1. The Chef Who’s Leading The Backlash Against Mississippi’s New Anti-Gay Law by Wyatt Williams
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Mississippi is enacting a law that could sanction anti-LGBT discrimination. Can the state’s most prominent chef and cultural ambassador help keep his adoptive home from repeating its ugly past?
2. Joe Dorsey’s Big Fight: How An Unknown Boxer Knocked Out Segregation In Louisiana by Steve Knopper
In 1955, an African-American boxer in New Orleans named Joe Dorsey sued the state of Louisiana for the right to fight against white opponents. What started out as a chance to advance his career wound up changing sports and culture in the state forever.
3. Failure To Launch: How New Mexico Is Paying For Richard Branson’s Space Tourism Fantasy by Joshua Wheeler
One of the poorest states in the nation has invested nearly a quarter of a billion dollars and 10 years in creating a hub for Richard Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic. Some see it as the crown jewel of a new space age while others call it a carnival for the 1 percent — but with persistent delays and mounting financial strain, Spaceport America is just trying to avoid becoming New Mexico’s costliest, most futuristic ghost town.
4. The Low-Budget, High-Pressure Life Of An MLS Rookie by David Peisner
Major League Soccer is the only pro sports league in America where superstars can earn 140 times more than their teammates. How much longer will it be able to convince talented, internationally coveted young players like the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Kofi Opare to stay in the U.S. for $35,000 a year?
5. Fighting For Hip-Hop In The Whitest City In America by Arianna Rebolini
Portland, Ore., is known as a haven for progressive culture. So why does it seem like police consider rappers and their fans a threat to the city’s specific brand of weird?
6. Wildcatting: A Stripper’s Guide to the Modern American Boomtown by Susan Elizabeth Shepard
Nothing is more emblematic of the American dream than chaotic mining and drilling towns such as Williston, North Dakota, and the people who flock to them in search of fortune. And no one knows better how these communities work — and don’t — than the traveling topless dancer.
7. William Suess Thought He Was An American Until The Day He Was Deported by Mike Giglio
Born in Germany but raised in Missouri, “Wild Bill” Suess served in the Army, then did time for various crimes. But he didn’t know what prison really was until strict immigration laws left him to fend for himself at a grim shelter in a foreign country he was now forced to call home.
8. Pastor Andrew Hamblin Would Rather Die Or Go To Jail Than Give Up Handling Snakes by Gemma de Choisy
As part of a traditional Appalachian sect, the 22-year-old church leader illegally handled venomous snakes — and starred on the reality TV show Snake Salvation — until wildlife authorities seized them all. Risking his life and his livelihood, he’s taking a stand in the name of Jesus, and, he argues, in the name of religious freedom.
9. How An Ohio Housewife Flew Around The World, Made History, And Was Then Forgotten by Amy Saunders
Jerrie Mock was a 38-year-old housewife from Columbus, Ohio, when 50 years ago she accomplished what Amelia Earhart is famous for having failed to do. But, in the decades since, as Mock’s life began to unravel, history all but forgot the pilot who made it.
11. The Eel World: Inside Maine’s Wild Elver Turf War by Peter Andrey Smith
In an economically depressed Maine county, Bill Sheldon is the kingpin of a $40 million baby-eel industry that may be doomed to extinction. Find out what happens when a community full of armed fishermen and elver dealers stop being polite and start getting real.
12. Takeru Kobayashi’s Declaration Of Independence by Emily Fleischaker
Last July, for the fourth year in a row, the Nathan’s 4th of July hot dog-eating contest was without its original superstar thanks to an ongoing, bilious contract dispute. It’s hard to prove you’re still the champ when you don’t have any opponents, and it’s hard to plan your future when your golden opportunity implodes in scandal.
13. 60 Words And A War Without End: The Untold Story Of The Most Dangerous Sentence In U.S. History by Gregory D. Johnsen
Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world. Here’s how it came to be, and what it’s since come to mean.
14. Gored In The U.S.A.: The Running Of The Bulls Comes To America by Wyatt Williams
Two enterprising ex-lawyers are risking their livelihoods to reinvent a centuries-old Spanish tradition for thrill-seeking weekend warriors. But what are the long-term prospects for a venture that relies on its customers getting trampled by large, angry animals?
15. Dispatches From The Front Line Of Florida’s Wild Python Hunt by Amanda Petrusich
The monthlong Python Challenge in the Everglades is part controversial preservationist initiative, part sensationalistic media stunt, and all slinking through swamps trying to kill giant deadly reptiles.