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    16 All-American Stories You Should Read This Weekend

    For down time at the beach, barbecue, and everywhere in between, this collection of stories capturing the culture, politics, and people of the U.S.A. has got you covered.

    Illustration by Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed News

    1. Sexts, Hugs, and Rock 'N' Roll: On the Road With the Teen Social-Media Sensations of DigiTour — Ellen Cushing

    Photograph by Michael Short for BuzzFeed News

    This cross-country cash cow starring seven of America’s biggest Vine and YouTube stars may have all the trappings of a traditional rock tour — long bus rides, concert hall stages in front of screaming fans, staying up late — but it’s the clearest sign yet that the entertainment industry’s star-making apparatus is being turned upside down.

    2. Are Tiny-House Villages the Solution to Homelessness? — Tim Murphy

    Photograph by Leah Nash for BuzzFeed News

    In the Pacific Northwest, people with nowhere else to go are forming micro-communities with communal kitchens and toilets but teeny, individual sleeping units. Could tiny homes, once the provenance of design blogs, help curb homelessness nationwide?

    3. The Hunter, the Hoaxer, and the Battle Over Bigfoot — Tim Stelloh

    Illustration by Morgan Schweitzer for BuzzFeed News

    Jeffrey Meldrum is a respected anthropologist risking his reputation to prove Sasquatch is real; Rick Dyer is a self-described “entertainer” unapologetically capitalizing off it. Their rivalry represents two sides of the fractious but booming subculture.

    4. Don't Be Afraid of the Clowns — Leigh Cowart

    Photograph by Armando L. Sanchez for BuzzFeed News

    The red-nosed pros at the 2014 World Clown Association annual convention know you think they’re creepy. How does a maligned and misunderstood centuries-old art form survive bad PR and cultural decline?

    5. The Sad, Strange, True Story of Sandy Allen, the Tallest Woman in the World — Sandra Allen

    AP Photo

    A mundane coincidence turns into a mild obsession with the uniquely tragic life of a 7’7” Indiana woman who died a folk hero. "It’s a weird moment when you realize you have the exact same name — first, last, middle initial — as the tallest woman alive."

    6. My Year in the NRA — Rob Cox

    Illustration by Rob Dobi for BuzzFeed News

    Rob Cox grew up and raised his family in Newtown, Connecticut — and he owns guns. After 26 of his neighbors were massacred, he signed up with the NRA to see how the organization that controls our gun debates works.

    7. A Deep Dive Into the World's Most Prestigious Water-Tasting Competition — John Lingan

    Photograph by Pat Jarrett for BuzzFeed News

    For 25 years, the self-proclaimed “Oscars of water” have been held in the tiny West Virginia town of Berkeley Springs. At a pivotal moment when the bottled water industry is booming but the national narrative is all about drought and environmental ruin, the stakes for perfecting the taste of nothingness have never been higher.

    8. Alan Gross and the High Cost of Democracy in Cuba — Joshua Hersh

    REUTERS/Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace/http://U.S. Air Force/Handout

    In 2009, an American aid worker seeking to provide internet service for Cubans was thrown in jail for more than five years. Now, as relations with Cuba finally thaw, the imprisonment of Alan Gross remains a prime example of how promoting American values in countries that don’t want them is a policy that is as well-intentioned as it is poorly executed.

    9. How Madewell Bought and Sold My Family's History — Dan Nosowitz

    Photograph by Dan Nosowitz for BuzzFeed News

    In 1937, Dan Nosowitz's great-grandfather started a workwear company in New England called Madewell. In 2006, 17 years after the last factory shut down, J.Crew relaunched a women’s clothing company with the same name and logo, based on a 50-year history in which it had no part.

    10. A Season With the Toughest Football Team You've Never Heard Of — Chris Faraone

    Photograph by Dominick Reuter for BuzzFeed News

    The Boston Bandits were unknown in their own sports-crazed city until one of their players was allegedly murdered by ex-Patriots star Aaron Hernandez. Ever since, Odin Lloyd’s teammates have been using this tragedy — the team’s fourth death in the past few years — as motivation to band together and win a ring in his memory, all while shining a light on a gritty pay-to-play semipro league that has existed for decades on the outer fringes of organized sports.

    11. Seven Days and Nights in the World's Largest, Rowdiest Retirement Community — Alex French

    Photograph by Edward Linsmier for BuzzFeed News

    Boasting 100,000 residents over the age of 55, The Villages may be the fastest growing city in America. It’s a notorious boomtown for boomers who want to spend their golden years with access to 11 a.m. happy hours, thousands of activities, and no-strings-attached sex, all lorded over by one elusive billionaire.

    12. The Last Days of Graceland Too, the World's Most Notorious Elvis Shrine — Elise Jordan

    Photograph by Tim Soter

    Paul Macleod’s memorabilia-stuffed Elvis shrine was the pride of Holly Springs, Mississippi, for 25 years — until last July, when MacLeod shot a man to death over $10, then died of a heart attack immediately afterward. What will become of MacLeod’s dubious treasures, and two families ruined by hero worship at its most obsessive, is a drama worthy of a king.

    13. "We Learned Together": An Afternoon With the Women of New Orleans' Trans Veterans Support Group — Mac McClelland

    Photograph by Edmund D. Fountain for BuzzFeed News

    Transgender people are still barred from openly serving in the military. Yet, a small but increasingly visible population of veterans are demanding health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs — and getting it.

    14. The Girl Who Survived the Brain-Eating Amoeba — Peter Andrey Smith

    Danny Johnston / AP Photo

    Two years ago, Kali Hardig went swimming at an Arkansas water park and the next day was rushed to the hospital where doctors diagnosed her with a rare, 99% fatal condition: a brain-eating amoeba. This is the miraculous story of how she lived.

    15. Tasers, Drones, and Cold Chicken: Inside the Multibillion-Dollar Business of Keeping Me out of America — Jose M. Orduna

    Charles Ommanney/Reportage by Getty Images

    Jose Orduna's family emigrated from Mexico when he was young. Now an American citizen, he went to the 2014 Border Security Expo in Phoenix, where the newest military technology meant to target people like him is part of a booming industry.

    16. The Prisoners Fighting California’s Wildfires — Amanda Chicago Lewis

    Photograph by Wes Schultz

    As climate change makes the role of inmate firefighters in California increasingly crucial, Americans are beginning to ask whether the type of low-level offenders who qualify for the program even deserve to be locked up. "Fire camps remain one of the last vestiges of a long American tradition of putting our criminals to work for hardly any money."

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