Reading: “When Deportation Is a Death Sentence” by Sarah Stillman for The New Yorker
Sarah Stillman, staff writer at The New Yorker and director of the Global Migration Program at Columbia Journalism School, travelled the world to investigate the stories of undocumented immigrants who were deported from the United States to torture and death in their home countries. Stillman frames her story through the life of Laura S., a 22-year-old woman who was deported to Mexico after being stopped by a police officer for driving in two lanes. The result of Stillman’s efforts is a chilling and devastating story about compassion and what our responsibility as borderless human beings is towards one another. We recommend reading with tissues handy.
Reading: “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU” by Carmen Maria Machado for The American Reader
We can guarantee you’ll never look at “Law & Order SVU” the same after reading this horror fanfiction take on the show. Machado’s story collection “Her Body and Other Parties” was recently a National Book Award finalist and this is our favorite story from it. By illustrating the nightmares that were always lurking within the crime procedural format, Machado’s story reveals more nuance and compassion to sex workers and rape victims than the show it’s based on does.
Reading: “Maria’s Bodies” by Mattathias Schwartz for New York Magazine
The long-lasting effects of Hurricane Maria have only just begun for Puerto Rico, an unincorporated U.S. territory that has been largely ignored by our current administration. With an estimated death toll of over 1,000, island residents continue to struggle without power, clean water, and proper medical facilities. This NY Mag feature, paired with incredible images by Matt Black, details the various experiences of survivors and provides a heartbreakingly detailed dive into the conditions Puerto Ricans are still enduring.
Watching: “Contouring 101” by Sailor J on YouTube
We can’t stop laughing from watching comedian Sailor J’s hilarious makeup contouring tutorial. As she erases her nostrils for the patriarchy, she skewers men’s unrealistic beauty standards with a wry, “If the men find out we can shape shift, they’re going to tell the church.” Subscribe to her channel now because if there is any justice in this world, this masterful new performer will get a bajillion followers.
Watching: “#PronouncingThingsIncorrectly Vines by Chaz Smith on YouTube
Okay this is an oldie, but Vine was a golden platform for all things short and amazing. Chaz Smith makes mispronouncing words a stomach-achingly hilarious sport and we are his number one fans. You will never say the word “watermelon” the same way again and we dare you not to laugh when he screams Chick-fil-A.
Reading: “Two Monks Invent Art” and “Western Art History: 500 Years of Women Ignoring Men” by Mallory Ortberg for The Toast
Founded by Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe, The Toast (R.I.P.) was a publication haven for your weird, funny what-ifs —so what was the pitch for Wishbone like?— and taught a generation how to analyze century-old literary topics, minor plot points, and dream fanfictions and turn them inside out with inimitable wit. It is hard to pick a favorite piece but Ortberg’s illustrative examples of the thought process behind bad 800 AD and Western art is up there.
Reading: “Why Men Aren’t Funny” by Lindy West for the New York Times
Lindy West, along with many other women, has been waiting for this moment. In the wake of sexual assault allegations against Louis CK and a multitude of other high-power media and entertainment figures, the title of her piece is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the adage about women in comedy, and the article faces head on the uncomfortable uncertainty many feel in their reactions to the cultural reckoning of progressive idols. It seeks to answer the skeptical, un-PC crusader sarcastically asking, “Well what, are we supposed to only listen to female comics? Where’s the equality in that?”
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah is one of our greatest living essayists and this is the longform article that got her weaving, and all without interviewing the actual comedian at the center.
Reading: The Harvey Weinstein reporting from The New York Times and The New Yorker
Multiple famous Hollywood women came forward on the record for these two outlets, saying that Oscar-winning producer Harvey Weinstein used his power in the industry to sexually harass, and in some cases, assault and rape them. That it took almost three decades for this well-known story to become public shows how Weinstein leveraged the careers, salaries, and reputations of young, vulnerable actresses to his advantage to shame them into silence. This reporting has finally ended Weinstein’s career and has opened the floodgates, empowering women to come forward about the Weinsteins of their own industry.
Listening: “Dirty John” podcast by the Los Angeles Times and Wondery Media
True crime obsessives will flip for this mini-series presented by the Los Angeles Times in both longform print and podcast format. While the presentation of the story is unique in its presentation, the story itself is a tale as old as time. Woman meets man, man lies, woman forgives him and it all goes batshit crazy from there. At times it is hard to listen to this podcast without screaming, but it makes it all the more satisfying at the end. We could not recommend this series more!
Reading: “Hunger Makes Me” by Jess Zimmerman for Hazlitt
Running through a history of her relationships —to food, to men, to love— Zimmerman explains how women suppress “our needs for food, for space, for respect, for help, for love and affection, for being noticed, according to what we think we’re allowed to have. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we can live without it, even that we don’t want it. But it’s not that we don’t want more. It’s that we don’t want to be seen asking for it.” A woman who wants to be noticed, who makes a scene, is a woman with an appetite, and any sign of hunger at all can get a woman punished for openly wanting. Reading this made us gulp in recognition.
Reading: “A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof” by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah for GQ Magazine
Listening: “How Did This Get Made?” podcast by Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas
We’re truly jealous of anyone who hasn’t yet been exposed to the absurd genius that is “How Did This Get Made?,” Earwolf’s bad-movie review podcast. You can definitely enjoy the show without watching the movies discussed, which include forgotten disgraces like 1991’s “Body Parts,” about a doctor who gets the arm of a psychotic killer transplanted onto his body, or 1988’s “My Stepmother is an Alien,” which garned a whopping 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. The shows hosts, Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas, will make sure to address the questions the directors of these films forget, most typically, “Why?” and to have you cracking up along the way.
Reading: “Meet the Woke Misogynist” by Nona Willis Aronowitz
Viewing: Friend of High-Strung, Amanda Shendruk, created a kickass (and mildly depressing) data visualization that examined the representation of females in comic books. “I knew that women are not often well-represented in comic books. But I was surprised to find so much evidence of that fact in the data itself,” she said. “The statistics demonstrate what we’ve only known anecdotally until now: female characters are infantilized, de-powered and left off teams. It’s an important topic because women also show up less often in comic books than men, so each female character has the burden of being representative of all women.” Aside from being informative and awesome visually, it is incredibly well-researched and eye opening. We highly recommend it.
Reading: “How We Make Black Girls Grow Up Too Fast” by Tressie McMillan Cottom for the New York Times
Dr. Cottom addresses the shameful question of who gets to be a victim by discussing the recent allegations brought against R. Kelly and by sharing what it’s like to navigate the world as a black girl where puberty is justified as permission.
“‘I ain’t raising no ho.’
It was then that I learned black girls like me can never truly be victims of sexual predators. And also that the men in my life were also men in the world. Men can be your cousin, men can be Mike Tyson, and men can be both of them at the same time.”
Watching: “Thunder Thighs” by Miss Eaves
This music video is a summer anthem that celebrates the joys of chub rub and thick-ass thighs. Rejoice in your summer bod, jiggle and watch.
Reading: “Teach Yourself Italian” by Jhumpa Lahiri for The New Yorker
This is the article we suggest to anyone who’s learning a new language. At the heights of her English-writing career, Jhumpa Lahiri underwent a decades-long metamorphosis to teach herself Italian. She was already in a linguistic exile —her mother tongue of Bengali was foreign to her and English had long alienated her. Italian became Lahiri’s escape. Knowing that this essay was written in Italian and translated into English, you can feel the exhilarating effort in every word, of a writer making a radical, permanent transformation: “Oddly, I feel more protected when I write in Italian, even though I’m also more exposed.”
Listening: Code Switch: Hold up! Time for an Explanatory Comma from WNYC’s Code Switch
Sometimes what we omit speaks volumes about who we’re talking to. We all want to be clear and understood in our expression, but when is cultural context warranted and when should we assume our audience gets it? The always thoughtful Code Switch takes a look at this meaningful punctuation mark, and what it says about us.
Reading: Love in Translation by Lauren Collins for The New Yorker
“I’ll clean the kitchen after I finish my dinner,” I’d say. “First, I’m going to read my book.”
“My dinner,” he’d reply, in a babyish voice. “My book.”
To him, the tendency of English speakers to use the possessive pronoun where none was strictly necessary sounded immature—stroppy, even. My dinner, my book, my toy.
“Whatever. It’s my language,” I’d reply.
And why, he’d want to know, had I said I’d clean the kitchen when I’d only tidied it up? I’d reply that no native speaker—by which I meant no normal person—would ever make that distinction, feeling as though I were living with Andy Kaufman’s Foreign Man. His literalism missed the point, in a way that was as maddening as it was easily mocked.
With adult eyes, Choi reflects on her relationship to her Korean-born Mom: the childishly cruel actions she still regrets, and how her Mom went from her enemy to her most important person. For those of us with immigrant Moms we would die on battlefields for, Choi’s funny, heartfelt love letter to her Mom rings especially true: “These days I don’t love money how I used to. My mom though, I’m crazy about. I think about her all the time and can’t stand it. When she rings during a meal I get indigestion if I don’t call her back immediately. There’s a roiling shame spiral wherein I become resentful that she called at all and punish us both by prolonging the wait.”
Reading: “Instagram Won’t Stop Showing Me the Mother’s Day Photos I Don’t Want to See” by Lindsey Adler for Gizmodo
Even when you haven’t spoken to your Mom in over four years, social media platforms like Instagram won’t leave you alone about Mother’s Day, no matter how hurtful seeing all those posts may be. By detailing all her failed attempts to stop seeing well-meaning Mother’s Day posts in her Instagram timeline, Adler shows the impersonal algorithmic cruelty of engineers prioritizing celebratory motherhood for everyone.
Listening: “23 Weeks 6 Days” by WNYC Studio’s podcast Radiolab
It’s been close to four years since this story came out, but after all this time its effect hasn’t diminished. Without giving too much away, according to many doctors, 24 weeks is considered the cut off for fetus viability outside the womb. Juniper was born at 23 weeks 6 days. Get your tissues ready. (Pro-tip: listen first, then watch the video.)
This video doesn’t need an introduction. Just watch it, all of it.
This book, although ostensibly an addiction memoir, in many ways defies category: there’s not much of the common redemption narrative, no rags to riches (just rich to richer). A drug-fueled whirlwind of privilege, ambition, and Adderall, it addresses our theme headfirst in Cat Marnell’s constant power struggle with herself. As soon as you start romanticizing her time as a beauty editor for Lucky Magazine and xoJane in the golden age of publishing she devours and pukes up a sleeve of cookies and smokes crack with a stranger before name dropping her leopard print flats. This read was delicious, heart-breaking, and infuriating. Thanks, Cat!
Listening: “Food 4 Thot” podcast hosted by Tommy Pico, Joe Osmundson, Fran Tirado, and Dennis Norris II
“Food 4 Thot” is a new podcast of smart friends offering their delicious thots in a family dinner we’re all welcome to attend. In each episode, the hosts spill the rosé on “what [they] like to read and who [they] like to read.” Structured as a meal, the podcast deftly weaves between low-brow and high-brow thots. For an appetizer, you’ll be enticed by sexcapades from the hosts, such as the most hilarious story of successful anal sex involving Taco Bell we’ve ever heard. Then, you’ll want to stay for the main course of meaty thought-provoking discussions. Recent debates have included the fraught search for safe gay spaces in bars and bookstores, and whether obligation is a form of love. The podcasts can be listened to in any order, but we recommend starting with “But Do I Have 2?”
Listening: “You Must Remember This: Charles Manson’s Hollywood” podcast hosted by Karina Longworth
These twelve episodes of “You Must Remember This” are actually from 2015, but the content is evergreen and ever spooky. Focusing on the infamous murders that rocked Hollywood (and the rest of America) during the summer of 1969, this series within a series is unique in the way it dives into the lives of the people involved. Creator and narrator Karina Longworth does an incredible job of providing listeners with details about the era in which the incident took place, helping us understand how something so horrific could ever happen and why no one was surprised that it did. It feels a bit strange to link this series to our f*cking edition, but it cannot be denied that Charles Manson controlled his family of mostly young women through drugs and sex. His power was harnessed from his charisma, and he was able to satiate their need for someone to guide them. Manson often flexed his power over his followers by demanding they have sex with whoever he chose, and they followed. Although this podcast series is disturbing, it is also fascinating, due in part to the idea that sexual charm and manipulative power can have such influence over people.
“No wonder losing things, even trivial things, can be so upsetting. Regardless of what goes missing, loss puts us in our place; it confronts us with lack of order and loss of control and the fleeting nature of existence.”
When someone dies, is it a euphemism to say you’ve lost him or her? In a piece that defies category, Kathryn Schulz finds that loss is the most accurate term for her grief in the wake of her father’s death. This essay meanders from a study of the psychology behind misplacing minutiae to losing our minds into more personal and painful territory. Through Schulz’s frank but exquisite prose, the reader can’t help but feel uplifted at the end. Do yourself a favor and set aside an afternoon to go on this journey with her.
Reading: “These Women’s Magazines Aren’t Just for Women” by Jennifer Miller for The New York Times
“What about people with marginalized identities who want to write about whales or baseball or the Fibonacci sequence? Where are they going to be respected and taken seriously in the way that straight white dudes are?”
What else can you feel but inspired by women taking the system of sexism in readership into their own hands? As the landscape of journalism and media changes, the goal of the magazines detailed in this NYT piece is to make sure certain statistics become a thing of the past: “Cosmopolitan has a male audience of only 15 percent, and Elle has 12 percent…Esquire’s readership is almost 39 percent female.”
Reading: “When a Partner Dies, Grieving the Loss of Sex” by Jane E. Brody for The New York Times
Discussing the loss of your loved one is part of the healing process, but talking about how their loss affects your sex life is considered a cringeworthy taboo. Enter Jane E. Brody’s much-needed piece on the “grief that no one talks about” where widows feel the sting of loss of not just companionship and love, but sex. Brody’s insightful interviews with doctors and experts show us that many elderly people, even up to their 80s, are very much having and enjoying sex, and when they lose that intimacy, it’s a loss that should be acknowledged: “They think, ‘How can I feel that?’ But you’re not cheating or casting aspersions on your love for the partner who died.”
If you have gone crazy waiting for a partner’s text, then you are one of Becca Rothfeld’s “Ladies in Waiting.” After reading about the lover’s fatal identity—“I am the one who waits”—we felt exposed, our anxieties around online relationships laid bare. Rothfeld uses the stories of Penelope in the “Odyssey,” the masochistic protagonist in “Secretary,” women who pray in wait for God, and her own experience with being ghosted to explain the agonizing endurance of waiting for a man who never calls: “The gendered distribution of waiting assumes a hierarchy of time and activity in which men set the terms and fix the schedules. To be waited for is to assert the importance of one’s time; to wait is to occupy a position of eternal readiness in which one can be called on at male convenience.” Yikes, we have been seen.
Reading: “All My Exes Live in Texts” by Maureen O’Connor for New York Magazine
“Even casual dates have expansive biographies to plow through and life narratives you can follow for years. You hear about their hangovers when you check Twitter for the morning news. You see their new apartments when you browse Facebook at work. They can jump into your pants whenever they want by sending text messages that land in your pocket. Online, you watch your exes’ lives unfold parallel to yours—living, shifting digital portraits of roads not taken with partners you did not keep.” A luminous read on ghosts of relationships past haunting your feeds, which unfortunately doesn’t fully answer the question, “who arranges a booty call by e-mail?” Please don’t @ us, New York Magazine!
Listening: “Cut Loose: Your Breakup Stories” from WNYC’s Death, Sex and Money
Anna Sale’s unique ability to tease the most intimate reactions to life’s most sensitive situations makes Death, Sex, and Money an invaluable addition to your listening queue. This week’s episode cuts extra deep, detailing breaking up with a best friend to betrayal after decades of marriage, and the most final of separations: death. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Listening: “In the Dark,” an American Public Media Reports podcast hosted by Madeleine Baran
5 stars for reporters who did the investigating that authorities failed to do for more than 27 years
This podcast chronicles the 1989 disappearance of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy, from his hometown of St. Joseph, Minn. Baran must reveal the identity of Jacob’s murderer in the first episode, because on the eve of the podcast’s debut in September, he confessed. Authorities heralded the case as a success, but why did it take nearly 30 years to find the killer? Through tireless reporting, APM shows us that this was not the perfect crime, that the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department is not uniquely incompetent and that we should all be worried.
“In the Dark” shines when it connects Jacob’s disappearance to the millions of Americans his story affected. In one memorable episode, it chronicles how Jacob’s case led to the establishment of the national sex offender registry. By following a sex offender’s difficult search for housing, “In the Dark” shows that sex offenders are punished in a way murderers and other criminals are not. It’s punitive justice that even Patty Wetterling, Jacob’s mother, no longer agrees with. Little closure awaits you at the end of the season, but you’ll be well-informed and will experience fire-breathing outrage. As of this week, a second season has been announced, so get bingeing!
Note: This podcast contains explicit accounts of violent acts, some of a sexual nature.
Watching: “Melissa McCarthy as Press Secretary Sean Spicer for SNL”
Politico reports that what made the White House most uncomfortable about this sketch, which stars the comedian as the gum-chewing, hot-headed press secretary, was Spicer being portrayed by a woman. We can’t wait for when Rosie O’Donnell portrays Steve Bannon!
Reading: “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” by J. D. Vance
3 stars for Mamaw, 0 stars for explaining Trump supporters to us.
What started as a moving account of J.D. Vance’s less-than-ideal upbringing in Appalachia quickly turned into a prescriptive allegory on why poor white people can’t seem to break the poverty cycle. Unfortunately billed as one of “Six Books to Help Understand Trump’s Win,” Vance’s story should be read as a memoir rather than a sociological handbook to understanding rural whiteness. Structural racism and capitalism get glossed over because they would disrupt the bootstrapping fantasy Vance wants to give his fellow whites. His boner for The Marines and his mansplaining how-to guide to higher education also turned us off. More Mamaw and Papaw and less toxic masculinity plz. For further reading, we recommend “Hillbilly Ethnography” and “J.D. Vance, The False Prophet of Blue America.”