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Sitdown Sunday: 'His position seemed to be that I must have children, that it was incomprehensible that I did not'

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

Image: Shutterstock/Ida Karolina Rosanda

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. Close encounters of the worst kind

As the black bear population has grown in New Jersey, hunters have taken it on themselves to deal with it.

(Sports Illustrated, approx 22 mins reading time)

What happened next is believed to have occurred just this once in New Jersey since it entered statehood in 1787. What happened next, hunting advocates say, demonstrates precisely why the state’s dense bear population needs to be continuously culled. What happened next, conservationists and animal rights activists say, might have been circumvented if the state had poured more resources into education, signage and trash management instead of leaning so heavily on the hunt to keep bears at bay. But, unquestionably, what happened next was violent. And painful. And gruesome. An interaction beset by blood and an anguished cry. 

2. The femicide detective

Frida Guerrera is a journalist who has taken it on herself to hunt down men who kill women in Mexico. 

(The Guardian, approx 25 mins reading time)

For the past five years, Guerrera, who is 50, has devoted nearly every waking hour to searching for disappeared women and memorialising the victims of femicide. A distinct crime recognised in many Latin American countries, femicide is defined as the murder of a woman because of her gender. Some of the signs that characterise a femicide, according to Mexico’s criminal code, include sexual violence, a relationship between the victim and the murderer, prior threats and aggression, and the display of the body in a public space. UN Women calls Latin America the most lethal place for women outside war zones. More femicides are committed in Mexico than in any other country in the region, except Brazil.

3. The impact of fish farming

The global demand for fish meal (made by cooking and pulverising fish) has led to fish farms being set up in West Africa. But what is the impact of this?

(The New Yorker, approx 22 mins reading time)

For the area’s fishermen, most of whom toss their nets by hand from pirogues powered by small outboard motors, the rise of aquaculture transformed their working conditions. Hundreds of legal and illegal foreign fishing boats, including industrial trawlers and purse seiners, began crisscrossing the waters off the Gambian coast, decimating the region’s fish stocks and jeopardizing local livelihoods. Abdul Sisai, a fisherman who sold his catch at the Tanji market, north of Gunjur, said that two decades ago bonga were so plentiful that they were sometimes given away for free. But the price of the fish has soared in recent years, and for many Gambians, half of whom live in poverty, bonga is now more expensive than they can afford. 

4. Irish film pioneer

The story of the Limerick woman, Ellen O’Mara Sullivan, who was one of Ireland’s film pioneers.

(RTÉ, approx 5 mins reading time)

An indication of the energy and resilience of this company can be seen by how they quickly overcome the losses incurred, set up new offices in Dame Street and made a number of short films over that summer. In August 1916, their first film was ready for screening. It had its premiere at the Bohemian Picture Palace, Phisborough, Dublin and was warmly received in the press. The new company had arrived and was making a splash.

5. How does Ina do it?

An interview with the US cookbook legend Ina Garten.

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(The New York Times, approx 10 mins reading time)

She salts like a restaurant chef, and gives exact measurements instead of relying on the phrase “to taste” — usually a lot more of it than home cooks think they can, or should, use. She is lavish with fats: butter, heavy cream, pancetta, cheese, sometimes all of the above. Then she often slips in small hits of vinegar and citrus, to wake up the flavors. There is at least one recipe in each book for a piece of meat that will cost more than anything else on your table, including the silverware. 

6. Hikikomori

In South Korea, hikikomori are people who have withdrawn from society. This piece looks at the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on them.

(Wired, approx 19 mins reading time)

Typically, hikikomori are young adults, mostly men, in their teens, 20s and 30s. They reside alone or, more often, stay holed up in a bedroom at their parents’ home. Because hiding from public view is their very motive, it’s hard to know exactly how many there are in South Korea, but the government estimates around 320,000. Some psychologists and former hikikomori, however, believe there may be many more that go unnoticed and unaccounted for. Some estimate the total is closer to 500,000. Others say over a million.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

Rebecca Solnit tackles ‘the mother of all questions’ – that is, she takes apart people’s presumptions about women and motherhood.

(Harper’s Magazine, 15 mins reading time)

The line of questioning was familiar enough to me. A decade ago, during a conversation that was supposed to be about a book I had written on politics, the British man interviewing me insisted that instead of talking about the products of my mind, we should talk about the fruit of my loins, or the lack thereof. Onstage, he hounded me about why I didn’t have children. No answer I gave could satisfy him. His position seemed to be that I must have children, that it was incomprehensible that I did not, and so we had to talk about why I didn’t, rather than about the books I did have.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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