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New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum Preserves a Culture Washed Away

Hanna Rasanen

Why I created a place to celebrate the neighborhood’s vibrant history and culture

The human-made disaster in New Orleans before, during and after Hurricane Katrina was the first time I was forced to really grapple with race and class inequality.

And it’s what motivated me and three fellow volunteers to try to preserve the history of one neighborhood – New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward – before its story was forgotten.

In 2005 I was a college student, paying little attention when Katrina happened. Nine months later, I got on an airplane as part of an alternative summer break, where I expected to do the same volunteer work I’d done since I was a kid. Then I’d head off for Bourbon Street and the French Quarter (which was all I knew of the city).

Instead, I discovered that the Lower Ninth Ward – a neighborhood that, before Katrina, had one of the highest rates of black homeownership in the nation – remained an open wound, one that left a lasting scar.

For while New Orleans has largely recovered from Hurricane Katrina, it’s clear that the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood has not.

Nonetheless, the story of the neighborhood’s destruction and the story of the ensuing efforts to rebuild it – which includes the creation of a museum – is a remarkable tale of cultural survival.

Residents recall chaos, fear

After that eye-opening summer, I spent years volunteering to rebuild homes and support local community organizing efforts.

I remember sitting down at a tool lending depot with a man struggling to rebuild his home in the Lower Ninth Ward. He’d stayed through the storm, and his trauma was palpable.

Other residents remembered the chaos of the disaster. There was Brandon Fontenelle, who recalled that it was “hard for some of us that wasn’t making the money to get out of here.”

Ward “Mack” McClendon noted that the hurricane itself caused the neighborhood only wind damage. But “when the levees broke after Katrina had passed, that’s what created all of our problems.” Karen Frank remembered hearing “a boom, and when I heard the boom, I heard everybody outside saying ‘ooh.’”

The predicted and preventable levee failure inundated the community under a 20-foot wall of water, drowning many who thought the danger had passed and destroying homes.

“All I had was one emotion: survival,” Milton Crawford III would later say.

‘I think they forgot about us’

Despite the magnitude of the flooding, a number of houses remained structurally sound and could be renovated. But the houses needed to be emptied of all their contents, the walls taken down to the studs.

The work was demanding. At the same time, it was incredibly moving to sort through the remnants of someone’s life – some of whom had passed away in the flooding or in the aftermath. It seemed as though if we could just gut, renovate and rebuild enough houses, the community could return.

However, the Lower Ninth Ward was treated differently from other parts of New Orleans.

As resident Minor Moe recalled, “St Bernard coming up. Uptown coming up. Canal Street coming up. Every part of town coming up but the Ninth Ward, and I think they forgot about us.”

The return of Lower Ninth Ward residents was obstructed by prolonged denial of access to property (worsening mold and termite damage and theft), prolonged absence of water and electrical service, and concern over adequate levee repairs.

But “risk reduction” measures – including proposals to “right size” the city by redeveloping their neighborhood as green space and rainwater storage – have been perceived as attempts to hinder the return of displaced black residents. This was further exacerbated by the threat of government seizure of “nuisance properties” under eminent domain if homes were not gutted or lawns grew above 18 inches.

The premature demolition of homes by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) without proper inspection and notification (and then without compensation) – along with the presence of disaster capitalists seeking to buy up properties before residents recovered – further hindered the community’s rebuilding efforts.

“Everybody could come back home to New Orleans but us,” a resident named Ester Smith remembered.

Under military curfew enforced by the National Guard, residents of the neighborhood were given only restricted access to their property for months after the flooding, well after it had been lifted for other parts of the city.

“Matter of fact, they created what they called a ‘look and leave’ policy,” Ward “Mack” McClendon explained. “After so many months, you could get on a bus in the Upper Ninth, and you could look at your house and leave.”

A culture and history forever lost?

Ten years later, most pre-Katrina residents remain displaced or have died, while the economic and physical infrastructure remains gutted. Nearly half of the housing units are vacant.

“How long it’s been?” resident Deborah Hawkins wondered. “A long damn time, and we still look the same.”

What many people don’t know about the Lower Ninth Ward is that it is a distinct community, with a rich cultural history going back to the late 1700s, when it was a cypress swamp that housed runaway slaves. It was later ground zero for school desegregation in the Deep South, and home to over 200 renowned musicians, including Fats Domino.

The neighborhood possesses “a unique bundle of characteristics that, when taken together, constitute a sense of place that cannot be found or replicated elsewhere.”

Unfortunately, today the number of households in the Lower Ninth Ward is 36.7% of its original size.

With most of their people unable to return home and the spread of gentrification, many original residents expressed the same concerns: they feared their culture, their history, their stories – all of it would be submerged forever.

“The people that’s coming here now, they really don’t know the heritage of the Lower Ninth Ward,” resident Jason Freeman said. “And I’m just afraid that it’s going to get lost.”

“It’s history. It’s the place where I grew up,” Percy Robinson said. “It’s a community that I knew really, really well, and I don’t know it anymore. It’s gone. The community I grew up in is gone.”

A living museum is born

It was residents like Jason Freeman and Percy Robinson who inspired us to create the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum.

Building on an existing subculture of house museums in New Orleans (such as the House of Dance and Feathers and the Backstreet Cultural Museum), we cofounded the museum to combat the erasure of residents’ voices.

Situated in half of a double-shotgun house on the corner of Deslonde Street and Urquhart Street, the museum is nestled on a quiet residential block between the main drags of St Claude Avenue and North Claiborne Avenue.

Built in 1940, the building was originally owned and inhabited by several families before becoming a rental property. While the house was renovated after Katrina, the owner stopped renting it because he relocated to Baton Rouge and no longer wished to make the commute.

Wanting to put down roots in New Orleans, we purchased the property in 2011 with the museum in mind. After knocking on neighbors’ doors in the surrounding area and receiving their approval, we began work.

Today, the well-marked purple facade and blue porch are hard to miss.

The Living Museum – which officially opened its doors in August of 2013 – celebrates the neighborhood’s vibrant history and culture through exhibits and oral histories, excerpts of which are included in this article. It has also become a hub for children’s programs and community events. Admission is always free.

I’m indebted to the people here for teaching me how the world works on the back of their trauma, for their kindness and generosity. “Roots run deep here,” and the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum will continue to work in solidarity with the community and carry their stories forward.

Resident Jon Chenau probably put it best: “The soul of the people here, you’re not going to find that nowhere else.”

You can find more information about the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum here and here.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

Read next: New Orleans, Here & Now

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Enter Dismaland: Banksy’s New Disneyland Parody Brings Life to British Coastal Town

Banksy's new show might be a catalyst for change in Weston-super-Mare

The princess-to-be hangs from the window of her overturned carriage, with little sparrows attempting to lift her limp and presumably dead figure. Paparazzi snap photos of the scene. The crash is housed in a crumbling castle with dour attendants milling outside, saying “end-joy” to those who pass. There is no happy ending for Cinderella in this diorama.

The dark parody of Disneyland – aptly named Dismaland – is the latest project of British street artist Banksy. The famous ‘guerilla’ artist first appeared 20-years ago in the U.K., where his political and often provocative work quickly made him the biggest name in the international street-art scene.

His new “bemusement park” is housed in Tropicana, a disused swimming pool complex that juts out onto the beach in the English coastal town of Weston-super-Mare, which he used to visit as a child. “I hope everyone from Weston will take the opportunity to once more stand in a puddle of murky water eating cold chips to the sound of crying children,” said Banksy to local newspaper, The Weston & Somerset Mercury.

Dismaland Park #dismaland #banksy #dismaland_park #streetart #banksyart #disney #ladydi #paparazzi

A photo posted by Dismaland Park (@dismaland_park) on

Banksy’s impish humour resounds through what he calls a “festival of art, amusements and entry-level anarchy.” Even the park’s website self-deprecatingly bills it as “the UKs most disappointing new visitor attraction.” Yet the new pop-up exhibition has enough thought-provoking and hilarious content to have encouraged hundreds of locals to line-up to see it.

“This is one of the best things to happen to Weston,” says Judith Groves, 48, who began queuing at 5.30 am. Her efforts paid off. Five-and-a-half hours later she was in the 2.5 acre theme park. “I am like a kid in a sweetshop, I feel like I have won a golden ticket.”

In Dismaland, everything one expects from a funfair has taken a dark and sarcastic turn: A grim reaper performs donuts in a bumper car. A horse-meat butcher sits on a merry-go-round, while people try to ‘Hook-A-Duck’ from an oil-spill. The puppets Punch and Judy are also there, making wicked references to popular culture. “Who bought all the copies of Fifty Shades of Grey? The Ladies! Bless their little hearts. So no more silly crying about damaged body parts,” says Punch.

#dismaland #banksy #banksyart

A photo posted by Dismaland Park (@dismaland_park) on

While the obvious jibes against manufactured theme parks are present – exampled by an installation of an orca jumping out of toilet into a tiny paddling pool – for Maskull Lasserre, a Canadian artist participating in Dismaland, the show is a trope on the coastal fairgrounds found in small towns around the globe.

“I think it is a respectful take on a seaside town,” says Lasserre, “Dismaland is saturated with the notion of things not meant to be, everything is subversive and ironic… it ends up destabilising my perception of the town.”

The temporary exhibition features over 50 artists from the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. The line-up features big names, including American artist Jenny Holzer, Britain’s Damien Hirst, and David Shrigley. There are three galleries, tents, dozens of installations, an open-air cinema showing short films and bands like Massive Attack and Pussy Riot will perform in the coming weeks.

Before its unveiling on Thursday, many of the local residents were unaware of Banksy’s plans for the area. In an effort to misdirect them, placards appeared around the Tropicana insinuating that there was a film crew at work. “The signs said it was for Grey Fox” says Julia McKenzie, who can see Dismaland from her kitchen window. She googled the name and found an IMDB website for what turned out to be a fake film. “They really did it well,” says the 39-year-old.

This is typical behaviour from the prankster, who enjoys teasing the public and having fans second guess everything from his identity, which is still unknown, to where his next work will crop up: Banksy’s New York residency in 2013 had fans following scraps of clues to new pieces of work.

Horsemeat merry-go-round at #dismaland

A photo posted by Tara John (@tarajohn) on

Dismaland is being called the artist’s biggest project yet, and residents hope that it will revitalise Weston-super-Mare. His 2009 exhibition in Bristol, a city 18 miles from Weston attracted over 300,000 visitors and generated £10 million for the local economy, reports the Guardian. The council for North Somerset, the area where Weston-super-Mare is located, has struggled to find investors for the abandoned Tropicana. Dismaland might still bring change to the town’s fortunes.

“Though the seafront is looking good, Weston has a feel of things waiting to happen and it has done for years,” says North Somerset councillor Tom Leimdorfer, “this could be a catalyst for something to happen.”

Local teaching assistant Charlotte Chambers thinks the town needs a lot of work. “I really hope our local council sees the irony of Dismaland, in the sense that the Tropicana has been derelict for so long,” says Chambers, as she played on an oil caliphate-themed crazy golf course in the exhibition. “The town centre is horrendous, shops have closed down and the council really needs to do something.”

By the simple act of putting Dismaland in Western-super-Mare, Banksy has opened the town to an international audience, with as yet uncertain consequences.

TIME Culture

Big Bird and Big Media: What Sesame Street on HBO Means

Sesame Street's Big Bird character in New York on Nov. 9, 2009.
Stan Honda—AFP/Getty Images Sesame Street's Big Bird character in New York on Nov. 9, 2009.

Siva Vaidhyanathan is the author of The Googlization of Everything

How techno-narcissism and market fundamentalism have lead to privatization of the arts and education

As we strive to make sense of the announcement that Sesame Street will debut its next five years of new episodes on the expensive cable network HBO, we should step back from the particulars and look at what this shift shows us about the current state of American life.

The Sesame Street move is not a horrible thing in itself. After all, the new episodes will show up for free on Public Broadcasting Service stations nine months after HBO viewers got them. Instead, the move is a symptom of how Americans view our collective obligations to each other – especially to our poorest children.

Sesame Street needed to replace the revenue it has lost since people moved from buying DVDs to streaming older programs. HBO will pay a fee to Sesame Workshop, which produces the show, for the exclusive right to stream and broadcast the episodes for nine months. In 2014, Sesame Workshop lost $11 million, and its total operating revenues were $104 million, a 14% decrease from 2013. Most of that revenue comes from DVD sales and from licensing the characters and creative elements for toys, school supplies, and other commercial uses. Only about 10% comes from PBS affiliates.

Given that arithmetic, it’s hard to argue with Sesame Workshop’s decision. To continue to produce high-quality, fresh, educational episodes for the preschool set, the show needs to exploit every resource it can find while ensuring that its longstanding commitment to public broadcasting remains — even if those who can’t afford HBO get a staler product. The short-term harm is trivial. The long-term gain seems substantial.

But how did we get to the point at which one of the greatest successes of American creativity, philanthropy, and government policy has to hustle for loose change from a major corporation like Time Warner, which owns HBO, and from toy customers? Isn’t children’s educational programming a public good, one that market forces clearly can’t support on their own?

There are two major ideological forces that have pushed such moves to privatize education in all its forms over the past 40 years.

The first force is techno-narcissism. There’s a widespread and erroneous assumption that new technologies radically change how everyone lives. In reality, such change is slow, stunted, complex, and uneven. The wealthy and educated who tend to read and write about new technology obsessively also tend to exaggerate the cultural and economic influence of technological change because they embrace it.

So we assume everybody is streaming video from tablets and settling in on Sunday evenings to watch Game of Thrones on HBO. After all, everyone we know is doing that. The assumption that Americans are significantly “cutting the cord” and opting to only stream Internet video instead of relying on cable and satellite pay television is also highly exaggerated. In 2013 cable and satellite subscriptions fell for the first time in history. But they only fell by about 250,000 people. Cord-cutting is a slow and so-far marginal phenomenon and services like HBO and ESPN are preparing for a more significant shift if it happens.

The mantra that “broadcast television is dead” has been echoing for 20 years. Yet broadcast television lives on and plays important roles in the daily lives of millions of Americans. More than 50 million Americans rely on over-the-air free television. As you might assume, these viewers are disproportionately poor and/or live in rural areas. If cord-cutting grows, especially as purchasing power among lower-income working people falls, the percentage of viewers relying on free over-the-air television will rise, not fall.

The second and more pernicious force is market fundamentalism. In the 1960s, Americans took seriously the concept of market failure: There are some important things such as education, law enforcement, defense, environmental regulation, and the arts that market actors can’t or won’t provide at the level that would allow society to thrive fully. That’s why we saw expansions in federal and state support for science, schools, public art, and public radio and television.

But lately we have forgotten that lesson. Those programs were so successful that Americans just assumed they had always existed and always would. We forgot how much we had to collectively invest to get them going. As we systematically strip public support from these essential elements of the good life, we are left with major institutions like public broadcasting acting just like commercial outlets: chasing viewers and soliciting corporate sponsors.

Relying on philanthropy has real costs as well. Museums, libraries, universities, schools, and public broadcasting institutions have to appeal to the whims of the wealthy to ensure financial health. The immediate needs of the poor fall in importance.

A proper response to the Sesame Street move and other such changes would be to seriously examine how Americans could generate and share the information and educational skills we will need to be effective citizens of a democratic republic this century. That could mean a reinvestment in public broadcasting funding. It could also mean a massive public effort to supply fast and cheap broadband to rural and low-income communities. We rarely ask what we need as citizens and rally our leaders to provide it. We have not since the 1960s.

Instead, Big Bird works for a big media company now. He indulges big donors. He promotes his image in toy stores. And only as an afterthought does he hold the hands of poor children and lead them into the unkind future.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Get the Government Out of Public Broadcasting

Sesame Street
Andrew H. Walker—2012 Getty Images Muppets attend the Sesame Street Workshop 10th Annual Benefit Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 30, 2012 in New York City.

Jim DeMint is the president of The Heritage Foundation.

The rest of PBS should follow the lead of Sesame Street

Big Bird, like the dodo, doesn’t fly. But he may now fair better than the ungainly fowl last seen in Mauritius in the 1600s. That’s because Big Bird has migrated to HBO, leaving behind the unchallenging environment of public broadcasting.

The dodo became extinct because it was flightless. It was flightless because, facing no predators or competitors for centuries on an isolated island in the Indian Ocean, it forgot how to fly. Once European explorers and their dogs showed up on Mauritius, the bird was hunted down mercilessly.

To avoid this fate, Sesame Workshop, which produces Big Bird and all of the Muppets on Sesame Street, struck a five-year deal that will make the children’s program available first on HBO, injecting an undisclosed amount of cash into Sesame Workshop. The episodes will still air on PBS several months later.

Sesame Street was already a quality show, and its dependence on government subsidies has been comparatively small for years. It received only about 10% of its production costs from PBS member stations. But innovation was lacking in the public nest.

The changed viewing habits of kids necessitated the move to HBO. Sesame Workshop needs HBO’s tech savvy to reach today’s kids.

Market competition is what drives innovation and maintains quality. A steady flow of government subsidies — be it for entertainment, education, art or business — can give you a comfortable living. But by inoculating you from competition, it saps the incentive to innovate and create, leaving you stuck with an outdated, over-priced, and ultimately unappealing product.

Mauritius in the 1600s was rather like the world of public broadcasting — indeed, like all of the public sector. You can do anything you want, which is no doubt appealing for a while. Sooner rather than later, though, you forget what the audience wants.

This is another reason, though, that I, and the organization I lead have for years, called for cutting government subsidies to public broadcasting. Yes, the public gets a substandard product as a result of the protection from competition that government supports ensures. But it’s also unfair to the many other media organizations that struggle to produce quality news and entertainment without a government-sponsored bird feeder.

In reality, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which oversees both the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and NPR (which used to be an acronym for National Public Radio but now stands alone) doesn’t need to be on the dole. It has a membership model that works.

Federal appropriations for the CPB in 2013 were $445 million, of which public television got about $300 million, and public radio stations got about $100 million. That this needlessly adds to our $19 trillion debt is actually a talking point for defenders of public broadcasting’s current model. CPB funding is just a “rounding error,” they say. But rounding errors add up quickly, and if we never cut anything small, getting federal spending under control will be impossible.

This federal subsidy amounts only to about 15% of its revenue, according to PBS. NPR claims federal subsidies made up about 10% of its revenue in 2010. If so, then both can rely on the fees paid by members. People voluntarily acting together to achieve a common good — what conservatives since Edmund Burke have called the “little platoons” of society — can finance public broadcasting if it brings value to their lives.

It will be ironic if a market approach backed by conservatives saves a network that has long boasted a lineup of liberal commentators who have little but scorn for them. But the public accountability that goes with the HBO deal will also produce a more innovative product.

Sesame Workshop must “adapt to the times,” according to series co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney. Indeed it does. Americans don’t need to be lobbied or otherwise coerced (e.g., taxed) into doing the right thing. They know a good thing when they see it, and they’ll support it as long as it fills a need.

The Muppets have saved themselves. The only question is whether the rest of what is now PBS and NPR goes the way of the dodo. It doesn’t have to — if it follows Big Bird’s lead.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Why One Woman Poses Topless in Times Square

Times Square Topless
Tanya Basu Lucky, center, poses in Times Square in New York City on Aug. 19, 2015.

“I’m having fun and making good money. You can’t beat that"

Walking through New York City’s Times Square at night, it’s hard to miss Lucky.

The 21-year-old has blue-streaked blonde hair and wears skimpy black underwear, silver stilettos and—aside from red, white and blue body paint—nothing else. On a recent evening, she waved to passersby, flashed a grin, and asked, over and over: “Do you want a picture?”

“I’m having fun and making good money,” Lucky, who asked to be identified by her performance name, said as she took a break from her work. “You can’t beat that.”

Lucky is one of the desnudas, women who stroll topless in Times Square, attracting hoots and cheers from tourists and posing for photos in exchange for a tip. She’s from the South Bronx and began working as a desnuda shortly after she turned 18, drawn to the thrill of parading without clothes in one of the busiest intersections in the world.

But her livelihood, along with that of the other Times Square densudas, is now under threat. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo both spoke out this week against the topless entertainers, objecting not to their exposed breasts but instead to allegations that they harass tourists to hand over tips.

On Thursday, de Blasio announced a taskforce to investigate the desnudas, saying he would look for “legislative and regulatory solutions.” Cuomo separately told a reporter, “This activity is illegal.”

Lucky is not too worried about a potential crackdown yet; topless women have been legally protected in New York City since 1992, and she said she never pressures any of her customers for tips.

“The mayor actually helped us, if anything,” Lucky said of the wave of publicity that has accompanied de Blasio’s attack on her trade. “I don’t know if he thought it would stop us in Times Square—it’s actually going way better than before the mayor even acknowledged us, to be honest.”

When Lucky first started as a desnuda, she worked with a handler, who took up to 70% of her earnings. She soon tired of handing over hundreds of dollars at the end of each evening shift and struck out on her own, painting her body herself and keeping all the money she earns.

She’s learned the ebb and flow of the business, taking off Mondays or Tuesdays because they’re slowest.

“After a weekend, people are pretty much broke,” she said. “Nobody wants to pay a naked girl.”

She fights back against anyone who thinks she doesn’t work hard, and said she budgets carefully to make the money last through the year.

“You can have a bad day when you go home only with $100. You can have a really good day when you go home with $1,000,” she said. “In the summertime, I save all the money. It’s impossible to spend $1,000 a day. In the wintertime, that’s my backup plan right there.”

Although Lucky is a little concerned about the “bad apple” desnudas who are more aggressive ruining the Times Square scene for everyone, she said she’s planning to just keep doing her job.

And with that, she stomped out her cigarette and stripped off her oversize “I Love NY” shirt, ready for another shift.

“I love it. I do,” Lucky said, heading back to her busy corner in the center of Manhattan. “I like the expressions on people’s faces when they see me.”

Read next: New York Mayor Launches Task Force to Address Topless Women in Times Square

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TIME Culture

5 Books for Fans of John Green

Getty Images

These novels will not disappoint

I mean, is there any other way to read Paper Towns? Like all John Green books, Paper Towns can only be devoured whole. So if you’re planning to see the movie and haven’t read it yet, you’ve got plenty of time. But when the dust settles and the tear-soaked pages finally dry, where do you turn? You will inevitably look to An Abundance of Katherines, The Fault in Our Stars, and Looking for Alaska if you haven’t read them already—and they will not disappoint. After that, try these:

1. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

For me, John Green and Rainbow Rowell go hand in hand. Their books are equally fun, insightful, and moving. While Rowell’s most-loved book Eleanor & Park is also a fantastic choice, I highly recommend Attachments as your first post-Paper Townsread. The novel takes place as an often-hilarious email exchange between two work friends, Beth and Jennifer. They know someone is monitoring their work email, but they don’t know that the person reading them is falling for Beth. Thematically, it’s similar to Paper Towns in that Lincoln is learning about Beth little by little, through clues of sorts. It’s a quirky romance that somehow reads like a page-turning thriller—you will not be disappointed.

2. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

After the humor of Attachments, you may be prepared to dive back into the tearjerkers, and you should do so with Thirteen Reasons Why. High school student Clay Jenson is reeling from the suicide of his classmate and crush Hannah Baker when he finds a mysterious box full of cassette tapes on his doorstep. It’s Hannah, telling 13 different stories about her classmates that detail why she decided to commit suicide. Again, the theme is right there with Paper Towns. And yes, it makes an absolutely devastating read. But it’s ultimately a beautiful message about the importance of treating people with kindness.

3. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Even though the cover is a complete rip-off of Where’d You Go Bernadette?, Finding Audrey stands on its own as one of this summer’s breakout YA novels. After being traumatized by a bullying incident, 14-year-old Audrey develops an anxiety disorder and her parents resort to home-schooling, while Audrey hides behind her sunglasses and the walls of her house. On the road to recovery, Audrey meets her brother’s friend Linus, and a sweet friendship develops that helps Audrey get back to herself.

4. This Side of Home by Renee Watson

This Side of Home was Renee Watson’s first foray into Young Adult, and it immediately stood out as one of 2015’s must-reads in the category. The story centers on Maya, a young woman entering her senior year of high school and dealing with the rapid changes in her Portland neighborhood. As her hometown transforms from rough to “up-and-coming,” filled with coffee shops and boutiques, Maya feels like she is losing her home, while her twin sister is thrilled. Watson beautifully navigates the typical coming-of-age struggles with friends, dating, and going off to college alongside a poignant exploration of gentrification, identity, race, class, and culture.

5. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

If you’re missing the road trip part of Paper Towns, check out Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour. Amy is forced to transport her car from California to her mother’s new home in Connecticut, but ever since her father died in a car accident, she doesn’t feel so comfortable behind the wheel. Luckily Roger, a family friend whom she has known forever, offers to make the drive with her. As they travel across the country, you’ll experience their playlists, their travel journals, their menu options, and most importantly, all of the feels.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com

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TIME movies

Regal Movie Theaters Implements Bag Inspection Policy

Regal Cinemas logo
Regal Entertainment Group

"Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America"

Regal Entertainment Group has added a bag check policy as the conversation around movie-theater security grows louder.

Theater-goers may have to submit their bags to inspection before they’re allowed to enter the theater, WBIR reports. “To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission,” the policy reads. “We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety.”

It’s not known how much the recent movie-theater shootings in Lafayette, La., and Nashville influenced the addition of the policy or how often customers will actually have to offer up their bags for a search. TIME’s requests for comment were not immediately returned.

MORE Inside the Struggle to Stop America’s Movie Theater Attacks

The new policy does open by saying, “Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America.”

In Winter Park, Fla., one theater already has signs in front of the ticket counter that tell customers, “For the safety and comfort of all our guests: Backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to entry to this facility.” A theater manager confirmed to the website Click Orlando that the sign was part of the new policy, which has already prompted backlash on Regal’s Facebook page.



TIME Culture

Kurt Cobain Biographer: I Changed My Mind—Let’s Leave the Legend Alone

Kurt Cobain performs with Nirvana on 'MTV Unplugged,' on Nov. 18, 1993, in New York City.
Frank Micelotta—Getty Images Kurt Cobain performs with Nirvana on 'MTV Unplugged,' on Nov. 18, 1993, in New York City.

Jeff Burlingame is an NAACP Image Award-winning author, the winner of the 2013 Sigma Delta Chi award for public service journalism, and the author of Kurt Cobain: Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind.

The Nirvana lead singer and songwriter would never have allowed the public to view his drafts or his discards

I wrote a biography about Kurt Cobain in 2006. Since then, I’ve come to the realization that it’s better to let his legacy lie because I believe he would have wanted it that way.

Kurt Cobain kicked drummers out of his band because they wouldn’t play nice with his not-so-punk-rock, practice-makes-perfect ethos. He frustrated associates (Nevermind producer Butch Vig once said Kurt was a “pain” in the studio) who couldn’t immediately grasp some vague vision he had for specific songs or his big-picture plan for Nirvana Inc. He even almost didn’t allow Dave Grohl to sit in on his band’s MTV Unplugged session because he hadn’t liked the way the drummer’s hard hitting had translated to the acoustical arrangement during rehearsals.

When it came to his image, Kurt was the careless loafer in threadbare jeans and worn flannel we still recall him to be today, more than 21 years after his death. But when it came to his art, Kurt was a perfectionist who would never allow the mediocrity that’s now being released with his name attached to see the light of day.

Were it not for Kurt’s fastidiousness, to cite another of countless examples of such, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” might have left early 1990s disaffected youth screaming, “A deposit/for a bottle/stuck inside it/no role model” for the past two and a half decades. But to Kurt, those lyrics weren’t good enough, so he scrapped them in favor of the mulatto, albino, mosquito, libido sequence those kids – myself included – came to know and still sing.

Those alternate “Teen Spirit” lyrics were published in 2002’s Journals, which was one of the earliest posthumous in-depth looks at the way Kurt worked behind the scenes. In the book’s first pages, Kurt writes:

“Don’t read my diary when I’m gone.”

And a few words later:

“Please read my diary. Look through my things and figure me out.”

Those who engage in Kurt-related voyeurism today by purchasing what’s offered them often use that last quote to justify their actions: It’s OK for us to look because Kurt wanted us to see. But — as the above example indicates — Kurt was contradictory. He also tells us through his journals that he despises celebrity, yet he specifies ways in which he is working toward achieving it. He tells us he’s not addicted to heroin, then he tells us he’s a junkie. “My lyrics are a big pile of contradictions,” Kurt writes in Journals.

When Journals came out, I ate it up. I knew the author — we were friends as teenagers — and the primary source came in all-too handy two years later when I set about writing my book on Kurt. But as I’ve grown, I’ve thought deeper. Why were these journals available for me to read? Should they have been? Would Kurt have wanted them to be?

After I honestly answered those questions for myself, I stopped caring about subsequent Kurt-related products. But – thanks to my circle of influence and that ubiquitous fiend social media — I still learned of each of the dozens of products as they came into existence. The pre-distressed Converse tennis shoes scribbled with lyrics. The 18-inch stubble-faced action figure (“with sound!”). The lifeless “Lithium”-playing avatar in Guitar Hero 5.

The humanity.

Though I may try to avoid it, celebrity exploitation constantly surrounds us. Many believe the recent release of Harper Lee’s long-buried novel, Go Set a Watchman, is an example of such, a financially motivated manipulation of an 89-year-old mentally fragile recluse. Dead celebrity exploitation – like what’s happening with Kurt — also is everywhere. We’ve even given dead celebrities a name, “delebs,” and they are a multi-billion-dollar business.

The Montage of Heck product line, which includes the HBO documentary and the forthcoming soundtrack/Kurt Cobain “solo album,” is the latest release in the posthumous Kurt Cobain machine. The film is sanctioned by Kurt’s estate — most notably his daughter, Frances, who was the executive producer of the documentary — and I’ve heard it’s a quality film, even if its script follows the convoluted myth-making tact so many other biographers, myself once included, have followed.

“Unfortunately, it matters very little what the facts are; what matters is what people believe,” Kurt’s good friend and mentor Buzz Osborne recently said in a review of the film. “And when it comes to Cobain, most of what they believe is fabricated nonsense.”

Those who knew Kurt know that he was a shy self-doubter who never would have allowed the public to view his drafts or his discards. The Kurt I knew practiced incessantly because he wanted his work to be as good as it could be before it was released for public consumption. The audio tapes being used for Kurt’s new solo album may have been made available, but that doesn’t mean we should listen to them.

Again, from Journals: “The most violating thing I’ve felt this year is not the media exaggerations or the catty gossip, but the rape of my personal thoughts ripped out of pages from my stay in hospitals and aeroplane rides hotel stays etc.”

That’s the quote I’m citing — and basing my actions on — these days.

Read next: Teen Tweets Never-Before-Seen Photos of Nirvana’s First Ever Show

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TIME Culture

What Really Makes Celebrities Grateful

At next month’s Emmy Awards, some of the acceptance speeches will surely include so many “thank yous” that viewers will be left rolling their eyes.

The winners will be left worrying about who they forgot.

“The stars at awards shows always come backstage feeling like they didn’t express enough gratitude,” says Hollywood journalist Jeanne Wolf. “There aren’t enough ways to say thank you for something big. That’s why you hear ‘thank you so much’ and ‘thank you so so much.’”

While we often assume celebrities are self-absorbed and ego-driven, they can actually teach us something quite lovely about appreciating what we’ve achieved—and recognizing the people who helped us get there. Instead of being cynical about awards shows, we can see them as meaningful reminders of how important it is to see success in a broader perspective.

Wolf says most stars she’s met (and she’s met most) are a little surprised by their own good fortune. “They all bow in the direction of luck and chance. They know they’ve been chosen, and they also know to look around and be grateful,” Wolf says.

Given new research linking gratitude to better health and increased happiness, the grateful stars may be on to something. Outside of awards shows, many celebrities are finding their own ways to express gratitude. Wolf says that when she asks stars about gratitude, they are often eager to tell her about how they put it in practice.

“Usually before I eat a meal I’ll list the things for which I’m grateful. I do that with my wife [Anna Faris],” Jurassic World star Chris Pratt told Wolf. After his movie raked in $200 million its opening weekend, he could easily have turned entitled—but before-meal gratitude was a strong antidote.

Actor Will Arnett has developed a plan to remind himself to be grateful whatever the status of his TV and movie projects.

“Every single morning, I write a gratuity list. I write down ten things I’m grateful for every day—and it always starts with my kids,” said the actor, who made his name in shows like 30 Rock and The Lego Movie.

Psychologists who study well-being say that keeping a gratitude journal can boost spirits and reduce depression better than almost any other intervention. Stars need that as much as the rest of us.

“Along with the success is tremendous insecurity and fear and self-doubt—the sense that it will all go away tomorrow,” Wolf says. “A-list stars want to find a way to slow down and count their blessings.”

It’s easy to say that stars should be grateful—they have big paychecks, adoring fans, and shiny cars. “But that misses the point. We all have bumps or tragedies that could have stopped us,” says Wolf. Gratitude helps give all of us the power to get through difficult times and recognize the bright ones.

Kelsey Grammar struggled after the murder of his sister, deaths of his half-brothers, and his own addictions to cocaine and alcohol. But the star of Cheers and Frasier turned his life around.

“I hit my knees every day and express gratitude,” he told Wolf.

Having spent a year trying to bring more gratitude into my own life (and writing about it in my new book “The Gratitude Diaries”), I admire anyone who can look past difficulties and focus on the positive. Stars I spoke to incuding Matt Damon, Jerry Seinfeld, and Clint Eastwood, all had “thank you” as part of their every day vocabulary. They didn’t wait for awards shows. I was happy to learn from them.

I won’t win an Emmy next month, but to all these stars who make gratitude part of their lives and teach us how to do the same, I would like to say …..

Thank you.

Janice Kaplan is the former editor-in-chief of Parade magazine and the author of a dozen books. Her latest, “The Gratitude Diaries” will be published this month by Dutton.


Morgan Freeman, John Grisham and Others Take Out Ad Against Mississippi’s Flag

Mississippi State flag
Tetra Images—Getty Images Mississippi State flag

They were joined by dozens of Mississippi natives

John Grisham and Morgan Freeman are among the dozens of prominent Mississippi natives calling on their home state to remove the Confederate battle flag from the official state flag in a full-page ad in the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger.

“It’s simply not fair, or honorable, to ask black Mississippians to attend schools, compete in athletic events, work in the public sector, serve in the National Guard, and go about their normal lives with a state flag that glorifies a war fought to keep their own ancestors enslaved,” the ad reads.

The letter, which was also signed by Archie Manning, Hugh Freeze and Jimmy Buffet, touches on the history of the flag and notes that Confederate General Robert E. Lee asked that the flag be removed after the Civil War.

The confederate battle flag, once a mainstay on state flags in the South, has seen a backlash in recent years. The alleged June killing of nine black churchgoers in South Carolina by a white supremacist who posed with the flag prompted national discussions about the flag’s place and led the state to remove the symbol from state grounds.

Read Next: Watch the Emotional Speech That Helped Bring Down the Confederate Flag

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