rudy jokes with Amá. She’s letting them into our cement yard. Then, no more laughing.
I grab my jacket and go outside as soon as I can, but not fast enough. Amá is standing in her apron facing her wall of pink geraniums. That’s when she thanks them for being my friends, especially after “that thing that happened.”
“What thing?” my boyfriend asks. Beto pushes up his glasses on his nose as if it will help him hear better. Read more…
Evening approached as I strolled west, back toward the ocean, past San Luis Rey’s trailer parks and down the river levee’s bike path, vaguely looking for a place to camp or simply reassurance that there would be a place to camp if I walked a few more miles. The river channel was a bottomland of scrub, deadwood, and patches of sand, with larger cottonwoods shivering, a revelation of groundwater. Hard to imagine a flood in this dry land that would warrant a levee of this size, but history must justify it. Several figures in a culvert raised my guard as I first approached the levee, but it was only three kids with their pit bull, sharing a joint.
In the distance, parachutists were swinging in descent. Camp Pendleton marines, I thought at first, but the base was north of the river, beyond a ridge. These were just civilians falling toward the Oceanside Municipal Airport for a thrill and the evening view. On Benet Road I crossed the river, seeing on my phone’s screen another dotted line, a trail, one that might be less traveled. Maybe I could camp there. Past the driveway to Prince of Peace Abbey, past a scrapyard with battered cars piled up, I came to a sign where the road dead-ended: No Trespassing — Area Patrolled. A man was changing the oil of his old vehicle just there. When I asked if anybody went down that way, his mumbles were unintelligible, but my impression was, No, it was a bad idea. A semitruck idled nearby with its driver hidden behind tinted glass. Feeling a little desperate, I turned around. Read more…
Papi and I waited in the town square of Ciales, across from Nuestra Señora del Rosario, the Catholic church. He was quiet, stern-faced, his picked-out Afro shining in the sun, his white polo shirt drenched in sweat. Papi was tall and lean-muscled, with a broad back. He’d grown up boxing and playing basketball, had a thick mustache he groomed every morning in front of the bathroom mirror. Squinting in the sun, one hand tightened around his ring finger, I pulled off Papi’s ring, slipped it onto my thumb. I was six years old and restless: I’d never seen a dead body.
My father’s hero, Puerto Rican poet and activist Juan Antonio Corretjer, had just died. People had come from all over the island and gathered outside the parish to hear his poetry while his remains were transported from San Juan. Mami and Anthony, my older brother, were lost somewhere in the crowd.
During the drive from Humacao to Ciales, I’d listened from the backseat while Papi told the story: how Corretjer had been raised in a family of independentistas, how he’d spent his entire life fighting for el pueblo, for the working class, for Puerto Rico’s freedom. How he’d been a friend of Pedro Albizu Campos, “El Maestro,” who my father adored, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party leader who’d spent more than twenty-six years in prison for attempting to overthrow the US government. How he had spent a year in “La Princesa,” the prison where Albizu Campos was tortured with radiation. After his release, Corretjer became one of Puerto Rico’s most prominent activist writers. Read more…