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Cognoscenti's Top 21 Stories In 2019

Highlights from the year that was on Cognoscenti: asthma Peak Week, the case for co-housing, the ongoing impeachment inquiry, a visit to Auschwitz and the college admissions scandal.
Highlights from the year that was on Cognoscenti: asthma Peak Week, the case for co-housing, the ongoing impeachment inquiry, a visit to Auschwitz and the college admissions scandal.

We published nearly 450 pieces this year on everything from the college admissions scandal to cohousing.

We also paid close attention to issues driving the news cycle, running stories about the ongoing impeachment inquiry, climate change, immigration and the #MeToo movement. And we did our best to showcase what readers have come to expect of Cognoscenti -- essays and commentaries with a personal connection that make you think.

So, here are our top 20 stories this year. This list reflects the pieces that attracted the most readers, but also took up the most space in our hearts and brains. (We couldn’t include all that we wanted, so for more, check out #BestOfCog2019 on Twitter and Facebook.)

With thanks to our contributors for sharing your words and ideas; and our readers, for sharing this space with us every day.

Our 10 Most-Read Stories Of 2019

1. My Wife Died Of An Asthma Attack. If She'd Known About 'Peak Week,' She Might Have Survived

The third week of September is dangerous for asthma sufferers. It's when germs and allergens come together to make breathing particularly difficult. If only Peter DeMarco's wife Laura had known.

2. 'They' Is Here To Stay. Get Over It

My 12-year-old is now using "they" pronouns, writes Jane Roper. So far, people have been very supportive. But many also add, with varying degrees of consternation, that they just have trouble with the fact that "they" is a plural.

Twelve-year-old, Elsa (pictured), is now using "they" pronouns, writes Jane Roper. (Courtesy)
Twelve-year-old, Elsa (pictured), is now using "they" pronouns, writes Jane Roper. (Courtesy)

3. The Case For Cohousing: Where Responsibilities Are Shared And Life Is A Little Less Lonely

I live in a cohousing community, writes Ben Brock Johnson, and not only is it far from weird, I think it should be a lot more common. It’s like living amidst a brain trust, a flash mob, a grounds crew and a therapy group.

4. Visit Auschwitz For The Questions That Follow You Home

The horrors  of the camp build up inside you until your soul becomes as toxically saturated as a seabird gasping in an oil spill, writes Janna Malamud Smith.

5. I’m A Doctor Who Sent 2,000 Texts To My Patients Last Year. Here’s Why

I received as many texts from patients and their parents, writes pediatrician Clement Bottino. They've sent pictures of rashes, swollen gums, family pets and funeral programs.

6. My Mother's Secrets

The author's mother, out for ice cream on Mother's Day, in 2010. (Courtesy)
The author's mother, out for ice cream on Mother's Day, in 2010. (Courtesy)

"I found a Hallmark card written to me, expressing her love," writes Tracy Strauss. "My mother had wanted to reconcile with me. She’d tried, but failed."

7. The Other Atrocity In The College Admissions Scandal: Bad Parenting

"The wealthy parents who allegedly paid bribes for college admission," writes Joanna Weiss, "delivered shameless lessons to their elite children: The rules don’t apply to you."

8. At Life's End, The Gift Of Intimacy

Even in the last days and weeks of life, there are opportunities for intimacy, for affirmation and for love, writes Dr. Ashwini Bapat.

9. My Response To The Woman Who Told Me To 'Go Back'

Four days after Trump's racist attacks against four congresswomen, Kanwar Singh was in Boston’s Downtown Crossing, when a woman yelled, "Go back to your country!"

10. It's Time To Impeach Donald Trump

Congress must fulfill its oath to the people, writes Steve Almond in this piece from January 2019, even if the president won’t.

11 More Favorites From Your Cog Editors

1. In Praise Of Old Friendships

"[W]e’ve seen each other through bad boyfriends and some decent ones, through marriages and miscarriages, through parenting joys and some challenges that would make even the most resilient woman swoon," writes Julie Wittes Schlack, in this story about old friends.

2. Trump Is Bad. Barr Is Worse

"In this administration, the DOJ is where accusations against the president go to die," writes retired federal judge Nancy Gertner.

3. When Climate Change Comes Home 

This video project was inspired by Frederick Hewett's original essay, about the fate of Boston's beloved Charles River.

4. This Is The Only Jeffrey Epstein Conspiracy Theory That Holds Water

"There is a conspiracy, but it is against victims of sexual violence," writes Leigh Gilmore. "Courts, educational institutions, corporations, religious institutions, politicians and sports organizations routinely fail girls and women."

5. We Can End Boston's Transportation Nightmare

"We don't have to put up with our failing transportation system," writes Miles Howard. "Let’s vote out elected officials who fail to prioritize transportation."

6. 'Just Ethel': What My Grandmother, Who Was Much More Than A Domestic Worker, Taught Me About Black Patriotism

The author's grandmother, Ethel, pictured in 1974. She was 55 years old. (Courtesy)
The author's grandmother, Ethel, pictured in 1974. She was 55 years old. (Courtesy)

In the face of discriminatory policies and exploitative practices, waving the American flag can feel dishonest. Other times, writes Kellie Carter Jackson, it can also feel like hope. This piece was inspired by The 1619 Project at The New York Times.

7. It's Time To End The Stigma Around Infertility. Our Newest Federal Judge Won't Help

In December, the U.S. Senate confirmed a judge who has said that IVF and surrogacy have “grave effects on society.” If Sarah Pitlyk had her way, writes Cloe Axelson (one of Cog's editors), I wouldn't have been able to bear children.

8. Hang On, Sen. Warren — Joe Biden Is Going To Mansplain That To You

Biden's most enduring gift on Tuesday night, writes Joanna Weiss — in her analysis of the fourth Democratic presidential debate — was a spontaneous moment that underscored Warren’s ability to think on her feet and lob a serious clap-back when warranted.

9. Meghan Markle Is Not OK, And That’s OK

"Something is very wrong with a world in which so many mothers, responsible for creating, giving, and sustaining life, are not OK," writes Sara Petersen. "Something is even more wrong with the fact that this question, of whether or not mothers are OK, is so rarely given serious consideration."

10. If You Must Think Of Lynching, Think Of This

National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the new memorial is opening to honor thousands of people killed in racist lynchings on Sunday, April 22, 2018, in Montgomery, Ala. (Brynn Anderson/AP)
National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the new memorial is opening to honor thousands of people killed in racist lynchings on Sunday, April 22, 2018, in Montgomery, Ala. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

"Think of Mary Turner, who was 8-months pregnant when she was torn apart by a mob in 1918. Think of Claude McKay and his 1922 poem, 'The Lynching.' Think of James Byrd Jr., tied to a truck and dragged to death in 1998."

"This is the history that should come to mind when 'lynching' is invoked," writes Jabari Asim.

11. I'm Only 12, But I'm Paying Attention To The 2020 Presidential Race

Josie Almond was 12 when she wrote this piece (she's now 13). "Over the past year, younger citizens have proved they can take the lead when it comes to political activism," she writes.

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Cloe Axelson Twitter Editor, Cognoscenti
Cloe Axelson is an editor of WBUR’s opinion page, Cognoscenti.

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Frannie Carr Toth Twitter Editor, Cognoscenti
Frannie Carr Toth is the editor of WBUR's opinion page, Cognoscenti.

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