The Long Reads You May Have Missed This Year

Frida Kahlo painting a portrait of Mrs. Jean Wight in San Francisco. (San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library )

Finding yourself with a little spare time in the last days of 2020 and looking for an engrossing story to lose yourself in?

We've curated a selection of the long (and long-ish) KQED reads that you might have missed this year, from delightful diversions to hard-hitting deep-dives. Scroll on to find one that catches your eye.

If you like to hear your stories, too, look for the 🎧 icon that shows which of these long reads also have a podcast version available.

Inside Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's Life in San Francisco 🎧

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived in the studio of sculptor Ralph Stackpole, on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. (Paul A. Juley/Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

When they moved to San Francisco in 1930, the Bay Area provided iconic artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera a place to create and thrive — and in return they gave San Francisco a lasting blueprint for creativity. This long read accompanies the Bay Curious podcast episode on Kahlo and Rivera's time in San Francisco, which was one of the show's most popular episodes this year.

Ethnic Studies: Born in the Bay Area From History's Biggest Student Strike 🎧

Police arrest Black Student Union member John Cleveland during the student strike at San Francisco State College 1968-1969, which resulted in the creation of a College of Ethnic Studies. (Courtesy of San Francisco State University Photographic Timeline Project)

This year, legislation passed requiring all California State University students to take courses in ethnic studies, including African American, Asian American, Latina/Latino and Native American studies. This long read explores how ethnic studies was born from a revolution that began at San Francisco State University in 1968. At the time, the United States was 13 years into the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated and the Black Panther Party was demanding systemic change.

Pandemic Loans Were Meant for Small Businesses. Why Did These Giant Property Firms Get Millions?

Posters calling for a rent strike hang above Brianne Hodson and Ryan Furtkamp at their apartment in Oakland on July 23, 2020. Their apartment building is owned by the property management company Mosser. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The Paycheck Protection Program, passed by Congress in March, was designed to help small businesses avoid layoffs during the pandemic. But some PPP loans went to Bay Area landlords and developers with billions in assets. This in-depth read from August delves into the controversy, and explores the thorny question of who "deserved" a PPP loan.

Proposition 22 Explained: Why Gig Companies Are Spending Huge Money on an Unprecedented Measure

ride-hail driver in Oakland
A ride-hail driver in Oakland In March, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Proposition 22 was passed by California voters in the November election, and the issue was this: Should a handful of companies be allowed to create a new gig contractor category for their workers that doesn’t include employee protections and benefits, like unemployment insurance and workers compensation? This is a comprehensive look at why the measure caused such controversy — and why companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash spent such vast sums on it.

The Little-Known History of Japanese Internment on Angel Island 🎧

Kakuro Shigenaga, 47, photographed and fingerprinted in an identification card. He was among the men who spent time on Angel Island before being sent to a number of inland internment camps. (Courtesy of the Shigenaga family)

Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay draws sightseers and hikers to its picturesque shores but, until very recently, its darker history of Japanese internment history eluded even the island’s park rangers and tour guides. This Bay Curious story reveals how 700 West Coast Japanese residents, mostly from Hawaii, were interned here in the early 1940s, and how one family's own history intertwines with this place's secrets.

The Forgotten Occupation of Catalina Island

The Brown Berets salute at their camp on Catalina Island. (Maria Marquez Sanchez, La Raza photograph collection. Courtesy of UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center)

In August 1972, a Chicano-rights group called the Brown Berets camped out on Catalina Island for four weeks, demanding that its almost 42,000 acres of undeveloped land be turned into housing. This exploration of the movement, which took place just three years after the Occupation of Alcatraz, also contains a wealth of archive photography.

‘A Butterfly With My Wings Cut Off’: A Transgender Asylum Seeker’s Quest to Come to California 🎧

Luna Guzmán left Guatemala four years ago with the goal of reaching California. She had to face violence and sexual harassment while she was detained in a migrant detention center near San Diego and was later infected with COVID-19 while she waited for her asylum process in Tijuana. (Courtest of Luna Guzmán)

More than 85% of U.S. asylum applications from Guatemala are rejected. Trans firefighter Luna Guzmán braved the odds — without a lawyer — but her experience for eight months in a men’s unit radically altered her dreams of obtaining asylum. KQED's The California Report Magazine followed Guzmán's journey for over two years, revealing a story of resilience in the face of detention, prejudice and the hardships of the U.S. immigration courts.

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Even After Care Homes Abandoned Residents, California Still Isn’t Ready for Wildfires

California is getting older faster than the rest of the country and demand for care facilities is rising. Meanwhile, critics say the laws governing emergency preparedness are weak and enforcement is lax. Read how this KQED investigation found thousands of these facilities to be at risk for wildfire.

'How Do We Heal?' Toppling the Myth of Junípero Serra

A bronze figure of the 18th century missionary Junípero Serra stands outside Ventura City Hall, sculpted in 1936 by Uno John Palo Kangas. Indigenous activists say a reckoning with Serra's legacy is long overdue.
A bronze figure of the 18th century missionary Junípero Serra stands outside Ventura City Hall, sculpted in 1936 by Uno John Palo Kangas. Indigenous activists say a reckoning with Serra's legacy is long overdue. (Cbl62/Wikimedia Commons)

On Juneteenth of this year, protesters in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park pulled down a 30-foot bronze statue paying tribute to Junípero Serra, the 18th century Franciscan priest who presided over the colonizing Spanish mission system in California that resulted in the decimation of the Indigenous population. As statues of Serra were being torn down all over California, this long read explores why Indigenous activists say a reckoning with the missionary's legacy is long overdue.

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