Longreads’ Best of WordPress, Vol. 4


It’s time for our latest edition of Longreads’ Best of WordPress: below are 10 outstanding stories from across WordPress, published over the past month.

You can find Volumes 1, 2 and 3 here — and you can follow Longreads on WordPress.com for all of our daily reading recommendations.

Publishers, writers, keep your stories coming: share links to essays and interviews (over 1,500 words) on Twitter (#longreads) and WordPress.com by tagging your posts longreads.

1. The Moral Dilemmas Of Narrative (Bill Marvel, Gangrey)

Bill Marvel on journalism and the quest for empathy in telling other people’s stories:

Compassion and sensitivity thus tell us how to approach our subjects from the outside.

Empathy, the word Lee Hancock murmured that morning, is more difficult. Because empathy requires that we approach our subjects from the inside. We try to enter into the emotions, thoughts, the very lives of those we write about. We try to imagine what it must be like to be them. Only by living in their skin at least briefly, by walking in their shoes, can we begin to see that person as he or she is. This requires moral imagination. It is what the good fiction writer does. And it is, I argue, what we writers of nonfiction must do.

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2. The Battle of As Samawah (Don Gomez, Carrying the Gun)

A series of dispatches from the front lines of Iraq in March and April of 2003.

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3. The Boy With Half a Brain (Michael Rubino, Indianapolis Monthly)

Jeff and Tiernae Buttars made a difficult decision to have a portion of their son’s brain surgically removed to eliminate his seizures. The decision changed all of their lives:

In exchange for a 60 percent chance to end the seizures, William would lose a portion of his vision, forfeit use of his left hand, and might never walk without some form of assistance. He’d always be labeled “special needs,” though the doctor promised that William would grow to develop a below-average IQ in the 70-to-80 range. (Untreated, he was headed for one 40 points lower.) And there remained a chance, however small, that William might not survive the procedure.

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4. Let’s Be Real (Wesley Morris, Grantland)

Says Dana Stevens, the movie critic at Slate.com, of Morris’s review of Let’s Be Cops: “Wesley Morris on Let’s Be Cops and the shooting of Michael Brown is everything 21st-century film criticism should be.”

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5. A Tale of Two Abortion Wars (Ananda Rose, Pacific Standard)

While pro-life activists fight to rescue IVF embryos from the freezer, pregnant women in their third trimester with catastrophic fetal anomalies have nowhere to turn.

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6. Dress Your Family In Your Lover’s Shoes (Kathleen Hale, The Hairpin)

Hale recalls meeting a boyfriend’s eccentric family during a trip to Ireland:

Over the next month, I would also learn that Sam had lied to me about his parents’ jobs: they didn’t have any. They were not working artists, but had rather opted to leave behind their middle-class upbringing and good educations to live on the dole, Ireland’s form of welfare. Caro got splinters from compulsively sanding the same bedside table until it resembled a large toothpick. Sam Sr.’s days revolved around rising late, napping, bossing Caro around, and lecturing snobbishly on the superiority of natural fibers while his nipples peeked through holes in his over washed pajama tops. “Wot?” he would yelp at me a few nights later, in exactly that voice, when I stood up startled after the back on my chair fell off—“It’s a great antique piece, very nice quality, you just can’t lean on it.”

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7. Made for China (Shawn Wen, The New Inquiry)

As American audiences tire of big budget spectacle, Hollywood has begun to tailor its blockbusters for the ever-expanding Chinese market.

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8. What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege (Jeremy Dowsett, A Little More Sauce)

Dowsett explains “white privilege” through the lens of a bicycle rider:

And it’s not just the fact that the whole transportation infrastructure is built around the car. It’s the law, which is poorly enforced when cyclists are hit by cars, the fact that gas is subsidized by the government and bike tires aren’t, and just the general mindset of a culture that is in love with cars after a hundred years of propaganda and still thinks that bikes are toys for kids and triathletes.

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9. Going It Alone (Eli Saslow, The Washington Post)

In one of the poorest counties in Texas, a 37-year-old deputy named Elias Pompa addresses the U.S. border crisis alone while earning $11.50 an hour.

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10. An Interview with Elissa Schappell (Maria Gagliano, Slice)

I don’t think you can be much of a writer if you don’t read. I’m appalled by the number of writers and writing students I know who say, ‘I don’t read because I don’t have time, or I don’t read because I don’t want to be influenced by other writers’ work, or My busy reality-TV-watching schedule doesn’t permit me time to read books, only blogs.’

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