Homelands

My short e-book for Deca on an orphan named Patience and a case for open immigration is now up for free at Longform.

When I was in Liberia during the civil war in 2003, I met a four-year-old girl named Patience. Monrovia, the capital of the small West African country, was under siege. Its power grid had failed. Rice was scarce. The taps had run dry. Cholera crawled in the tropical heat. Hopped-up government soldiers ran the streets in looted pickup trucks, and nobody knew what the rebels would do if their push for the center was successful.

I met Patience in a dark room off a dirt lot, in a concrete building in an orphanage placed perilously on a thin strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the river that held back the rebel advance. The night before my arrival, the woman who ran the orphanage told me, two shells from a mortar had passed overhead and fallen—crack, crack—somewhere between the orphanage and the ocean’s shore.

Patience, big-eyed, in stubby braids and a blue-and-white polka-dot dress, watched me from the shadows. Anemic, listless, undersize, suffering from dysentery, she had the measured movements of an old woman and the questioning stare of a toddler. In the same room, another orphan, ten-year-old Emmanuel, leafed through a book of photographs, color printouts, bound in black plastic and covered with a thin transparent sheet: There was green grass and a white-paneled house and a little blond girl smiling. There was a large van and an even larger play set. There was a countertop completely covered with food. “This is a very nice place,” Emmanuel said in a quiet voice. “I would like to go to this place.”

Read the rest.

Introducing Deca

Sixty years ago, the world’s top photographers banded together to form Magnum, a member-owned cooperative that changed the rules of photojournalism. Its founders took advantage of the technological shifts of their era—portable cameras and fast, cheap film processing—to strike out on their own and cover the global stories they felt were most important.

In 2014, journalism faces a new era of change. Today’s technologies are the tablet and the smartphone. Replacements for print books and newspapers, they let established journalists bring their stories directly to readers.

These shifts—and agencies like Magnum—are the inspiration for Deca, a new journalists’ cooperative owned equally by the writers who founded it. Deca’s members have authored acclaimed books and written articles for magazines including The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Time, Science, Rolling Stone, GQ, National Geographic, Outside, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The New York Times Magazine.

We are Pulitzer, National Magazine Award, PEN Literary Award, Livingston Award, Whiting Writers’ Award, and Los Angeles Book Prize winners and finalists.

Once a month, Deca will publish a longform story about the world — written by one of our members, edited by another, and approved by the rest. Our stories are distributed as e-books through Amazon’s Kindle Singles program, for Kindles and in Kindle apps that run on virtually any phone, tablet, or PC. Within two weeks, readers will be able to subscribe or buy single stories through Deca’s iOS app or via our website. Our first story, Mara Hvistendahl’s And The City Swallowed Them, is available from Amazon starting today.

With every story, every month, we’re bringing you what Magnum’s Henri Cartier-Bresson described as  “a situation, a truth”—not just an “accountant’s statement.” The technology is very new, but what we’re doing is very old: traveling the world over to find the stories that matter, and telling them.

We’re launching a Kickstarter campaign today where you can subscribe to a year’s worth of stories, learn more about the nuts and bolts of forming a collective, and even purchase bound copies of our pieces. You’re receiving this because you signed up for our mailing list. For more information, please visit our website or follow us on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.