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Sitdown Sunday: What it's like to leave the notorious Westboro Baptist Church

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.
Nov 22nd 2015, 10:00 AM 23,369 18

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Is it OK To listen to R Kelly?

R Kelly Docklands Concert Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

If you’ve ever listened to a controversial artist and thought ‘hmm, should I really be listening to them?” Then this article is for you, looking at R Kelly and his very controversial life.

(Vulture, approx 28 mins reading time)

In his memoir, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, he wrote about being sexually abused as a child by a woman from the neighborhood. Around the same time, boarders in his family’s house repeatedly made him take photos of them having sex. When he was 8, he watched helplessly as his first love, Lulu, drowned after bullies pushed her into a creek. At 11, he was shot by thieves trying to steal his bike. The bullet is still in his shoulder.

2. Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Perrys Prayer Rally Source: AP/Press Association Images

Megan Phelps-Roper was born into the family that runs the Westboro Baptist Church. She believed AIDs was a curse sent by God, she picketed the funerals of gay men, and used the internet to spread the church’s message. Then Twitter introduced her to a new world.

(New Yorker, approx 53 mins reading time)

The children of Westboro attended Topeka public schools, and Phelps-Roper ran track, listened to Sublime CDs, and read Stephen King novels. If you knew the truth in your heart, Westboro believed, even the filthiest products of pop culture couldn’t defile you. She was friendly with her classmates and her teachers, but viewed them with extreme suspicion—she knew that they were either intentionally evil or deluded by God.

3. Hello, it’s me

Adele interview Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The globally-famous singer Adele has a new album out, after a few years away from the spotlight. The notoriously private singer speaks to The Guardian about how her life has changed over the past few years.

(The Guardian, approx 24 mins reading time)

Adele’s third album! This thing has become almost mythical in our culture, like Salinger’s unpublished story trove, or the long-lost method of Incan stone-fitting. There were rumours that Adele would release 25 in 2013, the year she actually turned 25. Then the pop star herself hinted that the record would come out in 2014 – as indeed it might have done; a version was more or less ready to go last year, only for Adele to junk half the tracks.

4. The Silicon Valley suicides 

shutterstock_167533097 Source: Shutterstock/Kichigin

Young students in Palo Alto have been taking their own lives at an alarming rate. There have been worries about identifying a ‘cluster’, and what the tragic deaths mean. Here’s what the schools have been doing to try and deal with the situation.

(The Atlantic, approx 52 mins reading time)

After the 2009–10 cluster, the school district had put together a comprehensive post-suicide “toolkit” and trained the staff on what to do to help prevent another cluster from developing. Statistically, that had been unlikely. “Echo clusters,” meaning second clusters in the same location within a decade, are extremely rare.

5. My grandma, the sex worker

shutterstock_265277585 Source: Shutterstock/Halfpoint

Rachel Grace Almeida discovers that her grandmother was a sex worker in Venezuela. Why did her grandma take on this job, and what did it mean for her life? She rang her up and asked her.

(Broadly, approx  13 mins reading time)

Her voice sounded more brittle than I remembered; she’s 82 now, and I worried that I’d never get the chance to have this conversation with her. But I refused to let my Dad have the final say in her life story and what she’s been through. When she picked up the phone, I could tell she was nervous to speak to me about this. She’s known me my entire life, and I’m her granddaughter who she watched grow up. “I feel like I’ve betrayed you by keeping this a secret; you are a grown woman now,” she told me, with a hint of regret in her voice

6. The women’s roundtable

hollywood reporter Source: The Hollywood Reporter

This interview with a range of Hollywood actresses – like Jennifer Lawrence and Helen Mirren – has been criticised because they are all white women. Beyond the glaring and regrettable lack of diversity, what the women talk about – sex on screen, equal pay – is worth reading.

(Hollywood Reporter, approx 24 mins reading time)

Lawrence: There’s always a backlash in everything that you do, but it’s not going to stop or change anything. And it’s not only an issue in Hollywood. When you’re asking about roles for men and women, men certainly have a longer shelf life. Men can play the sexy lead for 20 years longer than we can


shutterstock_231023848 Source: Shutterstock/InBetweentheBlinks

In 1909, John Muir went on an adventure on an Alaskan glacier with his best friend – a dog. One for the canine lovers

(Longform, approx 39 mins reading time)

But his master assured me that he would be no trouble at all; that he was a perfect wonder of a dog, could endure cold and hunger like a bear, swim like a seal, and was wondrous wise and cunning, etc., making out a list of virtues to show he might be the most interesting member of the party.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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Aoife Barry


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