Ada Calhoun

Billboard Feature: Bobby Shmurda Says, “That Shit Is Bullshit”

Posted in Ada, Freelance by Ada Calhoun on February 13, 2015

bobby-shmurda-2014-justin-hogan-billboard-650Here’s a feature I wrote for Saturday’s Billboard magazine about Bobby Shmurda’s epic rise and fall. I spent some time in East Flatbush with Bobby’s mother and some of his friends. I also read through a lot of transcripts of the alleged gang’s recorded calls, attended their January hearing, and spoke with the mother of the young man they are accused of murdering. Finally, I spoke with Shmurda by phone from jail (a bit of the interview ran as a Q&A a few days ago). Here’s a sample of the story: Shmurda’s roller-coaster rise and fall has given the rap star’s rags-to-riches narrative a 2015 twist: Social media made him famous overnight, but it made him famous for a life he says he was trying to escape. Viral success gave him what he called a “big ticket” out of the hood, but also evidently helped increase the scrutiny of law enforcement. Today, he languishes in jail, unable to make bail — bail set at $2 million, the same amount as his Epic Records contract. Read it online here or download a PDF version here.

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Billboard: Bobby Shmurda Speaks from Jail (Exclusive)

Posted in Freelance, Writing by Ada Calhoun on February 9, 2015


At 10am on Saturday, my phone rang and it was Bobby Shmurda calling from jail. He dispelled the rumors that have circulated since he was arrested on December 17th.

People in there know who you are and know “Hot Boy”?
Yeah, everybody. Every time I walk the halls, I see people and they yell out “Ah Ah!” or something.

Read the rest here. And check out the feature in the Billboard print magazine on February 14.

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St. Marks Is Dead Coming November 2, 2015

Posted in Ada, St. Marks Place, Writing by Ada Calhoun on January 30, 2015

Ada-Calhoun-1976This is a photo of me as a baby with my mother on St. Marks Place and First Avenue in 1976. I have been writing a book about St. Marks Place since approximately that year. The book is now done and with the copyeditor. The miraculous W. W. Norton & Company is publishing it November 2, 2015. Here is the catalog page. Here’s a story the New York Observer ran when the book sold. And here’s a blog post one of my favorite East Village bloggers wrote after I interviewed him for the book. And here’s a little piece I did for The New Yorker online about watching a reënactment of the Tompkins Square Park riots. Preorder the book from Amazon!

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Posted in Freelance by Ada Calhoun on December 4, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 11.08.28 PMThanks to the Alicia Patterson Foundation for funding my reporting this year on new mothers and child welfare or criminal justice interventions. Here’s my latest story for the fellowship, about a woman in California who had her baby removed from her care after she checked out early from the hospital.

Tiffany Langwell was thrilled to find out she was pregnant again at the age of 38. She had two children from her first marriage — a 15-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. After separating from their father, she had reconnected with a high school boyfriend, David Hodek, and they had gotten engaged. In August of this year, their baby girl was born healthy, at 8 pounds, with bright blue eyes and a full head of downy hair. Langwell and Hodek had what they describe as a blissful first night home. The next day, a representative of the child welfare agency in Riverside County, California, took the infant into protective custody. Click here to read the rest of the story at

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Have any great photos of St. Marks Place?

Posted in Ada, St. Marks Place by Ada Calhoun on August 11, 2014

Bowery and St. Marks Place, 1942.


Cool photojournalist Marjory Collins took this photo of St. Marks Place and Third Avenue one midnight in 1942.

Do you have especially awesome photos of St. Marks Place that I should include in my book about the street? If so, please write to me at

Thank you!

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Posted in Ada, Freelance by Ada Calhoun on July 22, 2014

For my second story as an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow, I wrote this story for about H.R. 1091, the Life at Conception Act — what it could mean for women’s legal rights, and what it could mean for its 132 House co-sponsors, most of whom are now running for reelection.

Read the story here. And an interesting epilogue by a Cosmo editor here.

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Posted in Ada, Freelance, St. Marks Place by Ada Calhoun on May 21, 2014

East Village, 1984. Photograph by Steve McCurry/Magnum.

I wrote a story for about watching the filming of a riot reenactment in Tompkins Square Park. It starts:

The first time I saw a riot in Tompkins Square Park, in New York’s East Village, was a hot summer night, in 1988, when I was twelve years old. Growing up on the fifth floor of a St. Marks Place brownstone, I was usually able to sleep through any street noise. But this street noise was exceptional. Actually, it was deafening. There were helicopters, anarchist squatters flinging bottles, even policemen on horseback. Like people all up and down the street, I leaned out the window and watched what looked like the end of the world. The second time I saw a riot in Tompkins Square Park was on a recent Thursday, in May, at the age of thirty-eight… Read the rest here.

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Posted in Ada, Freelance, Writing by Ada Calhoun on May 9, 2014

This year I have a fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation to report on pregnant women and the criminal justice system. Here’s my first story, for “Pregnant on Opiates: When Following Doctors’ Orders Breaks the Law.”

Here’s an excerpt: Pregnant opiate users and addicts say they sometimes hear one thing from health professionals, who may recommend they be put on a maintenance program like Subutex or Suboxone, and another thing from law enforcement or child welfare agents, who may say that mothers who use any drug, even Subutex or Suboxone, should be investigated. This puts many women in the Catch-22 of either trying to go off a drug completely while pregnant, knowing it could result in a miscarriage, or following their doctor’s orders and fearing that their baby could be taken away at birth… Read the whole thing here.

And here are two other stories I’ve written on similar topics: “Mommy Had to Go Away for A While,” for the New York Times Magazine; and “The Rise of DIY Abortions” for The New Republic.

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Happy St. Mark’s Day!

Posted in Ada, St. Marks Place by Ada Calhoun on April 25, 2014


Patron saint of people writing books about St. Marks Place. And notaries. And probably also drunk teenagers. P.S. Here’s a book in which St. Mark’s Day and St. Mark’s Eve figure prominently: The Raven Boys. More YA books should be about corpse roads and prep school boys.



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Haute LEGO Story for T Magazine

Posted in Ada, Freelance by Ada Calhoun on April 8, 2014

13design-arena-lego-slide-N28V-tmagArticleA few months ago, I went to Billund, Denmark, to visit the Lego factory and hang out with some of the people building the fancy Lego House there. It was like a karmic reward for every horrible work trip ever.

Here’s a bit of the story, from the New York Times‘s fashion magazine, T:

One evening at a bar in Billund, about a three-hour drive west of Copenhagen, members of the Lego House design team geek out about the aesthetic perfection of the Lego brick. “The cool thing about it is it’s simultaneously real and abstract,” Brian Yang of BIG says. “So it’s a bridge between your imagination and reality.” Alex Vlack, of New York’s Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA), which is designing the exhibitions for the project, chimes in. “For me, it’s like a paper clip. There’s no way to improve it.”

Read the whole story in the print version this weekend, or online here.

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