Search Results for: The-Atlantic

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Diego Garcia Base as seen from the air
The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) or Chagos Islands (formerly the Oil Islands) is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean, halfway between Africa and Indonesia. The territory comprises a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 individual islands, situated some 500 kilometers (310 mi) due south of the Maldives archipelago. The largest island is Diego Garcia (area 44 km squared), the site of a joint military facility of the United Kingdom and the United States. Following the eviction of the native population (Chagossians) in the 1960s, the only inhabitants are US and British military personnel and associated contractors, who collectively number around 4,000 (2004 figures). (Photo by: Pictures From History/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. White Parents Rallied to Chase a Black Educator Out of Town. Then, They Followed Her to the Next One.

Nicole Carr | Pro Publica | June 16th, 2022 | 7,200 words

This was the scariest story I read all week. Cecilia Lewis was hired in 2021 by the Cherokee County School District in Georgia to be its first-ever administrator focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. But she hadn’t started the job — indeed, she hadn’t even moved down South from her longtime home in Maryland — before a mob of white parents decided she had to go. They sent her racist messages, spread lies about her, and screamed at school board meetings to get their way. And when Lewis took a different job, one county over, they didn’t stop. Nicole Carr’s feature is a searing reminder of just how vicious the right-wing war on progressive education in America has become, and a revealing look at the kind of people — white parents, riding a wave of national bigotry — who are leading troops into battle. —SD

2. Back to Chagos

Cullen Murphy | The Atlantic | June 15th, 2022 | 7,416 words

For most in the Americas who have heard of the Chagos archipelago, it’s likely through Diego Garcia, a tiny atoll that serves as a U.S. military installation in the middle of the Indian Ocean. But ’twas not ever thus. Not by a long shot. For Diego Garcia to be “uninhabited” enough to fulfill its current purpose, it first needed to be emptied of its indigenous populace: the Black people that had lived on the atolls for centuries, enslaved, indentured, and underpaid. Flung across Africa and as far as the U.K., the expatriated Chagossians fought for years to return to the islands; finally, this year, they boarded a ship and sailed eastward from the Seychelles to the land now known as the British Indian Ocean Territories. Cullen Murphy — a longtime Atlantic staffer, now the outlet’s editor-at-large — accompanies the voyage, and tells a long, maddening tale of disenfranchisement and diaspora. “Accompanied by British military personnel, small groups of Chagossians have in recent years been allowed brief ‘heritage visits’ to some of the islands,” he writes. “On their visits, the Chagossians have used the limited time on each island — never overnight — to clear vegetation from the decaying churches and restore the crumbling graves of their loved ones. They have cleaned inscriptions. They have left flowers. And then they have had to depart.” It’s not quite home again, but it’s a step closer. —PR

3. Loans Got Me Into Journalism. Student Debt Pushed Me Out.

Carrington J. Tatum | MLK50: Justice Through Journalism | June 13th, 2022 | 2,370 words

Carrington J. Tatum’s mother held multiple jobs and worked hard to send Tatum to college — the first in his family. Becoming his school’s first Black editor-in-chief, Tatum also discovered a passion for journalism, and realized he could make a real difference in the marginalized communities he reported on. “I was on my way,” he writes, making an impact, winning awards, and doing everything one is supposed to do to “make it” in this world. But the burden of student debt, and rising rent, has meant that he can’t afford to stay in this line of work: “After graduating, I owed more than $90,000 in student loans, about $64,000 of which is private loans to Sallie Mae.” Any amount he has hoped to save has gone, instead, to paying off loans with excessive interest rates. “My journalism degree was more expensive than my wealthier classmates’ degrees because I couldn’t afford to pay in cash,” he writes. “But that’s a common theme with American systems. Poor people pay high prices. Rich people get discounts.” This is a gutting read on the financial hardships that are driving bright, hard-working Black storytellers out of the field, the systems that keep people in poverty, and, in turn, the communities who also lose out because their stories are not told. (Pair this with one of our Longreads essays, by Kristin Collier, on living with debt in America.) —CLR

4. Sacrifice

Matthew Bremner | Hazlitt | December 1st, 2021 | 6,423 words

I am currently doing some renovation work on my house, which entails spending my evenings clutching a paintbrush, grimly painting the walls a color that someone, in a fit of whimsy, called “Beautiful In My Eyes.” (Inadvertently implying it is beautiful to no one else.) I am looking forward to a time when I do not have paint in my hair, and I can go back to being blissfully ignorant of the many different types of door trim there are in the world. (It is a whole thing apparently, there are catalogs.) Justo Gallego Martínez, on the other hand, chose to immerse himself in a building project for 60 years — not because he procrastinated over trims — but because he was building a whole damn cathedral by himself. With no architectural expertise and using waste and recycled materials, Justo constructed something near the size of the Sagrada Familia. As I struggle to figure out how to stop a door handle from falling off, I have nothing but respect for this achievement. So does Matthew Bremner, who finds himself charmed by Justo as he attempts to understand a monk who chose to sacrifice himself to God in such a unique way: “He piled empty paint cans on top of one another and filled them with cement to make columns. He bent corrugated iron rods and fed them through slinky-like springs to create the structure of arches.” Bremner spends weeks with Justo at the site, over a period of years, and learns not just about Justo but about the people who visit and even himself. Have a read — the beautiful descriptions will pull you into a bizarre world, one that Justo built himself. —CW

5. The Google Engineer Who Thinks the Company’s AI Has Come to Life

Nitasha Tiku | The Washington Post | June 11th, 2022 | 2,621 words

Could it be? After conversations with Google’s artificially intelligent chatbot LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), engineer Blake Lemoine maintains that the bot has achieved sentience. Google vice president Blaise Aguera y Arcas has dismissed Lemoine’s claims, despite the fact he has “argued that neural networks — a type of architecture that mimics the human brain — were striding toward consciousness.” Lemoine’s on administrative leave from Google and decided to go public. While the story sounds like it comes straight out of science fiction, Lemoine is not alone. “Lemoine is not the only engineer who claims to have seen a ghost in the machine recently. The chorus of technologists who believe AI models may not be far off from achieving consciousness is getting bolder.” Detractors, though, say that making sense is far from sentience: “Most academics and AI practitioners, however, say the words and images generated by artificial intelligence systems such as LaMDA produce responses based on what humans have already posted on Wikipedia, Reddit, message boards, and every other corner of the internet. And that doesn’t signify that the model understands meaning.” Stories like this, as well as “Ghosts,” Vauhini Vara’s incredible essay about feeding the linguistic engine GPT-3 prompts about her late sister (highlighted in Longreads’ Best of 2021), would make any skeptic think again. —KS

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

Explore our Best of 2021 collection

‘No One Is Listening to Us’

Longreads Pick

“The most precious resource the U.S. health-care system has in the struggle against COVID-19 isn’t some miracle drug. It’s the expertise of its health-care workers—and they are exhausted.”

Author: Ed Yong
Source: The Atlantic
Published: Nov 13, 2020
Length: 11 minutes (2,841 words)

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.

Explore our Best of 2021 collection

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. The Betrayal

George Packer | The Atlantic | January 31st 2022 | 20,818 words

When the United States prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan last August — 20 years into its failed war — they fully expected Kabul to fall to the Taliban; they just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. At The Atlantic, George Packer reports on the hopelessly bureaucratic Special Immigrant Visa program and the Afghan allies that attempted to use it to flee their country, crushed in a sea of chaos and abject human suffering amid crowds desperate to flee Kabul at Hamid Karzai International Airport. This is a harrowing read; much is told through the eyes of those who fled and readers should be warned that some scenes will not be forgotten. The greatest tragedy, in addition to the many lives lost unnecessarily, is that it didn’t have to be this way: “No law required the U.S. government to save a single one—only a moral debt did,” writes Packer. Had the U.S. acted earlier and with much greater will and focus, they could have saved far far more than the 124 thousand they estimate to have evacuated: “Administration officials told me that no one could have anticipated how quickly Kabul would fall. This is true, and it goes for both Afghans and Americans. But the failure to plan for a worst-case scenario while there was time, during the spring and early summer, as Afghanistan began to collapse, led directly to the fatal chaos in August.” —KS

2. 10 Years Since Trayvon

Lindsay Peoples-Wagner, Morgan Jerkins | New York Magazine | January 31st, 2022 | 12,400 words

It’s been a decade since George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a brutal incident that incited a social movement. Black Lives Matter has since transformed from a hashtag into, as editors Lindsay Peoples-Wagner and Morgan Jerkins put it, “a cultural force that has reshaped American politics, society, and daily life.” In a special issue of New York Magazine, Peoples-Wagner, Jerkins, and a collection of outstanding contributors tell the story of BLM’s first 10 years. The project is a literal timeline, pegged to specific events: the killing of Eric Garner, the mass murder of Black parishioners at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, the release of Get Out, and much more. At various points, contributors branch off into essays, telling deeper stories about the controversies, symbols, and individual lives that have molded BLM’s legacy. This is an essential historical document and a creative triumph. —SD

3. He Spent 25 Years Infiltrating Nazis, the Klan, and Biker Gangs*

Paul Solotaroff | Rolling Stone | January 30th, 2022 | 7,976 words

Of the tens of thousands of words you’ve read about white supremacist hate groups over the years, the vast majority have been written from the perspective of people on the outside of those groups: journalists, researchers, the unlucky souls the groups terrorized. That’s what makes this profile so breathtaking. Scott B. (his real name, if not his full one) spent years as an FBI undercover agent bringing down various violent organizations from the inside, and gave Solotaroff access to his field notes and transcripts — which, in conjunction with a raft of corroborating interviews, paint a heart-pounding, devastating picture of just some of what this country is up against. Is there some self-mythologizing going on here? It’s impossible to say no. But reading how Scott managed to gain entry to venal outfits like the Atomwaffen and The Base, and what he saw once he’d done so, you realize that sometimes an anecdote isn’t memorable because of the teller. Sometimes it’s because even the barest facts show you how many monsters are lurking under the bed. —PR

*The vast majority of the pieces we recommend are free to read online. Occasionally, we will share a piece that requires a subscription when we strongly believe that piece is worth your time.

4. When Turtles Fly

Lauren Owens Lambert | bioGraphic | January 25th, 2022 | 2,984 words

It was a joy to read this story about far-reaching efforts to help the humble sea turtle. It’s depressingly obvious that their plight is our fault in the first place — Lauren Owens Lambert writes of dwindling numbers due to “habitat loss, coastal development, ship strikes, plastic waste, and climate change” — but hundreds of people are doing their best to rectify at least some of the damage. At Cape Cod, volunteers search the beach twice a day from November through December, for stranded turtles who didn’t migrate as the water temperature plummets. The animals must then be transported to rehab facilities and flying is the least stressful way to get them there. Enter Turtles Fly Too and its team of volunteer pilots. One such pilot is a dentist from New York, and I loved that Lambert details that he “doesn’t hesitate to cancel dental appointments, because, he says, ‘the turtles can’t wait’ and the clients understand.” Saving a plane full of turtles involves around five vans, a thousand miles, and four organizations. So read this story to restore some faith in humanity — and to picture hundreds of turtles hitching a plane ride down the coast. —CW

5. What Was the TED Talk?

Oscar Schwartz | The Drift | January 31st, 2022 | 4,757 words

Even at the height of the TED era, I’d never bought into the idea of a TED Talk — I could never get past the ridiculousness of it all: the thought leader du jour under a spotlight, pacing back and forth on stage, taking each step, serving up each line, even delivering each pause with emotion and passion. Their aim? To disseminate knowledge about the future of our world with other hungry minds, but also to share their bold ideas for how to be better, superior humans. (“The TED philosophy encouraged boldness of vision, but also denial of reality,” writes Schwartz. “As such, it was a magnet for narcissistic, recognition-seeking characters and their Theranos-like projects.”) I enjoyed Schwartz’s exploration of TED’s history and approach, and the rise and fall of the TED Talk, which had a very distinct format fusing interestingness with storytelling to create “inspiresting” content. —CLR

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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Here are five standout pieces we read this week. You can always visit our editors’ picks or our Twitter feed to see what other recommendations you may have missed.

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Caitlin Dickerson | The Atlantic | August 8th, 2022 | 28,600 words

Go ahead and give Caitlin Dickerson a Pulitzer. Her examination of the Trump administration’s family separation policy is a reporting tour de force and an American horror story that should be read and studied as long as the republic stands. I could only read it in pieces. One go was too much — my heart couldn’t take it. Dickerson shows that some elected officials and bureaucrats acted out of a toxic combination of malice and ambition, while even more did nothing because they were too cowardly or navel-gazing. She holds them all to account, particularly those with children of their own. “‘Can you hold on? My daughter is about to get in her car to leave and I need to kiss her goodbye,’ one government official said as she was in the middle of describing a spreadsheet of hundreds of complaints from parents searching for their children,” Dickerson writes. A single phrase came to mind when I finished reading: “.” —SD

2. Seven Stowaways and a Hijacked Oil Tanker: The Strange Case of The Nave Andromeda

Samira Shackle | The Guardian | June 9th, 2022 | 5,925 words

Samira Shackle’s investigation is a gripping lesson in not taking things at face value. Exploring the story of “a heroic mission to defeat a hijacking in the Channel,” instead of finding “marauding Nigerian pirates,” she discovers scared and lonely men, still coming to terms with what happened to them after being brought ashore in the U.K. Any threat is dubious at best. The crew of the Nave Andromeda was likely just desperate to find a way to dock — perhaps even through a feigned distress call — having been turned away from Spain and France for having seven stowaways aboard. Shackle offers tremendous reporting on both this one event and the broader immigration issue of which it is part — while managing to keep humanity at the forefront. Her words paint an all too vivid picture of the rudder stock — the space around a pole that links the rudder to the steering room inside the ship — where the seven men clung on for nine days before being discovered, too scared to fall asleep in case they fell into the swirling sea below. Shackle focuses on Michael, fleeing from a gang in Lagos that killed his mother, and his bewilderment at being put into detention is heartbreaking. It is Shackle who helps clarify what has happened: “[H]e handed me a crumpled bail notice from the police and asked me to explain it. When I said that the case had been dropped, pulling up a BBC report from the previous January on my phone, he began to cry. ‘I didn’t know that,’ he said.” —CW

3. Looking for Clarence Thomas

Mitchell S. Jackson | Esquire | August 8th, 2022 | 6,500 words

“My god, dude, what the hell happened to you?” That’s the central question of Pulitzer Prize winner Mitchell S. Jackson’s new profile of Clarence Thomas. Except it’s not a profile in the traditional sense. It’s a rumination, a scream, a plea. Jackson, whose writing always seems to pour from his veins as much as it unspools from his brain, visits Thomas’ boyhood home in low country Georgia, where he was nicknamed “Boy” and grew up speaking Gullah, and his current home in Fairfax, Virginia, where Thomas “retires to on days he and his colleagues announce the usurping of more rights.” Jackson is seeking clues for how a Black man could come to make his life’s work the subjugation of his own people, among many other long-marginalized groups. I was moved by the honest desperation of this piece. Jackson’s work shimmers with pain. —SD

4. ‘She Made Us Happy’: The All-Star Dreams of Uvalde’s Biggest José Altuve Fan

Roberto José Andrade Franco | ESPN | July 27th, 2022 | 7,314 words

Two weeks ago, I read Roberto José Andrade Franco’s piece on the devastating loss of one Uvalde family, and I’m still thinking about it. Franco traces a history of Texas shaped by guns, violence, and segregation, but also comes in close to share the story of 10-year-old Tess Mata, one of the children murdered in the Robb Elementary School shooting, who loved softball and dancing — and had her entire life ahead of her. The photographs by Verónica G. Cárdenas are haunting — snapshots of Tess, her family, her bedroom and belongings — but so are the scenes from Tess’ life conjured from Franco’s words. I can’t stop imagining, for instance, a determined Tess throwing a softball in her family’s backyard, aiming practice pitches at a sugar maple tree in the Texas heat. A heartbreaking but necessary read. —CLR

Ian Dille | Texas Monthly | August 10th, 2022 | 3,938 words

Recent years have seen an explosion of discussion around racial gaps in outdoor recreation — finally. Despite rapidly proliferating groups like Outdoor Afro and the Major Taylor Cycling Club, retail brands and shops seemed almost inertially resistant to reaching beyond their assumed audience. (“I love Patagonia products, but their marketing materials make the luxury of intentionally living in your van seem admirable, even altruistic,” Nicholas Russell wrote in 2020. “The activities that outdoor companies present, whether climbing or running or snowboarding, isn’t correlated to what’s possible; it’s more about who fits the concept of that activity, who is likely to afford to buy into it.”) It’s that pattern that Jahmichah Dawes has sought to disrupt, opening an outdoors shop in small-town Texas. As such, Dawes has found himself a poster child of sorts, a symbol of something far bigger than just a man and his dream — whether he wanted to be or not. But as Ian Dille’s Texas Monthly profile makes clear, it’s a challenge he’s met with perseverance and mission clarity. And outdoor enthusiasts everywhere are better for it. —PR

The Struggle of Having a Pandemic Baby

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Coping with the pandemic over the past year has been tough for many people — but imagine dealing with this strange new reality whilst also bringing a whole new person, or even two, into the world. Sophie Gilbert experienced this firsthand, explaining in The Atlantic how the only people to really see her pregnant were her husband, doctors, and doormen, with the isolation only increasing once her twins arrived. With powerful honesty, Gilbert explains the difficulty of becoming a new parent when your support systems are locked down. Not only do you have to figure a whole lot out for yourself, but your new identity as a mother occurs in a vacuum, with no one bearing witness to the transformation, or to the loneliness. 

Every person who’s given birth during the past year, I’d guess, has experienced a version of the same thing—a sense of isolation so acute that it’s hard to process. I was used to loneliness being something like a dull throb, a kind of ambient hum that rose or fell depending on what else was going on. The isolation of pandemic new parenthood was different. It felt like a wound. It stung bitterly from the very beginning, and every day that went by only made it more raw. Every milestone that my babies hit without anyone being around to witness it was colored with some grief. Every month we spent in the square-mile perimeter of our neighborhood made it harder to imagine ever leaving. Thanksgiving dinner, which we scarfed down on the couch after the twins fell asleep, was surprisingly comforting, but Christmas made me ache for everything it didn’t have. I can now see the same fragments of hope on the horizon that everyone can—vaccines, maybe a return to the office, some eventual imitation of “normalcy.” But the life that I had is gone, and I don’t know how to imagine a new one that has room for my children and anything else. Every second during which I’ve been a mother has been defined by closing off, shutting down, and retreating into a space small enough where the four of us can be safe.

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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?”

Where Year Two of the Pandemic Will Take Us

Longreads Pick
Author: Ed Yong
Source: The Atlantic
Published: Dec 29, 2020
Length: 25 minutes (6,265 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

May 31, 1977 —Cambridge, MA — Photographs of American slaves, possibly the oldest known in the country, have been discovered in the basement of a Harvard University museum. Among the previously unpublished daguerreotypes discovered are these (L-R): a Congo slave named Renty, who lived on B.F. Taylor's plantation, "Edgehill"; Jack, a slave from the Guinea Coast (ritual scars decorate his cheek); and an unidentified man.

This week, we’re sharing stories from Clint Smith, Hanif Abdurraqib, Lise Olsen, Jaya Saxena, and Emma Carmichael.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

1. Stories of Slavery, From Those Who Survived It

Clint Smith | The Atlantic | February 9, 2021 | 29 minutes (7,250 words)

“The Federal Writers’ Project narratives provide an all-too-rare link to our past.”

2. Grief’s Anatomy

Hanif Abdurraqib | The Baffler | January 4, 2021 | 8 minutes (2,074 words)

“Hope awaits organizers like a trap.”

3. Undetected

Lise Olsen | Texas Observer | February 8, 2021 | 15 minutes (3,762 words)

“Prior to his arrest, local authorities had dismissed nearly all of those incidents as an unusual spike in natural deaths—a run of bad luck. But public records and interviews reveal that, time after time, investigators in Dallas made critical mistakes and overlooked or ignored signs of foul play.”

4. The Limits of the Lunchbox Moment

Jaya Saxena | Eater | Febuary 8, 2021 | 13 minutes (3,400 words)

“The story of being bullied in the cafeteria for one’s lunch is so ubiquitous that it’s attained a gloss of fictionality.”

5. Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird Are Goals

Emma Carmichael | GQ | February 9, 2021 | 21 minutes (5,324 words)

“Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe both had Hall of Fame–worthy careers before they met. But to reach new, boundary-obliterating levels of achievement on and off the field, they needed each other. And, as they tell Emma Carmichael, their work is just getting started.”