A Woman on the Margins



Jessica Gross | Longreads | May 2015 | 17 minutes (4,223 words)

I first encountered the work of the memoirist, critic, and journalist Vivian Gornick in graduate school when we were assigned The Situation and the Story, her handbook on personal writing. Gornick explains that the writer must create out of her real self a separate narrative persona. The narrator has wisdom and distance the writer may not, and can craft a meaningful story out of the raw details of life. This slim book cracked open my understanding of what it means to write.

In Fierce Attachments, her 1987 memoir, Gornick wields her narrative persona to construct an incisive, nuanced portrait of her conflicted bond with her mother. She describes the Bronx tenements where she grew up, the early death of her father, the complex relationship with their neighbor Nettie and, at the center of it all, a…

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The Chaotic Nature of Working at Victoria’s Secret



Victoria’s Secret employees may be scheduled for more than 30 hours of work across five days in a week, but ultimately work only 10 of those hours, the complaint said. Aside from the logistical hassle of planning life around such an unpredictable schedule, it makes earning a living wage even tougher. At a $9 minimum wage, the difference between 30 scheduled hours and the 10 actually worked turns out to be earning $270 versus $90 in a week, or $1,080 against $360 in a month.

— Shopping mall staples rely on “call-in” shifts, and the legality of this system, which may prevent part-time employees from finding other work and pursuing higher education, is in question. Employees around the country are fighting back, and the ramifications for workers’ rights and financial profit are huge. BuzzFeed News has the story.

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‘Why Don’t Pure Loves Meet?’ On the Radio in Afghanistan



In this beautiful piece from Matter, Mujib Mashal takes the reader to the Afghani airwaves, into the hearts of its listeners. From the complications of arranged marriage to online dating woes, the youth of Afghanistan have a lot on their minds. DJ Ajmal Noorzai solemnly shares their stories on his program, The Night of Lovers. 

When the show first aired, callers were reticent to speak honestly. But slowly, with Ajmal’s guidance, they opened up — so much so that stories had to be debated before they were aired. In one, a young girl named Sameera sobbed as she recounted falling for a man other than her arranged spouse. Honor is everything in Afghan society; it is a highly shameful act for a female member of the family to engage in relations of any kind with a man before marriage. Producers had to be careful to safeguard Sameera’s identity.

Sameera had been engaged to…

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The Cost of Telling Your Truth, Publicly



Sari Botton | Longreads | June 2015 | 8 minutes (1,858 words)


In her first memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, Jillian Lauren held back pretty much nothing—about her eighteen months in the harem of the Prince Jefri Bolkiah, playboy brother of the Sultan of Brunei; her substance abuse; her time as a sex worker.

She didn’t stop there. Lauren also revealed some of the less idyllic aspects of life in her adoptive family, such as her father’s violent nature—a choice for which she paid dearly when her parents stopped talking to her.

In her second memoir, Everything You Ever Wanted, released in May, Lauren depicts the very scene where her parents cut her off, after a family therapy session in which she tells them she won’t be deterred from publishing Some Girls.

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