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The Morning: Dasanis story, R. Kelly verdict, new Franzen book

Email sent: Sep 28, 2021 6:20am
Eight years later, The Times revisits a homeless New York child.

Good morning. Eight years later, we revisit the story of Dasani, a fierce and vulnerable child of New York.

Dasani, 20, in Brooklyn this month.Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

High school and beyond

Nine years ago, my colleague Andrea Elliott set out to report a series of stories about what it was like to be a homeless child in New York City. As part of her reporting, she soon met a girl in Brooklyn named Dasani — “a spunky 11-year-old with big dreams and no home,” as Andrea has described her.

The five-part series that The Times published in 2013 turned Dasani into a public figure. Readers donated money to help her. Bill de Blasio, the incoming mayor who promised to reduce income inequality, said, “We can’t let children of this city like Dasani down.” At the 2014 inauguration for de Blasio and other top officials, Dasani held the bible for Letitia James, the new public advocate, who called Dasani “my new BFF.”

This morning, The Times Magazine has published a new story by Andrea that follows Dasani in the years since the spotlight left her. It makes for gripping, and at times difficult, reading.

Much of it is set at the Milton Hershey School, a tuition-free school in Pennsylvania, which the chocolate magnate founded in 1909 to educate poor children. Part of the school’s guiding philosophy is that its students must largely separate themselves from their families to escape poverty, and Dasani struggles with this miserable dilemma. She alternates between excelling and struggling at school, while her mother and siblings back in New York cope with new setbacks of their own.

Dasani in 2013.Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“I felt like I did something wrong,” Dasani said, about leaving home. At night, she misses sleeping in the same bed as her toddler sister, Lee-Lee.

The story ends in the present day — on a worse note than I had hoped as I was reading it and a better one that I had feared. It offers no tidy policy solutions, yet it is as relevant today as Andrea’s series was in 2013. Once again, New York is about to have a new mayor, and the person likely to have the job is vowing to address the enduring problem of homelessness in one of the world’s wealthiest cities.


The Virus
  • The share of Hispanic adults in the U.S. who have received a vaccine surged in recent months to 73 percent — and now exceeds the vaccinated share of white adults (71 percent), according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
  • The share of Black Americans who are vaccinated has also risen significantly, to 70 percent.
  • President Biden got a Pfizer booster shot on camera. “I know it doesn’t look like it, but I am over 65,” he said.
  • They are a small minority, but some health care workers would rather be fired than vaccinated.
Other Big Stories
The singer R. Kelly at his arraignment in Chicago in 2019.Amr Alfiky/Associated Press

Times Opinion asked Andrew Kuo, Michelle Ando and other artists to redesign the American flag. See their new takes on Old Glory.

Social media should be for adults, not children, Ross Douthat argues.

Subscribers make this journalism possible.

Join the readers who support The Times. Subscribe today.



“You never know if there is Covid around. It’s scary,” Lennox Serrano, 16, a high school junior in Waterbury, Conn., said.Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Pandemic High: How one school copes with Covid.

Changing cancer therapies: Chemotherapy is becoming less common.

How it’s made: Inside a roller skate factory.

Varsity Blues: A former Stanford sailing coach spoke to The Times about his role in the college admissions scandal.

A Times classic: 25 Modern Love essays to make you laugh, cringe or cry.

Lives Lived: Frances “Sissy” Farenthold was a liberal force in Texas politics and beyond. She championed racial parity and women’s rights, and her name was placed in nomination for the vice presidency in 1972. She died at 94.


A scene from Final Fantasy VII, projected above the orchestra.Alex Ingram for The New York Times

A grand stage for video game music

At a recent concert in the Royal Albert Hall in London, nearly 6,000 attendees gathered wearing a mix of suits, ties and video game character cosplay. They had come to see an orchestra and choir perform music from Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997.

The music in the first installment of the Final Fantasy series in 1987 was limited to a handful of electronic sounds. But technology evolved, and by the late 1990s, the games featured live orchestral recordings. Nobuo Uematsu, who composed scores for the first nine installments of Final Fantasy, has drawn on influences as varied as Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Celtic music and classical music.

The soundtracks to the Final Fantasy series are enormously popular: Since 2007, there have been more than 200 official concerts across 20 countries. At the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics this summer, some athletes marched to Final Fantasy songs. On YouTube, fans post covers, tutorials and their own compositions.

“There are some melodies I composed almost 30 years ago I’ve almost forgotten,” Junya Nakano, who worked with Uematsu on the score for Final Fantasy’s 10th installment, said. “But fans are still playing them.” — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer


What to Cook
David Malosh for The New York Times

You’ll want to eat this shrimp gratin straight out of the pan.

What to Read

In Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, “Crossroads,” the members of a suburban Chicago family headed by a pastor confront crises of faith and morality.

World Through a Lens

In southern Mexico, Zapotec people have long accepted — and celebrated — gender nonconformity. See stunning portraits of the community.

Late Night
Now Time to Play

The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was empathy. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Peach stone (three letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. After 28 years at The Times, the science writer James Gorman is retiring today.

The Daily” features a conversation with an Afghan general. On “The Ezra Klein Show,” Richard Powers discusses climate change.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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