I've been catching up on the work of Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarusian non-fiction writer whom I'd never read before she won the Nobel Prize earlier this month. Alexievich's oral histories of the traumatic last few decades in the former Soviet Union are the closest thing the region has to a collective written memory, and the individual voices she channels are often deeply moving when read in isolation. The New Yorker published a good overview of her life and work this week; you can read some of it in English at Granta, The Paris Review, and the Moscow Times.
How did a biker pow-wow at a “breastaurant” in Waco, Texas, end in a shootout that killed nine, wounded 20, and saw 177 people in jail? Was it a violent criminal underworld bubbling to the surface, or a cynical set-up by police? GQ has an oral history, of sorts, of the Bandidos vs. Cossacks saga. Alexievich on a Harley, if you will.
The refugee crisis in Europe may be dropping from the headlines, but we're only still realizing its importance and sheer scale. The Wall Street Journal made a rare trip to Eritrea, the shadowy dictatorship on the Horn of Africa where life is so horrible that 9% of the entire population has fled. In Europe, my colleague Jina Moore reported that female refugees are facing a horrifying litany of sex-related dangers and aid agencies don't even see it as a problem. And in Lebanon, BuzzFeed News' Joshua Hersh met some of the many Syrians who still want to join them, but can't afford the dangerous trip to Germany.