In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.
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At the Vietnamese pagoda in Kampong Chhnang, I met a diminutive 80-year-old seamstress. Only monks and laypeople are meant to live at the pagoda, but she didn’t have any family — her children died before her eyes in a Khmer Rouge labor camp — so the monks took pity on her. I asked whether she ever received any identification papers. She shuffled to her room and came back holding a small packet wrapped in twine. “You’re lucky,” she said as she untied it. “I’ve never let anyone look at these before.” She began spreading an astonishing half-century’s worth of documents across the table. There were cards from Sihanouk’s Cambodia alongside decades’ worth of residency permits from Vietnam, to which she was twice deported. So long as she never showed them to anyone, the documents could never be invalidated or purged. They were her private legal self, a superposition of identities both Vietnamese and Cambodian. She would not give them up. “I’ll keep these documents with me until I die,” she said, “and then I’ll take them to the grave with me.”
Graphic Designer Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “A People in Limbo, Many Living Entirely on the Water,” Ben Mauk, The New York Times, March 28, 2018
I’ve marched alongside teen-agers before—in recent months, they’ve shown up at nationwide protests for daca and women’s rights—but seeing so many gathered in Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives, on March 24th, was a particularly profound and invigorating experience. Kids are naturally equipped to speak truth to power; they come with energy, fearlessness, and the belief that real change is possible.
Globally, young people have instigated revolutionary movements before. In 1976, in South Africa, thousands of students marched through Johannesburg, eventually inciting a global action against apartheid. In Prague, in 1989, the peaceful young protesters of the Velvet Revolution brought about the free and democratic election of President Václav Havel. It feels as if something similar is now afoot in the United States. Angela Bahena, a senior at Bourbon County High School, in Paris, Kentucky, told me that she came to Washington to show her younger brother and sister that they shouldn’t feel helpless—that they are able to demand more and better action on gun control. “When we had the international walkout, our school did not let us go out,” she said. “There were police in the front office.” She watched the news of Parkland massacre on television, and cried. “It scared me. It can happen to anybody. They haven’t done anything to fix it, and I’m wondering why. What’s more important: guns or the lives of children?”
Kids, of course, should not have to ask for our protection. That hundreds of thousands of teens had to travel to the Capitol to remind our elected officials of their duty to defend young Americans is shameful. Yet the determination was so plain on their faces. There is beauty in this kind of courage—the tenacity and the valor of the righteous. It gives us all reason to hope.
Editorial Intern Caroline Hockenbury
Excerpt from “When Kids Speak Truth to Power,” Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, March 28, 2018
Turner wears her accessories with whimsy and confidence; her outfits are jubilant remixes, playing across origins and eras like a grand piano. In one photograph, she dons a black wool top hat from nineteen-sixties England—a piece plucked straight from Savile Row—and pairs it with a sleek satin tuxedo, kid-leather gloves, and a modern silk ruff by the Detroit-based milliner Leza Piazza. She grins underneath the hat’s brim, a coltish dandy out for a stroll. In another shot, Turner’s torso is frozen in a mid-century tableau: she wears a Volbracht mink stole from a furrier out of Akron, Ohio, and grips a crocodile-leather handbag, both from the nineteen-fifties. Calmese shot several images of Turner from the neck down, as she inhabits different characters in her masquerade. She swerves from the sleek silhouettes of the New Look to the drama of a flamenco dancer, complete with a lace fan with golden trim.
There is a graceful grandeur to these images, but also an unbridled joy; Turner has spent her entire life building herself, using her body as a medium through which to express her elegance and energy. Now she is able to revel in her archives, smiling softly as she models a black wood “parasol hat” by Heidi Lee, an object that looks at once like an antique and a space-age crown from the future.
Editorial Intern Sydney Bradley
Excerpt from “The Sunday Styles of Lana Turner,” Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, March 11, 2018