Biography and memoir


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Photo by Bruce Gilden/Magnum

Essay/
Fairness and equality
Poor teeth

If you have a mouthful of teeth shaped by a childhood in poverty, don’t go knocking on the door of American privilege

Sarah Smarsh

D Watkins in Baltimore. Photo by Stacey Watkins
Essay/
Biography and memoir
Stoop stories

My black friends call it Murderland. My white friends call it Charm City, a town of trendy cafés. I just call it home

D Watkins

From left to right: Kristin, Dave, Dan, Dot and Sue. All photos kindly supplied by the author

Essay/
Childhood and adolescence
The great forgetting

Our first three years are usually a blur and we don’t remember much before age seven. What are we hiding from ourselves?

Kristin Ohlson

Photo supplied by the author

Essay/
Love and friendship
My mom

I love her and it’s a secret. I love her so much it kills me, and you bet I’d sooner die than tell her

Mary H K Choi

Exit the freeway at 39.  Photo by Nadine Rovner/Gallery Stock

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Life stages
Awaiting renewal

I’m 43 years old now, damn it, and my life is amazing. So why am I comparing myself to some styled professional?

Heather Havrilesky

Melissa Stetten in Santa Barbara, California. Photo by James Gunn
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Design and fashion
Hot girl #2

Because I’m getting older, my days as a model are numbered – and I’m not sure what to do next

Melissa Stetten

Photo by Raghu Rai/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Travel
The parlance of pilots

High above London, Tokyo and Cairo, the language of the cockpit is technical, obscure, geeky – and irresistibly romantic

Mark Vanhoenacker

Western Motel by Edward Hopper. 1957. Oil on canvas, Yale University Art Gallery. Photo by Corbis
Essay/
Biography and memoir
Hotel Melancholia

Travel is supposed to make us feel more alive, so why is the hotel room a place of such loneliness and despair?

Suzanne Joinson

Photo by Anna Pogossova/Gallery Stock

Essay/
Meaning and the good life
Je regrette

Our forward-charging culture sees regret as a sign of weakness and failure. But how else can we learn from our past?

Carina Chocano

Five O'Clock. Plate VII from the series Intimacies (1898), by Félix Edouard Vallotton. Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago

Essay/
Love and friendship
The joy of intimacy

A polyamorous friend challenges me: are you really happily monogamous or are you just hung up about your philandering dad?

Lily Dunn

Illustration by Brunelleschi from a 1950 edition of Memories of Giacomo Casanova de Seingalt. Photo by akg-images/Fototeca Gilardi
Essay/
Stories and literature
The real Casanova

His name is synonymous with serial seduction but Casanova’s memoirs reveal a man greater than the sum of his ‘conquests’

Laurence Bergreen

Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, 2007. Photo by Tim Hetherington/Magnum
Essay/
Ethics
Ethics on the battlefield

The soldier in battle is confronted with agonising, even impossible, ethical decisions. Could studying philosophy help?

Andy Owen

Photo courtesy the author

Essay/
Biography and memoir
For the love of stuff

I am my things and my things are me. I don’t want to give them up: they are narrative prompts for the story of my life

Lee Randall

Detail from Interior with Young Woman from Behind by Vilhelm Hammershoi /Wikimedia
Essay/
Biography and memoir
Like a prayer

Even secular people need time out to meditate, reflect, and give thanks. Is prayer the answer?

Heather Havrilesky

A funeral in Italy, 1951. Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos
Essay/
Death
The death of my father

When someone close to you dies, the very fabric of your life is ripped to shreds. Is philosophy any consolation?

Julian Baggini

Going to Work (1943) by L S Lowry. Photo courtesy and © The Imperial War Museum, London

Essay/
Self-improvement
The creed of compromise

Don’t throw in the day job to follow your dream. Join the bifurcators who juggle work-for-pay and their work-for-love

Thomas Maloney

Children of the followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh at the Medina Commune in Suffolk, England, in 1984. Photo by the David Reed Archive/Alamy

Essay/
Biography and memoir
The lost children

The adults who joined Bhagwan’s ashram sought freedom, love and light. Many of their children found darkness instead

Lily Dunn

Virginia Woolf pictured at Monk’s House, Sussex, England c1928. Photo courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard University

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Stories and literature
Highbrows and self-helpers

Woolf loathed it but it spurred her on. Hemingway drew ideas of manliness from it. Self-help haunted the modernist imagination

Beth Blum

Photo by Rafa Elias/Getty
Essay/
Biography and memoir
The coward

My husband got the death threat, but I went into hiding. Are some brains wired for courage and others for fear?

Caren Chesler

Photo by Rengim Mutevellioglu/Getty
Essay/
Demography and migration
Losing my voice

When I left Nigeria for Belgium, I made my husband’s home my own. But homesickness lodged like a stone inside

Chika Unigwe

Illustration by Matt Murphy
Essay/
Illness and disease
Unravelling man

Bipolar disorder can rage through life like a hurricane. So why does the US healthcare system leave us to cope alone?

Kristin Ohlson

Union Carbide plant. Photo by Philip Gould /Corbis
Essay/
Chemistry
American petro-topia

The genius and hubris of plastic has been absorbed by every living thing. Is it a curse or evolution’s next step?

Rebecca Altman

Ruth Behar outside her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. All photos courtesy of the author

Essay/
Demography and migration
Searching for home

My connection to place is fluid and complex. In a nomadic world, do we still need a home?

Ruth Behar

At a crossroads in the Maitama district of Abuja, Nigeria. Photo by Kassim Braimah
Essay/
Cosmopolitanism
This is your morning

I left the US, the land of my birth, sickened by racial injustice. But the return to a homeland is not a simple matter

Enuma Okoro

Grandfather, author and President R Venkataraman. Photo supplied by the author
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Childhood and adolescence
The wanderer

My grandfather was a legend – a holy vagabond whose life spanned India’s 20th century. Why did I let him elude me?

Samanth Subramanian

Illustration by Sarah Maycock

Essay/
Childhood and adolescence
A raccoon of my own

Only a handful of all the animal species on earth can be tamed, but that doesn’t stop a homesick girl of 15 from trying

Lauren Slater