A2A Long Reads | 12.4.17
Welcome to another A2A Long Reads, a weekly roundup of the most in-depth and thought-provoking longform journalism pieces (according to me, of course). This week’s long reads are courtesy of Texas Monthly, GQ Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post and The Deep Magazine.
What defines “being an American” and who gets to decide? It’s a question that’s being asked more and more as time continues to run out for undocumented immigrants once protected under the now-rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Contrary to what President Donald Trump would have you believe, many of these immigrants, first brought to the U.S. as children, are valuable and contributing members of society. They’re aspiring entrepreneurs, ambitious students—even star prosecutors. Texas Monthly shares some of their stories.
An excerpt from this long read: There’s nothing more American than wanting your kids to do better than you, and one of the most striking features about Dreamers is their feeling of a debt owed to their parents. Vanessa is still consumed by something her undocumented father told her when, at age six, she accompanied him one day to his job digging trenches to lay pipes for outdoor swimming pools. When Vanessa asked how she could help, he replied, “You could do well in school.” So she did. “I know everybody loves the Dreamers,” she said, “but I love my parents, and they’re the original dreamers, and I don’t think I deserve something more than they do. They value this country as much as I do.”
The horror of London’s Grenfell Tower fire is one that’s still difficult to grasp. Buildings simply aren’t meant to burn the way Grenfell did. Investigations to determine the cause of the deadly fire are still underway and expected to go into 2018. For survivors of the tragedy, the terror of that night remains as vivid as though it were yesterday. Here are some of their harrowing stories of survival.
An excerpt from this long read: Talabi fastened the end of his knotted bedsheets inside the bedroom, fed the remainder out the open window, and then climbed out after it. As he hung on the outside of Grenfell Tower, his fingers curled around the frame of his bedroom window, he wasn’t willing, yet, to test the strength of the sheets. Instead Talabi told Rosemary to pass out their daughter. But their daughter, crying and struggling, would not let herself be passed. She pushed herself away from the window frame, and Talabi in this moment saw that his plan as it was—to descend holding the bedsheets in one hand, his daughter in the other—was not going to work. As his belief in the plan failed, so did his strength. He realized he could not pull himself back inside. He kicked for a foothold beneath him, but the building’s paneling was too slippery and his feet wouldn’t stick. He stopped kicking. He clung to the window frame.
Ten years after the Great Recession, the Santillan family is still piecing together their lives. After having their home foreclosed and being forced to spend the next several years living between hotels and their family car, the family was finally financially stable enough to rent an apartment in 2014. On paper, the U.S. economy may have recovered from the Great Recession but for many American families — predominantly black and Latino — the financial recovery is a slow process that continues even to today.
An excerpt from this long read: For the Santillans, the instability associated with foreclosure has lasted for years. After renting an apartment for a few months and then bouncing around at the homes of friends and family, they checked into a motel for a few nights so they wouldn’t have to keep asking family for help. They thought it would be a brief stay, but they ended up staying in various hotels like the Red Roof Inn and the GuestHouse Inn for the next two and a half years. All six of them would pile into one room, with two of the boys sleeping on the floor and everyone vying for bathroom time. They could rarely stay at a hotel longer than 28 days—many establishments have time limits—and so would have to pack up their bags every few weeks and find a new place to live.
The horror unleashed by Stephen Paddock when he opened gunfire on a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas is difficult for even the most mature minds to grasp. But for the many young people who were there that night and witnessed firsthand the bloody carnage — some of them, among the injured — it’s even harder to come to terms with heinous nature of the attack. The Washington Post chronicles the story of six teenage survivors in the days immediately following the deadly mass shooting.
When 37-year-old Fabian Henry returned home from his tour in Afghanistan, he knew right away that something wasn’t right. Paranoia shrouded his near every move, along with anxiety and bursts of rage. The only relief of his symptoms would come from an unexpected source: cannabis. Within a few years, Henry would found Marijuana for Trauma (MFT), an organization that helps veterans, first responders and civilians suffering from PTSD obtain medical cannabis. But in the process, Henry would also turn his small town into Canada’s medical marijuana capital.
An excerpt from this long read: The feeling of relief, he says, was instant: “I felt like the whole world lied to me. My whole body relaxed for the first time in three years, so I was like, what is this? Why are they making me take f****** clonazepam?” Fabian began diving into the modest body of research then published on PTSD and marijuana. What he discovered changed the way he thought about his illness, and how to heal himself and others. It became the foundation for his new mission.