Editors’ Picks

Picks

No Place Like Home: My Bitter Return To Palestine

Returning to her father’s village at the age of 22, Fida Jiryis struggles with what her ancestral home has become.

All that remained of the village of Suhmata since the Israeli bulldozers had come were olive trees and a few jutting stones. Most of its people were in Lebanon, but some had managed to stay, and they lived in nearby villages. I met several families in Fassouta. Again, I wondered which was more painful: being totally removed and far away, or having to pass by the site of their village and see its ruins?

What Lies Behind the Words: On Translating While Trans

At Catapult, Zeyn Joukhadar beautifully reflects on navigating languages as a trans writer, translator, and polyglot:

Is become the right word? In Arabic, to say I started translating, one could say: I became to translate. In Italian, the verb diventare mostly appears as past participle: The situation has become difficult, or he’s become strange. There’s a sense of arrival to become, just as there is in translation itself. Yet in English, arriving is something we do—I have arrived—whereas, in Italian, one says I am arrived. Arrived is something one is, a state of being one occupies with the body. I am in a constant state of arrival in any language. My Arabic and my Italian and my Spanish and my German are geographies in which I constantly set foot afresh and shake off my dust. My languages are embodiments. I become to speak.

Alone at the Edge of the World

Susie Goodall wanted to circumnavigate the globe in her sailboat without stopping. She got her chance in 2018, in a rerun of the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, 50 years after the original voyage. In this race, known as a “voyage for madmen,” participants embarked on a solo nonstop journey around the world with no modern technology. Goodall was the youngest of 18 skippers — and the only woman — and the media couldn’t get enough of her story. Cassidy Randall tells a gripping story at sea:

Susie got her instruction certificates and taught sailing courses. She also worked on superyachts, delivering boats to port for their wealthy owners or crewing them while the owners were on board. She loved long ocean passages and taking night watches to memorize the patterns of the stars. But the yachts were so mechanized that her work felt like operating a computer. She marveled at stories of sailors once keenly in tune with the ocean and the boats they helmed: Ancient Polynesians, for instance, found their way by swell direction and the flight patterns of certain birds. She taught her students celestial navigation, but there was always backup—a GPS or their smartphone could be turned on at any time.

The Storykeeper: A Conversation with Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich, author of Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, sits down with the Los Angeles Review of Books to talk about how she approaches her sources, Russian terrorism in the war on Ukraine, what she witnessed at the Chernobyl exclusion zone just before the war started, and her interest in the “metaphysics of eternity.”

The Magic of Summer Basketball

From Los Angeles to his own Columbus hometown, Hanif Abdurraqib explores the low-stakes, high-competition world of summer basketball leagues — the pro-am tournaments where legends like LeBron James go up against blue-chip recruits and hometown legends, and where the atmosphere distills an arena’s frenzy into a tiny, packed local gymnasium.

This moment, specifically, animates what can be special about the Pro-Am in this form. A gym that buzzes for minutes at a time, riding the wave of a tense artery of excitement, pushed to its limits until something ignites it, and then it opens. And there is a moment before that opening and a moment beyond it. In the moment beyond, nothing is the same, even if there are still minutes on the clock, even if the explosion of excitement happens in the first quarter.

I Do Not Keep a Diary

Does the commitment to keeping an honest diary influence you to behave in a way so as not to embarrass yourself on the page or conversely, seek out new and exciting experiences in part so that they can be recorded? These are two of the intriguing questions Will Rees mulls as he reflects on not really keeping a diary.

Divine Comedy: The Standup Double Act Who Turned to The Priesthood

Josh and Jack are in their mid-20s, when they graduated from university they wanted to be comedians, and now they plan to be Church of England priests. Their friend, Lamorna Ash, wants to know why. This is an interesting look at how people find God — at a time when the number of young Christians is declining.

How can a person travel from one ethical standpoint to another like that? How can you have no belief, and after only a few years see the Christian faith as the gamut by which you live your life? Sometimes as we talked, I wanted to ask if this was their final conviction, if there might not be another shift to a new worldview in five, 10 years’ time.

Taken Under Fascism, Spain’s ‘Stolen Babies’ Are Learning the Truth

An estimated tens of thousands of newborns in Spain were stolen from hospitals during the end of Francisco Franco’s regime, taken away from often poor and single mothers and given to wealthy and conservative Catholic parents — families that could suppress these babies’ “Marxist red genes.” Nuns, some of whom were powerful enablers in this kidnapping scheme, encouraged women to give their babies up for adoption. Women who refused were sometimes put to sleep or forcibly separated from their babies and were later told that they had died. In 2017, after stumbling upon medical records, Ana Belén Pintado suspected that the couple who raised her weren’t her birth parents after all; she was, in fact, a stolen baby. In this incredible piece, Nicholas Casey tells Pintado’s heartbreaking story as she searches for her birth mother.

On July 9, 1973, Pilar felt contractions and returned to Santa Cristina. It was an easy birth with no complications. She even remembers holding her baby for a brief moment. But then the baby was taken away and someone came to put an anesthesia mask over Pilar’s face. She cried when this happened; it was as though she knew something terrible was coming. When she woke up again, a doctor and nurse told her the baby was stillborn. The hospital would handle the paperwork and the burial. It never occurred to her that they had lied.

Pilar had never gone searching for her daughter because she had thought there was no daughter to look for. Now, she was sitting right there, a grown woman with a family and an entire life story that Pilar was only starting to know.

The Art of Bidding, or How I Survived Federal Prison

Imagine that you and two friends end up incarcerated at the same federal prison. You study together to help pass the time, to help keep your minds occupied. But what do you do when the prison decides to ship your friends to new facilities based on a quote taken out of context in a magazine story? If you’re Eric Borsuk, you spend the final five years of your sentence teaching yourself how to write.

The Making of a Monster

“Why are our streets so violent?” asks Dan Schwartz. Why did our roads transform so drastically from public spaces into private spaces for drivers? Simply put, the combustion engine holds more value than the beating heart. In this piece for Bicycling, Schwartz reports from Hempstead Turnpike, a congested stretch of highway 24 at the edge of New York City, on the eastern border of Queens, where drivers hit an average of three people a month. Schwartz tells the heartbreaking story of 13-year-old Andrew Alati, a boy who spent his days roaming the streets on his bike with his friends — as most preteens do — and what happens one day when he tries to cross the intersection.

Cars are blasting west and east and east and west at such a volume and speed they howl. Attilio watches the cars. They move like one big animal. Every day in our country, this animal kills people. You won’t often hear about it on the news because it’s old news. We decided that long ago when the combustion engine became king and everything in its path was made subservient, when we asked our streets to accommodate higher speeds and more volume, and we allowed ourselves, with some coaxing from the automobile industry and positive feedback from our economy, to forget what we traded. What we traded were lives.

14 Hours in The Queue to See Queen Elizabeth’s Coffin

In this touching piece, Laurie Penny finds out that the queue was not about the Queen — it was about the people queuing with you. Told with her trademark wit, this is a story about being British.

“It sounds a bit excessive,” says a friend I once saw snort a whole bag of unidentified powder they found in a club toilet. “Why would you walk all night just to look at a box?” The truth is I’m not here for the Queen; I’m here for the Queue. I heard it calling – the way bad ideas call to any broken heart, saying, This will hurt, but you want it. Come and find out why.

Has The Zodiac Killer Mystery Been Solved (Again)?

Author Jarett Kobek believes he’s uncovered the true identity of the Zodiac Killer: an eccentric man named Paul Doerr, who died in 2007. Doerr’s daughter, Gloria, isn’t so sure — until Aaron Gell suggests that the two of them come together to meet. In this chilling story for Los Angeles magazine, Gell describes how Kobek’s research led him to Doerr, and how the evidence against Doerr is strong, especially after conversations with Gloria about her father, her childhood, and their relationship. But is Kobek just another amateur sleuth claiming he’s cracked the case?

As Jarett is quick to point out, the timing of the incident seems important. Gloria was only allowed to date on Friday nights, and she remembered this life-changing moment occurring at the beginning of Christmas break. Assuming her memory is accurate more than 50 years later, a quick glance at the 1968 calendar narrows down the date to one possibility: December 20. “You know why that’s interesting?” Kobek asks. It dawns on me slowly, although every halfway decent Zodiac researcher will likely know the answer: It was the night the killer claimed his first victims.

Indeed, the first three attacks took place at teen hangouts, places that, as Paul well knew, Gloria herself frequented, either on dates, as with the makeout spots at Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs Park, or when cutting school with friends to swim at Lake Berryessa. Moreover, they were all places, Gloria confirms, where drugs could be procured.

Whether or not Paul Doerr crossed the line from domestic abuser to murderer that night, it’s easy enough to imagine him out looking for her, a tormented parent in search of his unruly daughter.

The Teeth Makers of Kandahar

Haji Muhammad Sultan owns a business in the center of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, dedicated to handcrafting high-quality dentures. Founded by his grandfather 80 years ago, the shop was a place that Sultan came as a child to learn the family craft; he became a military doctor during the U.S.-led occupation and made teeth for Afghan soldiers and war victims. Now, Sultan runs the shop with four of his sons. For Al Jazeera

After gaining experience treating soldiers, Sultan returned home and continued to work with patients disfigured by the war. “There was a boy, who was only 14, and he came to me with his mother asking for my help. A suicide bomb had blown his teeth out of his jaw,” says Sultan. “They didn’t have the money to pay for the work, but I made him a new set of teeth anyway. A set to be proud of.”

To this day, Sultan continues to run the business, although he is now joined by four of his seven sons. They say they would choose no other profession than that of their father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

The Disappearing Art of Maintenance

What do you do with a subway car that’s been operating 25 years longer than it was designed to? What do you do with a phone that’s only designed to work for three? In this thoughtful essay, Alex Vuoco suggests that we look to the make-it-last ethos as a course out of the increasingly wasteful spiral that capitalism has wrought.

There is tension in the question of whether to build objects more intensively, so that they last longer, or to recognize that some things cannot endure and thus should be designed that way. There’s no hope for a paper plate in the long run, for example. It’s designed to enter the waste stream as cheaply and easily as possible. Conversely, a toaster could last for decades if maintained properly, assuming the manufacturer hasn’t built obsolescence into it (as is often the case).

Stone Skipping Is a Lost Art. Kurt Steiner Wants the World to Find It.

Step — or skip — into the world of a fascinating character, charmingly portrayed in this piece for Outside. Kurt Steiner is the world’s greatest stone skipper, and it has cost him a lot to get there. Sean Williams tells his story with genuine affection and respect.

Skipping has brought Steiner respite from a life of depression and other forms of mental illness. It has also, in part, left him broke, divorced, and, since the death of his greatest rival, adrift from his stone-skipping peers. Now, in middle age, with a growing list of aches and pains, he must contemplate the reality that, in his most truthful moments, he throws rocks not simply because he wants to, but because he has no choice.

Rocketland

Worshippers of Elon Musk have flocked to the middle of nowhere in Texas to watch SpaceX’s attempts to build a space-worthy rocket — and to find friends:

For the first couple of months as a Texas resident, [Nic] lived in his car on the beach, where he had camped during his first stay. All he did was document Starbase activity. “I made a trip into Brownsville about once a day for a bathroom break and to grab some food and come back out. But I really tried to keep my trips to town at a minimum,” he said. “I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

He claims he lost 100 pounds because he wasn’t eating — he kept forgetting to. “I remember one day I was eating a PB&J that I had made, and I was like, ‘When was the last time I ate? Was it yesterday? No, it wasn’t yesterday. It was Monday. No, it wasn’t Monday because Sunday evening was the last time I ate,’” he recalled, laughing.

While he was snapping photos, I asked Nic if it ever got redundant. From day to day, the site looks relatively the same as it did the day before. He is always looking for new angles. A bird might fly past at a certain height, a unique moment that he’s never seen before. Or it could have rained the night before, creating puddles where he can shoot moody reflections of the rockets.

But the downtime is worth it to him because he feels like he’s documenting history. “I think it’s once in a generation where you have the opportunity to do something so grand and so great.” He was talking about Mars and how we might get there.

Tracked

Based on thousands of pages of documents, a reporting team reveals how colleges and universities are using AI technology to surveil student protests:

Documents from Kennesaw State show campus police tracked demonstrators’ online activity for days with Social Sentinel before a contentious 2017 town hall.

Brandy White, a criminal intelligence analyst in KSU’s police department, was in charge of the monitoring. On instruction from her supervisors, White entered information about demonstrators and protest groups into Social Sentinel’s monitoring tool and set up searches to find posts about the event, emails show.

White also received a KSU police intelligence briefing from a colleague about the event. The document, obtained by The News in response to a public records request, singled out one progressive activist group, the liberal grassroots network Indivisible, and cited conservative conspiracy theories that George Soros funded the protesters.

A Mother’s Charge

A haunting story about a mother desperate to raise her son the right way — despite a past she cannot put behind her and living in the heart of cowboy country, where toxic masculinity is a way of life.

He might be able to change the world, Sarah often says, if she can figure out how to raise him the right way. But she is also overwhelmed by the fear that her sweet boy could one day become a bad guy, like so many of the ones who have hurt her. Like the one they just escaped.

‘These Kids Are Dying’ — Inside the Overdose Crisis Sweeping Fort Bragg

A staggering total of 109 soldiers assigned to Fort Bragg died in 2020 and 2021. In this important investigation, Seth Harp reports on record deaths at the U.S. Army’s largest base, including homicides, suicides, and accidental fentanyl overdoses. Otherwise healthy soldiers, like Matthew Disney, have been found “unresponsive” and slumped over in rooms and parked vehicles. But the Army continues to downplay this crisis, sweeping soldiers’ deaths under the rug — their deaths not made public, their families left wondering what happened.

Perhaps there is no greater symbol of our definitive loss in that interminable war than Fort Bragg itself. From this flagship base, the beating heart of the U.S. special-operations complex, the military apparatus behind the global War on Drugs deploys to the far corners of the world. Green Berets train security forces in countries like Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras. Delta Force reportedly took part in the anti-cartel operations that killed Pablo Escobar and captured El Chapo Guzmán. Yet drive down Bragg Boulevard into the Bonnie Doone neighborhood of Fayetteville, and in between the storage facilities, mobile-home dealerships, and tattoo parlors, you will find roach motels full of addicts, indigent veterans camped out beneath bridges, and strung-out junkies hanging around boarded-up trap houses. The dismal tide of synthetic opioids and amphetamines has penetrated Fort Bragg’s high-security gates, permeated through to the lowliest privates’ barracks, and caused at least a dozen overdose deaths in just the last year. These dead soldiers, who far outnumber combat casualties, are clearer proof of the United States’ unequivocal defeat in its longest-running international military campaign than a white flag run up over the main parade field. As the old saying goes: The War on Drugs is over — drugs won.

How Drew Barrymore Became a Bizarro Fixture of Daytime TV

A sympathetic look at Drew Barrymore’s chaotic world; Rachel Syme’s essay comes with the honesty characteristic of Barrymore herself.

The show’s open sentimentality—and copious shed tears—are offset by its crackle of unplanned clumsiness. Bouncing off the walls one moment and breaking down the next, Barrymore seems to be barely holding on as sentiment threatens to overtake her. She is not so much revisiting her past as dragging it along like a bindle full of lessons waiting to be discovered. If her off-the-cuff irrepressibility is an act, then it’s the best performance of her life.