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 Very Quiet Foreign Girls poetry group” by Kate Clanchy, the Guardian
When Kate Clanchy began teaching the children of refugees, she sought out those silenced by trauma and loss. Their weekly sessions released a torrent of untold stories.
But none of them talked about it much. We are always, in this country, obliging refugees to tell their arrival stories: border officials, social workers, charity workers, housing officers all want to know, and the consequences of telling the wrong tale are dire. In our school, there is a code of silence. Teachers, on principle, accept each new arrival as simply a student equal to all others, and try to meet their needs as they appear. Students follow suit, speaking to each other in English, of English things, in mixed racial groups. This, mostly, is a good thing, but it does leave a layer of stories untold, and some festering, because very few people make it out of war zones by being exceptionally nice at all times. The more terrible the place they have fled, the more likely they are to have seen things that leave an awful, lingering sense of shame.
“I don’t remember,” our students say. “I came from my country when I was six but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember my language. No.”
“The Mobilizer” by Andy Kroll, California Sunday Magazine
Persuading Latinos to vote Republican in the year of Trump.
On the Fourth of July, Sergio Arellano dragged himself out of bed before sunrise and pulled on baggy jeans and a T-shirt that read REPUBLICAN ACTION TEAM. As the strategic initiatives director for the Arizona Republican Party, Arellano is responsible for Latino outreach, and he was headed for Nogales, a border town whose population of 20,000 is overwhelmingly Latino and Democratic. In other words, he was going into enemy territory to promote Donald Trump, Senator John McCain (who is seeking a sixth term), and several other Republican candidates running for local office. Latinos make up 31 percent of Arizona’s population. That number is growing so rapidly that many think it’s only a matter of time before what was once a solidly red state shades purple and then turns blue. It is Arellano’s job to prevent this from happening.
“Bring Up the Bodies” by Christopher Finnigan, Roads & Kingdoms
Eighty years after the Spanish Civil War began, a small group of decedents is determined to identify the remains of thousands of victims buried in mass graves.
Malagarriga and his family have no place to mourn Guillem; no cemetery to visit, no headstone to clean. “When I was young at home,” Malagarriga says, “there was always a paperweight with a picture of a man inside wearing a suit. I remember when I was just a child and I first asked my mother, ‘Who is that man?’” That paperweight, amber-coloured, circular, made of glass and no bigger than a small coffee mug, is the family’s only token of remembrance for Guillem.
Although 80 years have passed since the war began and 40 since the end of Spain’s fascist dictatorship, only around 200 mass graves containing about 5,700 bodies have been exhumed. Spain’s “Pact of Forgetting,” established after Franco’s death in 1975, gave impunity to all those who had fought and subsequently worked for the dictator. Crucially, the pact enshrined a commitment that the 150,000 skeletons would remain buried.
“My Holy Land Vacation” by Tom Bissell, Harper’s
Touring Israel with 450 Christian Zionists.Too often, the subject of Israel becomes just another way for Americans to refract their own views of America. Liberals tend to assume that right-wing evangelicals support Israel because of how it fits into their imagined apocalypse: only when God’s Chosen People reoccupy the entirety of their biblical territory will the Final Dispensation, the rise of the Antichrist, the Tribulation, the eventual return of Jesus Christ, and his Last Judgment commence. In many ways, the founding of Israel in 1948 was the Woodstock of fundamentalist Christianity. A recent Pew study of Christian fundamentalism found that 63 percent of white evangelicals believe that the creation of a Jewish state in modern times fulfills the supposed biblical prophecy of Jesus’ Second Coming. Yet not one evangelical Christian I will meet on tour seems interested in any of that. Rather, the conservative Christian love of Israel that I will encounter, over and over again, seems bound up in a notion of God the Father, who has two children: Israel and the United States. This Israel — not a nation but a wayward brother — lies beyond history, beyond the deaths and wars that made it, beyond the United Nations, beyond the Oslo Accords, beyond any conventional morality. Understand that and you have passed the Israel Test.
“‘They Will Find Us and Kill Us’” by Siobhán O’Grady, Foreign Policy
From murder to mass rape, a special report from the front lines of South Sudan’s civil war.
“I was unable to even walk because I could never imagine seeing something like that,” he said, adding that he was thinking of his own wife while he hid, praying that she was safe. He later found her with their two children by the banks of the swamp, at which point he built a canoe from a plastic sheet and then dragged them through the water for days until he reached the island outside of Nyal, where he found other friends from Leer.
Months after he fled his hometown, Gatkuoth’s performances in Juba seem like a distant memory. It’s hard to sing, he said, when images of the woman’s brutal death still cloud his head.
“I still can’t stop thinking about what I’ve seen,” he said, dropping his forehead decorated with traditional Nuer scars into his calloused hands.
Photo credits: Sean Gallup/Getty Images; DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images; CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images; GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images; Siobhán O’Grady/Foreign Policy