back to top

7 Essays To Read: Smoking To Get Sober, Asian Pseudonyms, And Loneliness

This week, Katie Herzog explains how marijuana helped wean her off alcohol. Read that and others from Broadly, Dame Magazine, Love, InshAllah, and more.

Posted on

1. "I Used to Be an Alcoholic. Now I’m a Stoner Who Has a Drink Sometimes." — BuzzFeed Ideas

Kiersten Essenpreis for BuzzFeed News

For Katie Herzog, marijuana wasn't a gateway to harder drugs — it was an exit ramp from her addiction to alcohol. Before she started smoking, she'd attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and tried outpatient group therapy, to no avail. For BuzzFeed Ideas, she explains how marijuana helped wean her off alcohol. "I realized I would rather be at home smoking pot on my couch," she writes. "The reason I went out to bars ... was because I was always afraid that I would miss out on something — that something, anything, would happen. But the reality is, nothing ever did. So I did something I’d never been able to do before: I left the bar." Read it at BuzzFeed Ideas.

2. "When White Poets Pretend to Be Asian" — The New Yorker

Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty / Via

When Yi-Fen Chou, honored in Best American Poetry 2015, turned out to be a white poet from Indiana, the world was quite rightly outraged. In a New Yorker piece, Hua Hsu attempts to make sense of the madness. "When it comes to such hoaxes, it seems somehow easier to fake Asia, a land still distant and inscrutable to many Americans," he writes. "While other hoaxes work because of their thoroughness and care, the Asian-themed sort often get by with only a few details, as long as those details seem just 'Asian' enough." Read it at The New Yorker.

3. "Burritos, Big Macs, and Beer: How I Binged My Way to Oblivion in College" — The Guardian

Alamy Stock Photo / Via

When you leave home, the only person responsible for you is in fact you. Scaachi Koul, who grew up in a protective household, learned this during her first year of college, a time when even cooking for herself was a challenge. For The Guardian, she writes, "When you’re young, you get your self-worth, your cues on self-care, from the people around you. My mom wrapped me in the most intense and restrictive of parental love. When I left, I had no idea how to provide that same love for myself. I wasn’t sure I deserved it either." Read her piece on self-love at The Guardian.


4. "Why I Don’t Date White Men" — Love, InshAllah

Tanzila Ahmed / Via

When Tanzila Ahmed graduated high school, she did not find Bangladeshi men attractive and was convinced she'd marry a white guy. 10 years after a long-term relationship with a white man, she has not dated one since. For Love, InshAllah, Ahmed explains what it's like to date a white man as a woman of color. "You never really thought of yourself as poor, but in this relationship you suddenly notice how you were raised with less than." Read it at Love, InshAllah.

5. "Leaving Home at 14 Was the Best Thing I Ever Did" — BuzzFeed Ideas

Sian Butcher / Paul Curry / BuzzFeed

From the time she was a little girl, when family friends would tell her stories about life in the West, Anna Neyman has been fascinated by the world around her. That's why she chose to leave home for the United States at 14. An immigrant by choice, Neyman reflects on the past few years of her life. "Does being an immigrant mean, in a way, never being comfortable again for the rest of your life?," she writes in a BuzzFeed Ideas essay. "Always feeling like you need to prove yourself, to show that you’re just as good as the citizens in the country of your current residence?" Read it here.

6. "Growing up Muslim in a Post-9/11 World" — Broadly

Amanda Lanzone / Via

Fariha Roisin does not wear a hijab, nor does she plan on ever wearing one, but she knows the restrictions that have been imposed on Muslims in the years following 9/11. For Broadly, Roisin explains what the hijab represents to her, what she loves about Islam, and what it really means to be free. An excerpt: "With every drone that strikes a child in Pakistan, we refuse to comprehend the roots of Islamic terrorism; with every ban of religious freedom of expression, we tautologically debate the concept of freedom for the West; with every politician's speech that encourages our stance on love, we isolate a religion and a minority by insisting that their practices of their faith are wrong." Read the entire piece at Broadly.

7. "Is Loneliness Really That Bad?" — Dame Magazine

Although the outlook is grim for the chronically lonely, Tal Abbady, who's suffered from this illness her entire life, has discovered a way to cope. "When I was in my early twenties, I considered taking my own life and looked into buying a handgun," she writes in a piece for Dame Magazine. "Overcome by a sense of my own ridiculousness, I went instead for a walk in Central Park ... I had a paperback with me I’d just bought, Dubliners, by James Joyce. I sank into the stories the way one sinks into the kind of unplanned conversation with someone that detonates your small view of the world. There, in those urban lives, were paralysis, loneliness, and a mute grief." In the essay, she ruminates on the benefits of loneliness once one has embraced and conquered it. Read the essay at Dame Magazine.

Susan Cheng is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Susan Cheng at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.