Search Results for: Daniel A. Gross

We Stand on Guard for Bieber

(Illustration by Katie Kosma, Dominic Lipinski / AP)

Soraya Roberts | Longreads | August 2018 | 18 minutes (4,330 words)

Stratford, Ontario, doesn’t announce itself. The first time I traveled there, in mid-February, I drove into its center before knowing I was actually in it. I had not noticed a sign. All I had seen were miles of flat snowy farmland — the odd silo, field upon field — a row of frosted evergreens lining the horizon. Stratford, population 31,465, is like any other small tourist town in Ontario — shabby strip malls, magisterial churches, brick Main Street, overpriced eateries. Like so many Canadian cities, it’s the kind of place where a kid could be born and, happily enough, have just as much chance of staying as leaving.

People generally visit Stratford in the summer for its renowned Shakespeare festival, but I went during the off-season. A couple of miles ahead of the town center, my boyfriend and I passed what appeared to be a school bus holding zone — about a dozen of them, parked like blocks of life-size Legos — before arriving at the Stratford Perth Museum. It was 10 a.m. on a Saturday, the opening time for the press day of the “Steps to Stardom” exhibit, which traced Justin Bieber’s life, all 24 years of it, back to his Stratford childhood. It was quiet. The exhibit scarcely announced itself either, aside from two festive planters flanking the entrance, each festooned with curlicued silver-sprayed twigs wrapped in bows and billowy purple gauze, a color that, for those in the know, announces JUSTIN BIEBER as surely as it might have once announced royalty. In the next room, even quieter, the “Railway Century” exhibit politely stood by with its black-and-white photographs of the industry that had built the town that had built Justin Bieber. Read more…

El camino al asilo

Cuando amanece, Marfil Estrella mira por la ventanilla del autobús que la llevará desde San Salvador, El Salvador a la Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala. (Fotos: Danielle Villasana)

Alice Driver | Longreads | Junio ​​2018 | 21 minutos (5,300 palabras)

AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH

“Quiero terminar la primaria.” — Karla Avelar, 40 años, fundadora de la Asociación Comcavis Trans, que lucha a favor de los derechos LGBTI en El Salvador.

* * *

“Mujeres, no se dejen engañar” vociferaba el cansado predicador de ojos amarillentos, su sombrero apuntaba hacia adelante con dramatismo, ideal para su sermón sobre ruedas, el cual duró todo el camino desde San Salvador, capital de El Salvador, hasta Ciudad de Guatemala. El hombre recorría el pasillo y se detenía a tocar a mujeres y niñas en la cabeza o en el brazo. “No dejen que los hombres las engañen” gritaba elevando su biblia tan alto que las gastadas hojas rozaban el techo del autobús. Sin embargo, no tocó a Marfil Estrella Perez Mendoza, de 26 años. La joven descansaba contra la ventana su rostro redondo y lleno de esperanz y observaba lluviosa mañana gris mientras el predicador pasaba a su lado sin ponerle la mano encima. ¿Cómo se dice asilo en inglés? preguntó Marfil en un susurro.

Marfil Estrella nació en Cuscatlán, El Salvador, en un cuerpo que nunca sintió suyo. Al nacer se dijo que era varón, y a los 15 se declaró gay ante su familia, quienes, en respuesta, optaron por desconocerla. “Me dijeron que era una avergüenza para mi familia, que me olvidara de que tenía familia, que me olvidara de ellos, que me fuera entonces,” explicó. Como le sucede a muchos miembros de la comunidad LGBTI en El Salvador, su familia la echó a la calle y sus estudios se se interrumpieron de manera repentina cuando cursaba tercero de secundaria, pues no tenía el dinero necesario para seguir estudiando. Huyó a San Salvador y se quedaba a dormir en los parques, donde conoció a otros chicos gays. “Vi a una persona transexual y dije ‘yo quiero ser como ella, quiero ser como ella,’” relató. Durante la época en que Marfil vivió en la calle, dejó crecer su cabello y empezó a vestirse con ropa de mujer, pero no tenía un medio para ganarse la vida, por lo que comenzó a perder mucho peso. Con el tiempo se convirtió en trabajadora sexual, que es una de las pocas alternativas que tienen las mujeres trans de El Salvador para ganar dinero. Read more…

The Road to Asylum

As dawn arrives, Marfil Estrella looks out the window of the bus that will take her from San Salvador, El Salvador to Guatemala City, Guatemala. Photos by Danielle Villasana.

Alice Driver | Longreads | June 2018 | 21 minutes (5,300 words)

DISPONIBLE EN ESPAÑOL

“I want to finish elementary school.” — Karla Avelar, 40, founder of the Comcavis Trans Association, which advocates for LGBTI rights in El Salvador

* * *

“Women, don’t be deceived,” boomed the weary, yellow-eyed preacher, his sombrero tipped forward with a drama fitting for his bus-ride sermon, one that would last all the way from San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, to Guatemala City. As he made his way down the aisle of the bus, he stopped to touch women and girls on the head or the arm. “Don’t let men trick you,” he shouted, holding his bible up so high its well-worn pages brushed the roof of the bus. He didn’t touch Marfil Estrella Pérez Méndoza, 26, whose chosen name translates to Ivory Star. As she rested her round, hopeful face on the bus window, dark eyes peering out into the rainy grayness of early morning, the preacher passed by without laying a hand. “How do you say asylum in English?” she whispered.

Marfil Estrella was born in Cuscatlán, El Salvador, in a body that never felt like her own. She was assigned male at birth, and at 15, she came out as gay to her family. Their response was to disown her. “They told me that I brought shame on the family, that I should forget about them, and that I needed to leave,” explained Marfil Estrella. Like many members of the LGBTI community in El Salvador, her family forced her onto the street, and her schooling ended abruptly at ninth grade because she had no money to continue. She fled to San Salvador and slept in a park where she met other gay boys. “I saw a transsexual, and I said, ‘I want to be like her! I want to be like her!’” she recalled. She lived on the street, grew out her hair, and began to dress in women’s clothes, but she had no way to earn a living and consequently became very thin. Eventually she started to do sex work, one of the only options available to trans women in El Salvador to earn money. Read more…

Bundyville Chapter Three: A Clan Not to Cross

Illustration by Zoë van Dijk

Leah Sottile | Longreads | May 2018 | 29 minutes (7,300 words)

Part 3 of 4 of Bundyville, a series and podcast from Longreads and OPB.

I.

Since Cliven Bundy took in his first desert breath as a free man this past January, the old cowboy has found himself more in ballrooms and meeting rooms and on stages across the West than back in the saddles he fought so hard to sit in again.

Just two days after his release, he stood in front of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department in Las Vegas, bullhorn in hand, goading the sheriff to come outside: “Is this man going to stand up and protect our life, liberty, and property?” he asked the small crowd gathered around him, smartphones livestreaming his words. The sheriff never emerged.

“My defense is a fifteen-second defense: I graze my cattle only on Clark County, Nevada, land, and I have no contract with the federal government,” Bundy told his flock.

Later that month, on a rural Montana stage flanked by ruffled red curtains, there he stood in jeans and boots and an ash-gray sport coat as a crowd of a couple hundred welcomed him with whoops and whistles fit for rural royalty. “I have a fifteen-second defense,” he said. The crowd listened, rapt.

And there he was again, in February, on an amateur YouTube talk show, in a blue plaid shirt and bolo tie, expounding for well beyond 15 seconds on his ideas about government.

If Cliven Bundy was a star among constitutional literalists after the standoff in 2014, two years in jail transformed the old man and his family into the full-fledged glitterati of the far, far right.

His trademark 15-second defense line is mostly true: Cliven has no contract with the federal government and, yet, continues to graze his cows illegally on public land. Read more…

Digital Media and the Case of the Missing Archives

(Walter Zerla / Getty)

One of the poems that earned Robert Frost the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 is titled “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” and puts forward the claim that nothing, especially nothing beautiful, lasts forever. I thought of this recently when I was considering the impermanence of digital media. As Maria Bustillos wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review earlier this year, digital media came at first with “fantasies of whole libraries preserved on a pin.” Digital writers often revel in the notion that they have limitless space, unlike their print counterparts who squish their reporting to fit precious column inches. But increasingly we’re learning how ephemeral that space is.  Read more…

The Mutilated and the Disappeared

Kidnappers on the migrant trail murdered his two brothers, but Miguel Ángel Rápalo Piñeda, 20, survived. The two bullet entry scars on his back are still visible, and the bullets remain inside him. (Cambria Harkey)

Alice Driver | Longreads | January 2018 | 21 minutes (5,284 words)

DISPONIBLE EN ESPAÑOL

“It is very easy to disappear people.” — Aracy Matus Sánchez, director of Jesús el Buen Pastor del Pobre y el Migrante, the only shelter in Mexico for migrants who have been mutilated along the migrant trail

* * *

Through the fist-sized security opening, a mouth appeared, then an eye, surveying. The migrant, his body shaking, stood there, eyes wide, holding his arm, whimpering. “What do you want?” asked the voice behind the metal door. “I … I … Somebody beat me up,” said the migrant, who was maybe 25 and all folded into himself as if being compact could protect him.

The door closed with a click, and the migrant swayed from side to side, then crumpled neatly toward the ground. He kept his body just rigid enough at the last second to sit down, teetering on the cement steps. He held his left arm, which had a visible protrusion below the elbow, and although he took jerky breaths, his eyes remained dry. After several minutes, he got up again and went over to a second door on the side of the building and knocked timidly. Again, he waited, holding his arm, his eyes glassed over, and leaned against the door. He began to hyperventilate, his breath seemingly caught in his birdlike chest and desperately needing to escape. Still the door remained closed. He looked down at his muddy feet, toes spilling over thin flip-flops.

When the door opened a crack, the voice once again dispassionately asked him why he was there. As the door eventually opened wider, the migrant stumbled into an office and fell onto the nearest couch. The man who had been guarding the door disappeared and was replaced by a woman who looked at the migrant and said, “Are you hungry? You can go join the others at breakfast.” She didn’t seem to notice that he was in a state of shock. After a few seconds, a stuttered “Ye— yee— sss” escaped his mouth, and she pointed him in the direction of the dining room at the migrant shelter Jesús el Buen Pastor del Pobre y el Migrante, the only shelter in Mexico for migrants who have been mutilated along the migrant trail. Read more…

Los mutilados y los desaparecidos

Secuestradores en el camino migratorio asesinaron a sus dos hermanos, pero Miguel Ángel Rápalo Piñeda, de 20 años, sobrevivió. Las dos cicatrices de bala en su espalda aún son visibles, y las balas permanecen dentro de él. (Cambria Harkey)

Alice Driver | Longreads | Enero ​​2018 | 21 minutos (5,284 palabras)

AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH

“Es muy fácil desaparecer gente.” — Aracy Matus Sánchez, directora de Jesús el Buen Pastor del Pobre y el Migrante, el único albergue en México para migrantes que han sufrido mutilaciones a lo largo de la ruta del migrante.

* * *

Una boca apareció del otro lado de la rendija de seguridad que era del ancho de un puño; le siguieron unos ojos vigilantes. El migrante, cuyo cuerpo temblaba, permaneció de pie con los ojos bien abiertos y se agarraba el brazo gimiendo de dolor. ¿Qué quieres?, preguntó la voz detrás de la puerta metálica. “Yo… yo… alguien me golpeó” dijo el migrante, que parecía tener unos 25 años y se inclinaba sobre sus muslos, como si esa posición compacta lo hiciera estar más protegido.

La puerta se cerró con un sonido sútil, mientras que el migrante se balanceaba de un lado a otro para luego desplomarse estruendosamente en el suelo. El muchacho permaneció lo suficientemente rígido como para poder sentarse, aún vacilante, sobre unos escalones de cemento. Sostenía su brazo izquierdo, el cual tenía una protuberancia debajo del codo, y aunque su respiración estaba entrecortada, no derramó ni una sola lágrima. Después de varios minutos se levantó de nuevo, se dirigió a la segunda puerta que estaba a un costado del edificio y tocó tímidamente. Una vez más esperó mientras agarraba su brazo, se recargó contra la puerta, sus ojos no tenían expresión alguna. Empezó a hiperventilarse, parecía como si su respiración estuviera atrapada dentro de su pecho de ave y luchara desesperadamente por escapar. La puerta seguía cerrada. El muchacho dirigió su mirada a sus pies llenos de lodo, sus dedos se desbordaban sobre un par de chancletas muy delgadas.

La puerta se abrió brevemente y otra vez se pudo escuchar a aquella voz indiferente preguntar al muchacho por qué estaba ahí. Finalmente, cuando la puerta se abrió lo suficiente, el migrante entró en una oficina y se tumbó sobre el sillón más cercano. El hombre que cuidaba la puerta desapareció, y en su lugar apareció una mujer que miró al muchacho y le preguntó: “¿Tienes hambre? Puedes ir con los demás a desayunar” La mujer no parecía notar el estado de shock en el que el joven se encontraba. Después de unos segundos él respondió con un tartamudeo “S..ss..ssí”, y ella señaló el camino hacia el comedor del albergue para migrantes Jesús el Buen Pastor del Pobre y el Migrante, el único albergue en México para migrantes que han sufrido mutilaciones a lo largo de la ruta del migrante. Read more…

Longreads Best of 2017: Crime Reporting

We asked writers and editors to choose some of their favorite stories of the year in various categories. Here is the best in crime reporting.

Jeff Maysh
Contributor to The Atlantic, Los Angeles Magazine, and The Daily Beast. Author of The Spy with No Name.

Dirty John (Christopher Goffard, The Los Angeles Times)

I love a good villain, and my baddie of the year was John Meehan, a hazel-eyed Casanova who hid his murky past behind fake surgeon’s scrubs and a kaleidoscope of lies. This wannabe mobster lured a moneyed Orange County divorcée into a toxic relationship, creating an elevated psychodrama that recalled Gone Girl. Delivered as a six-part narrative on the web, Dirty John was also accompanied by a six-part podcast. Both were irresistible. Goffard’s spare prose kept this thriller racing towards its bloody end — the kind of murderous climax we were promised at the start of S-Town but never received — one that made an unlikely hero of a seemingly meek fan of The Walking Dead. Bravo to Goffard for divining this epic yarn from local news to national attention, and for his terrifying portrait of Meehan told through the eyes of his victims. This is the genius of the domestic horror genre: The monster is no longer under the bed but between the sheets.


Rachel Monroe
Contributor to The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and The New Republic. Author a book on women, crime, and obsession will be published by Scribner in 2019.

The Tragic Story of a Texas Teen and the Marines Who Killed Him for No Reason (Sasha von Oldershausen, Splinter)

 This May marked 20 years since a Marine sniper shot and killed Esequiel Hernandez, Jr., a soft-spoken teenager who was tending his goats in the rural border outpost of Redford, Texas. Von Oldershausen not only does an admirable job of attempting to reconstruct what happened that day in 1997, she also explores the ramifications of the fatal shooting on the community and uses it as a springboard to discuss how militarization inflects daily life along the border. “The moment you employ the rhetoric of war, it becomes a battle zone,” one of von Oldershausen’s sources tells her. “And this is what they did in Redford. They made war on the United States by killing Esequiel.”

Sarah Marshall
Contributor to Buzzfeed, The New Republic, and the Life of the Law podcast.

‘I Am a Girl Now,’ Sage Smith Wrote. Then She Went Missing (Emma Eisenberg, Splinter)

Eisenberg describes in heartbreaking detail how both the police department and the broader community of Charlottesville failed to adequately investigate the disappearance of a trans girl of color. Her reporting illuminates systemic injustice by taking the reader into the hearts and minds of the family and friends Sage Smith left behind. The article is both deeply reported and deeply felt and gives the reader the space to reckon with the questions they cannot answer. Yet perhaps the most remarkable thing about Eisenberg’s work here is her ability to show Sage Smith to the reader not as a victim, but as a person. “Every clubgoer leaned closer when Sage spoke,” Eisenberg writes, “as if they were campers pulled to a fire.”

Reyhan Harmanci
Editor, Topic

Carl Ichan’s Failed Raid on Washington (Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker)

While it may not have been the juiciest crime story this year, Patrick Radden Keefe’s precise and damning piece on Carl Icahn’s stint in the Trump Administration chilled me more than I could have imagined. This is how the world works: We’re being taken for fools while the Masters of the Universe move from private to public positions. I can only hope to read about more financial crimes in 2018 that get appropriately punished.


Read more…

In Praise of Cowardice

Emily Weinstein's ancestors

Emily Meg Weinstein | Longreads | December 2017 | 22 minutes (5,522 words)

For Ruth Weisenfeld Diamond (1921-2014) and Samuel Meyer Diamond (1919-2008)

I.

First, it came for my grandfather, then for my grandmother. Death comes for us all, but still Jews toast, l’chaim! To life!

When my mother and her brother cleaned out their dead parents’ apartment, they found their father’s Bronze Star from the war.

“Do you know what was in the box with the Bronze Star?” my mother asked me.

“A Nazi Iron Cross.”

“How did you know that?”

“Grandpa showed it to me a bunch of times.”

“Where did he get it?”

“Off a dead Nazi.”

That makes it sound like my grandfather killed the Nazi, but he didn’t. He never fired his gun, not once in the whole Allied advance.

Read more…

How Does It Feel? An Alternative American History, Told With Folk Music

Daniel Wolff | Grown-Up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and the Calumet Massacre of 1913 | Harper| June 2017 | 18 minutes (4,937 words) 

This story is recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky.

* * *

An alien way of life.

You could say the silence started in Calumet in 1913. Word spread that the doors opened inward, that no one was to blame. What followed was a great quiet, a hundred years of agreed-upon untruth.

Or you could say it began just afterward, during the patriotic rush of the First World War and the Palmer Raids that followed. The Wobblies were crushed, the call for a workers’ alternative stilled.

Or you could say it began after the Second World War. If you see the two global conflicts as a single long realignment of power, then after America emerged as a superpower, its century-long Red Scare kicked back in with a vengeance. That’s how Elizabeth Gurley Flynn saw it. She traced the “hysterical and fear laden” atmosphere of the late 1940s back to when she was a union maid visiting Joe Hill in prison. “Now,” she said, “it is part of the American tradition.” In other words, once the nation of immigrants had defined itself, had determined an American Way, it also established the opposite: an Un-American Way.

In 1918, it was the U.S. Senate’s Overman Committee investigating Bolsheviks. In 1930, the Fish Committee looked into William Z. Foster and other communist influences. Eight years later, it was the establishment of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which continued to operate through the fifties. “The real issue,” as HUAC’s first chairman, Martin Dies, put it, was “between Americanism on the one hand and alienism on the other.”

No one did more to define the Un-American than J. Edgar Hoover. His career began in 1917 jailing “disloyal aliens” as part of President Woodrow Wilson’s Justice Department. Soon Hoover was in charge of carrying out the Palmer Raids. By 1924, he was head of the nation’s Federal Bureau of Investigation. When he appeared before the Senate Internal Security Committee in 1948, he testified to “some thirty-five years of infiltration of an alien way of life in what we have been proud to call our constitutional republic.” That math put the beginning of the infiltration—and the silence—in 1913.

Hoover testified as the Popular Front was making one last national effort. Henry Wallace, former vice president under FDR, had mounted a third-party run for the presidency. Seeing little difference between Democrat Harry Truman and Republican Thomas Dewey, Wallace vowed to establish “the century of the common man.” That included expanded health care, the nationalization of the energy industry, and cooperation with Russia instead of Cold War. Attacking what he called the Red Scare “witch hunt,” Wallace proclaimed, “those who fear communism lack faith in democracy.”

What was left of the Popular Front rallied around him. Alan Lomax headed up a “musical desk” and brought in Guthrie, Seeger, Hays, and others. People’s Songs churned out tunes, including a fiddle-and-guitar blues by Guthrie: “The road is rocky, but it won’t be rocky long / Gonna vote for Wallace: he can righten all our wrongs.” Read more…