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Sitdown Sunday: My week in frozen Texas hell

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.
Feb 28th 2021, 9:00 AM 19,847 7

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. The Dubai ruler’s daughter who vanished

The story of the disappearance of Princess Latifa

(BBC, approx 10 mins reading time)

“I’m not allowed to drive, I’m not allowed to travel or leave Dubai at all,” Latifa said in a video recorded just before her escape. “I haven’t left the country since 2000. I’ve been asking a lot to just go travelling, to study, to do anything normal. They don’t let me. I need to leave.”

2. My week in frozen Texas hell

Erum Salam on battling the elements during extreme weather in Texas. 

(The Guardian, approx 5 mins reading time)

My only link to the outside world was a horrendous internet connection, so I couldn’t even doom-scroll my way out of this frozen hellscape. As I lay there shivering in my sister’s bed, under a pile of no less than six blankets, I finally lost it. What began as hysteria-laced laughter soon transformed into full-blown wailing. I had had it. Even my angsty teenage sister, who usually loathes me and everyone around her, comforted me with an awkward but much-needed hug. I fell asleep to the sound of my teeth chattering.

3. Britney Spears

Tavi Gevinson, who came to prominence as a teen fashion writer, looks at the documentary Framing Britney Spears.

(The Cut, 20 mins reading time)

The doc wants the viewer to believe that Spears’s performance of sexuality liberated her and the masses and that it was this bravery plus her talent that resonated with and scared people. It wants you to know that, when asked about the Rolling Stone photos at the time, Spears said to an interviewer,  “Well, I think we’re all girls, and I mean, that’s a part of who we are. You’d be lying if you said you didn’t like to feel sexy. You know what I mean? You’re a girl.”

4. Six Feet Under

Remember the brilliant TV series Six Feet Under? Here’s an oral history of its creation.

(Entertainment Weekly, approx 11 mins reading time)

BALL: I remember we were shooting the scene in the pilot where Ruth breaks down at Nathaniel’s grave, like snot coming out of her nose and everything. I needed to get another angle, but Frannie had done this amazing feat of emotional nakedness. I was like, “Frannie, I’m so sorry, but can we do one more?” She’s like, “Oh, yeah!” She’s fearless. We could have given her a script that said “Ruth eats a puppy,” and she would have been like, “I’ve never eaten a puppy. Let me figure that out.” 

5. Uigher camps

A teacher speaks out about what she saw in China’s detention camps.

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(CNN, approx 7 mins reading time)

An ethnic Uzbek, Sidik grew up in Xinjiang and spent 28 years teaching elementary school students aged from six to 13. In September 2016, she said she was summoned to a meeting at the Saybagh District Bureau of Education and told she’d be working with “illiterates.” In March 2017, she met her new students — about 100 men and a handful of women. “They came in, their feet and hands chained in shackles,” she said.

6. Pandemic toll

Why is the pandemic hitting some countries harder than others?

(The New Yorker, approx 28 mins reading time)

When I visited it a few years ago, open drains were spilling water onto crowded lanes. (The next monsoon season, three young boys fell into the drains and died.) The tin roofs of the houses overlapped one another like fish scales; a roadside tap dripped a brown fluid that passed for potable water. When a toddler ran out from an open door onto the street, a neighbor caught him and lifted him up. Someone in the family—I counted six people in a single room, including an elderly couple—sent another child to retrieve him. In that episode alone, I later realized, I had witnessed at least nine one-on-one contacts.


An article from 2014 on what it’s like to be 93.

(The New Yorker, approx 20 mins reading time)

I’ve endured a few knocks but missed worse. I know how lucky I am, and secretly tap wood, greet the day, and grab a sneaky pleasure from my survival at long odds. The pains and insults are bearable. My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I’ve learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back a warning, I’ll pause meaningfully, duh, until something else comes to mind.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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Aoife Barry


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