Welcome to the Examined Family! It’s a weekly newsletter for people who get all twisted up inside about the brokenness of the world, and wonder how to actually live in it, loving and humble, but brave as hell.

I’m Courtney Martin, an author (most recently, Learning in Public), podcast host (Slate’s How To! with Carvell Wallace and The Wise Unknown from PRX), and co-founder of many an organization, like FRESH Speakers and the Solutions Journalism Network. I also love weird, small projects and the electric slide.

The title of this newsletter is a twist on “the examined life,” which is what my favorite professor in college (shout out Dennis Dalton, one of the most dedicated commenters in this community!) told me was worth living (he stole it from Plato). The family part is because I’m a mother. Parenting comes with a whole new raft of questions and that’s part of what I’m yammering on about here much of the time.

These are the ones that made me a mom. Stella is usually way more into life than this.

Thank goddess I’m not doing it alone. The only thing more White and patriarchal and, well, annoying than being angst-ridden is thinking you’re going to solve moral quandaries all by your triumphant lonesome, so we do it as a community here. The comment section is lit! The community is wise and engaged! Nuance is encouraged. Disagreement is enlivening.

I send an essay every Wednesday and Q&As with interesting people on sporadic Fridays to everyone, and on Sundays I send along five endorsements for my paid subscribers.

So subscribe.

Pay if you can. It’s a way of honoring the labor I put into this space, the way I care after our community, respond to comments, try to be thoughtful and fresh. If you can’t, who cares? I’m excited to learn from you just the same.

FWIW, I give a percentage of my subscriber revenue to every person I profile in my Q&As—a little experiment in redistribution.

This is what I look like when I’m not covered in kids and instead sitting in the courtyard of my cohousing community and laughing at something my friend and collaborator Wendy MacNaughton said and then she says, “You look so pretty, I’m taking a picture.”

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figuring out how to be and raise ethical, joyful humans in beautiful, horrible times


author of Learning in Public, co-founder of @freshspeakers & @soljourno, momma, electric slider, lover, fighter