French uses the second person here to describe a reporting experience he had in Uzbekistan. This is a “how I got the story” story, in which the narrative consists mainly of the process of reporting. It seems clear that French made the choice to tell how he got the story because it was the most honest way of getting at the experience of the man he was interviewing. The man’s statements were translated from Farsi to Uzbek to Russian to English. We appreciated French’s explication of the translation process. French then records “at least some version of what was originally said.”
French thus skillfully reveals his subjects’ dire position—he witnesses their poverty—and their painful experiences, while acknowledging the barriers to getting the full story. Meanwhile, he invites his readers into his shoes, allowing them to witness the refugees’ suffering in a way that other, more newsy approaches may not have been able to do.
Read “Please Help Me,” by Thomas French