Borders: A Reading List

When I think of borders, several things come to mind: covert darkness, hundreds or thousands of dollars handed to a coyote, desperation. In the news, Donald Trump vows to build some sort of ridiculous fence along the Mexican-American border to keep people out, and cowardly United States governors swear innocent Syrian refugees will not enter their states.

Borders are not only political. In reading for this list, I read about all sorts of boundaries—in jazz music, in science fiction and in desert landscapes. Borders are implicit in the designation of which bookshelves belong to me and which are my partner’s. In this list, I stuck to geography: islands bursting out of the sea, a property feud gone horribly wrong, the billions of dollars backing border control in the American South, and the American South itself.

1. “This Land is My Land.” (Tony Rehagen, Atlanta Magazine, November 2012)

A obsession over property lines and tragic miscommunication leads to bloodshed in Georgia.

2. “Tasers, Drones, and Cold Chicken: Inside the Multibillion-Dollar Business of Keeping Me Out of America.” (Jose M. Orduna, BuzzFeed News, December 2014)

Jose M. Orduna came into the United States with his mom in the late 1980s. In this chilling essay, Orduna attends a convention known as the Border Security Expo: “where arms dealers and their government buyers come together in a feeding frenzy of defense contracts.” Part undercover expose, part something else altogether, this piece took a surrealist turn I didn’t expect but wholly appreciated.

3. “Dixie is Dead.” (Tracy Thompson, The Bitter Southerner, March 2015)

What (and where) is Dixieland? Tracy Thompson posits that the realest borders in the American South are the political affiliations of its increasingly diverse population.

4. “No Island is an Island.” (Libby Robin, Aeon, December 2014)

People are no longer from where they came from. They become citizens of where they wash up, or the world. Island-mindedness – the separation of places from other places – is no longer an option.

In this global world, it is flows and circulation, rather than land parcels, that are important. Just as Google maps and GPS have become widespread, territoriality is changing. Flows are about land-and-sea-and-sky-and-people – a collective consciousness that is hard to represent on a 2D map or a phone app.

from Longreads Blog » Longreads Blog


Returning to a Simpler Cup of Coffee

In Serious Eats, Keith Pandolfi writes about how he turned away from fancy, upscale coffee and went back to drinking the old school, pre-ground, grocery store stuff in giant cans. While Pandolfi makes his case for what he calls bad coffee, Matt Buchanan at The Awl gives a breezy, biting recap of the rise of America’s venture capital-fueled third wave coffee business, where “every other Good Coffee company suddenly looked very small next to Blue Bottle’s big pile of money,” and “There are perhaps some people who will be upset that their favorite Good Coffee Company is now just another Good Coffee Brand, revealing once again the insignificance of their person and the futility of their Brand Devotion when it is set against forces vastly larger than themselves, like capitalism, but they should take solace in the fact that even if the Good Coffee Brand becomes less Good as it becomes ever larger—which, FWIW, Blue Bottle has only gotten better as it has gotten bigger—it was never even Great to begin with. It was just coffee.” In his essay, Pandolfi writes:

Maybe it all started a few months ago when I found myself paying $18 for a pound of what turned out to be so-so coffee beans from a new roaster in my neighborhood. It was one of those moments when I could actually imagine my cranky diner-coffee-swilling Irish grandfather rising from the grave and saying, “You know what, kid? You’re an idiot.”

It’s more than just money, though. I’m as tired of waiting 15 minutes for my morning caffeine fix as I am waiting the same amount of time for my whiskey, cardamom, and pimento bitters cocktail at my local bar. I am tired of pour-overs and French presses, Chemexes and Aeropresses. “How would you like that brewed?” is a question I never want to hear again.

Cheap coffee is one of America’s most unsung comfort foods.

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from Longreads Blog » Longreads Blog

The Pennington School: An In-Depth Profile

thIndividual excellence takes center stage at The Pennington School, located ten miles from downtown Princeton. For 175 years this coeducational day and boarding school has demonstrated its dedication to student potential and maintains its belief today in “360 degrees of personal and academic growth” in its student body. At Pennington, every experience is an opportunity to learn and students don graduation caps with confidence in their professional, personal, and academic futures.

Students and Faculty

Cupola_autumnThe Pennington School serves students from grade 6 to 12 and is divided into the Middle and Upper Schools. Its total enrollment is 502 students.

With a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1, classes are intimate at Pennington, averaging thirteen students per class. This, however, reflects the School’s emphasis on faculty-student relationships, which are central to the learning experience. Half of the ninety-two faculty members at Pennington live on campus and are available to assist students outside of classroom hours.

The Pennington School’s faculty “are scholars who care about integrity, critical thinking, and the pursuit of knowledge.” Indeed, half of the faculty members have advanced degrees and most have, on average, eighteen years of experience in their specific field.

Academic Life and Resources

xlg-upperschoolmainActive, accessible learning is key at Pennington. Academic life is aided by advanced technology, a thoughtful and brilliant-minded faculty, and a vast array of resources.

Every student at Pennington receives an iPad, the cost of which is included in tuition. The Meckler Library boasts a collection of over 13,000 volumes, quiet study spaces, and an iMac computer lab. Students have access to numerous research resources, including LibGuides and other subscription research databases.

Students also adhere to an Honor Code, keeping in line with Pennington’s values of Honor, Humility, and Virtue.

Pennington offers numerous accommodations and resources for students of all learning ability. The Edmund V. Cervone Center for Learning provides academic support for students who have language-based learning disabilities, and helps these student “take advantage of the rigorous curriculum” at Pennington and build strengths. The Writing Center provides students with assistance in writing and communication skills within any curriculum, through workshops, drop-in hours, and individual conferences.

The two-year Global Studies Certificate Program permits students to pursue interdisciplinary interests that will synthesize “issues of global significance.” Students take six credits of Global Studies courses, and engage in a Global Experience and Global Horizon Project.

Lastly, the Senior Year Internship Horizon Program presents a unique opportunity for students to cultivate and develop a personal passion or interest. Students engineer their projects and work with mentors in their selected field; their efforts are supported by a faculty-led seminar which invites reflection on skill-sets and experience.

Arts and Athletics

sm-dramasidehamletPennington adheres to a philosophy of arts that “connects students to humanity through hands-on projects that require inquiry, curiosity, correlation, response, and analysis.” Through extracurricular activities and classes, students can acquire professional skills in drama, music, and visual arts. The Center for the Arts, located in the Campus Center, houses a Black Box theater, the Silva Gallery of Art, art, set design, and video production studios, a rehearsal and practice rooms, photography darkroom, and stages.

The School encourages its students to pursue competitive athletics in basketball, ice hockey, swimming, track, cheerleading, cross country, field hockey, soccer, football, tennis, water polo, baseball, lacrosse, golf, and softball. The Acquatics Program provides students with access to a swimming pool at the Martin Aquatic Center for swimming lessons and lap-swimming. Club Sports is an after-school recreational sports program that is less competitive than team sports, and includes such sports as badminton, ultimate Frisbee, and obstacle course challenges.

In addition to arts and athletics, students have an endless supply of weekend activities, clubs, and xlg-clubsportsmaincommunity service and leadership opportunities to supplement their educational experience at Pennington. The School is also committed to its student body’s diversity and spiritual life, and offers pastoral care and chapel services.

College Preparation

At Pennington, students begin their college preparation during their freshman year; guidance becomes more tailored and focused as they proceed into their junior year. The College Guidance program assists students with their college search via seminars and information sessions, individual meetings, parent programs, college visits, and advice on interviewing and application essay writing. Pennington is offering a West Coast College Spring Break 2016 Visit for students in the classes of 2017 and 2018.

The School offers an extensive Honors and Advanced Placement curriculum, including but not limited to Pre-Calculus, Organic Chemistrxlg-studentlifemainy, Physics, U.S. History, German III and IV, and Latin III and IV (Honors); and English Literature and Composition, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Government and Politics, European History; Statistics, Calculus AB and BC, Art Portfolio, Music Theory, Computer Science A. (Advanced Placement)

The Class of 2015 graduated with college placement at 60 institutions nationwide, most top-tier schools.

Financial Aid and Tuition

Middle School Day students pay $32,900 annually for enrollment at Pennington, while Upper School Day students pay $34,600. The supplemental fee for boarding students is $16,800.

The Pennington School also offers several learning supplements: Center for Learning Supplement ($19,250), Communication Skills Supplement ($15,300); ESL Supplement ($3,000/class); and Academic/Math Skills Tutorial Supplement ($2,200 per semester).

On its website, the School emphasizes that its financial aid budget “helps bridge the gap between what families can afford and the cost of attending The Pennington School,” and that financial burden should not stand in the way of a student’s success at Pennington. A family’s need for aid is determined through TADS computations, tax returns, and other committee guidelines.

The School also declares that “financial aid is not guaranteed to all qualified applicants” due to “limited funds.”

Application Process

xlg-whypenningtonmainStudents interested in committing to the unique Pennington Experience are invited to apply and schedule a tour of campus and applicant interview. Applications for middle school students differs slightly from applications for upper school students, but generally applications consist of a candidate profile, fee, parent and student questionnaire, academic and principal recommendations, and transcripts. Upper school applicants are required to submit SSAT scores.

For both middle and upper school applicants, the domestic application deadline is February 1, 2016; the international application deadline is January 15, 2016.

In 2015, the Pennington School received 583 new student applications and admitted 116 of these.

from Princeton Tutoring Blog

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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1. Who Gets a Public Defender?

Steven Hsieh | Pacific Standard | Nov. 18, 2015 | 10 minutes (2,679 words)

In St. Louis, Missouri—where someone can qualify for food stamps but not a public defender—hundreds of the city’s poorest are left without a lawyer.

2. On Pandering

Claire Vaye Watkins | Tin House | Nov. 23, 2015 | 20 minutes (5,132 words)

“I wrote Battleborn for white men, toward them. If you hold the book to a certain light, you’ll see it as an exercise in self-hazing, a product of working-class madness, the female strain. So, natural then that Battleborn was well-received by the white male lit establishment: it was written for them.” Claire Vaye Watkins, in Tin House.

3. The Serial Swatter

Jason Fagone | New York Times | Nov. 26, 2015 | 27 minutes (6,814 words)

How internet trolls are using our over-militarized police to harass people, and why it’s been difficult to stop.

4. Beyond Gun Control

Lois Beckett | Pro Publica | Nov. 26, 2015 | 22 minutes (5,546 words)

Lois Beckett of ProPublica investigates why a successful program to combat gun violence has gone underfunded and ignored.

5. Don’t Cry for Tracy Morgan

Michael Paterniti | GQ | Nov. 26, 2015 | 13 minutes (3,413 words)

Michael Paterniti interviews Tracy Morgan. “One time I was walking up the stairs with my son, who was always right there with me… and I almost fell backwards. I was just learning how to walk, and he grabbed me and took me upstairs, and I started crying. He said, ‘What’s wrong, Dad?’ And I told him, ‘I remember when I carried you.’ And when my dad was dying of AIDS, I carried him.”

from Longreads Blog » Longreads Blog

Coexisting With the Void: Simone Gorrindo on Chronic Pain

Consistent, long-term pain, the kind that (Toni) Morrison suffers in her back—and that keeps her from standing for longer than six minutes—allows for a steady stream of thoughts, a ruthless spinning of the mind.

To our minds, this spinning feels akin to accomplishing something, I think. If we can’t tend to our lives in the physical realm, the mind kicks in double-time, and this weekend, my husband away at an Army training for the month, I’ve spent the hours in my bed accomplishing the task of going over errors big and small. I check them off like items on a to-do list: ways I’ve burdened my husband with impossible expectations; friends I’ve failed to call back; writing assignments I’ve left unfinished; jobs I’ve quit or underperformed at; bad impressions I’ve made; ambitions I’ve curtailed—all the ways I’ve failed to live a life I envisioned. These are the kind of terrifically unhelpful thoughts that surface inside the void, or at the very edge of it. Truly boring stuff, the kind I find too tedious to even bring up to a therapist. But, alone, in the dark, that doesn’t stop me from going there. When our bodies shun us to the back rooms of the world, away from colleagues and lovers and friends, we have only ourselves and our reckless, pulsing imaginations: This is where regret lives. Not big, dramatic regret, not those fatal mistakes for which we seek absolution, but the mundane, everyday regrets that go unnoticed until it’s too late, the ones that make up the unalterable course of our lives. The tiny little messes.

I generally know better than to go down these paths, but the tricky thing about chronic pain is that it blurs your mind, weakening not just your body but also your psyche, leaving it with just enough strength to follow the path of least resistance, to retreat to the most dimly-lit hiding place. There, I find myself clinging to people, dreams I’ve lost, plot lines that didn’t go the way I intended. It’s hard to see sometimes how or why I lost them, whether my health or just the natural course of life was to blame, and whether there is, really, at this point, a decipherable division between the two.”

At Vela, Simone Gorrindo contemplates “the terrible thing that the slowness of pain gives you: time” in this meditation on how chronic illness affects the body and mind.

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from Longreads Blog » Longreads Blog

Belly Chains on a Baby Bump: What It’s Like to Be Pregnant in Prison

Shortly after she became pregnant a few years ago, Mira Ptacin, author of the forthcoming memoir Poor Your Soul, began teaching at a prison. There, she met a woman named Courtney Fortin, who was pregnant, too—and incarcerated. At, Ptacin tells Fortin’s story, shedding light on the experience of being pregnant in prison, and how frequently that involves being illegally shackled:

A recent study published earlier this year by the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit organization with the authority to inspect prisons, found that 23 of the 27 inmates who’d given birth while incarcerated in New York had been shackled in violation of the law, and this is not uncommon elsewhere. “You comply when you’re in prison,” says Amanda Edgar, an advocate with the Incarcerated Women’s Project. “One woman [told me] that if she didn’t keep her shackles on, she wouldn’t be able to go to her appointment and [that] other women have been denied access to prenatal vitamins.”

So shackles—belly chains around a baby bump during transport, chains around ankles during active labor—continue to be routinely used on inmates during pregnancy, even where they are technically banned, and even though there have been zero documented cases of pregnant inmates attempting to escape during prenatal checkups, labor, or postpartum recovery. Nor is there any documentation of a pregnant inmate attempting to cause harm to herself, security guards, or medical staff. The vast majority of female prisoners are non-violent offenders who pose a low security risk.

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from Longreads Blog » Longreads Blog

Feeding Your Grief

In the photo, my family’s wearing black. Their heads are hunched, and they look miserable. But when I look at the picture, I can’t concentrate on them, on their faces, on their grief. I look instead at a plastic grocery bag my father carries in his left hand. It’s in the foreground of the image, and the local photographer has mistakenly focused on the bag. The caption reads, “The Blum family mourns the loss of their daughter.” There’s no mention of the bag, but it demands attention. The bright, bulging plastic monstrosity leaps out from the photo. It has life in a way that the man holding it does not. My father’s face is vacant, like he’s not really there. And I always think, when I hold the picture up under the fluorescent basement lights, that if you want to find my father in the photo, you can’t look at him. You’ve got to look at the bag. To know Larry Blum, you have to understand why he brought a bag of bananas to his daughter’s funeral.

Isaac Blum, writing in the Iowa Review about his young sister’s death from plane crash debris, the shadow Heinz ketchup casts over his family, and the different ways people mourn.

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