Our 34 Best Stories Of 2017

Did your favorite make the cut?

When we set out to select our 17 best stories of 2017, we didn't expect it to be quite the Sisyphean task it turned out to be. We'll admit it, we're big readers — given the choice between a novella or a Tolstoy-esque tome, we'll take the lot and devour them both. 

17, we realized in the end, is too limiting to capture all that was interesting and hopeful in 2017.

So we elected to broaden the list of stories to 34. If you like, you can read (or watch) 17 now and 17 in 2018. Or, if you're at all like us and you can't seem to choose, bookmark them one by one to consume in a single afternoon.

Trust us — they'll be worth your while.

Jason George Has Faced Discrimination. Here's How He's Fighting For Diversity Now.

"Television fans will recognize Jason George as an actor who has been a staple on shows from Sunset Beach in 1997 — a role that earned him a Daytime Emmy nomination — to Shonda Rhimes' beloved hit Grey's Anatomy — which really landed him on the primetime map. But what you might not know about George is the work he does off camera to help bolster diversity on the small screen as chair of SAG-AFTRA's diversity advisory committee for the last 15 years."

Everyone's Talking About Cryptocurrency's Price. But What About Its Purpose?

"'Imagine you had a magical piece of paper that a bunch of different people all over the world have, and you can write whatever you want to write on the piece of paper,' Gutterman said. 'But at the same time, whatever you wrote would show up on everyone else's piece of paper. You can add to it, but you can't erase anything. You can't change it, and you can trust completely that everyone has the same piece of paper showing the same truth on it. What would you put on this piece of paper?'"

This Couple Created The World's Most Viral Video. Now They Want You To Get 'A Little Radical.'

"It took one day for Kony 2012 to hit one million views. On Facebook, the video was shared by 11 million people. The film raised awareness of the conflict but was also criticized for its simplification of a complicated issue and a lack of focus on its victims. The film put Invisible Children under a microscope and the Russells personally in front of a firing squad of Facebook comments and long-form think pieces."

Courtesy Jason and Danica Russell.
Courtesy Jason and Danica Russell.

The Korean Adoptee Who Accidentally Reunited With His Birth Mother

"Though Walsh had not been actively seeking members of his birth family, an unexpected journey led him to them anyway. In the summer of 2008, he began dating a Korean woman he'd met in the States. When her six-month visa ran out, he decided to visit her in Korea where he randomly came across Holt Adoption agency —  the agency he had been adopted through."

What Veterans In Congress Can Teach Their Colleagues, According To Tammy Duckworth

"While I was a patient, Sen. Obama asked me to testify in front of the Veterans' Affairs committee, and at the end of about nine or 10 months, I got a call from Sen. Durbin, who said, 'You need to run for office. If you really want to advocate for veterans, we need you to run for Congress so you can talk about these issues and help write the legislation to change these laws.' And that's how I got into politics."

Meet Corban Addison, The Man Fighting For The People Who Make Your Favorite Clothes

"For production to be that cheap, something's gotta give, such as cutting corners when it comes to factory safety conditions. One of the most staggering consequence of this came when fires broke out in factories outside Dhaka, Bangladesh. Addison recounted a particularly harrowing story from those he interviewed who survived the 2012 Tazreen Fashion factory fire. Many had jumped out of the top levels of the building, 'choosing gravity [or permanent disabilities] over the flames.'"

Ashton Kutcher: I'm A Gun Owner, And This Is The Next Step To Address Gun Violence

"Even after having kids, I felt more inclined to own a gun out of a desire to protect them. But let's also acknowledge where we are: this country has a huge problem, an epidemic of gun violence we have to address. We are in a position where we have two bad choices. Either we stay the course and continue to live in the world we're living in now — where what happened in Las Vegas is the norm — or we take a half measure and make some progress."

This Couple Is Pregnant At The Same Time, And Their Due Dates Are Just 3 Weeks Apart

"Most couples try to sympathize with what their partner is going through while pregnant. But married couple Toby Fleischman and Lindsay Lanciault can actually empathize — because they're both pregnant at the same time. They're due less than three weeks apart and are calling their babies 'twinblings.'"

Courtesy of Toby Fleischman
Courtesy of Toby Fleischman

2 Sock-Obsessed Guys Found A Way To Give Millions Of Socks To The Homeless

"On any given night in New York City, there's up to 60,000 people sleeping on the streets. When entrepreneurs Randy Goldberg and David Heath learned that socks are the number one requested clothing item in homeless shelters, they decided to do something about it."

Zoe Lister-Jones Talks New Film 'Band Aid,' And What It's Like Having An All-Female Crew

"'There is an inexplicable magic that happens when women are alone together. I'm at a stage in my life where it's more and more rare that this happens because so many people are coupled up, have children and families, and you're oftentimes socializing with your partners. Whenever I socialize with women exclusively it's a really beautiful thing, and I thought in the context of making art it could be really interesting and exciting and nurturing.'"

Born With HIV, She Was Expected To Only Live A Month — Until Her Adoptive Parents Saved Her

"It took more than 200 phone calls to prospective adoptive families before Ashley Rose Murphy, now 19, found hers. Born with HIV, Murphy lived with her birth parents for the first two weeks of her life before she became sick and was transferred to foster care. While staying with her foster caretaker, she went into cardiac arrest and was medically induced into a three and a half month coma."

One Photographer Aims To Capture The Diversity Of Muslims Across All 50 States

"Carlos Khalil Guzman is on a mission: the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based photographer has made it his goal to dispel the stereotypes of the Muslim community in America, one state at a time. By photographing subjects from each state across the country who identify as Muslim, Guzman is showing firsthand how vastly diverse the community is through his photo series, Muslims of America."

The Make-A-Wish Kid Helping Thousands This Holiday Season

"On Friday, Dec. 8, eighth grader AJ Sylvestri delivered a record number of letters to Santa — but not because he wanted a record number of gifts. Instead, he undertook the mission because Macy's promised to donate $2 for every letter received to the Make-A-Wish Foundation on 'National Believe Day.'"

Katie Ward / A Plus
Katie Ward / A Plus

Heart Gallery NYC Uses Photography To Help Kids Find Their Forever Homes

"On any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In New York, there are over 25,000 foster children waiting to find their forever homes. Children and teens enter the foster care system because they have been neglected, abused, or their parents or guardians are unable to care for them for one reason or another. Many of the kids in the foster care system bounce from one home to the next and some are even separated from their siblings. But what these children need are permanent, loving adoptive families."

What It's Like Being An Out And Gay Country Artist In 2017

"For those of you who don't know, it's 2017 and the country music genre is finding itself more open to and accepting of the LGBTQ community. Most people outside of this world think this particular style of music is full of ultra-religious and ultra-conservative stars, and fans closed off from anything deemed different or other. But, come to find out, that is far from the reality."

Connie Britton Shares Why It's So Important For Women To Maintain Their Heart Health

"Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States? February is American Heart Month, and in an effort to raise awareness for heart disease, we spoke with actress Connie Britton to help open up a conversation about what women can do to maintain a healthy heart."

Nancy Meyers Talks 'Home Again' And Being A Woman In Hollywood In The '80s Vs. Today

"I always think when there's a huge breakout movie written and directed or just directed by a woman you think, "OK, things are gonna change." But, honestly, at this point at my age, I can tell you I haven't seen enormous changes. I really haven't. There's some changes and it's a little better. But has it gotten better to the point where there is a parity between men and women filmmakers? No, not at all. Not at all."

How India Did What The World Said It Couldn't

"In 2009, India reported more polio cases than any other country. Health experts said it would be the last country to be polio-free, if it ever was. They were wrong."

What It Means To Live A Trash-Free Lifestyle, According To Lauren Singer

"Five years ago, Lauren Singer decided to live a zero-waste lifestyle. Since then, the 26-year-old has accumulated just a mason jar's worth of trash.  'I was always talking about sustainability,' Singer tells me on a hot day in Brooklyn... 'I was protesting against the oil and gas industry, but I was using plastic every day and that didn't make any sense.'"

A Plus
A Plus

What It's Like To Be A Man Struggling With An Eating Disorder

"Eating disorders are gender neutral, but as they more commonly affect women, they are unfortunately discussed as solely "female issues." This conversation, however, largely leaves out the 10 million American men who suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder."

At This Brooklyn Cafe, It's Brunch, Then Life-Changing Culinary Classes

"Every Friday, Emma's Torch trainees are in the kitchen prepping for the weekend brunch service. They are baking corn muffins, and they are removing the skin from tomatoes for shakshuka. At the same time, they are learning knife skills, managing time in a kitchen and practicing skills they would learn if they were attending culinary school. All of this is overseen by Licona, who is equal parts head chef and head English teacher."

Michael Ausiello Talks Hope, Dark Humor, And His New Memoir

"Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello, had us laughing and crying and sometimes hoping for an ending that showed Ausiello had tricked us with that title. The memoir by the TVLine creator chronicles the relationship between Ausiello and his husband Kit over the course of Kit's 11-month battle with cancer.

'In many ways, the hope and then the loss of hope, that is just as hard as his death at the end of the book," Ausiello told A Plus. 'It takes a lot of courage to be hopeful in a hopeless situation, and then to have the rug pulled out from under you, it's hard.'"

How One Chicago Spoken Word Artist Turned Tragedy Into A Movement For Change

"When Dianna Tyler — better known as Goddess Warrior — agreed to meet me and discuss her resistance art of spoken word poetry, it seemed like the perfect place to hear her story. Her vibrancy shined in the tranquility of the conservatory as she explained to me the reasons she got involved in spoken word. Dianna speaks to resist violence not only in the Chicago communities but violence in the home. She humbly recalls the tragedy that led her to the path of inspiring others with her voice. How she stood in the pathway, just like many, of gunshots. However, this was in a room where the intended bullet was meant for her mom ... from her father."

Students Gave A New Jersey Social Studies Teacher The Surprise Of Her Life

"Stephanie Rivera is an eighth grade social studies teacher at South Orange Middle School in New Jersey. But to her students, she is so much more than that. To show their appreciation, her students teamed up with A Plus to give Rivera a surprise thank you for being such a positive role model and inspiration."

How Do We Keep People From Reincarceration? One Organization Thinks It's Cracked The Code.

"Richard Norat was 9 years old the first time he was incarcerated. He ended up in a notorious juvenile center in the Bronx known as Spofford, which was shut down in 2011 after reports of abuse and fights amongst the children. Not long after being imprisoned, he and a group of kids pulled off a Hollywood-esque escape by cutting through mesh wire windows and descending down a sheet to freedom. And then he was homeless."

Photo: The Doe Fund
Photo: The Doe Fund

From Misfortune To Marriage: The Couple Who Met Because Of 9/11

"It's difficult to imagine the September 11 tragedy having any silver linings, but if one exists, it is the love between Brielle Saracini and Sean McGuire. The two met in seventh grade at Camp Better Days, a sleepaway summer camp for children who experienced significant losses on September 11."

Meet The Model Challenging Stereotypes By Walking In Both Male And Female Shows

"Most models are revered for their looks before people consider anything else about them — like their hard work, perseverance, or interests. But the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Rain Dove is 'activism.'"

5 Things I Learned About Giving Back After Starting A Nonprofit

"Last year, my friend, Kydee Williams, and I started a nonprofit project because we wanted to do charity differently. We both had history in philanthropy and community service, but felt like there was more we could do. Us being native New Yorkers and having grown up witnessing the city's homeless epidemic on a daily basis, we were especially drawn to homelessness alleviation. Thus, The Pop-Up Care Shop (TPUCS) was born."

The Truth About Pink Ribbon Products — And What You Can Do To Make A Real Impact

"We've all come to recognize pink ribbons as a symbol for breast cancer. We see the ribbon on yogurt containers, makeup, sporting good products, T-shirts, tote bags, pinned to people's uniforms, and more. These items are supposed to help raise awareness about the disease, but they may not be doing as much good as one might think."

How Open Style Lab Fosters Innovation In Adaptive Wear Design

"Imagine struggling to button a shirt when Parkinson's disease is causing your hands to shake. Can you picture trying to put on a coat without assistance when both your arms are paralyzed?... So many of us take for granted our access to clothes we are able to wear and feel good in, but approximately 40 million Americans who live with a disability don't experience such a luxury. This portion of the population is so often overlooked by those in the fashion world that it can be near-impossible to find clothing options that meet their needs, and are both stylish and affordable."

Courtesy of Open Style Lab
Courtesy of Open Style Lab

An Aid Worker Ran Through ISIS Gunfire To Save A Little Girl

"Eubank said he had a thought, a feeling, a message from God that he should give up the FBR way and come help these people. FBR began their work in February of 2015, did two trips into Syria from Iraq in 2016, started working with Iraqi forces in November of 2016, and have been involved — giving aid, treating the wounded, or fighting — in almost every major battle in Mosul over the last nine months. And now, piles of rubble and ISIS gunfire stood between the FBR and innocent Iraqi civilians who needed help."

How One Beauty Brand Is Breaking The Cycle Of Poverty By Empowering Thousands Of Women

"For Richelieu Dennis, the CEO of Sundial Brands — a skin care and hair care manufacturer — starting a company began as a way to make ends meet. Now, he uses his purpose-driven business model to break the cycle of poverty all over the world — and it's working."

Meet The Couple Tying The Knot In 24 Countries For Reasons Beyond Love

"Artists and romantic partners Fleur Pierets and Julian P. Boom are getting married ... 24 times ... in 24 countries. It's all part of the duo, together known as JF. Pierets', performance art piece '22' — a collaboration celebrating the countries that have legalized gay marriage — that's been in the making since the first day they met."

Gabrielle Union Has A Clear Vision Of What The Future Should Look Like

"The Being Mary Jane star said she is doing her 'damnedest' to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table and, if needed, blow up the table. As for the gatekeepers, she thinks maybe it's time for them to retire so we can get new ones. Heck, it's her belief that we shouldn't even have those gates in the first place. Maybe it's time to let everyone in and not keep anyone out."

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