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Sitdown Sunday: The lynching of Jesse Washington

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.
May 22nd 2016, 10:00 AM 23,366 5

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 making of Labyrinth

Source: jagshrapnel/YouTube

The movie Labyrinth is a children’s classic – and here’s the story behind how it was made.

(Empire Online, approx 11 mins reading time)

Initial suggestions of “something to do with Indian mythology” seemed attractive, given the opportunities for colour and action and flying chariots, until both men realised they knew next to nothing about the subject. “But what flashed into my mind was goblins,” says Froud, “and Jim’s eyes lit up. Then the idea of the Labyrinth occurred to me, because the thing about labyrinths is that they can have a metaphorical sense – they don’t have to just be a literal place. They can be something else as well…“

2. The fire at Fort McMurray

Canada Wildfire Source: AP/Press Association Images

A raging fire at Fort McMurray in Canada led to the evacuation of the entire town of 80,000+ people. One family talks about what it has gone through.

(The Walrus, approx 15 mins reading time)

“Why doesn’t Santa come and save us?” one asked from the backseat as they watched billowing red and black smoke climb up the sides of the road. “Why doesn’t God come and save us?” another asked. Amid the escape, residents offered relief to each other where they could. Dave Hill, a pharmacist whose family has lived in Fort McMurray for decades, continued to fill life-saving prescriptions long after the 4 p.m. mandatory evacuation order, even as his wife, Val, hysterically begged him to go. “Someone has to be last in line,” he told her.

3. The Waco horror

Jesse_Washington_Lynch_Mob Source: Wikimedia

Jesse Washington shares his name with a 17-year-old farmhand who was publicly and horrifically lynched in Waco in 1916. The present-day Washington takes a visit back to where it all occurred, examining “the weight of history and hate”. (Photographs and details in this article may be disturbing to some readers)

(The Undefeated, approx 29 mins reading time)

Somehow, in years of studying this story, I had missed this brazen refusal to acknowledge even the basic facts of Waco’s horrifically racist crime. To see the document displayed in what’s supposed to be a house of justice feels like a backhand to the face. Reading it again, I’m pulled into other powerless moments. I feel the despair of seeing the Cleveland officers who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice escape responsibility. The anger from the acquittal of the Los Angeles cops who beat Rodney King. The sickness of learning that segregationist South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond fathered a daughter at age 22 with his 16-year-old black maid.

4. Hips and Makers

Peru Day of the Dead Source: AP/Press Association Images

Irish journalist and editor Sinéad Gleeson writes about childhood illness, religion, Lourdes and inhabiting your body.

(Granta, approx 22 mins reading time)

The body is an afterthought. We don’t stop to think of how the heart is beating its steady rhythm; or watch our metatarsals fan out with every step. Unless it’s involved in pleasure or pain, we pay this moving mass of vessel, blood and bone no mind. The lungs inflate, muscles contract and we have no reason to assume it won’t keep on doing what it does. One day, something changes; a corporeal blip. For me, it happened in the months after turning thirteen: the synovial fluid in my left hip began to evaporate like rain.

5. Mental health and music

willis earl Willis Earl Beal Source: YouTube

Getting a record deal is the aim of many a musician – but signing that deal can also lead to pressures that can impact on a person’s mental health. Here, two musicians talk about how deals contributed to alcoholism and depression, and how they dealt with the aftermath.

(Vice, approx 15 mins reading time)

“All of a sudden I was being compared to Robert Johnson, Daniel Johnston, and Tom Waits. It was kind of a feeding frenzy before I’d even figured out what kind of artist I wanted to be,” he recalls. “The only type of recording I’d done at this point was on a karaoke machine by myself. I hadn’t had any real studio experience and I didn’t know shit about SoundCloud or the Internet. I hadn’t done any actual touring, and I’d never really performed with other people.”

6. Finding my children

India Brick Kiln Source: AP/Press Association Images

The Gupta children go missing, taken to work at a brick kiln by a stranger. They’re not alone, as this piece shows – poverty drives many children in parts of India into trafficking. When their father goes to find them, this is what happens.

(Harpers, approx 30 mins reading time)

When Kunwar asked the parents why they’d sent away their sons and daughters, they pleaded poverty. The traffickers offered money, they said, and promised to feed and clothe the children. Kunwar also asked the hotel owners about their rationale. One said that children work harder for less money and don’t steal. Whatever you give them to eat, they eat quietly and go to sleep. Children, in other words, are the cheapest and most easily manipulated form of labor. Even the poorest adults are more likely to stand up to exploitation. But a child, the hotelier explained, makes no demands.


A read of a Joan Didion essay is always good for the soul. Here she is on self-respect, back in 1961.

(Cold-hearted scientist, approx 34 mins reading time)

That kind of self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult bin the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with ones head in a Food Fair bag. There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves; imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal, in a cold shower.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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Aoife Barry


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