Joan Didion’s Magic Trick

Caitlin Flanagan goes on a road trip through California — including Sacramento, Berkeley, and Malibu — visiting the homes of the late Joan Didion and exploring why her writing has had such a powerful effect on people.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album created a new vocabulary of essay writing, one whose influence is on display every day of the week in the tide of personal essays published online by young writers. Those collections changed the way many people thought about nonfiction, and even the way they thought about themselves.

Source: The Atlantic
Published: May 16, 2022
Length: 32 minutes (8,009 words)

The Holocaust Started With My Great-Uncle’s Murder

Author Mattie Kahn’s relative is believed to be the first Jewish person killed by the Nazis. She’s known the story of his death for as long as she can remember, but she wanted to learn the story of his life, so she went looking for it:

Source: The Atlantic
Published: May 5, 2022
Length: 14 minutes (3,500 words)

Burying a Burning

Three civil rights workers were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1964, on the heels of the torching of a local Black church — but you’d never know it if you visited the town’s official historical society. Enter the unofficial tour guides of Philadelphia, including author Ko Bragg’s stepfather, Obbie Riley:

Obbie is of the opinion that if something needs to get done, especially something as important as ensuring that the legacy of your community and family doesn’t get erased, you’d better first employ yourself to do something about it. I’d lived in town for years, but I’d never taken his tour. So on a chilly November day, we hopped into his white pickup truck at dusk with his mean little mutt, Rex. We pulled out of the long gravel driveway and drove into history.

Author: Ko Bragg
Source: The Atlantic
Published: Apr 7, 2022
Length: 12 minutes (3,200 words)

Among Europe’s Ex-Royals

Being born royalty is a bizarre thing. It is an even stranger position to then be dethroned. Helen Lewis impartially explores the people left in this unique situation.

In some ways, his story is quintessentially Millennial: In previous generations, a crown prince could look forward to a secure, permanent job, with a salary and great benefits. Instead Leka is performing royal duties for “exposure,” in hopes of being hired full-time.

Source: The Atlantic
Published: Apr 12, 2022
Length: 19 minutes (4,943 words)

The Kids Orphaned by COVID Won’t Return to ‘Normal’

Tim Requarth says the U.S. government needs to do more than raise awareness of the resources available to children orphaned as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 10-year-old in New York City who lost her father in the first wave of early 2020. Four children in Boynton Beach, Florida, left behind by a single mother who died 48 hours after being taken to the hospital. A 6-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl from McAlester, Oklahoma, who lost their mother to COVID just two and a half years after losing their father to liver failure. With COVID deaths now nearing 1 million, all types of American children have been orphaned by the pandemic.

Source: The Atlantic
Published: Apr 6, 2022
Length: 7 minutes (1,766 words)

The Book that Unleashed American Grief

This is a thought-provoking essay that examines how the rules about what could — and could not — be talked about in public, began to change. When did we first start to openly discuss what makes us who we are?

Surely the book was too personal, Gunther’s publisher, Harper & Brothers, objected. Who would want to read such a dismal book about a complete stranger? And wasn’t it indecent to broadcast an intimate story of suffering in public? But Gunther prevailed.

Source: The Atlantic
Published: Mar 8, 2022
Length: 19 minutes (4,854 words)

The Betrayal

“America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan added moral injury to military failure. But a group of soldiers, veterans, and ordinary citizens came together to try to save Afghan lives and salvage some American honor.”

Source: The Atlantic
Published: Jan 31, 2022
Length: 83 minutes (20,818 words)

How Bad Are Plastics, Really?

“Plastic production just keeps expanding, and now is becoming a driving cause of climate change.”

Source: The Atlantic
Published: Jan 3, 2022
Length: 12 minutes (3,051 words)

January 6 Was Practice

“Donald Trump is better positioned to subvert an election now than he was in 2020.”

Source: The Atlantic
Published: Dec 6, 2021
Length: 54 minutes (13,500 words)

The Elephant Who Could Be a Person

“In the courts, elephant personhood is a keystone argument, the argument on which all other animal-rights and even environmental arguments could conceivably depend.”

Source: The Atlantic
Published: Nov 16, 2021
Length: 50 minutes (12,680 words)