Outside Reading — Six from 2020

Every Saturday, this space is given over to extol the writing of others. Since we’re still at a time of yearly retrospection, it seems proper to call attention to some of the best articles of 2020. These are the essays and reporting that stayed in my mind most tenaciously.

You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument by Caroline Randall Williams

I consider this to be nothing less than the best piece of writing I encountered this year. With searing language and uncompromisable principles, Caroline Randall Williams address the ginned-up controversy about the removal of statues venerating members of the Confederacy. This powerhouse essay was published by The New York Times.

Lived in Bars by Helena Fitzgerald

Amazingly, Helena Fitzgerald’s mixed-emotions examination of bar culture first appeared in January, several weeks before the broader emergence of COVID-19 — and the social and political mismanagement of the response that compounded its dangers — shuttered beloved watering holes across the nation. This article was published by Good Beer Hunting.

Buying Myself Back by Emily Ratajkowski

With laudable candor, Emily Ratajkowski recounts an experience with a predatory photographer whose transgressions against her were endlessly perpetuated by his continued profiting off her image as her fame grew. The experience becomes emblematic for the casual abuses heaped on models and, realistically, women across all professional fields. This article was published by New York.

The Original Renegade by Taylor Lorenz

Attempting to provide credit where it’s due, Taylor Lorenz profiles teenaged dancer Jalaiah Harmon, who invented moves that were pervasively adopted — or, more accurately, appropriated — by others, leaving her behind. This article was published by The New York Times.

Land-grab universities by Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone

The creation of land-grant universities, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, is generally termed a clear, unassailable good, and the expansion of educational opportunities is undoubtedly worthy of celebration. Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone use impeccable research and reporting skills to uncover the injustice at the core of the realignment of federally claimed lands. This article was published by High Country News.

How Apples Go Bad by Helen Rosner

Whenever anyone defaults to the hackneyed invocation of bad apples to excuse systemic evils, such as law enforcement officers rushing to employ fatal violence, that purveyor of putrid punditry should be forced to read this article by Helen Rosner. This piece was published by The New Yorker.

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