Tag Archives: BuzzFeed

The American Dental Refugees of Mexico’s ‘Molar City’

A mouthful of healthy teeth has become a luxury in America, and the divide between rich teeth and poor teeth has become a stark symbol of inequality. Poor dental care can be both humiliating and life-threatening, and those who wait in lines for hours at free clinics in tents or local stadiums are often given the chance to fix one thing, and little else.

Los Algodones, Mexico — tucked into the sharp corner where California and Arizona meet at the border near Yuma — has 600 dentists among its 6,000 residents, giving it the nickname “Molar City.” As Republican senators cobble together a plan to repeal Obamacare behind closed doors, little has been done to address the dental crisis currently unfolding in the United States, where 114 million Americans don’t have dental insurance.

Dental insurance has only been commonplace for about thirty years in America. As a 34 year old, I remember trips to the dentist in the mid-1980s as intense and frequent. Fluoride was a cure-all at the time; I was given extra-fluoridated chewables on top of our already-fluoridated town water supply, which left my teeth strong but streaked with white stains. When I lost my four adult front teeth in a playground accident at ten, I didn’t get porcelain veneers until I was 18. They cost $1000 each, so we had to save.

In Los Algodones, porcelain metal crowns that can cost $1500 in the states are just $180 each — one patient got fourteen in a single go. “We’re helping the United States take care of the people they are not able to,” the mayor of Los Algodones told Buzzfeed in their recent profile of the city.  And many of those people the US is unable to take care of just put the new president in office.

Jennifer Ure smiles sheepishly through the numbing agent as we stand on the sidewalk outside her dentist’s office. She’s just had her first round of surgery to replace three crowns on the right side of her mouth and is speaking with a lisp. The crown would have cost $600 back home in Ashland, Oregon; here, it’s $190. Her sister, Dana Gross, is here, too. Both are retired, both lack dental insurance, and both have been coming to Molar City for years.

“I’m on Medicare, and I can’t afford dental insurance,” Ure says as she starts to choke up. “I just can’t afford to pay.”

Both sisters warn that to get quality care in Molar City, you have to get recommendations from people you know and trust.

“You really need to do your research,” Ure, 61, tells me. “You can get some who don’t know what they’re doing, which happened to me.” Her first procedure here seven years ago didn’t go well — the implants a dentist put in fell apart soon after Ure returned to the US.

Ure, like most of the Americans I spoke with in Molar City, voted for Trump. The president’s dark warnings of Mexican rapists and gangsters coming into the US haven’t deterred his supporters from coming to Mexico for dental care.

Of course, that’s not to say the Mexicans providing care don’t see the irony.

David Gil, the manager of TLC Dental, says he’s become Facebook friends with many of the patients, and “everything is Trump, Trump, Trump.” But so far, he hasn’t seen a drop-off in customers who support the president — and he hasn’t had any problems with visiting Americans. “I think when it comes to racism, people hide it … [but] why else would you vote for him?”

“I think it’s a little bit odd, but we can’t judge them on how they voted, so we just try to respect them,” says Margo Carilla, who works as a translator for a dentist in town.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Lizzie Presser, Linda Villarosa, Maurice Chammah, Mike Giglio, and Will Storr.

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The Tender, Wild Realm of Children’s Literature: A Reading List

The plot of the book came to me as I was falling asleep: two girls share a bedroom, and squabble until they have no choice but to divide their room in half. Only one girl has access to the bedroom door. The other has the closet, which turns out to be an elevator. Suddenly, I was wide awake. I hadn’t thought of this book in years. Thank God for Google; soon, I had a list of results for This Room is Mine by Betty Ren Wright, now out of print. A few clicks later, I learned Wright had died in 2013 at 89 years old. She wrote more than thirty children’s books, including dozens of ghost stories. This Room is Mine isn’t a ghost story (at least not that I remember), but it does feature that archetypal spooky spot, the closet, and a supernatural closet at that. With a touch of fantasy, Wright dispels the girls’ disagreement.

Children’s literature is a conduit for larger questions of identity, fear, joy, and freedom, and the following essays explore these themes.

1. “The Best Children’s Books Appeal to All Ages.” (Gabrielle Bellot, Literary Hub, December 2016)

Sandwiched between Jules Feiffer’s Cousin Joseph and Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend on the shelves of the bookstore where I work is a slim but hard children’s book: The Beach At Night, a book Ferrante wrote, ostensibly, for children. I’ve skimmed through it, and I find it terrifying, as I find any book about a sentient doll terrifying. Perhaps I’ve been too quick to judge. At LitHub, Gabrielle Bellot explores The Beach at Night through the lens of Ferrante’s anonymity and compares the work to C.S. Lewis, Chinua Achebe, Arnold Lobel, Gabriel García Márquez, and Hayao Miyazaki’s decidedly mature children’s stories:

Are these indeed stories for children, if children cannot be expected to get all of these references? But, of course, this is partly the point. Children’s stories are often for adults in different ways than they are for children—and, just as books change for us as we do, children’s tales will, at best, take on new shades of meaning, will reveal new hidden rooms and lofts, as we learn to look at them with more attuned eyes.

2. “Why I Came Out as a Gay Children’s Book Author.” (Alexander London, BuzzFeed, April 2016)

To make ends meet, children’s author Alexander London supplements his writing life with hundreds of school visits. After the Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 and legalized gay marriage, London wrestled with the decision to be honest with his curious students about his marriage to his husband.

3. “For Children and Sensitive Readers.” (Alex Kalamaroff, Blunderbuss Magazine, March 2014)

Daniil Kharms was co-founder of OBERIU, “the Union of Real Art, an organization of activist absurdists who dismissed realistic writers as purveyors of the drab and demanded a new art that was one-third highbrow language experiment, eight-sevenths freakshow,” He was invited to join the Association of Children’s Literature in 1927, one year before OBERIU was formed.

In 1931, Kharms was arrested and charged with anti-Soviet activities. His children’s books, the police said, were too absurd; they didn’t embrace the new reality. Stalin’s ruffians wanted to live in a world where elephants would not appear out of the blue. They did not approve of extravagant sledding activities. A man screaming poetry from atop an armoire was worse than criminal; it represented a tear in the new reality. In one of Kharms’s children stories, the porcupines shout, “Cock-a-doodle-doo.” In another, Brazil is only a short drive from Leningrad. These impossible occurrences were unacceptable, weird whack-a-moles popping up and poking through the veneer of ordinary life. Who could tolerate such mischief?

4. “Ursula Nordstrom and the Queer History of the Children’s Book.” (Kelly Blewett, Los Angeles Review of Books, August 2016)

You may not know of Ursula Nordstrom, an editor who transformed children’s literature in the mid-20th century. Nordstrom was certain kids would enjoy books that mirrored their complex inner lives instead of dispensing pat morals. She was right. The books she championed, including Harriet the Spy, Where the Wild Things Are, Charlotte’s Web, and Goodnight Moon, are iconic. Like several of the authors she worked with, Nordstrom was queer. In this essay, Kelly Blewett examines Nordstrom’s own children’s book, The Secret Language, through a queer lens.

For further reading about children’s lit, here are Longreads’ takes on authors Beverly Cleary, Mo Willems, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Roald Dahl and Astrid Lindgren, and illustrator Maira Kalman.

If You Think You Understand the Montana Special Election, You Probably Don’t

I’ll forgive you if you’ve forgotten the reason for the Montana special election, which takes place today. It’s for a single congressional seat—the state has only one House representative due to its population—which was vacated earlier this year by Ryan Zinke when he was chosen by Trump to become the Secretary of the Interior.

Anne Helen Petersen has been reporting for BuzzFeed from Montana for months, and her definitive feature on the special election is a careful, compassionate, and clever look at the Montana voter—a true political unicorn who won’t be pandered to or told how to vote.

The special election may seem like a tantalizing chance for Democrats to turn a red state blue—56 percent of voters swung for Trump. “But that same election, 50.2 percent also voted for their Democratic governor, Steve Bullock,” Petersen reminds us, and “in 2012, 48.6 percent voted for Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat.”

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These Activists Say Marijuana is a Gift from God

Marijuana Book Cover

With Jeff Sessions banging the drum to bring back the war on drugs, access to marijuana — even for medical use — seems more and more remote for red state users. At BuzzFeed, Alyson Martin meets activists who take a faith-based approach to ending marijuana prohibition.

Decker, 49, tells anyone in Texas who will listen why cannabis is, in fact, a permitted therapy for Christians — not a sin. She hopes her openness will help generate support for medical cannabis among state lawmakers, and in April she submitted passionate testimony in hopes of swaying them. She described being rushed to the ER, “gasping for air” on New Year’s Day in 2014, when her COPD was first diagnosed, and the blur of medications and treatments she’s endured since then. “I live 80 miles from a legal state line,” Decker wrote, referring to New Mexico, where medical cannabis is permitted. She questioned why such treatment should be off-limits to her, “just because I choose to live and work in Texas, where I was born?”

Genesis 1:29, which Decker formed in 2010, is named after a Bible verse that’s oft-repeated by Christians in favor of medical marijuana: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” To Decker, a nondenominational Christian who follows the Bible’s verses in a literal way, it means that cannabis is “meant to be eaten, whether in oil, whether in an edible,” she said.

Obviously, not everyone in Texas is receptive to Decker’s interpretation of the Bible — none of the laws covering medical or recreational cannabis were likely to pass before the legislative session ends in late May.

“People in the Bible Belt say, ‘You’re using the Bible to promote drugs,’” she said, drawing out the word “drugs” for emphasis. Decker disagrees. “We’re using the Bible to promote what God gave us. We say that God made the perfect medicine. Man is the one that made it illegal.”

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Yesterday Once More: Why the Carpenters Are Still Huge in the Philippines

Karen Tongson was named after the 1970s soft-rock music icon Karen Carpenter, and she immigrated to the United States from the Philippines soon after Karen Carpenter died in 1983 at age 32. As Tongson returns to the country of her birth, she examines what fuels the Carpenters’ continuing popularity in her home country and how their music has had affected her life. Read the story at BuzzFeed.

While the Carpenters mania that seems to exist in perpetuity in the Philippines might easily (and to a certain extent rightfully) be construed as yet another of the many vestiges of the nation’s colonial entanglements with the United States — what the scholar Vicente Rafael describes in White Love and Other Events in Filipino History (2000) — I want to make a case here for a power relation more difficult to parse: a different dynamic, another species of intimacy. You see, the Carpenters belong to us, not the other way around.

But with Karen Carpenter, we aren’t just fans, followers, or cheerful colonial acolytes, Taft’s infamous “little brown brothers” worshipping another white woman’s prudish perfection. Karen’s voice is our voice…we have the power to reanimate her, for better or worse, as our echo.

I begin to understand what Karen has actually done for me. She is more than my namesake; she is my constant. She is the anchor to a now, a then, a never-was, and a never-will-be. Karen Carpenter’s dispassionately passionate vocals multiply not only across the harmonies in her own recordings but also through countless Filipino voices, making sense of both Manila and the Southern California suburbs that became my eventual home.

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In Your Dreams: A Reading List

I dream often. Every night, actually. Sometimes my dreams are sexy or scary. Mostly, I dream about school. It’s the first day, and I don’t have my schedule. It’s the last day, and I didn’t take a math class and now I won’t graduate. I’m lost. I’m running late. I skipped too many English classes, didn’t do the reading, and won’t pass the final. I can walk in my commencement ceremony, but I have to return to campus in the summer to finish my degree. Everything looks familiar but wrong somehow, like it does in all of our dreams. I look at numbers or words and realize they’re jumbled, unintelligible symbols. Sometimes, I know I’m dreaming, but I can’t control what’s happening; I’m not a lucid dreamer. Occasionally, I throw myself into the dream-ground and fall into bed. The dreams where I don’t want to wake up are the best ones, of course, and the next night I won’t fear sleep.

1. “A New Vision for Dreams of the Dying.” (Jan Hoffman, The New York Times, February 2016)

Hospice Buffalo is integrating their patients’ dreams and visions into their treatment and comfort routines, breaking with old-school care traditions.

2. “Loose But Lucid: A Dreamer in Paradise.” (Bucky McMahon, Esquire, February 2002)

Bucky McMahon travels to Hawaii to learn how to lucid dream (successfully!) from expert Stephen LeBarge.

3. “Can You Die From a Nightmare?” (Doree Shafrir, BuzzFeed, September 2012)

In 2012, after two years of writing and almost a decade of night terrors, Doree Shafrir published this essay about her violent, unpredictable sleep behaviors. Investigating potential causes and cures for her parasomnia led Shafrir to check in at the New York Sleep Institute, phone up comedian Mike Birbiglia, and sit down with Tim Dubitsky, the boyfriend of the late artist Tobias Wong, who killed himself in the midst of a night terror.

4. “Angry Signatures.” (Ursula Villarreal-Moura, Nashville Review, December 2016)

Short fiction from a Texan author about a mother-daughter pair and the manifestation of their prophetic dreams.

5. “Why We Dream About Our Childhood Homes.” (Janet Allon, The New York Times, July 1998)

What do New Yorkers dream about? Subways, manholes, expanding apartments, and flying over Central Park. Janel Allen includes each dreamer’s profession, and I enjoyed trying to make connections between their dream and waking lives.

6. “What Escapes the Total Archive.” (Rebecca Lemov, Limn, March 2016)

Pursuing the twentieth-century dream of capturing all sociological data in a single clearinghouse, a group of American social scientists in the mid-1950s attempted a bold, if not completely unprecedented, experiment. They would test the limits not only of content (what was collected) but also of format (how it was collected, saved, circulated, and distributed). The resulting data set of data sets, which I call the “database of dreams,” but which its creators referred to by the somewhat less evocative Microcard Publications of Primary Records in Culture and Personality, took shape between 1955 and 1963. Meanwhile, its more extensive vision—the total archive it portended and evoked containing all ephemeral data from the domain of subjectivity collected from peoples around the world, and available in turn across the globe—never did come about. Yet its would-be creators spoke of it as if to invoke it into existence.

The Uncommon Sadness of the Common Miscarriage

At BuzzFeed, Laura Turner grapples with losing a child at 13 weeks and learns that miscarriage is more common than she had originally thought: “Women were always talking about it. It’s just that most people weren’t listening.”

When someone you know and love dies, your life changes, and it is the change that fuels your grief. You can’t call them or see them like you used to; you can only smell their cologne on the clothes that still hang in their closet. But when it’s a fetus that has died, or a baby, or whatever you want to call it, your life doesn’t change, and that’s the strange part — because it was supposed to.

Your belly was supposed to grow, but it doesn’t. Your breasts were supposed to get more tender, but they return to their normal size. Your office was supposed to be turned into a nursery, and you resented that, but now the plans for a crib and a changing table are gone and nothing at all needs to change. The sadness is in how things stay the same.

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An Ode to Black Families: A Reading List

Moonlight tells the story of Chiron, a beautiful black boy coming of age in a dreadfully under-resourced section of Miami. As with any great work of art, it’s the tiniest details that reveal the most­­­ — the inflection of a phrase, the subtlety of a glance, the seconds of silence. Adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, with cinematography so lush, the balmy humidity of south Florida oozes off the screen, Moonlight is filled with moments like this. It happens when young Chiron avoids eye contact with a drug dealer during their first encounter, and again when Chiron welcomes an unexpected friendship on the soccer field with clear hesitation. You can see it every time Chiron flinches at his mother, and in the need that remains in the shadows of his eyes when he does. It happens when his mother makes Chiron read books instead of watching TV. “Find something for you to read,” she says.

The first time I saw Moonlight, these small revelations of humanity disarmed me. I felt exposed, and had to turn away from the screen. How did the filmmakers know, I wondered, that growing up black could be so contoured with dark peril, so layered with pure, sweet joy? That yes, absolutely, a drug dealer could be a respite, a much needed stand-in for a father?  I realized its novelty is due in large part to the sheer, sad fact that it is rare to see black characters coming of age on screen. Two thirds of the movie is dedicated to Chiron’s childhood and adolescence; we see his intelligence and sensitivity unfurl, retreat, and finally unfurl again.

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Opioid Addicts Are Losing Their Memories and Doctors Don’t Know Why

After two years of almost daily drug use, Max had the amnesia spell, and his life began to spiral out of control. Unable to remember what year it was or how to get around Boston, he dropped out of school. He had to quit the restaurant job after two dizzying shifts losing people’s orders and forgetting where his tables were.

“I remember feeling, just like, intense dread, because I didn’t know what was happening,” he said. “Because I thought I was going to be like that for the rest of my life. It made me act like a crazy person.”

The cluster of new cases in eastern Massachusetts, which began with Max’s case in 2012, appears to be growing in step with the nationwide opioid epidemic. Opioid overdoses have quadrupled in the last 15 years, driven largely by a rise in heroin use and, more recently, by fentanyl, an opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin. In Massachusetts, where overdose rates have doubled since 2012, 75% of people who died of an unintentional overdose last year had fentanyl in their system.

After overdosing, some opioid addicts are losing their memory and nobody really knows why. All doctors know is that each patient’s hippocampus — the area of the brain responsible for memory — becomes severely damaged. Are the opioids laced with an unknown toxin that targets the hippocampus? Does reduced respiration caused by opioid overdose damage the hippocampus? Azeen Ghorayshi reports at BuzzFeed.

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