The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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

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1. The Day I Started Lying to Ruth

Peter B. Bach | New York Magazine | May 6, 2014 | 24 minutes (6,012 words)

A cancer doctor, on losing his own wife to cancer:

One day she stumbled on the stairs and told me it was nothing. Then she stumbled the next day and dismissed my concerns when I gasped. “I’m totally fine, I just wasn’t paying attention.” Then the whites of her eyes, the sclera, turned yellow. I didn’t manage it well.

We were sitting at a coffee shop when the light caught her just right and I saw it. I tried for a few moments to keep talking about whatever topic we had landed on, but I discreetly texted a friend of mine from college, also a doctor, in medicalspeak to share the terrible news—“scleral icterus.”

I couldn’t hold it in anyway. “Your eyes are yellow,” I blurted out.

More New York magazine: “The Boy Who Ran: The Life and Death of Avonte Oquendo” (Robert Kolker)

 

2. Childhood Lost

Patrick Michels | Texas Observer | May 6, 2014 | 25 minutes (6,383 words)

Sarah Brian says her two children were stolen by her own parents—with help from the state of Texas.:

As a 25-year-old woman who’d grown convinced that her parents were trying to control her, Sarah saw her arrest and her daughter’s removal as stark displays of just how little power she had in her hometown. The court order mandated she was allowed to be with Zoe only if one of her parents supervised. But they fell gradually back into their old routines, Sarah making Zoe’s organic baby food in the kitchen and taking her daughter out for walks. Sarah and her parents often had heated fights over parenting questions—like whether the girl should eat peanut butter—letting Sarah’s father decide.
She placated her parents, they later claimed, by scheduling an evaluation with a doctor in Shreveport, Louisiana, later in 2007, but secretly she planned her escape. On the computer at home, while she watched her daughter and her mother watched her, Sarah discreetly researched other cities—weather, support networks, work prospects—and settled on Flagstaff, Arizona. Pictures of its forests and hills even reminded her a little of home.

More Michels: “Into the Pines”

 

3. Matthew Weiner: The Art of Screenwriting

Semi Chellas | The Paris Review | May 6, 2014 | 33 minutes (8,452 words)

The Mad Men creator on his early inspiration and the making of Don Draper:

You know in Reds, when they’re interviewing the witnesses, and Henry Miller says, People today think they invented fucking? That kind of thing. The old people you’re looking at, they may have been more carnal than we are—drunker, less responsible, more violent. So many of those film noirs are about how soldiers reintegrate themselves into society. The private detective is haunted by the shadow of having killed people in the war. Don’t even get me started on The Best Years of Our Lives. The move to the suburbs, the privacy, the conservatism of the fifties—that’s all being driven by guys who, for two years, had not gone to the bathroom in privacy. I’m not the first TV person to be puzzled and fascinated by the fifties. The two biggest shows of the seventies are MASH and Happy Days. Obviously that moment is some sort of touchstone for culture. Is Hawkeye not related to Don Draper? He’s an alcoholic Boy Scout who behaves badly all the time. I just wanted to go back and look again.

More Paris Review: “Death of a Salesman” (Sam Sweet)

 

4. My Journey Back to Ebola Ground Zero

Peter Piot | Financial Times | May 2, 2014 | 18 minutes (4,729 words)

A microbiologist’s story 40 years after investigating a deadly virus:

When we arrived in Yambuku on October 20 1976, we went straight to the guest house, which sat between the nuns’ and fathers’ convents. Three European sisters and a priest were standing outside, with a cord between them and us. They had read that in case of an epidemic it was necessary to establish a cordon sanitaire, which they had interpreted literally. A message hung from a tree, saying in the Lingala language that people should stay away as anybody coming any closer would die, and to leave messages on a piece of paper. When the sisters shouted in French, “Don’t come any nearer! Stay outside the barrier or you will die!” I immediately understood from their accent that they were from near my part of Flanders. I jumped over the barrier, saying in Dutch, “We are here to help you and to stop the epidemic. You’ll be all right.”

More FT: “Voices from Baghdad” (Christine Spolar)

 

5. The History of ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’ Toys: A Veteran Toy Designer Wrestles With the Industry’s Gender Divide

Hunter Oatman-Stanford | Collectors Weekly | May 8, 2014 | 18 minutes (4,571 words)

An interview with Stefanie Eskander, who has worked as a toy designer for more than 30 years, for companies including Mattel and Hasbro—and now works as the Design Manager for girls’ toys at Toys ‘R’ Us:

Pink is a funny thing. In the early days of the 20th century, pink was not necessarily a girl color. I’ve even heard that pink was considered a popular color for boys because it was a lighter version of red, which has always been seen as powerful and masculine. But as the 20th century went by, pink became a much more popular color for girls. I’ve heard they’ve done scientific studies that show that women and girls and even female babies are more attracted to redder colors than boys, but I take all of that with a grain of salt. I think girls’ attraction to pink is societal for the most part.

More Collectors Weekly: “Please Feed The Meters: The Next Parking Revolution”

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Photo courtesy of Peter Bach / New York magazine