Was It a Story of Love or Exploitation? It Was Both, and More

Longreads

Reality is always ambiguous, and that is something stories do not want to be.

In real life, people are riddled with conflicting motives, emotions, and ideas. We can both love and hate our families with equal intensity. We can make choices not for one reason, but for a multitude of reasons, sometimes in opposition to each other. Our identities are inevitably, and infinitely, hyphenated.

Stories, by their nature, tend to resist ambiguity. A story is a kind of model of the world, a map rather than the terrain, and therefore they tend toward simplification. This is especially true in journalism, which in its most basic form asks “what happened?” with the expectation that there will be a single, knowable answer.

In his final story, the late journalist Alex Tizon tried to tell a story as full of ambiguity as any. “My Family’s Slave” ran on the cover of…

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