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We caught Feldman, 26, a former public-radio reporter and producer, and a newcomer to narrative, en route home this week to her native Portland, Ore. We chatted first by phone and then by . Because for evangelicals, God speaks to you as loud as a loudspeaker. A new magazine out of Oklahoma, This Land , invited me down to do a religion story of my choice.

So I had a talk with the editor, Michael Mason. It was covered on The Daily Show. This year Inhofe is having his own Christmas parade in South Tulsa, the evangelical side of town. There has to be something bad going on that I need to figure out. I tend to do stories about the nexus of youth, sex, and power. Okay, I think we have a story idea for you. Yeah, Josh Kline , one of the contributing editors, grew up at the church and went to school there.

He and his buddies had sleepovers with Aaron and played videogames together. Then Michael Mason, the founder and editor of This Land , he also has a Grace background but of a different generation. His mom had taught there, he went to middle school there.

So between the two of them, they knew that whole world. My sense was that they were angry about it. They also felt they needed someone on the outside to do this story — someone who would be able to approach it fresh. At one point, the contributing editor was ased to the story before me. Josh, the contributing editor, tried to do the Grace story at first, but it hit too close to home for him. He had all this emotional baggage tied up with everything. Josh put me in touch with that first victim, whose story I ended up weaving throughout the piece. A lot of things fell into place in a roundabout way.

So I asked him to see if any of his friends were willing to tell me about that period. So that first phone call with This Land was last June. I was really taken with the story and immediately obsessed with it. Right away, I felt like it was mine and was meant for me. So that was in late June. That story was two years in the works, off and on. It was basically my first big real post-college feature story, and I was very happy to see it make a pretty big stink. The prospect of immersing myself in evangelicalism was really appealing after swimming in the muck of ethnic nationalism.

I also worried about being a one-trick pony. I wanted to look at the long-term effects of sexual violence. There was the challenge of needing to work my way into an insular community. Plus I just have a deep love of public records and that feeling of going on a treasure hunt through stuff nobody else cares about. The Grace story brought everything together: the trauma reporting, the court records, the thousands of s of testimony and primary documents, the kind of archival nerd-out that I really enjoy.

It was like being told that my child was being put up for adoption without my permission. This has been a part of my emotional landscape for the entire summer and early fall! I re-watched Silkwood like it was homework. I talked with a college friend from Tulsa who could catch me up to speed on the culture. But that was a different ball of wax because he did not share my newfound sense of Tulsa being this exotic wonderful place.

I do this thing where I overcompensate for my lack of experience in very useful ways. I always feel out of my league. So for the trauma reporting part, I read all the how-to literature I possibly could. The long arm of Grace is really, to me, why this story matters. So I was wrestling with how to make the story larger than that. The original timeline of the story was very, very different. When I ask permission to file long, I mean it.

I just kept filing longer and longer — I think my first draft was 8, and that still had whole sections just outlined. I have this whole neuroses surrounding the idea that no one was gonna read this story because it was too long. Even up to last week, when it came out, I had emotionally braced myself to be okay with things if no one read the story except for people in Oklahoma, and my mom. By the way, my mom was my No. She commented on at least five drafts. As a pediatrician with abuse specialty, she was my in-house expert — the main member of my braintrust.

Like I was wasting my time or being self-indulgent, writing that much. So the timeline itself was 1, words. In 8, words? I also read her book, The Only Girl in the Car. I still wonder if I should have structured my Grace story like his ultra-Orthodox story: like a survivor-ability-survivor sandwich. She was making a case for nuance and due process.

And oh my gosh! Kristen Lombardi , of course. There was her work on the Catholic church sex-abuse scandal. Same deal, very important for me to read her Center for Public Integrity work about campus sexual assault. She laid out all of the structural problems while telling the stories of rape survivors who were willing and able to speak out. It was heartbreaking and infuriating to read. I stayed up all night several nights in a row finally reading In Cold Blood. I found it to be a totally gripping and ultimately heartless book.

Capote is an aesthete who thinks murder is fabulously ugly and beautiful — something to be studied if not admired on a formal level. The human dimension of murder is absent, as if the slaughtered family were just a prop to tell the story of how the murderers did it. Which might explain why he invented scenes and dialogue. The first phone calls I started making were in late October.

I really felt strongly that I needed to become fluent in the culture of Grace Church. What was it like to grow up in that church, what kind of worldview did it try to impart, what was it like to be there at the time? I started with Josh, my colleague from the magazine, and his sister, and heard about growing up in the church.

Then I started working on the lawyers for the boys. I had a of mothers of different boys who had relayed that they really wanted to talk; they felt like they never got their say or they wanted to talk for whatever reason. I just said: I have to respect their wishes.

Oh gosh what did I call that mother? I think I called her Julie —. No reputable publications will publish names of sexual assault victims, especially, especially, especially if it happened to minors unless the victims themselves are totally gung-ho about being identified. For the whole time I was working on the story he really wanted to be named. I want them to fully understand what participation means. Josh and I got pretty close through the reporting of the story. They felt it would bring yet more community retribution and shaming.

And they were scared of being sued. The two parents of the other victims were also just terrified of getting sued. In Tulsa the main industries are oil, manufacturing, aerospace and churches.

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