Extra! Extra! Favorite Long Reads From Around the World
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because Sundays are for reading.
Nearly every Sunday, OZY brings you an extra-special treat: long reads. Extra love, extra visuals, extra storytelling from all corners of the globe. In 2016, we delved into the evolution of feminism in China; joined pilgrims in search of nirvana in India; and documented one man’s unlikely quest to save tiny forest elephants in Gabon. Discover those and more below.
Could Women Rule Communist China?
Onstage, celebrity Joy Chen is like a walking exclamation point. She speaks in rolling torrents and flashes a brillant white smile. Her poise and polish are hallmarks of her much-vaunted sisterhood — call them the Alpha Females of China. Today, a hushed audience of tens of thousands of white-collar women — all young, educated, urban and all in black pumps — are eagerly eating up every word of her feminista rallying cry. “We don’t want to survive in society,” she says. “We want to lead society.”
It’s a brazen decree with a lot of lofty ideals behind it. But with doe-eyed looks and a certain gal pal appeal, Chen is a modern-day Joan of Arc. If anyone could launch a feminist crusade in China, it’s Chen. “It will take a revolution from within,” she says, a la Gloria Steinem.
One Last Pilgrimage Before Dying
Walking through the sun-saturated courtyards of Mumukshu Bhawan, one encounters an array of pilgrims as varied as if Chaucer himself had written them. There’s an orange-clad sannyasi — an old man who has given up family and possessions to wander through jungles and cities subsisting only on alms and spirit. A widow, abandoned, she says, by her spiritually bereft sons. A retired intellectual pondering atoms and the self. A middle-aged electrician who tends to the buildings and its elders with equal affection.
Mumukshu Bhawan translates to “seeker’s place,” but it goes by other names: Mukti Dhaam, meaning “place for freedom,” and, caustically, Hotel of Death. This spartan complex, which staff say is about a century old, is a kind of spiritual old-age home. Located in the holy city of Varanasi, it opens its doors to those looking their impending deaths in the face.
Can This Woman Predict Campus Rape?
There is a college campus near Jessica Ladd’s apartment. She can watch the students, antlike, moving in patterns. They’re racing to orgo labs and lectures on structuralism; they’re decked out for the opening of a friend’s gender-bending play. They’re getting wasted at frat parties and texting their roommates from outside their dorms. They’re experimenting with sex and vulnerability and trust and consent — and sometimes, these tests take a dark turn. “I’m like, ‘I’ll protect you,’” she says in a mockingly deep-throated vigilante voice. “I’m kind of like Batman.”
On a Quest to Save the World’s Most Elusive Elephants
As a field biologist, Lee White had spent years traversing some of West Africa’s most obscure rain forests, cataloging flora and tracking groups of chimps and gorillas. But all the while, he was hoping for a glimpse of something else: the rare forest elephants of the region.
Smaller than the giant elephants we know, these pachyderms are famously elusive loners that prefer the cover of shaded forests to the open plains. But their ranks are dwindling, and today they’re found only in a few West and Central African countries. They’re so difficult to spot that scientists count them by tracking their dung. Indeed, White had never come closer to them than their excrement until he arrived in Gabon in 1989. Armed with his trusty binoculars and GPS, he drove into the dense Gabonese forest, and within 10 minutes of maneuvering through the foliage, he spotted one: a female forest elephant, with its long, downward-pointing tusks and distinctive oval ears. The majestic creature was as surprised as White — she charged his car.
Mom Was Beating Cancer — Then I Locked Her in a Psych Ward
Everyone has a limit. Mom breached hers well after her cancer diagnosis. Not when she underwent surgery or chemotherapy, or when, between the chemo rounds, she showed up to manage her gift shop — wearing gloves and a surgical mask to defend against germy customers and their dirty money. And certainly not when she drove herself to and from the hospital for exhausting cycles of radiation. But after all of that, perhaps because of all of that, once she had completed her last treatment, my mother decided it was time to shutter her store of more than 20 years. The fiercely independent woman would at last face the dreaded R-word: retirement.
In Japan, Tattoos Are No Longer Just for Gangsters
Late on this night in Tokyo, the Romanian tattoo artist known simply as Dali still hasn’t left his parlor. The dude is busy. His clients come in for all sorts of designs. Many women want a meaningful phrase or a couple of Kanji characters inked. Guys come in for tribal patterns or, Dali’s favorite, biomechanical work — using some machinery that moves sleekly with the body. It isn’t until nearly 11 p.m. that Graphic Tribe Tattoos, Dali’s studio in Shibuya, finally goes quiet.
Dali’s clients are a mix of expats and Japanese folks, but either way, he probably shouldn’t have so many of them. In Japan, tattoos have long been culturally verboten — so much so that three years ago, a Maori woman from New Zealand was rejected from entering a bathhouse (where customers bathe in the nude) for her ink. Last year, an Australian woman reportedly suffered the same fate. The cultural aversion to tattoos in Japan isn’t mere insensitivity or conservatism. Traditionally, this island nation has associated body art with the yakuza, the famous and dangerous Japanese Mafia, who ink up upon joining their organized-crime ring, in part to keep them loyal to the clan.
Is the World Ready for an African Superhero?
In many ways, Wale Williams is your typical superhero. He begins life as an ordinary, utterly insignificant young man. Until, in the year 2025, Wale’s genius father mysteriously disappears, and Wale, in his search to find him, discovers a suit his dad left behind that gives the wearer special powers. When a villainous army of skeletal drones invades shortly after, the 20-something uses his newfound powers to — spoiler alert — save the city. He is a protector of the innocent. Defender of the helpless. Destroyer of all evil. You get the picture. Tell us, though, where does that boy in your mind’s eye come from?