Good morning, gentle readers! This week we’re exploring some really delightful longreads for our recommended reading, including essays on police violence, a week at a naturist retreat, and the history of the weight loss industry. Spot a great read that we missed? Drop it in the comments!
‘After the Shooting: A year in the life of Gwen Woods‘ (Jaeah Lee for California Sunday)
With so much police violence dominating headlines in the United States, surviving family members often shift quickly in and out of the news. As their public statements wane and their mourning becomes a private suffering, they vanish from view. This piece turns the tables on that dynamic, tracking a slowly unfolding year of loss with empathy, and a sharp eye for social commentary.
After dropping off everyone around midnight, Gwen decided to visit the scene of the shooting. She spotted a knot of people gathered under a streetlamp and two tall trees on Third Street. They had lit candles and placed flowers at the foot of a metal fence. Gwen asked if anyone had a name yet, and people murmured that they didn’t. How kind of them, she thought, to begin mourning before knowing who had died. Someone asked if Gwen knew. “I believe it was my baby,” she said.
‘Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age‘ (Taffy Brodesser-Akner for The New York Times)
This is a searing, layered, complex piece that combines personal narrative — a life living in constant tension with weight — and deeply researched historical explorations of the weight loss industry. It’s worth billions of dollars, but the way we talk about weight and diet culture is changing, and so too much an industry built on shaming and self-hatred.
By the time Oprah announced that she was signing on with Weight Watchers, I was celebrating my 25th anniversary of my first diet, at age 15, which I found in an issue of Shape magazine. I was 5-foot-3 and weighed 110 pounds. In the intervening years, I did cleanses and had colonics and refilled the prescriptions on three rounds of those diet pills that made my teeth sweat and ate two shakes for lunch and just protein and just good carbs (carbs are divided into good and bad, like witches in Oz) and just liquid and just fruit until dinnertime and just food the size of my fist and two glasses of lukewarm lemon water. I had stood up in a room and said, ‘‘Hello, my name is Taffy, and I am a compulsive overeater.’’ I had stuck my finger down my throat, a shot in the dark that I hoped would be more sustainable than it was. I had South Beached, I had Atkinsed, I had Slim-Fasted.
‘How Two Brothers Turned Seven Lines of Code Into a $9.2 Billion Startup‘ (Ashlee Vance for Bloomberg Business Week)
Stripe has revolutionised payment processing online, which might sound trivial until you consider that people spend billions of dollars online every year, and all that money has to move between points efficiently, and free of errors. This is a fascinating narrative exploring not just how they developed the engine, but how they managed to dominate the industry in just a few short years.
Today, Stripe is the financial engine for more than 100,000 businesses. It stores key financial information such as credit card numbers, deals with fraud, and adds support for new services such as Apple Pay as they arise. Stripe charges a 2.9 percent fee on credit card payments in exchange for its services, though the fee can be lowered with higher volumes. Stripe won’t disclose the number of transactions it processes, but analysts estimate it’s getting close to handling $50 billion in commerce annually, which would translate to about $1.5 billion in revenue. Stripe’s profit is what’s left over after banks charge it fees for their services. Generally, banks can take as much as 2.5 percent, but Patrick insists that Stripe has better margins than people assume, without providing further clarity.
‘When Should A Child Be Taken From His Parents?‘ (Larissa MacFarquhar for The New Yorker)
The way the United States thinks about child welfare has shifted, but Child Services remains a nightmarish figure on the horizon for many families — particularly those who come from social groups with a history of unjust relationships with the agency. This piece explores the story of a family and the larger debates about when, how, and where children should be taken if the state thinks their parents are unfit.
But abuse, in fact, made up only a small percentage of the cases that came through Sherman’s courtroom. The vast majority of child-protective cases involved neglect, and these could be even trickier. In a neglect case, it was a matter less of stopping something obviously terrible from happening than of filling in the deficits in a child’s life, and the question of what constituted a deficit big enough to count as neglect was difficult to settle. It was also hard to tell when neglect suggested that something more worrying was going on. “The question is, what else is this parent doing that their living conditions look like this?” Sherman would ask. “That they’re so filthy dirty, the children are filthy dirty, the food is rotting—what else is going on here? Is the parent depressed? Does the parent have developmental disabilities? Is there drug use? Or is it none of those things and we just have to teach her how to keep a clean home?”
‘Naked Truths‘ (Jamie Lauren Kiles for Racked)
If an article about naturism seems like a strange thing for a publication that focuses on fashion, don’t be deterred. This is a fascinating essay from a journalist who decided to explore the world of naturism and discovered that it ran much deeper than expected — and was, in an odd way, sort of freeing.
Waving my arms in the heavy June air, my body felt too weightless, the same pang as realizing you’ve forgotten your purse in a taxi. I imagined, with some practice, that I might convert this lightness to the freedom of leaving home without a bag on purpose. I wondered if men could relate to this sensation. I’m not sure to what extent their bodies feel like luggage.
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