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Best of 2021: The Stories We Missed

Since we started the #longreads hashtag in 2009 to share great reads on Twitter, curation has been the beating heart of Longreads. We highlight our favorite stories in our weekly Longreads Top 5, and at year’s end — in what is now a decade-long tradition — we revisit and reflect on the pieces we loved most. Today, though, we’re celebrating some of the best stories we missed. It happens — there’s a lot out there to read, and only a few editors here combing through as much as we can. Thankfully, we’ve got our community of readers (that’s you!) and the authors honored in our Best of 2021 lists to fill in the gaps. 

Nuclear Cats, Vivian Blaxell, Meanjin Quarterly, September 2021

Exceptional essays often form around the connections a writer can make from their particular place in the world. In “Nuclear Cats, Vivian Blaxell connects life experience in legal and health systems with wild and domestic animals, the function of language, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the nature of consciousness…. And its funny. Blaxells voice is addictive!

—Author Briohny Doyle, honored in Best of 2021: Personal Essays

Call Me a Traitor, Kerry Howley, New York, July 20, 2021

Nobody writes more beautifully about the horrors of our world than my New York colleague Kerry Howley. Her story on drone war whistleblower Daniel Hale is the piece I’ll remember most from this year.

—Author Reeves Wiedeman, honored in Best of 2021: Investigative Reporting

High-Rise Syndrome, Sally Wen Mao, The Believer, May 29, 2021

From the piece: “When cats fall out the windows of tall buildings, the worst injuries result from falling out the first to the sixth stories. Cats that fall from higher stories (i.e. the tenth or twentieth floors) sustain less serious injuries. In other words, the closer you are to the ground, the more you reckon with your death, the less time you have to bend your body against the terminal velocity. This is called high-rise syndrome. It is science, not metaphor.“

—Recommended by author Vanessa Angelica Villarreal, honored in Best of 2021: Profiles

He Thought What He Was Doing Was Good for People,’ Chris Outcalt, The Atlantic, August 13, 2021

I generally defer to the expertise of physicians, especially when it comes to the medical decisions made by my elderly parents. Reading this story, I could imagine myself as the protagonist, Marian Simmons, going along, trusting, believing my life was at risk. This story changed my mind by showing me how vulnerable we all are to unnecessary medical procedures in the U.S. health-care system.

—Reader Mya Frazier

Teaching Poetry in the Palestinian Apocalypse, George Abraham, Guernica, September 27, 2021

From the piece: “Maybe it’s not a universal Capital-A-Apocalypse I want to excavate language for, but a lowercase-a-apocalypse that colonialism has imposed on Indigenous and dispossessed peoples since the beginning of the settler project. The tired apocalypse. The assumed apocalypse. An apocalypse that keeps (a notion of) their world alive, at the expense of (a notion of) our own.“

—Recommended by reader Vesna Jaksic Lowe

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Best of 2021: Features

text "Longreads Best of 2021: Features" against an abstract backdrop of magazines
All "Best of 2021" images by Kjell Reigstad.

Since we started the #longreads hashtag in 2009 to share great reads on Twitter, curation has been the beating heart of Longreads. We highlight our favorite stories in our weekly Longreads Top 5, and at year’s end — in what is now a decade-long tradition — we revisit and reflect on the pieces we loved most. Today, we’re celebrating our favorite longform features: stories that blend deep reportage, inventive structure, and deft writing to leave an impact like few others do.

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama, Nathan Thrall, New York Review of Books, March 19, 2021

This isn’t just the best feature I read this year. It’s one of the best I’ve ever read, period. Nathan Thrall situates one father’s desperate journey to find out what happened to his son after the boy’s school bus collided with a tractor trailer within the vast, ugly context of Israel’s decades-long effort to make Palestinian lives all but unlivable. In search of basic answers — is his son hurt? is he even alive? — Abed Salama must grapple with the devastatingly mundane consequences of “fragmentation,” Israel’s policy of keeping “Palestinian communities isolated from one another and surrounded by fences, walls, checkpoints, closed gates, roadblocks, trenches, and bypass roads.” Expertly researched and brilliantly told, Thrall’s feature is a masterpiece. —Seyward Darby

Author Nathan Thrall’s pick for the most impactful story of the year:

Carlos Lozada’s Washington Post omnibus review of 21 books, “9/11 was a test. The books of the last two decades show how America failed,” is a piece ​one hopes will stay with American voters and policymakers. “Washington fantasized about remaking the world in its image,” Lozada writes, “only to reveal an ugly image of itself to the world.”

Revolt of the Delivery Workers, Josh Dzieza, New York/The Verge, September 13, 2021

When the pandemic first hit, New York more than anywhere depended on its essential workers: the health care professionals who stood in the path of an epidemiological tsunami, but also the massive community of delivery cyclists who crisscrossed the boroughs to feed the folks privileged enough to shelter in place. The end of lockdown, however, meant a new era of troubles for Postmates and Seamless contractors. Bike thieves snatched away riders’ earning power; apps demanded ever-higher productivity for ever-lower reward; the very people tasked to protect the workers didn’t seem to care. “[They] call it the patrón fantasma, the phantom boss,” Josh Dzieza writes, “always watching and quick to punish you for being late but nowhere to be found when you need $10 to fix your bike or when you get doored and have to go to the hospital.” Something had to break. Something did. Dzieza’s remarkable feature rides along with the riders as they fight for protection and autonomy — lobbying legislators, pestering the NYPD, even running vigilante repo missions for stolen bikes. This isn’t a portrait of sleek, unified collective action; it’s a look at how a workers’ struggle can succeed even when it’s as shaggy and frayed as a winter-ravaged fleece jacket. —Peter Rubin

Author Josh Dzieza on the story he wishes he’d written this year:

Gideon Lewis-Kraus’ New Yorker story “How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously” answered a question I’d wondered about and never really thought to answer: Why, seemingly all of a sudden a couple years ago, did government officials and serious journalists start talking about UFOs with a straight face? The answer runs through Cold War history, a straight-up CIA plot to make aliens a laughable idea, military contractors turned paranormal investigators, and an independent researcher attempting to bring rigor to a topic shrouded in kookiness and taboos. It’s a fascinating story about epistemology and the institutional forces that determine which ideas get treated as matters of serious inquiry and which do not.

The Other Afghan Women, Anand Gopal, The New Yorker, September 6, 2021

Over the summer, Anand Gopal traveled to Afghanistan to speak with dozens of women living in the countryside, where the endless killing of civilians by U.S. forces turned Afghans against the very people who claimed to be helping them. “On average, I found, each family lost ten to twelve civilians in what locals call the American War,” Gopal writes. This is an extraordinary piece on wartime life across Afghanistan’s dangerous rural terrain, seen through the eyes of women like Shakira, a woman in her 40s who grew up in the Sangin Valley. Gopal provides essential context for understanding what decades of violence and corruption have wrought, and he weaves an incredibly reported and beautifully told account of everyday life outside of Afghanistan’s cities. —Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Author Anand Gopal’s pick for best feature of the year: 

Rozina Ali’s “The ‘Herald Square Bomber’ Who Wasn’t,” for the New York Times Magazine, was a searing look at the men spending decades in prison under terrorism charges despite never having committed an act of violence. Reading Ali’s moving, nuanced profile of Matin Siraj, a bookstore employee who was entrapped by the NYPD, brings home the fact that the roots of the crisis in our democracy go back much further than Trump. It’s one of the most important works of longform storytelling I read this year.

The Lives of Others, Lindsay Jones, The Atavist, March 2021

“Warm” and “intimate” may seem strange adjectives to describe a feature about babies who are switched at birth — but Lindsay Jones paints her story’s Newfoundland setting with such affection that I couldn’t help but feel an affinity with it. Although two children grew up in the wrong families, they were both surrounded by love, living just a bay apart in a homely place where towns are called Heart’s Desire, Leading Tickles, and Dildo. It is this small community that made the story possible, with the children meeting as adults and eventually uncovering the truth about their births. “Such an encounter could only happen in a place like Newfoundland,” Jones writes, “where your neighbors and the wider community, precisely because it’s never that wide, are often intimately familiar; where it’s possible to look at someone and know who their kin are.” As two families navigate difficult times, Jones provides thoughtful insight into a unique, and beautiful, culture. —Carolyn Wells

Author Lindsay Jones’ picks for the most impactful stories of 2021:

I’ve been thinking about Elizabeth Weil’s ProPublica story “The Climate Crisis Is Worse Than You Can Imagine,” about the mental health of a climate scientist and his family, for months. It stretched the bounds of what I thought was possible in a climate narrative. It was deep documentary journalism written with so much empathy that I carry this family with me still, nearly a full year later. To me, that is impactful. Sarah Stillman’s New Yorker story “The Migrant Workers Who Follow Climate Disasters” also resonates. This story is a one-two punch: It reveals the exploitation and death that migrant workers face while cleaning up after the disasters caused by the ever-increasing effects of climate change.

The Marathon Men Who Can’t Go Home, David Alm, GQ, May 21, 2021

For an elite marathoner from Ethiopia like Tadesse Yae Dabi, the U.S. offered opportunities he’d never have in his home country: the chance to run races, to win life-changing prize money, and to support the loved ones he’d left behind. But with races canceled and the pandemic taking away his main source of income, his options have been limited, while returning (or being deported) to a homeland plagued by civil war and ethnic violence is not an option. David Alm spent six months reporting this story, profiling Tadesse and his three roommates, part of the West Side Runners club in the Bronx — a training group that has kept going mainly due to the kindness and support of Bill Staab, an 81-year-old former Peace Corps volunteer. This club is a lifeline and anchor for the athletes, and Alm’s piece is a moving portrait of hope and perseverance, community and camaraderie. —Cheri Lucas Rowlands

What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind, Jennifer Senior, The Atlantic, August 9, 2021

Do you know that feeling, that need to savor every word when you’re reading an exceptional piece of writing? I went into slow motion after the first line of Senior’s tour de force: “When Bobby McIlvaine died on September 11, 2001, his desk at home was a study in plate tectonics, coated in shifting piles of leather-bound diaries and yellow legal pads.” To write the piece, Senior met with McIlvaine’s mother, father, brother, and girlfriend at the time of his death. In speaking with those closest to McIlvaine, she witnesses very different modes of grief, and how that grief has evolved over time. Through the intensely personal price paid by a single family on and after 9/11, Senior underscores the day’s toll on America at large. —Krista Stevens

Author David Alm on What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind”:

Senior’s story is not just beautifully and deftly told, but is also an empathic, compassionate examination of the magnitude and vagaries of grief. I read this piece on a plane, and when I finished it, I just sat there for several minutes looking at the final sentence. I anticipated precisely such an ending early in the piece, when Senior very subtly intimated it, but its impact was even greater than I expected.

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‘I’ve Lost Everything to the Beast’

Longreads Pick
Published: Apr 14, 2021
Length: 20 minutes (5,019 words)

What Happened to Milad? A Palestinian Father Searches for His Son.

Mariano Sayno /

On a wet, gray February day in 2012, Abed Salama was plunged into every parent’s worst nightmare. His son Milad had left for kindergarten early that morning, carrying an orange drink, a sleeve of Pringles, and a chocolate Kinder Egg — special treats for a class picnic. When Abed got word that there had been an accident involving one of the school buses carrying Milad’s class, he panicked. Getting to the scene required navigating sluggish traffic, past high walls and fences, then running on foot when soldiers wouldn’t let his vehicle go any farther; he asked for a ride in a military jeep but was refused. Getting answers about Milad — where was he? was he alive? — was even more punishing. Abed didn’t have the right information, the right papers, the right ethnicity. He is Palestinian, and in his world, as writer Nathan Thrall details in an astonishing feat of reporting for the New York Review of Books, every parent’s worst nightmare is compounded by Israel’s decades-long efforts to make Palestinian lives all but unlivable:

For over half a century, Israel’s strategic dilemma has been its inability to erase the Palestinians, on one hand, and its unwillingness to grant them civil and political rights, on the other. Explaining his opposition to giving Palestinians in the West Bank the same rights as Palestinian citizens of Israel, [former foreign minister] Abba Eban said that there was a limit to the amount of arsenic the human body could absorb. Between the two poles of mass expulsion and political inclusion, the unhappy compromise Israel found was to fragment the Palestinian population, ensuring that its scattered pieces could not organize as one national collective.

Administratively, fragmentation was implemented by imposing varying restrictions, decrees, or laws on Palestinian residents of the different sub-units Israel defined for them: Gaza; the West Bank; East Jerusalem; Israel within the Green Line; and refugees outside the state. Nowhere were Palestinians granted rights equal to those of Jews. Physically, fragmentation was achieved through the establishment of Israeli settlements and their surrounding roads, national parks, archaeological sites, and closed military zones, which left Palestinian communities isolated from one another and surrounded by fences, walls, checkpoints, closed gates, roadblocks, trenches, and bypass roads.

In the case of the accident, fragmentation meant that no one placed a call for assistance until 19 minutes after the school bus collided with a tractor trailer, flipped over, and burst into flames. Israeli emergency services were just a minute and a half away — a military checkpoint was even closer — so onlookers assumed help was coming, but it wasn’t. A video shot at the scene shows a tragedy unfolding in real time:

Men rush forward with small fire extinguishers taken from their cars. Others bring plastic bottles, helplessly pouring them onto the blaze. The flames continue to grow. A man paces desperately in a circle, gripping his face with both hands. Another hits himself on the head. A third, his small fire extinguisher emptied, storms away from the bus, yelling, “Where are you people?! Dear God!” as he raises the extinguisher over his head and slams it to the ground. A small blackened corpse lies on its back in the middle of the road. “Cover him, cover him,” one man tells another. “Where are the ambulances?!” someone else yells. “Where are the Jews?”

Fragmentation also meant that, in the aftermath of the crash, which ultimately claimed several lives and left many children injured, it wasn’t possible to hold Israeli institutions accountable. “Left unsaid,” Thrall writes, “were criticisms of the policies the parents and politicians alike were powerless to change.” Abed would eventually learn what happened to his son, but not from Milad himself. The little boy died, and his body was so badly burned that a DNA test was required to identify him:

Several years after the accident, when Abed was working as a taxi driver, he gave a ride to a mother and her children traveling from Ramallah to their home in the Shuafat Refugee Camp. As they approached the accident site on Jaba road, Abed whispered the Fatiha, the opening prayer of the Quran. From the back seat the mother said, “May God protect them.” Abed was surprised. “You know about the accident?” he asked. She said that her son, sitting beside her in the taxi, was among the students on the bus that day. Abed insisted that the family come home with him for lunch right then. They passed Milad’s school, where, on the anniversary of the crash, Abed would bring Kinder Eggs to the students in Milad’s old classroom, and stopped at a store, where Abed bought a toy for Milad’s former schoolmate. At his home, Abed worked up the courage to ask the boy if he remembered anything about Milad that day. The boy said he did: “Milad was in the front of the bus. He was scared, and he crawled under his seat.”

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

ALSIP, ILLINOIS - MARCH 22: A faded photograph is attached to the headstone that marks the gravesite of Emmett Till in Burr Oak Cemetery on March 22, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Wright Thompson, Fred Kaplan, Tori Marlan, Casey Gerald, and Sarah Everts.

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1. The Barn

Wright Thompson | The Atlantic | July 22, 2021 | 7,350 words

“In 1955, just past daybreak, a Chevrolet truck pulled up to an unmarked building. A 14-year-old child was in the back. Hi name was Emmett Till.”

2. Why Did We Invade Iraq?

Fred Kaplan | New York Review of Books | July 1, 2021 | 3,828

“The most complete account we are likely to get of the deceptions and duplicities that led to war leaves some crucial mysteries unsolved.”

3. Penniless: Why a Victoria Man Has Gone Two Decades Without Money

Tori Marlan| Capital Daily | July 14, 2021 | 6,687 words

“His last purchases—beer, cigarettes, pot—occurred 18 years ago, he says, on his 31st birthday. He claims he hasn’t spent any money since. It’s true, his friends have told me. No money at all.”

4. Leon Bridges After Dark

Casey Gerald | Texas Monthly | July 19, 2020 | 10,772 words

“On the eve of his third album release, the Grammy-winning artist talks with unparalleled candor about the toll of stardom—and how his best friends saved his life.”

5. Smell You Later: The Weird Science of How Sweat Attracts

Sarah Everts | The Walrus | July 14, 2021 | 4,999 words

“It’s strong reactions like mine to jar fifteen that rouse belief in human sex pheromones, odorous chemicals that catalyze copulation. Insects have them, amphibians have them, mammals have them, so why wouldn’t we?”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

(Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Nathan Thrall, H. Claire Brown, Alexander Chee, Jean Garnett, and Erica Lenti.

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1. A Day in the Life of Abed Salama

Nathan Thrall | New York Review of Books | March 19, 2021 | 20,500 words

“One man’s quest to find his son lays bare the reality of Palestinian life under Israeli rule.”

2. How Corporations Buy—and Sell—Food Made with Prison Labor

H. Claire Brown | The Counter | May 18, 2021 | 3,810

“The notion of work as punishment has enabled prison administrators to compel incarcerated people to work on farms and in dairies for low or no pay and without basic labor protections, sometimes in service of secretive billionaires they’ll never meet.”

3. What My Korean Father Taught Me About Defending Myself in America

Alexander Chee | GQ | May 14, 2021 | 3,680 words

“And he said something I would never forget. ‘The best fighter in tae kwon do never fights,’ he said. ‘He always finds another way.”

4. There I Almost Am

Jean Garnett | The Yale Review | May 19, 2021 | 4,933 words

“I can be a very generous sister—maternal, even—as long as I am winning.” Jean Garnett writes about envy and being a twin.

5. My Quest to Make My Dog Internet Famous

Erica Lenti | The Walrus | May 17, 2021 | 2,138 words

“When I spoke with several people behind some of Canada’s most influential dogs, agents and managers for pet influencers, and even researchers on canine-influencer culture, I began to understand. Whether they’re couch potatoes partnering with your favourite snack-food company or high-falutin divas posing beside expensive cars and decked out in the latest couture, pet celebrities have one thing in common: they are symbols of inspiration. Even if Belle was a dog, she needed to portray a life that could be. To be famous, she’d have to convince others she was already living the carefree millennial dream.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Black-crowned Night Heron perched against clear blue sky, Long Island, New York (Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Lyle C. May, Samuel Braslow, Lindsey Hilsum, Megan Mayhew Bergman, and Anand Menon.

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1. Qualified Immunity: How ‘Ordinary Police Work’ Tramples Civil Rights

Lyle C. May | Scalawag Magazine | June 23, 2021 | 2,807 words

“There is little to no accountability behind the closed doors of police work.”

2. Boxer Patricio Manuel, a Transgender Pioneer, Is Still Looking for His Next Fight

Samuel Braslow | ESPN | June 22, 2021 | 6,489

“Manuel sees sports as the latest front in a culture war that fought — and lost — previous battles over same-sex marriage and trans bathroom bills.”

3. More Than Accomplices

Lindsey Hilsum | New York Review of Books | June 10, 2021 | 3,864 words

“How do we determine the agency of female participants in genocidal regimes, where male supremacy often goes hand in hand with ethnic chauvinism?”

4. Seeking Home Aboard the Night Heron

Megan Mayhew Bergman | Audubon | April 23, 2021 | 2,071 words

“The pandemic prodded me to fulfill a lifelong dream of living on a boat. I’m learning the ropes surrounded by the birds of my North Carolina childhood.”

5. The Missing Note

Anand Menon | Tortoise Media | June 2, 2021 | 4,500 words

“Losing family is like losing your sense of social gravity…. Losing four of them almost at once was correspondingly more unsettling, more destabilizing, and subverted my notions as to who I was.”

Where ‘Strangers Whisper Secrets in Your Ear’

Getty Images

At the New York Review of Books, Leslie Jamison reviews “Private Lives Public Spaces,” an exhibition of home movies and photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. (While the museum is closed, you can check out the exhibit online.) What makes this review fascinating is the thread of desire that runs through it — that keen human need to document our present as it all-too-quickly turns into our past.

By showing amateur home movies in one of the most famous museums in the world, “Private Lives Public Spaces” asks us to see not just the aesthetic richness of daily life, but also to see it as a parade of minor performances: vacation as a performance of leisure, a garden party as a performance of sociability, parenting as a performance of love. Is there anyone who doesn’t sometimes imagine an audience for even the most unremarkable moments of her life?

The exhibit spans two floors, and while the upper level contains work by professional artists working with 8 mm film—Andy Warhol, Peggy Ahwesh, Cindy Sherman—the lower floor has a stronger gravitational pull, bringing me back to the home movies. Placards that usually bear the names of famous artists display suburban-sounding surnames instead: Levitt family. Thompson family. Hubley family. Descending to this level feels like dropping into the subconscious—a place not of art, exactly, but the deep place art comes from. Each film channels the gaze of an amateur—which is to say, a gaze tuned like a radio channel to the affective nuances of daily living: amusement, awkwardness, delight, and the extravagant devotion of love. Love gets accused of blinding us, or dulling our gaze, but it can summon our vision most urgently.

These are the moments that affect me most in these movies, these flashes of secret interior life suddenly surfacing: a boy’s hopeless giggling; a woman’s undisguised pleasure at her bag of potato chips on the train; the awkward silence of a boy at the end of the bar mitzvah banquet table, his forced smile; a woman doing a stately waltz, in a baroque ballroom, turning suddenly to flash a sly, flirtatious look at the camera. This secret life dwells in each of us, mysterious, wild, intimate, and these moments of rupture expose what so much art is chasing after: glimpses of the subterranean desires and pleasures and sorrows that are constantly lurking behind our composed surfaces, veiled by the costumes of our facial expressions and our social media accounts, our etiquette and our armor. The crippling fear of exposure lives uneasily alongside its opposite—a primal longing to be seen.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Adam Serwer, Alexandra Marvar, Timothy Snyder, Gaby Del Valle, and Sulaiman Addonia.

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1. The New Reconstruction

Adam Serwer | The Atlantic | September 8, 2020 | 30 minutes (7,613 words)

“There has never been an anti-racist majority in American history; there may be one today in the racially and socioeconomically diverse coalition of voters radicalized by the abrupt transition from the hope of the Obama era to the cruelty of the Trump age. All political coalitions are eventually torn apart by their contradictions, but America has never seen a coalition quite like this.”

2. The Unfinished Story of Emmett Till’s Final Journey

Alexandra Marvar | GEN | September 3, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,559 words)

“Till was murdered 65 years ago. Sites of commemoration across the Mississippi Delta still struggle with what’s history and what’s hearsay.”

3. What Ails America

Timothy Snyder | New York Review of Books | September 3, 2020 | 8 minutes (4,700 words)

“We would like to think we have health care that incidentally involves some wealth transfer; what we actually have is wealth transfer that incidentally involves some health care.”

4. Waiting to Be Thrown Out

Gaby Del Valle | The Verge | September 8, 2020 | 33 minutes (8,280 words)

Following the story of one Cameroonian, Gaby Del Valle dives deep into how video teleconferencing technology in the U.S.’s immigration courts fuels the deportation machine.

5. The Wound of Multilingualism: On Surrendering the Languages of Home

Sulaiman Addonia | LitHub | September 8, 2020 | 6 minutes (1,627 words)

“Learning a language as an adult or in your teens, especially with a history of repeated migrations between languages and countries, is extraordinarily difficult. It isn’t just about swallowing new words like passion fruit that glides down your throat. It’s like chewing on stones breaking your teeth in order to seed the foundations of that new language on your tongue already heavy with many idioms.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Seema Jilani, Katy Kelleher, Carina del Valle Schorske, Martin Padgett, and Ben Lindbergh.

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1. Broken Glass, Blood, and Anguish: Beirut After the Blast

Seema Jilani | New York Review of Books | August 18, 2020 | 11 minutes (2,757 words)

Pediatrician Seema Jilani recounts the immediate aftermath of the Beirut explosion: “As I emerged from the car, the air was still whirring with debris. Everything was eerily silent. But it wasn’t. I just couldn’t hear anything. My ears were ringing. The street scene in front of me, almost two blocks from my apartment and walking distance from the epicenter of the blast, was a silent horror film.”

2. Periwinkle, the Color of Poison, Modernism, and Dusk

Katy Kelleher | The Paris Review | August 19, 2020 | 8 minutes (2,115 words)

Katy Kelleher meditates on mauve, purple, and periwinkle in history, art, and in the beauty of quarantine sunsets.

3. It’s Not Too Late

Carina del Valle Schorske | The Believer | August 14, 2020 | 12 minutes (3,185 words)

“I don’t want my part to get skipped over, but I still don’t know how to write directly about what went down between me and M. All I can do is worry a detail like an R&B singer worries a line…For years I’ve cherished a clip of Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin singing on Soul Train.”

4. Underneath The Sweet Gum Tree

Martin Padgett | Oxford American | August 10, 2020 | 15 minutes (3,766 words)

“Today, I venture proudly and safely into the straight world outside the confines of bars and clubs once designated specifically as ‘gay’ spaces. I can be free. This wouldn’t have been the case a generation ago.”

5. One Twitter Account’s Quest to Proofread The New York Times

Ben Lindbergh | The Ringer | August 18, 2020 | 21 minutes (5,283 words)

“In 2017, the Times dissolved its copy desk, possibly permitting more typos to slip through. Meet the anonymous lawyer who’s correcting the paper of record one untactful tweet at a time.”