By Chris Suellentrop, originally published by Slate, 6 October 2006
Warning: This article contains a few spoilers about the Harry Potter books and movies. Like most heroes, Harry Potter possesses the requisite Boy Scout virtues: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. But so do lots of boys and girls, and they don’t get books and movies named after them. Why isn’t the movie that comes out next week titled Ron Weasley and the Chamber of Secrets? Why isn’t its sequel dubbed Hermione Granger and the Prisoner of Azkaban? Why Harry? What makes him so special?
Simple: He’s a glory hog who unfairly receives credit for the accomplishments of others and who skates through school by taking advantage of his inherited wealth and his establishment connections. Harry Potter is no braver than his best friend, Ron Weasley, just richer and better-connected. Harry’s other good friend, Hermione Granger, is smarter and a better student. The one thing Harry excels at is the sport of Quidditch, and his pampered-jock status allows him to slide in his studies, as long as he brings the school glory on the playing field. But as Charles Barkley long ago noted, being a good athlete doesn’t make you a role model.
Continue reading “Harry Potter: Pampered jock, patsy, fraud.”
At just about the hour when my father died, soon after dawn one February morning when ice coated the windows like cataracts, I banged my thumb with a hammer. Naturally I swore at the hammers the reckless thing, and in the moment of swearing I thought of what my father would say: “If you’d try hitting the nail it would go in a whole lot faster. Don’t you know your thumb’s not as hard as that hammer?” We both were doing carpentry that day, but far apart. He was building cupboards at my brother’s place in Oklahoma; I was at home in Indiana, putting up a wall in the basement to make a bedroom for my daughter. By the time my mother called with news of his death–the long distance wires whittling her voice until it seemed too thin to bear the weight of what she had to say-my thumb was swollen. A week or so later a white scar in the shape of a crescent moon began to show above the cuticle and month by month it rose across the pink sky of my thumbnail. It took the better part of a year for the scar to disappear, and every time I noticed it I thought of my father.
Continue reading “The Inheritance of Tools, by Scott Russell Sanders”
by Diana Marcum
Originally published by the LA Times, 30 May 2014
HURON, CALIFORNIA: The two fieldworkers scraped hoes over weeds that weren’t there.
“Let us pretend we see many weeds,” Francisco Galvez told his friend Rafael. That way, maybe they’d get a full week’s work.
They always tried to get jobs together. Rafael, the older man, had a truck. Galvez spoke English. And they liked each other’s jokes.
But this was the first time in a month, together or alone, that they’d found work.
Continue reading “Dreams Die in Drought: Drought Yields Only Desperation”
by Rachel R. Swarns
Originally published by the NYTimes, 16 April 2016
WASHINGTON — The human cargo was loaded on ships at a bustling wharf in the nation’s capital, destined for the plantations of the Deep South. Some slaves pleaded for rosaries as they were rounded up, praying for deliverance.
But on this day, in the fall of 1838, no one was spared: not the 2-month-old baby and her mother, not the field hands, not the shoemaker and not Cornelius Hawkins, who was about 13 years old when he was forced onboard.
Their panic and desperation would be mostly forgotten for more than a century. But this was no ordinary slave sale. The enslaved African-Americans had belonged to the nation’s most prominent Jesuit priests. And they were sold, along with scores of others, to help secure the future of the premier Catholic institution of higher learning at the time, known today as Georgetown University. Continue reading “272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe Their Descendants?”
by Lisa Chow
Originally published on Five Thirty Eight, 17 October 2014
Shirod Ince sat at the front of a line of more than 100 people, mostly guys in their early 20s, on a Friday evening last month. For two days, he and his friends had been taking turns waiting outside a Foot Locker in Harlem to buy the new LeBron sneaker. Through the long, restless hours, they had sustained themselves on Popeye’s, McDonald’s and a belief that it would all pay off in the end.
Ince had no plans to wear the new Nikes. No, for the past two years, the 22-year-old basketball coach has been reselling the sneakers he waits for. And he thought he could double, triple, possibly even quadruple his money for this particular pair, getting anywhere between $500 and $900 for a sneaker that was selling for $250 retail.
“I’ve been here since Wednesday. I have to get it,” he said. “It’s going to be crazy in the morning.”
Continue reading “You See Sneakers, These Guys See Hundreds Of Millions In Resale Profit”
by Eli Saslow
Originally published by The Washington Post, 7 September 2014
LOS ANGELES — The caseworker told Alex Ramirez he was being released from the immigration shelter, so the 10-year-old packed what was left of his belongings into a donated shoulder bag. He put on the rubber Tony the Tiger bracelet he wore for good luck and sneakers emblazoned with red flames. Then he visited a nurse for the last of eight mandatory immunizations, and she asked a version of the question he had been hearing for the past six weeks.
“Can you be brave?” he would later recall her asking in Spanish, and he told her that yes, he could.
He had been brave ever since leaving El Salvador at night in the company of a stranger and traveling more than 2,500 miles to cross into the United States. If there was one skill he had acquired during his long journey, it was how to affect toughness — how to stiffen his shoulders and spike up his wavy black hair with gel to make himself look a few inches taller and a few years older. “Estoy bien,” he remembered saying, again and again, to the trafficker who brought him and abandoned him, the Border Patrol agents who caught him, and the caseworkers at three government-run shelters who asked if he was okay. “I’m fine.” But in fact he was tired from the stiff cots, nauseated from the strange foods and anxious even now, as he waited at the shelter to be picked up by a mother who had left him behind six years before.
Continue reading “A 10-year-old immigrant faces risks, doubts on the journey to reunite with his mother”
by John Branch
Originally published in the NYTimes, 11 June 2015
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Afternoon gave way to evening, and the parade of restless clouds and the occasional bursts of rain had moved on from Yosemite Valley. In their wake was the empty quiet of Taft Point, 3,000 feet above a famous green valley going gray in late-day shadow.
There were no tourists, only a raven, black and unhurried, circling at the edge of the cliff. It spiraled upward, a silent signal of rising air. A good sign for BASE jumping and wing-suit flying.
Dean Potter, a 43-year-old professional climber and jumper, considered one of the world’s best in a wing suit, stood a few feet from Graham Hunt, 29, his apprentice and flying partner.
Continue reading “Lost Brother in Yosemite”
by Jane E. Brody
Originally published on the NYTimes Well Blog, 20 October 2014
Within a week of my grandsons’ first year in high school, getting enough sleep had already become an issue.
Their concerned mother questioned whether lights out at midnight or 1 a.m. and awakening at 7 or 7:30 a.m. to get to school on time provided enough sleep for 14-year-olds to navigate a demanding school day.
The boys, of course, said “yes,” especially since they could “catch up” by sleeping late on weekends. But the professional literature on the sleep needs of adolescents says otherwise.
Few Americans these days get the hours of sleep optimal for their age, but experts agree that teenagers are more likely to fall short than anyone else.
Continue reading “Hard Lesson in Sleep for Teenagers”
Twenty-eight shotgun pellets
crater my thighs, belly and groin.
I gently thumb each burnt bead,
fingering scabbed stubs with ointment.
Continue reading “From Violence to Peace (Excerpt)”