The Secret History of Family Separation

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I am appalled at the intentional cruelty and shocking incompetence that drove the Trump administration’s family-separation tragedy.

But first, here’s more from The Atlantic.

“This is evil.”

Welcome to the week, and allow me to introduce—or reintroduce—myself to you. I’m Tom Nichols, a staff writer here at The Atlantic, where I’m also the proprietor of the Peacefield newsletter. If you’re a regular Daily reader, you might remember that I authored this newsletter in June; I’m back, and I’ll be writing the Daily most days of the week. Along with some of my Atlantic colleagues, I’ll be sharing thoughts and analysis about the day’s news and other issues.

I write, among other things, about the perilous state of democracy in the United States and around the world. Today, I urge you to read The Atlantic’s new cover story by my colleague Caitlin Dickerson about the origins and consequences of the disastrous decision by President Donald Trump and his advisers to curtail illegal immigration by instituting a brutal family-separation policy in which children—including infants and toddlers—were intentionally taken from their parents.

Caitlin’s intense and detailed examination shows that the family-separation policy was not a misunderstanding, or a bureaucratic error, or some sort of overzealous interpretation of otherwise sensible rules. It was, as one government figure told her, “evil,” and intentionally so: The goal of the policy was to pull children from their parents at the border as a deterrent, to inflict so much pain on people trying to enter the United States illegally that no one would be brave or tough enough to keep trying to do it.

Heartbreaking stories of children torn from their parents and then subjected to inhumane detention conditions should afflict the conscience of any decent person. But Americans should also be enraged by the completely dysfunctional nature of their own government. Even if you believe in taking a tough stand against illegal immigration (as I do) the combination of moral rot and bureaucratic incompetence produced outcomes that were far worse than the policy’s designers expected—and they already expected it to be bad.

When Trump officials such as Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions finally got the family-separation policy under way, the immigration system’s courts, shelters, and other assets were almost instantly overwhelmed by a flood of traumatized children. The fallout was so awful and so obvious that soon, even Trump’s people began to backpedal away from it. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen—who spoke with Caitlin on the record—admitted that she did not understand how bad the situation would get and that she regretted caving to the pressure to sign the order.

The family-separation nightmare is what can happen when zealots who have no idea what they’re doing get control of the levers of a gigantic and powerful government. Not only were Trump’s aides clueless about how the immigration system worked, but they took pride in their ignorance and saw any attempt to inject facts or caution into the debate as a sign of weakness. “There’s this worship of process,” one member of Miller’s team said. “Process, process, process. Process is code for ‘We can slow down the quick impulses of a fiery political administration with no experts.’ Well, that’s not what was voted for.”

The public never votes for “process,” but that’s how governments work, and it is how, in a system of separated powers, policies are formed, funded, and implemented. But immigration was merely one of many areas in which the Trump White House regarded the Constitution and federal law as little more than annoyances. At one point, according to the notes of a senior DHS official, Trump told Chief of Staff John Kelly “to tell Nielson to, ‘Round them all up and push them back into Mexico. Who cares about the law.’”

According to this official’s notes, “silence followed.”

This silence was part of a persistent cowardice among senior figures in the U.S. government. Opponents of the policy thought that the system, or the courts, or the person in the next office down the hall would somehow stop the cruelty. But the people who wanted to do the right thing—or, at the least, knew how the immigration system actually worked—were shouted down by low-level minions such as Katie Waldman (who was soon to be Mrs. Stephen Miller). This kind of bullying, Caitlin writes, was part of “an administration plagued by insecurity and imposter syndrome.” Whether out of misplaced loyalty or fear of professional repercussions, the professionals just took it. “They made me lie,” claimed one government official who misled Caitlin when she was reporting an earlier story about the policy.

This remarkable article is a cautionary tale for Americans and other citizens of democratic nations, a story of a political monkey’s paw. When people vote for incompetent and cowardly leaders to execute policies founded on ignorance and cruelty, they will get what they asked for—to their shame and regret.


Join Caitlin Dickerson and Atlantic editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg for a live discussion about the secret history of the U.S. government’s family-separation policy on August 12 at 2 p.m. ET. Register here.

Today’s News
  1. The three men convicted in the 2020 Georgia murder of Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced by a federal judge for hate crimes.
  2. President Joe Biden visited Kentucky, where severe flooding has killed more than 30 people.
  3. June 29 was found to be the shortest day on record since scientists began using atomic clocks in 1960.


Evening Read
A fish with a rotating background
(Katie Martin / Jo Imperio / The Atlantic; Getty)

Fish Oil Is Good! No, Bad! No, Good! No, Wait

By Jacob Stern

At first, it was all very exciting. In 1971, a team of Danish researchers stationed on Greenland’s northwest coast found that a local Inuit community had remarkably low levels of diabetes and heart disease. The reason, the researchers surmised, was their high-marine-fat diet—in other words, fish oil. Incidence of heart disease, which once afflicted relatively few Americans, had shot up since the turn of the century, and here, seemingly, was a simple solution. “I remember how exciting those studies were when they first came out,” Marion Nestle, a professor emerita of nutrition and food studies at NYU, told me. “The idea that there were populations of people who were eating fish and were protected against heart disease looked fabulous.”

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break
Gwendoline Christie and Tom Sturridge in Netflix’s The Sandman. (Netflix)

Read. “Hotel Earth,” a poem from our September issue.

Watch. Netflix’s The Sandman—especially if you’re a fan of the original comic books.

Play our daily crossword.


The launching of the Webb space telescope has, for many of us, rekindled a fascination with space. I feel it, and I’m now binge-watching two television shows about it: The Star Trek series Strange New Worlds on Paramount+, and the Apple TV+ series For All Mankind—a “what if” alternate history of the Cold War space race. Both of them are throwbacks to a time in the late 1960s‚ when Americans took the conquest of space as their birthright, a natural extension of our technological optimism and can-do approach to the world. I won’t spoil the major plotlines of either for you, but I recommend them both. I miss the days when Americans were space pioneers, and now that the Russians have threatened to pull out of international space cooperation with the United States, I hope that the Americans take up the challenge of space once again.

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.

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Biden tours flood-ravaged Kentucky as White House highlights climate crisis

Biden calls passage of historic climate and healthcare legislation as a ‘big deal’ in state where flooding has claimed 37 lives,

Joe Biden on Monday toured parts of eastern Kentucky devastated by the worst flooding in the state’s history and pledging to help recovery, while his spokesperson warned that the climate crisis was having an impact on such events there and across America.

At least 37 people have died in the flooding since a deluge late last month that dropped up to 10.5in of rain in only 48 hours.

Continue reading…

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Are You Sure You’re Not Guilty of the ‘Millennial Pause’?

This article was featured in One Story to Read Today, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a single must-read from The Atlantic, Monday through Friday. Sign up for it here.      

It took me two years to post my first TikTok. I’d press “Record,” mumble into the camera, and hastily hit delete before anyone could see just how awkward I was on video. I took the plunge only after practicing enough to eliminate any telltale signs that I was a near-30-year-old trying to be cool. Or so I thought.

Apparently, I’m still guilty of the “Millennial pause.” After hitting “Record,” I wait a split second before I start speaking, just to make sure that TikTok is actually recording. Last year, @nisipisa, a 28-year-old YouTuber and TikToker who lives in Boston, coined the term in a TikTok about how even Taylor Swift can’t avoid the cringey pause in her videos. “God! Will she ever stop being relatable,” @nisipisa, herself a Millennial, says. Gen Zers make up a larger portion of TikTok’s base, and have grown up filming themselves enough to trust that they’re recording correctly. Which is why, as short-form video comes to Instagram (Reels), YouTube (Shorts), and Snapchat (Spotlight), the Millennial pause is becoming easier to spot.

Unfortunately for me, today’s most culturally influential social platforms are not geared around Millennials anymore, and the pause is far from the only giveaway. Millennials—and their mannerisms—defined the online ecosystem that has ruled for a decade plus, treating sites such as MySpace, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter as the jungle gyms in their internet playground. But now that we’re well into the TikTok era, the cracks are starting to show. Instagram and Facebook, while still popular, are attempting to capture the magic of TikTok by pivoting to videos and other ultra-sharable content that doesn’t come quite as naturally to Millennials (even ones born in the early 1990s, like me). Now that Gen Z has all the attention, the internet quirks that Millennials have called their own for years can feel a bit stale, if not downright cringey. The first generation to grow up with social media in the mobile web era, Millennials are now becoming the first generation to subsequently age out of it, stuck parroting the hallmarks of a bygone digital age.

Once my eyes were opened to the Millennial pause, I started noticing my age in every part of my internet experience. I get confused whenever Instagram changes its layout. I use GIFs to make jokes in Slack. I have posted song lyrics on my Instagram Story. The range of mannerisms is so broad, the signs such a staple of my online behavior for the past 15 years, that it’s not even worth trying to fight them.

Naturally, Gen Z has picked up on them too, and the mockery that was once reserved for Boomers is now coming for me. “The way the quintessential Millennial behaves online is basically a bunch of silly little nuances strung together to create a personality that is very giddy and excitable about the normal or mundane,” Michael Stevens, a 24-year-old TikTok creator based in New England, told me over email. His impressions of Millennials have received millions of views on TikTok. Those “silly little nuances” include starting videos with a sigh, doing dramatic zooms into their own faces for emphasis, and using phrases popularized on Twitter and Tumblr—like “doggo” and “I can’t even”—in real life. “My husband just went to the new Trader Joe’s next to our house and I think it wins the internet for the day,” Stevens says in a Millennial parody from July. “If this is adulting, sign me up.”

Millennial internetisms exist because they were, at one time, the mainstream way of talking online. In 2014, someone tweeting that Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt gave them “all the feels” would have been acceptable, but now Gen Z just uses it as fodder for some secondhand embarrassment, the same way that Millennials groan when their Boomer parents try to navigate an Apple TV. Millennial-isms have made for a whole genre of parody. On TikTok, the creator Bianca Scaglione makes Millennial parodies for her 910,000 followers, specifically skewering their awkwardness on a livestream. (“And then they accidentally end the live by trying to do a filter,” she captioned one impression.) Other creators have mocked Millennials for how they pose in photos (taking selfies from above is so over), for using Gen Z phrases (“slay, bestie”) on TikTok, for adopting something called a “BuzzFeed accent” when they talk to the camera. The list goes on: Millennials take Instagram way too seriously, using portrait mode and filling their captions with forced puns. They love to turn their social-media bios into lists—for instance, mine would read: “Kate. Ravenclaw. Cat mom. Knitting enthusiast. PA > OH > NYC.”

And, given their need to insert themselves into every new internet trend, Millennials are also sometimes active participants in their own critique. Since they can’t beat the Gen Z creators parodying them, some Millennials have joined them, re-creating the fashion, hair, and makeup of their youth in similarly popular videos.

Millennials aren’t the only generation that has been boiled down to broad and often unflattering stereotypes online: the notions that Boomers hate change, for example, or that Gen Xers are slackers. In 2019, the phrase OK Boomer took off online across both Gen Z and Millennial users as a symbol of collective exhaustion with battling the stereotypes handed down to them from above. That same year, a Facebook group titled “A group where we all pretend to be boomers” launched; 285,000 members still role-play daily, posting pixelated memes about cars and asking things like “DID anyone ELSE LOSE POWER??”

But that kind of mockery is different. Although Boomers fell out of the internet zeitgeist, they never had as far to fall as Millennials—the first cohort to watch their youth fade in real time, with evidence of their growing irrelevance meticulously documented in memes, trends, and headlines published on the very internet they once reigned over. They’re no longer the hot new item brands are scrambling to attract, nor the ones the world is turning to for the next fashion trend. The internet has moved on, and Millennials can either adapt or, like a Gen Xer still listening to Pearl Jam, not care if their choices make them seem old.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing, even if it bruises my ego. A 35-year-old desperately adopting the mannerisms of a 20-year-old is a different kind of cringe. Instead, in spite of the occasional embarrassment, the Millennial tics that remain have gone from trend to nostalgia. And besides, when Gen Alpha comes for Gen Z’s internet, you better believe I’ll have been taking notes.

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Photos of Trump’s alleged document-flushing habit shared with Axios

Earlier this year, Axios reported a shocking scoop from New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s forthcoming book: former President Donald Trump would allegedly, on occassion, clog a toilet with wads of paper he was seemingly attempting to flush and destroy, according to White House residence staff.

At the time, Trump denied the reports. But now … well, now there are photos.

In both pictures, which Haberman apparently recently obtained then shared with Axios ahead of the release of her book Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, balls of paper featuring Trump’s signature scrawl and preferred Sharpie ink can be seen sitting at the bottom of the toilets. 

Per a White House source, the photo on the left is of a White House toilet, while the photo on the right is from an overseas trip. “That Mr. Trump was discarding documents this way was not widely known within the West Wing, but some aides were aware of the habit, which he engaged in repeatedly,” Haberman told Axios. “It was an extension of Trump’s term-long habit of ripping up documents that were supposed to be preserved under the Presidential Records Act.”

Though it’s difficult to read the text that’s written, one can at least in the right photo make out the name of Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a Trump ally and member of House Republican leadership, Axios notes.

Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich dismissed the story: “You have to be pretty desperate to sell books if pictures of paper in a toilet bowl is part of your promotional plan,” he told Axios.

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12 Books to Help You Love Reading Again

Reading is hard right now. The pandemic has pushed our already scattered attention spans to a crisis point. But even before 2020, stressors such as political chaos and the allure of our phones made it harder and harder to find the time and focus to get lost in a book. Even when we’re not living through a distracting moment, we will inevitably have personal fallow periods when reading as a habit and a respite just doesn’t happen.

Certain writing is able to grab us and shake us out of these ruts—by presenting a breakneck adventure we feel compelled to see through; by gently opening us back up to the thrill of a good story; by allowing us to spend time in the mind of a fictional character. When they appear to us at the right moment and in the right way, these books can act as a bridge that leads us back to the rewards of literature. Below, our staff members have compiled 12 books that rekindled our love for reading after a dry spell.

The cover of Heartburn

Heartburn, by Nora Ephron

After I had my twins in the summer of 2020, when my brain was as sludgy as risotto and I couldn’t imagine finishing a CNN chyron, let alone a novel, my very brilliant friend Annalisa recommended Heartburn as a “gateway” back into reading. I finished it in a few days, sucking up the chapters like air or a cocktail. The book is a lightly (very lightly) fictionalized version of Ephron’s own devastating marital crisis, when she discovered that her husband, the former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, was having an affair with a mutual friend while Ephron was pregnant with their second child. Somehow, it’s hysterical. Ephron’s tone throughout is part stand-up comic, part beloved friend sending a bitchy, meandering email. In one paragraph, her thoughts turn from despair to suicidal ideation to the habits of “neurasthenic,” poetic sad girls to this take on that famous genre: “Show me a woman who cries when the trees lose their leaves in autumn and I’ll show you a real asshole.” Did I mention that recipes are folded into the text? An actually perfect novel. — Sophie Gilbert

The cover of The Plot

The Plot, by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Recently, during a particularly grim stretch of months, I was desperate to get lost in a book. I kept searching for something that would echo what I was feeling: serious reflections on sickness, grief and loss, the world ending. But I couldn’t finish anything. Getting to the last page always seemed like hiking up a mountain; it would be worthwhile, even beautiful, but also exhausting. When I read The Plot, I realized I’d been picking the wrong material. The title of Korelitz’s twisty thriller feels like a wink to the reader. It is, in fact, a plot-driven book about the power of a good plot. (Things kick off when a writer steals a dynamite story line from a dead person.) That’s not to say the book is only action; it plays with meaty questions about artistic ownership, gender, and creative identity. But Korelitz leans into the drama and the fun. Sometimes, when you want a book to take you away, you have to choose one that doesn’t hit home. — Faith Hill

The cover of Intimations

Intimations, by Zadie Smith

Reading about the pandemic may sound like a terrible idea for someone trying to move past the misery of the pandemic. But Smith’s Intimations, a collection of essays written during and about the isolation and anxiety of 2020, serves less as a bleak reminder of our social-distancing era and more as comforting evidence that even one of the most clear-eyed authors struggled to shape her thoughts. Some passages come off like first drafts, but that moved me: Smith seemed as reluctant as I was to contend directly with the virus’s toll, as torn as I felt about attempting to turn my dread into sourdough. Absorbing her musings, especially about writing, reassured me; her prose was as beautifully structured as ever, but she wasn’t forcing herself to find answers. At barely more than 100 pages long, Intimations is a literary compass, compact and unassuming, but essential to finding a way forward. — Shirley Li

[Read: The literature of the pandemic is already here]

The cover of Turtle Diary
New York Review Books

Turtle Diary, by Russell Hoban

Turtle Diary doesn’t move very fast. It doesn’t have any real dramatic tension, either: The book’s two melancholy and otherwise unconnected narrators, William and Neaera, encounter no obstacles in their shared quest to release three sea turtles living at the London Zoo back into the ocean. The zookeeper is an eager accomplice. Their journey across England, their charges tucked in the back of a rented van, is eventless. The turtles slip easily into the water and swim away. This is not a book that screams Don’t put me down! And yet, after I had spent more than a year with my attention frayed by the dual demands of editing stories about the pandemic and caring for my baby—after I had spent many months too distracted to think about books—I kept reading because of Turtle Diary’s calm, its quiet interiority. However undramatic, the turtles’ release is a transformative moment for both William and Neaera, and afterward, they feel more at ease in the world and with themselves. Only a book could capture the intimacy of a shift like that, and offer the pleasure of sharing in it. — Sarah Laskow

The cover of In the Dream House
Graywolf Press

In the Dream House, by Carmen Maria Machado

To borrow the architectural metaphor that animates In the Dream House, this isn’t a memoir you read so much as one that you wander through, room by room. I toured it, so to speak, in less than a day, trying to wean my brain off social media and reacquaint it with the slow, analog pleasures of following a single narrative for an extended period. To tell a difficult story about domestic abuse within a lesbian relationship, Machado resorts to an unconventional, fragmented structure. A mesmerizing narrator, she weaves personal narrative with intelligent and often darkly funny interrogations of literary and pop-cultural tropes. Chapters are short and given intriguing titles such as “Dream House as Schrödinger’s Cat” and “Dream House as Noir.” (The chapter “Dream House as Famous Last Words” is simply the sentence “‘We can fuck,’ she says, ‘but we can’t fall in love.’”) The effect is accumulative and devastating, and the memoir’s many pieces add up to an inventive reckoning with cultural silence. — Lenika Cruz

[Read: The shadow pandemic]

The cover of Goodbye, Vitamin
Henry Holt and Co.

Goodbye, Vitamin, by Rachel Khong

After Ruth’s fiancé breaks up with her, she quits her job, returns home, and helps care for her father, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. It sounds like a bummer of a premise, but Goodbye, Vitamin is actually one of the most life-affirming books I’ve ever read. When I’m in a reading rut, it’s usually because of stress, which leaves me unable to focus on a dense narrative. This novel is the perfect antidote: It’s a short read, and most scenes are less than a page long; many are just a couple of lines. It’s a story told in small everyday moments, and the knowledge that Ruth has limited time left with her father imbues each with meaning. Its comforts are deeper than escapism; by showing, never telling, it demonstrates that all the moments of our stupid little lives, even the hard and mundane ones, add up to something profound. But it’s really funny too! Khong expertly balances the silly and the sublime until the last page—even now, years after I first read it, thinking of the book’s final lines can make me cry. — Julie Beck

The cover of All About Love
William Morrow

All About Love: New Visions, by bell hooks

In the blustering December days following the death of the Black feminist titan bell hooks, the first wave of the Omicron variant rapidly overtook New York City. Under such foreboding conditions, I rarely seek out nonfiction that isn’t explicitly work-related. But in reading so many moving tributes to hooks, I was compelled to revisit All About Love: New Visions, a brisk, personal read. Interspersing cultural analysis with anecdotes from her own life, hooks ponders what love could look like in action. “When we choose to love we choose to move against fear—against alienation and separation,” she writes. It’s at once an incisive critique of elevating romantic connections above all other kinds and a guide to employing what hooks calls a “love ethic” as a communal balm. This is the kind of nonfiction that feels like an invitation. All About Love holds the same enthralling power over me now as it did when I first encountered it as a college freshman. When I arrived at its final pages again, I was comforted by the thought that more awaited me—in the rest of hooks’s Love Song to the Nation trilogy, in her broader oeuvre, and in the other nonfiction it guided me back to. — Hannah Giorgis

The cover of Trio

Trio, by William Boyd

During the Trump era, I stopped reading books. Maybe this is understandable. The human brain is no more designed for a sustained assault on its attention than the human body is designed for metabolizing Froot Loops, and that’s essentially what Donald Trump’s presidency required: the unremitting ingestion of Twitter’s neon birdseed. Yet still I was alarmed. For two-plus years, I’d been a daily book critic at The New York Times. How on earth did I lose the skill to stay with a novel? Two things got me reading again: the election of a dull, steady, Twitter-indifferent president, which gave me the permission I needed to lose myself in fiction, and the arrival of a galley of Trio. It takes place in Brighton during the swinging ’60s, and though its scope is less ambitious than some of Boyd’s cradle-to-grave pseudo-biographies, it’s great fun nonetheless, focusing on a trio of characters (an actor, a writer, and a film producer) involved in the desperate and occasionally redeeming project of making art. I was instantly transported by their excesses, frailties, and deceptions. Boyd, an expert conjurer of worlds, writes with his customary energy and wit. Plus, one of his minor devils has the unimprovable name of Janet Headstone. Who could resist? — Jennifer Senior

[Read: The exquisite pain of reading in quarantine]

The cover of Piranesi

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke

I read Clarke’s jewel of a novel during our first pandemic winter. At a time when creative virtuosity was the last thing on most of our minds, Piranesi floored me with its imaginative heft. A man called Piranesi lives in a house with many rooms that is sometimes flooded by the sea. He can’t remember how he got there, but he occupies his time by mapping its cavernous, statuary-filled halls. He fishes for food and makes coverings for his feet. (He wonders, at one point, whether he can knit socks from seaweed. He decides he cannot.) He also catalogs and gives names to the few people he knows or eventually discovers exist: the Other, the Prophet, 16. The reveal—why Piranesi is in the house, who his compatriots are, why his memory is so hazy—is wildly inventive. Clarke explores grand themes (consciousness, hubris) with tenderness and contrasts brilliantly austere environs with her protagonist’s warm curiosity, which registers like a beating heart. Reading along, I felt the pleasure of trusting a master storyteller; gently, slowly, she illuminated the dark until I was, like Piranesi himself, standing in the bright light of the world outside the house. — Jane Yong Kim

The cover of The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin

After numbing my early-pandemic terror by getting lost in video games, I became immersed in a story that was, in part, about gaming through the apocalypse. Liu’s sci-fi landmark, The Three-Body Problem, opens with scenes from China’s Cultural Revolution in the ’60s and then traverses decades in which aliens seem to be messing with Earthly affairs, leading humankind’s brightest minds to treat their everyday reality as a puzzle to be solved. One character becomes mesmerized by a multiplayer virtual world that seems to hold clues about the mounting glitchiness of meatspace. Other characters devote themselves to quests—for hidden knowledge, for interstellar connection, for the reform of our species—with the kind of fervency that blots out all other pursuits. Devouring the book felt like completing a series of mind-bending challenges on the way to some unimaginable final level. But Liu’s exact prose and restless, point-of-view-switching narrative style paid off the obsession in a way that no game could. — Spencer Kornhaber

[Read: What happens if China makes first contact?]

The cover of The Thief
Greenwillow Books

The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner

I felt like a ragged cuticle in 2020—exposed, inflamed, sensitive. Everything was overstimulating, even books. As the year dragged on, I decided that if reading was impossible, I’d try rereading. I began with Turner’s 1996 novel, which I’d loved in middle school but mostly forgotten. Set in a preindustrial Hellenistic world with a vividly imagined history and mythology, the book’s titular pickpocket, Gen, is a charming scoundrel who’s sprung from jail and drafted for a mysterious mission. The reasons why he travels across the country, and what his companions need a thief for, trickle out slowly alongside intrigue and banter. Turner’s story is heavy on politics and reality, which makes its mysterious supernatural implications irresistible. And when I reached the crucial, climactic twist that gives the entire journey a new meaning, the revelation of a character’s true identity and my giddy original discovery of it more than a decade ago rushed back. I immediately picked up its sequel, just as I had the first time around, and read all the way through the five other books in the series—ending with the serendipitously released 2020 conclusion, Return of the Thief. — Emma Sarappo

The cover of The Diary of a Young Girl

The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank

Early in the pandemic, I noticed that my daughters, who were 10 and 7 then, had stopped reading. Once the snow-day giddiness of those early weeks faded and some semblance of routine returned, they seemed incapable of losing themselves in books. I couldn’t blame them; my reading time was mostly spent refreshing websites that gave the numbers of the infected and dead. And then, one evening, I picked up Anne Frank’s diary. The choice was maybe morbid (and it’s possible they weren’t quite ready for it), but I sat on the floor in their room and began reading a few entries to them before bed. I’d forgotten how the diary starts with Anne in freedom, all earnestness and schoolgirl obsession. The girls loved it. And then Anne’s life begins to contract. What menaced her was so much more dangerous and deadly than COVID; they understood that. But they also couldn’t help relating: Anne peeks out the window of her attic to catch a glimpse of sky and rooftop. At one point, she wonders, “When will we be allowed to breathe fresh air again?” They kept asking for one more entry, and I kept wanting to slow down. Reading was giving them pleasure again, but I knew, as they didn’t yet, how her story ended. — Gal Beckerman

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