Outside Reading — The Long Legacy of Claiborne Pell edition

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I Am Not Proof of the American Dream by Tara Westover

In some quarters, Tara Westover’s runaway bestseller memoir, Educated, made her exemplar of the American ethos that rewards concerted effort no matter the station in life that is a person’s starting point. In a crisp, clear essay published by The New York Times, Westover forcefully pushes back against that myth-making, pointedly explaining it was only the eventual support from government grants that gave her change to truly succeed in her collegiate journey. As someone who attended college with similarly modest means at his disposal (but a far sturdier familial safety net, I concede), and who also saw a Pell grant as a life-changing godsend, I recognize much of what Westover recounts about fiscal anxiety shaping and compromising the experience.

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The Religious Experience of a Small Town Bar by Lyz Lenz

For her newsletter, Men Yell At Me, Iowa-based journalist interviews Wisconsin-based comic Charlie Berens. I find Berens’s material and musings consistently entertaining, but I mostly appreciate this article because of how solidly his responses fall into the unique cadence of Wisconsin-speak. When I lived in other parts of this vast nation, having this interview would have been a handy primer to express to people exactly where I’m from. The final answer, in particular, is a quintessential manifestation of the America’s Dairyland verbal aesthetic.

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