Issue No. 18 | Rites of Passage


The only constant is change, as the saying goes, so just embrace it. But there are moments when transitions don’t happen gradually—when the shifts are more precipitous than piecemeal, destabilizing rather than clarifying. This month we’re looking at all manner of life passages, both the warmly anticipated and the unexpected, and some of the traditions that surround them. Anchored by The View From Here, a powerful documentary series from filmmaker Scott Z. Burns involving frank conversations about death, the issue also includes stories such as cartoonist Mimi Pond’s comedic take on confronting menopause; photographer Samantha Cabrera Friend’s look at the modern quinceañera; and a report from writer Jen Doll on the world of Phish fans, some of whom are now sharing the quasi-religious noodling experience with a new generation—namely, their own kids.


Jill Soloway: Checking the Third Box

The writer and director says they can’t wait for the day when new gender norms empower “a class of people who identify as other.”

Maiden Voyage

On a quinceañera cruise, more than 40 young women and 600 of their friends and family members celebrate dozens of 15th birthdays at the same time.

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Death Over Dinner

Listen in as a group of strangers tries to answer the questions about death that most of us are too afraid to ask.

The Death Disrupters

These six people are trying to make dying in America better—for both the living and the dead.

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The View From Here

Five terminally ill people offer testimonies about life, faith, love, and fear from a place where death is imminent.

‘We Live in the Shadow of Our Mortality’

A look at what it took to make the documentary series The View from Here, about what it’s really like to be terminally ill.

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What Doctors Know About CPR

On TV, a few pushes on their chest is enough to bring someone back to life. The truth is more complicated.

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Comfort Foods

What we eat at funerals can be a symbol for the departed, a balm in hard times, or a reminder that eating means we are still alive.

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Life Lessons From the School of Phish

A teenage ritual comes of age.

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Rites of Passage Mixtape

Five short films about traditions and transitions, in which familiar events have unusual outcomes.

When the Menopause Carnival Comes to Town

Want to feel like your body and mind are suddenly on fire? Step right up.

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Off Topic

Dove Actually

The radiant white homing pigeons who get rented out for weddings and funerals alike, and the man who loves them.

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About the Cover: Rites of Passage

The cover artist for Topic’s December 2018 issue takes her cues from nostalgia and a timeless image: the life cycle of a flower.

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