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7 great reads

Sitdown Sunday: The murders down the hall

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

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. Instagram and teens

Parents speak out about the impact of social media on their children.

(The Guardian, approx 7 mins reading time)

But as the months progressed, the girls fell into pro-diet, pro-exercise and ultimately pro-eating-disorder hashtags on the social media app. It started with “health challenge” photos and recipe videos, Michelle said, which led to more similar content in their feeds. Six months later, both had started restricting their food intake. Her eldest daughter developed “severe anorexia” and nearly had to be admitted to a health facility, Michelle said. Michelle attributes their spiral largely to the influence of social media.

2. Decision of my life

A recent episode of the New York Times podcast The Daily looked the impossible choice a young Afghan woman faced after the recent takeover.

(New York Times, approx 47 mins listening time)

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August, our producer started making calls. With the help of colleagues, she contacted women in different cities and towns to find out how their lives had changed and what they were experiencing. Then she heard from N, whose identity has been concealed for her safety. This is the story of how one 18-year-old woman’s life has been transformed under Taliban rule.

3. Protest against racism

At the 1968 Olympics, the winner of the men’s 200 metres, Tommie Smith, raised his fist in the air. His protest against racism ended his career and reverberated globally.

(The Guardian, approx 11 mins reading time)

Smith credits his hard childhood for his athletic ability. In effect, his training began as soon as he could walk, and work. He was the seventh of 14 siblings, two of whom died, in a poor family in rural Texas. As with most Black families in the area, they were sharecroppers – working land owned by white people, who took most of the profits. In the Jim Crow south, Smith barely ever saw any white people, he says, or any other people at all; the nearest neighbours were several miles away. The whole family worked in the cotton fields and lived in a leaky wooden house. When people ask who his favourite athlete is, Smith says his mother. “She had 14 kids and she did the same work as we did in the fields.”

4. No need for a fertility reminder

Rachel Cunliffe writes about her thoughts on whether women need a reminder about their fertility – they don’t need one, she says. 

(New Statesman, approx 5 mins reading time)

The messaging is so pervasive, I find it hard to imagine any woman in this country can make it to her 30th birthday without realising her biological clock is ticking. So I was surprised to read in the Times that students at one of Cambridge University’s women-only colleges are to receive “fertility seminars” where they will “be taught that if they want a family, they should plan to start one by their mid-thirties or risk ending up childless”.

5. The murders down the hall

Residents at a public housing development for seniors in New York City becomes the scene of serial murders. 

(Intelligencer, approx 30 mins reading time)

After giving up her search, Goodman called 911 and was soon joined in the hallway by two officers from PSA 2, the NYPD Housing Authority division responsible for more than 40 developments across northeastern Brooklyn. “Why are you assuming something’s wrong?” one of the officers asked as the superintendent unlocked McKinney’s door. There was no need to answer. In the small kitchen alcove just beyond the living room, McKinney lay on her back under a table, purple bruises circling her eyes, splotches of dried blood caked to her face and the floor. 

6. Botched

Gary Shteyngart writes about a botched circumcision and its aftermath.

(The New Yorker, approx 32 mins reading time)

My primary-care doctor recommended a urologist on the Upper East Side. Like many of the urologists I would subsequently meet, he was middle-aged, Jewish, and possessed of an easy humor. Let’s call him Dr. Funnyman. In fact, the first thing I noticed when I went to see him was a Jewish-humor anthology on his desk. He asked me if I was famous, and I did my customary blush and said no, I certainly didn’t think of myself that way. “You’re not Dr. Shteynshlyuger, the urologist?” he asked. When I informed him that I was Gary Shteyngart, the novelist, he told me he had never heard of me but loved the work of Michael Chabon.


This 2018 article looks at the death of journalists Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik in Homs, Syria. 

(The Intercept, approx 17 mins reading time)

Marie Colvin’s death marked an inflection point in the Syrian conflict. Colvin, a celebrated journalist for the Sunday Times of London who had reported on conflicts dating back to the Iran-Iraq War in the mid-1980s, was known for her fearlessness and the black eye patch she wore after losing her left eye while covering the Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka. In February 2012, she filed a report about Homs, a city of 1.8 million, documenting the government’s shelling of civilian areas. After pulling back to a village outside the city, she decided to return to Baba Amr, a neighborhood under constant government bombardment, telling her colleague Paul Conroy “this was today’s Sarajevo,” and that she refused to “cover Sarajevo from the suburbs.”

In More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday

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