Why is this interesting? - The Jia Tolentino Edition

On vaping, religion, and "The Overwhelming Emotion of Hearing Toto's 'Africa' Remixed to Sound Like It’s Playing in an Empty Mall"

It’s the week of July 4th, which means lots of people are on vacation (including me). To lighten the load a bit, we’re going to be going with a format change for this week. Each day we will briefly highlight one of our favorite New Yorker writers and 3-4 pieces you should read. We’re also going to skip July 4th, as we assume many of you will be too busy with hot dogs and beer to read the day’s edition. We’ll be back the week of July 8th with our regular programming. - Noah (NRB)

Noah here. One of my favorite new(ish) additions to The New Yorker is Jia Tolentino, who joined the magazine in 2016 from Jezebel. She seems to be able to find interesting angles in every topic she covers. A few choice pieces:

  • The Promise of Vaping and the Rise of Juul. May 7, 2018. The New Yorker. Outside of seeing a bunch of e-cigarettes around, I didn’t know much about vaping or the fact that teenagers were getting hooked on the stuff at alarming rates. This long piece tells a detailed story of just how fast the company has grown, the way teens have taken to Juuling, and also offers some fascinating nuggets like this one about the linkage between Juuling and scrolling social media (“Both provide stimulus when you’re tired and fidgety, and both tend to become mindless tics that fit neatly into rapidly diminishing amounts of free time.”)

  • Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy in Houston. May 20, 2019. The New Yorker. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a story quite like this in The New Yorker. It tells of Tolentino’s personal experience growing up in Houston, spending a lot of time at church, experimenting with drugs, and the linkages she sees between all of them. It’s an impressive piece and feels all the more amazing to sit in the pages of a magazine that otherwise doesn’t publish stories like this.

  • The Overwhelming Emotion of Hearing Toto’s “Africa” Remixed to Sound Like It’s Playing in an Empty Mall. May 15, 2018. The New Yorker. I can’t remember if I read this before or after the Juul story, but this is actually my favorite story from Tolentino. It’s so weird and so internet, and yet so well written. I mentioned it in WITI 6/4 - The Jiā Cháng Cài Edition.  

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)