This issue of Read This! comes to you from my “desk” in my favorite coffee shop in Charlotte, North Carolina where we’re all bracing for whatever Hurricane Irma may bring our way. Are all of the grocery stores in your city completely out of water with handmade signs taped to shelves telling you they won’t be getting any more in? Because mine are! Here are some reads for your weekend, wherever you may be this hurricane weekend.
Heather Matarazzo on Meeting Her Birth Mother, Heather Matarazzo for Talk House
“We are sitting at the kitchen table, both chain-smoking. A green portable oxygen tank sits behind her. I silently note the irony as I extinguish one cigarette and light another. I am across from the keeper of my past. I do not know where to start, how to begin a conversation such as this. All I can muster is a weak-voiced ‘What happened?’”
I’ve been following Heather Matarazzo’s career for over a decade, and this piece is beautiful. Did you know she has a podcast called “Shut Up and Listen”?
A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah for GQ
“They are young, they are white, and they often brag about their arsenals of guns, because these are the guns that will save them in the coming race war. They are armed to the teeth, and almost always, they are painfully undereducated or somewhat educated but extremely socially awkward. That is, until their eyes are opened to the fact that within the world of white supremacy they can find friends. These young white supremacists call this reversal “weaponized autism.” What once alienated them now helps them relate to others, people like Dylann Roof, over a common desire to start a race war.”
Read. This. Piece. This might be one of the best pieces of longform journalism this year, and certainly the best profile, and double certainly the only “inside the mind of a white supremacist” article you need to read, ever.
The Oral History of Nickelodeon’s ‘Good Burger’, Justin Caffier for Complex
“We always had the philosophy that you don’t write down to kids. You write what you think is funny, and you still have to tell a good story.”
I Don’t Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction, Roxane Gay for The New York Times
“This show’s premise highlights the limits of the imagination in a world where oppression thrives. These creators can imagine a world where the Confederacy won the Civil War and black people are still enslaved, but they can’t or aren’t interested in imagining a world where, say, things went in a completely different direction after the Civil War and, say, white people are enslaved. Or a world where slavery never happened at all.”
This is the only piece of writing I read about the Confederate controversy, and you should read it too. I would die for Roxane Gay.
Jay-Z, Prince Harry, Brad Pitt, and the New Frontiers of Male Vulnerability, Monica Lewinsky for Vanity Fair
“It is a refreshing and bracing antidote to see male icons convey vulnerability in an age when Washington’s new power elite and our coarsening culture are busy projecting an outmoded caricature of manhood, 24/7. As we wrestle with gender roles and relationships between the sexes—and see issues of sexism running rampant from the tech world to politics—it’s heartening to see a crack in the implicit contract among men, their emotions, and society at large.”
I am so happy that Monica Lewinsky has a flourishing professional career as a writer and activist, and that the fruits of that labor has brought us pieces like this. I am glad that she has been allowed to grow beyond her twenties.
And finally, the most important thing you should read this weekend:
The First White President, Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic
“Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.”
Read this, then read it again.