Longform’s Picks of the Week
The best stories from around the world.
Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.
“The History of Pho” by Andrea Nguyen, Lucky Peach
Pho is more than soup.
To avoid people stealing spoons, someone even came up with the idea of piercing a hole in the middle of them: the soup had to be gulped down very quickly, for if not, it all dribbled out before it got into your mouth. The chopsticks were never washed and tables were never cleaned. From there on, to designate something that was dirty, one would say, “It’s disgusting, like the state pho,” although, to tell the truth, we considered ourselves already fortunate enough to have the means to buy any. As for the small street peddlers, they no longer had the right to sell pho, but instead, a vile soup in which there were noodles made of potato flour. Fortunately, the people of Hanoi were too bent on trade to endure this for long.
“Hillary Clinton vs. Herself” by Rebecca Traister, New York
There’s nothing simple about this candidacy—or candidate.
The idea that, at this point, there is some version of Hillary Clinton that we haven’t seen before feels implausible. Often, it feels like we know too much about her. She has been around for so long — her story, encompassing political intrigue and personal drama, has been recounted so many times — that she can seem a fictional character. To her critics, she is Lady Macbeth, to her adherents, Joan of Arc. As a young Hillary hater, I often compared her to Darth Vader — more machine than woman, her humanity ever more shrouded by Dark Side gadgetry. These days, I think of her as General Leia: No longer a rebel princess, she has made a wry peace with her rakish mate and her controversial hair and is hard at work, mounting a campaign against the fascistic First Order.
“Generation revolution: how Egypt’s military state betrayed its youth” by Rachel Aspden, The Guardian
Two years after protests unseated the dictator Hosni Mubarak, a 15-year-old girl in Cairo was ready to risk her life to defeat her country’s brutal army. And she was not alone.
Coils of razor wire blocked the end of the road where I lived, and the owners of the sleazy shisha cafe on the corner, where men from the Gulf sat with heavily made-up women until dawn, had planted an Egyptian flag in the plant pot that weighed one end of the wire down. Tanks and personnel carriers sat at the intersections, their guns trained down the main streets, their crews drinking glasses of tea brought out by my neighbours. In a middle-class area, few wanted to antagonise the army.
There was no longer any of the sense of self-reliance and empowerment that had sprung up after the revolution of 2011. Then, the police had withdrawn from the streets and in each neighbourhood men had banded together to defend their own streets and houses against opportunistic crime – and to discuss politics. By autumn 2013, the country’s new rulers had banned any local organising similar to that of 2011, instructed everyone to observe the curfew and brought neighbourhoods back under police control.
“Citizen Khan” by Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker
Behind a Muslim community in northern Wyoming lies one enterprising man—and countless tamales.
Contrary to the claims of Stop Islam in Gillette, however, the Muslims who established the mosque are not new to the region. Together with some twenty per cent of all Muslims in Wyoming, they trace their presence back more than a hundred years, to 1909, when a young man named Zarif Khan immigrated to the American frontier. Born around 1887, Khan came from a little village called Bara, not far from the Khyber Pass, in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan. His parents were poor, and the region was politically unstable. Khan’s childhood would have been marked by privation and conflict—if he had any childhood to speak of. Family legend has it that he was just twelve when he left.
What he did next nobody knows, but by September 3, 1907, he had got himself a thousand miles south, to Bombay, where he boarded a ship called the Peno. Eight weeks later, on October 28th, he arrived in Seattle. From there, he struck out for the interior, apparently living for a while in Deadwood, South Dakota, and the nearby towns of Lead and Spearfish before crossing the border into Wyoming. Once there, he settled in Sheridan, which is where he made a name for himself, literally: as Hot Tamale Louie—beloved Mexican-food vender, Afghan immigrant, and patriarch of Wyoming’s now besieged Muslim population.
“Degenhart’s War” by Sebastian Rotella, Foreign Policy
How one man tried to tackle deep-rooted corruption in Guatemala — and barely made it out alive.
When a traffic officer signaled the stopped cars to advance, the Lancer forced its way into traffic ahead of Degenhart, turning left to precede him across the overpass. The Lancer turned left again and, instead of accelerating down the entry ramp, slowed and began flashing its hazard lights. As Degenhart followed warily toward the busy highway lanes, he saw two silhouettes in the back seat of the Lancer. One appeared to turn a baseball cap backward on his head, like a baseball catcher. Or a sniper.
Degenhart knew that gunmen in Guatemala’s underworld often wore brimmed caps to conceal their faces, reversing them when it was time to pull the trigger. Degenhart drew his gun.
Photo credits: John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images; HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images; Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images;MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images; Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images; Christopher Park/ProPublica