Vol 1, Issue 10 October, 2019

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Three questions with...
2019 Fellow Jill Filipovic

Your Fellows project is a series of stories about abortion access for rape survivors in conflict and crisis zones. What encouraged you to cover this topic as the focal point of your fellowship? Do you have a plan for the countries you would like to report from as you produce articles for this series?

I’ve been reporting on reproductive health for some time, including in countries in or adjacent to conflict and crisis, and in the United States. The more I covered these stories, the more I saw how the American abortion debates were fueling aggressive anti-abortion policies overseas, and contributing to a chilling effect in even discussing, let alone advocating for or providing, abortion. I was also surprised to learn that U.S. funds could pay for abortions for rape survivors—and less surprised to learn that, in practice, they virtually never did. I was interested in finding out why, and exploring whether the stories of some of the world’s most vulnerable women could open up a more complex conversation on such a polarized issue.

This topic is, sadly, relevant in much of the world, and so the list of countries I would like to report from is quite long. This story does seem particularly relevant in Nigeria, where groups like Boko Haram are scaling up attacks on women and girls, and in Zaatari refugee settlement, where many Syrian refugees have sought safety but still face sexual violence.

Your Politico Magazine cover story about Honduran women migrating to the United States was the first in this series. What drew you to this story, and can you share some of the feedback that you received in response to that article? Are you working on another long-form project now?

In the U.S., we often talk about migration as a “crisis,” and flatten the human beings who migrate into numbers or caricatures. I was interested in exploring the more complex reasons women and girls might feel a pressing need to leave their home countries, beyond just violence. Why does that violence happen? What happens after? What is the full landscape that makes life so hard for so many? The story did seem to resonate, and I heard from a great many women, including in Honduras, that it captured something important and under-reported. I am continuing to work on long-form pieces related to reproductive rights and conflict/crisis, and hopefully will publish another in the next few months.

You wrote recently about Felicity Huffman and the “fairness” of the justice system, Taylor Swift’s activism, and migration in Sub-Saharan Africa. A diverse group of topics! What makes a story catch your eye? Do you take a different approach to storytelling based on the topic?

I’m lucky to be in a position where editors allow me to write about a wide variety of topics. The topics I choose are generally oriented toward justice and human rights, or have an under-explored justice angle. My reporting and feature writing is much more narrative—I’m not particularly interested in my own views or experiences, but rather in telling the stories of the women I meet, whose experiences are illustrative. When I write op-eds, I bring more of my own voice into it, and push the envelope a little more. It’s a lot of fun to be able to do both.

Hot Off The Press

Felon: Poems

Felon tells the story of the effects of incarceration in fierce, dazzling poems―canvassing a wide range of emotions and experiences through homelessness, underemployment, love, drug abuse, domestic violence, fatherhood, and grace―and, in doing so, creates a travelogue for an imagined life.

Publication date: October 15th. Available for pre-order.

By: Reginald Dwayne Betts, Class of 2018

Learn more

Self-Portrait in Black and White

A reckoning with the way we choose to see and define ourselves, Self-Portrait in Black and White is the searching story of one American family’s multigenerational transformation from what is called black to what is assumed to be white.

Publication date: October 15th. Available for pre-order.

By: Thomas Chatterton Williams, Class of 2019

Learn More

Two Cents

Fellows reflect on the tools and tricks they use to make deadlines.

1: The Freedom app, which blocks social media and thus zombie-eyed scrolling as procrastination — Molly Crabapple, Class of 2020

2: Start before you're ready. Sentences and paragraphs are fine and dandy but gibberish is not to be sniffed at. Your mission is to carbo-load the imagination of your unconscious mind, the unsung hero that bears the load, so that, when you leave your desk, those synapses can roll up their sleeves and get to work. Take notes as ideas tumble forth. The sneaky thing you're doing here of course is lowering the barrier to starting by changing the nature of starting. — Zia Haider Rahman, Class of 2017

3: Caffeine, nicotine, and composing first a detailed structure of the story's narrative and arguments. — Patricia Evangelista, Class of 2020

Two Cents

Azadeh Moaveni's book Guest House for Young Widows made the longlist as a finalist for the Ballie Gifford Prize and was reviewed by the New York Times Book Review.

Jessica Bruder reviewed Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped Nxivm, the Cult That Bound My Life in the New York Times Book Review.

Patrick Radden Keefe's Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland was longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Matthieu Aikins was named the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foriegn Relations for this year.  

Bina Venkataraman's book The Optimist's Telescope was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. Bina was also named the new editorial page editor for the Boston Globe.  

Two Cents
Go To This

The top New America events we recommend you check out. Now.



Felon: Poems

Reginald Dwayne Betts, Class of 2018, will discuss his new book of poems Felon with Clint Smith, Class of 2020. Learn more


Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race

Thomas Chatterton Williams, Class of 2019, will discuss his new book Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race with Theodore Johnson, Class of 2017, and Jane Coason with VoxLearn more

Reading this month

Abdurraqib's masterpiece made me cry several times, and really illustrated the power of words and music in understanding the world.
— Vann R. Newkirk II, Class of 2020

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Epstein covers the importance of breadth over depth in this expansive work. 
— Melissa Segura, Class of 2019

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Verini is—hands down—one of the beautiful stylists working in nonfiction today. And this book, about the battle for Mosul, proves it.
— Matthew Shaer, Class of 2020

Learn More

Free Swag

Fill out this tiny form for a chance to win a copy of Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni, Class of 2018! Read the New York Times review of the book here.

(Please submit by COB Monday, October 7th to be considered.)

Get swag!

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