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Human Parts
A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.

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THIS IS US

How one novelist reconnected with the ancestors she never met


The story of how he wound up in a dangerous compound—and how he escaped

Two vintage photographs of my dad and his sisters

I was so young when my dad started telling me his cult stories that I don’t think I even knew what a cult was. In a way, I still don’t. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how unique it was to have a father who regaled his young daughter with vivid narratives from his early life, much less one who survived an adolescence as gripping and gut-wrenching as his.

Now 65, my dad doesn’t look like the stereotype of a traumatized ex-cultist who came of age under the baleful reign of a charismatic leader. Today, Dr…


This Is Us

It’s about so much more than advice-seeking and finger-pointing

Black and white photo of a person on their laptop, face obscured.
Black and white photo of a person on their laptop, face obscured.
Photo: Sergey Zolkin/Unsplash

Like thousands upon thousands of other people, I love reading “Am I the Asshole?” on Reddit. I first encountered AITA through Twitter when an account that reposts particularly juicy threads kept popping up in my timeline. One thing led to another, and I’m now an unabashed asshole addict. Every few days for the past few months, I log on and get my fill of roommate drama, relationship woes, and family fallouts. Locked down and hungry for human interaction, I find a sense of connection here, though I’ve never actually commented or voted on a thread. …


This Is Us

This common phrase is hurtful to all women — even the mothers who are saying it

Black and white photo of a mother kissing her infant.
Black and white photo of a mother kissing her infant.
Photo: ArtMarie/Getty Images

In mid-January, I was scrolling through Instagram and stopped to watch a clip Ashley Graham had posted from a video she made to celebrate her son’s first year of life. It was emotional and beautiful and sweet, but the video included a sentiment that seems to appear in so many new mothers’ lexicons: “People tell you, people will try to explain it to you, but you don’t know love until you have a child of your own…”

I felt the same thing I always feel when I hear people say things like that — a genuine pain in my chest…


This Is Us

When you think the problem is the answer, you’re helpless to solve it

Photo: Callie Gibson/Unsplash

“You have to call it what it is before you can tackle it.”

Those words repeat in my thoughts, bounce around my skull, and buzz under my skin. “But I don’t know what it is.”

“Okay. Describe again how you’ve been feeling the past month?”

“Tired, sluggish. My life just feels monotonous, so I’m bored and restless. I can’t focus on my class assignments, like at all, which is new for me. I keep not being able to sleep, so I feel like I’m moving underwater the next day. I used to love school. I just don’t care about it…


Express Yourself

Humans have a habit of bending words to meet their needs — and defying dictionary definitions in the process

Photo: Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash

Remember how, in the 2010s — yes, that’s right, the decade that gave us Snapchat, “Gangnam Style,” one good Adam Sandler movie, and Covid-19 — everybody was losing their marbles over the word “literally”? Remember how long it took for pedants to give up trying to keep its meaning neatly segregated from that of “figuratively”? I, for one, am literally over the moon that’s behind us.

But people always need some new coinage or turn of phrase to pick on. In his 1755 dictionary, Samuel Johnson reportedly expressed familiar-sounding frustration with “clever,” describing it as “a low word, scarcely ever…


This Is Us

Black stories are most rewarded when they center blackness — which, in a certain sense, is to center whiteness

Black and white photo of the author and her son posing on a street.
Black and white photo of the author and her son posing on a street.
The author and her son

It is a cool autumn morning and I am perched on my couch, a coffee cup nearby, a few pages into Claudia Rankine’s newest book, Just Us: An American Conversation. My 14-year-old son saunters in and asks what I am reading when I look up over the brim to tell him: “It’s a book on race by an author I met last summer during my writing residency.” “Is it good?” he asks. “It’s interesting,” I say. “But sometimes I get tired of reading about racism.” “Why… because it makes you angry?” he asks. “Angry is not the right word. Annoyed…


Past Is Prologue

And other examples of why more is more in Italy

The Statue of David in Florence. Photo: iStock

In Italy, you’ll find signs about face masks with 40 words in bureaucratic language. No smoking signs consist of 109 words of legal text, and simple toilet signs can be made up of 122 words. What reasons can we find for this in Italian society?

Among the novelties the Covid-19 pandemic has given us—in addition to face masks and awkward elbow bumps—is a variety of new signs instructing us how to behave. …


Express Yourself

Linguists analyze the lengths we take to avoid seeming rude

Photo: Tara Moore/Getty Images

“What’s the magic word?” our parents asked when we stomped into the room demanding they help us find a missing toy. Over time, we learned that our requests could be fulfilled more expediently if we offered up a “please” without being prompted. Hey, what a neat trick!

But then we reached school age and found ourselves berated for breaking other mysterious rules, like pronouncing “give me” as “gimme” or repeating one of the four-letter words we’d heard bandied about. …

Human Parts

A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.

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