Before he died, Alex Tizon told the story of his family’s slave

It’s trite to say that author Alex Tizon — a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter — saved his best work as his last work. He didn’t intend to. It just worked out that way. He died in his sleep in March. He was only 57.

He had approached The Atlantic offering to write a story about his immigrant family’s slave, Lola.

“This was his ultimate story,” his wife, Melissa, said. “He was trying to write it for five or six years. He struggled with it. But when he started writing it for The Atlantic, he stopped struggling. He wrote it with such ease.”

On the day that Tizon died, The Atlantic had just made the decision to feature Tizon’s story on the cover of the magazine, which came out today.

You can — and should — read the whole article; there’s no need for me to pull pieces of it here with the exception of this incredible section which documents our ability as humans to be unbelievably inhumane.

One day during the war Lieutenant Tom came home and caught my mother in a lie—something to do with a boy she wasn’t supposed to talk to. Tom, furious, ordered her to “stand at the table.” Mom cowered with Lola in a corner. Then, in a quivering voice, she told her father that Lola would take her punishment. Lola looked at Mom pleadingly, then without a word walked to the dining table and held on to the edge. Tom raised the belt and delivered 12 lashes, punctuating each one with a word. You. Do. Not. Lie. To. Me. You. Do. Not. Lie. To. Me. Lola made no sound.

My mother, in recounting this story late in her life, delighted in the outrageousness of it, her tone seeming to say, Can you believe I did that? When I brought it up with Lola, she asked to hear Mom’s version. She listened intently, eyes lowered, and afterward she looked at me with sadness and said simply, “Yes. It was like that.”

It’s the finest piece of writing you’ll read today, perhaps ever.