Vol 1, Issue 1. January, 2019

We are excited to launch this new monthly Fellows Program newsletter!

The Fifth Draft is meant for you, our program’s supporters—fellow book lovers and storytellers—as well as our National Fellows.

Every month, we’ll feature the work and insights from current and past National Fellows. You’ll learn what books and longform articles our Fellows can’t put down and they will offer advice on common challenges for writers and filmmakers.

We hope you enjoy this inaugural issue of The Fifth Draft. If you have any feedback, send us a note: FifthDraft@newamerica.org.

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Three questions with...
2017 National Fellow Nikole Hannah-Jones

Could you tell me about your New America fellowship project?

I am working on a book about school segregation that is tracing the struggle for black children to get a quality and equal education going all the way back to slavery up to modern-day Detroit. I decided to do this project because I have been writing about school segregation, almost exclusively, for the last five years but still never felt like I could tell the entire comprehensive story that I wanted to tell.

I'm really looking forward to reading it. You mentioned feeling internal and external pressure as you write this book. Could you tell me a little bit more about that?

The internal pressure always exists. You spend a lot of time on something, you have a vision for it, and it feels impossible to reach the expectation of what you know it can be. I think a book is something much more substantial and permanent than any article you could write, so I want it to be the best that it can be. I’ve also spent so much time in classrooms with kids who we are sacrificing, and I feel a lot of internal pressure to do right by them and to do right by the communities that I write about.

I’m curious if you’ve found yourself in the peculiar situation in which you turn into a therapist for parents who want to talk to you about choosing a school for their child?

Absolutely. One of the most exhausting things about my work is the folks who want absolution. They want to feel badly for an hour and come and confess. I get a ton of folks who tell me how they really struggled with the decision and wanted to do the right thing, but they just couldn't. I don’t know where the conversation is expected to go from there, but I find it very exhausting. What I will say though, is that the most surprising thing is the number of parents who have come up to me and said, “I’ve made a different choice for my child because of your work.” I did not expect that to happen. There’s a power to it, and it is sustaining because this work is exhausting. It’s hard not to feel completely pessimistic and utterly hopeless, so to hear every now and then that my work has helped move people to do the right thing for our kids, helps sustain me through those really low times.

Hot Off The Press

You'll See This Message When It Is Too Late

What we can learn from the aftermath of cybersecurity breaches and how we can do a better job protecting online data.

By: Josephine Wolff, Class of 2016

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From Hitler's Germany to Saddam's Iraq

Offering a radically conservative argument for when to wage war, this persuasive book will be essential reading for policymakers and concerned citizens alike.

By: Scott A. Silverstone, Class of 2016

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Two Cents

How we overcome writer's block: running laps, interviewing more subjects and drawing on the wall.

1: When I'm blocked, I stop trying to write, and turn to interviewing a person (or three) who is smart about whatever I'm hung up on. Even when sweating a deadline, I find that's practical. Faster than staring at the keyboard. And sure enough—for me anyway—it causes the words to flow again. If for no other reason than I learn how I've gotten myself into a box and should be approaching the problem from an entirely different direction. —Joel Garreau, Class of 2009

2: Running! It used to be smoking and drinking, but then I got healthy. — Jay Newton-Small, Class of 2016

3: Go for a walk and talk through my ideas out loud as I go. Also, I put a huge piece of kraft paper on the wall and just start writing out the ideas, trying to connect them in new ways. If all else fails, I read a book—any book—by a skilled writer and get inspired to do the same. — Lisa Hamilton, Class of 2019

Two Cents

Kevin Sack co-wrote a profile for the New York Times on Joe Biden and his 2020 aspirations.

Jill Filipovic topped the list of Stories ELLE Readers Loved Most with her article "A Woman's Place Is in the House."

Rachel Aviv was featured in Esquire's "Best Things We Read in 2018" for her article "What Does It Mean to Die?"

David Wallace-Wells wrote for the Intelligencer on parenting in the generation of climate change.

Reginald Dwayne Betts was cited in Sen. Richard Blumenthal's argument in favor of the First Step Act, legislation that focuses on rehabilitation for incarcerated individuals.

Two Cents
Go To This

The top 3 New America events we recommend you check out. Now.



From Hitler’s Germany to Saddam’s Iraq The Enduring False Promise of Preventive War

Scott A. Silverstone in conversation with New America Vice President Peter Bergen to discuss Scott's new book focused on preventive war. Learn More


A New Era of Reform: What the New Congress Can Learn from the Watergate Era and Since

A discussion with historians Julian Zelizer and Kevin Kruse, authors of Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974. Learn More


How Streaming is Changing Music

A happy hour conversation about how artists and record labels are adapting to the streaming era, and whether services like Spotify and Apple Music can truly save the music industry. Learn More

Reading this month

It's excellent because the writer explains rather complicated science elegantly, and it is a book with a lot of characters, but they are easy to follow.
Marcia Chatelain, Class of 2017

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Offers an unconventional look at key events in US history from an ecological perspective.
Bart Elmore, Class of 2017

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The 1992 classic nonfiction is one of the best examples of literary nonfiction I've read in a long time. It's beautiful in its craftsmanship and wrenching in its truths.
Melissa Segura, Class of 2019

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