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A year in the life of a grieving mother. An afternoon of outcry. A peek into the life of a celebrity ghostwriter. A witness to a monarch migration. And the friendship behind sushi’s arrival in the U.S. Our favorite reads of the week (and a bit of pickled ginger for after), chosen from all of our editors’ picks.

1. Amor Eterno

Skip Hollandsworth | Texas Monthly | May 8, 2023 | 7,580 words

Years from now, when I think about this story — which will happen, because it’s that good — I will hear, no, feel the pounding of feet. Skip Hollandsworth’s profile of Kimberly Mata-Rubio opens with the subject jogging through Uvalde, Texas, pausing at a mural of her daughter, Lexi. The scene echoes the moment when, immediately after learning that there had been a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, Mata-Rubio began to run, barefoot over asphalt and through traffic, toward the building where her daughter was in the fourth grade, only to learn that Lexi was dead. “Kim could feel her feet throbbing,” Hollandsworth writes. “They were so bloodied and bruised she could barely walk.” A year after the massacre, the jog past Lexi’s mural is one of several ritual motions Mata-Rubio has adopted. She also goes to her daughter’s grave once, sometimes twice a day, never leaving Lexi alone for more than 24 hours, and regularly drives to the state Capitol to lobby for gun control. Mural, grave, Austin: Mata-Rubio goes and returns, again and again, like the tide. Other Uvalde parents do the same. Their patterns, like those of so many people who have lost loved ones in mass shootings, remind me of a Robert Frost poem: “The heart can think of no devotion / Greater than being shore to ocean / Holding the curve of one position / Counting an endless repetition.” How many more parents, children, spouses, friends will join this grieving army in their aching, unspeakable form of love? Will you be one of them? Will I? —SD

2. I’m F***ing Agitated, Are You Going to Murder Me?

Arielle Isack | n+1 | May 9, 2023 | 3,059 words

When Jordan Neely was killed on a New York City subway car last week, a special kind of ugliness broke the surface of our society. I don’t mean afterward, when columnists and commentators used Daniel Penny’s lethal chokehold as some kind of ideological litmus test. I mean the killing itself. At the time, it was hard for me to articulate what exactly that ugliness was, but Arielle Isack clearly had no such difficulty: Her searing piece for n+1, which chronicles a subway platform vigil-turned-demonstration, makes no secret of her anger and hurt, and is all the better for it. Isack manages to render events and emotions with equal clarity, even as her sentences careen headlong through the afternoon, propelled by their own power. “A man in a faded Saints cap and glasses that magnified his eyes into giant watery lakes wailed 450,000 EMPTY APARTMENTS IN NEW YORK CITY! a figure that arced over the commotion and landed in the very center of our rage,” she writes of one moment. “I heard that number again and again throughout the afternoon; it focused everything into a dizzying lucidity we were thankful for, and furious about.” This isn’t argument, it’s testimony. It’s catharsis even in the absence of redemption or justice. And above all, it’s a call to remember that agitation — the very thing that supposedly made Jordan Neely a threat — is sometimes the only possible human reaction. —PR

3. Notes from Prince Harry’s Ghostwriter

J.R. Moehringer | The New Yorker | May 8, 2023 | 6,850 words

In mid-January, you may have noticed a little memoir called Spare hit the shelves. (If you were perusing certain Spanish bookshops, you might have noticed it even earlier.) The accompanying giant roar of publicity meant that even if you didn’t read the book, you couldn’t escape Prince Harry’s tales of fisticuffs with his brother, behind-the-pub escapades, and even his frostbitten penis. While the stories may have been his, though, the words were distinctly collaborative — and in this fascinating essay, ghostwriter J.R. Moehringer illuminates what it’s like to write for somebody else. Yes, he talks about Harry stuff, but he also addresses his own writing career and struggles with the anonymity of ghostwriting (at one point screaming “Say my name!” at a TV in a B&B). I enjoyed Moehringer’s honesty, self-awareness, and thoughtful analysis of the particular psychology this sort of writing requires — as well as the tidbits of gossip about people who are hell to work with. Moehringer got lucky with Harry; they had the right chemistry, and the success of Spare has brought the art of ghostwriting out of the shadows. (If you want to read about Harry’s blink-and-you-miss-it appearance at King Charles III’s coronation last weekend, along with some joyful descriptions of hats, I recommend Helen Lewis’ wonderfully amusing “King Charles’ Very Hobbity Coronation” from The Atlantic.) —CW

4. Saving the Monarch Butterfly Migration

Romina Cenisio | Atmos | May 8, 2023 | 3,526 words

I once visited the butterfly garden at our local zoo. Witnessing so many of these colorful, delicate beings in person was a magical experience. The peace and tranquility in that space was palpable, something I wanted to bottle and release as needed. Romina Cenisio’s Atmos piece on the monarch butterfly migration recalls the singular joy that butterflies bring, along with critically important reminders of our role as humans to ensure the well-being of butterflies for generations to come. “As I lie on the ground with my eyes closed, a sound reminiscent of light rain surrounds me, subdues me,” she writes. “Yet unlike the steady drum of rain, the sound seems to move around from left to right, up and down, in both unison and disorder. At times a ticklish, ASMR sensation overcomes me as the sound gets closer, but no raindrops land on me. Opening my eyes moves me out of this gentle trance, reminding me that there is no rain; rather, there are millions of monarch butterflies shimmering overhead.” —KS

5. How Two Friends Sparked L.A.’s Sushi Obsession — and Changed the Way America Eats

Daniel Miller | Los Angeles Times | May 3, 2023 | 3,855 words

In 1965, Noritoshi Kanai and Harry Wolff Jr. were on a trip to Japan, looking for an interesting food product to import to the U.S. Instead, one of their dinners in Tokyo led them to another idea: sushi. Daniel Miller recounts how the two men brought the Japanese cuisine to Los Angeles, at a time when the city felt primed for something new. Which restauranteurs and chefs were the first to add sushi to their menus? When were the sushi bar and the California roll invented? Accompanied by lovely illustrations by Yuko Shimuzu, this is a fun piece of regional foodie history — one that ultimately explores whether food can truly bring different people and cultures together. —CLR

Audience Award

It’s time for the piece our readers loved most this week — and the oversized trophy goes to:

Bad Manors

Kate Wagner | The Baffler | May 9, 2023 | 3,375 words

In this smart critical essay, Kate Wagner, the writer behind the popular blog McMansion Hell, examines the McMansion: the uniquely American, 3,000-square-foot-plus, made-to-order home that’s a “durable emblem of our American way of life.”

Wagner explores the aesthetic of the latest generation of McMansions (from manufactured modern farmhouse to Disneyfied Craftsman), the evolution of its floor plan, its enduring popularity, and its alternatives in a time of environmental crisis. —CLR