Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 4, 2009

When Skateboards Will be Free

Filed under: anti-Communism,literature — louisproyect @ 1:55 pm

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh’s When Skateboards Will Be Free
by Louis Proyect
Book Review

Sayrafiezadeh, Saïd: When Skateboards Will Be Free, Dial Press, March 2009, ISBN 978-0-385-34068-7, 287 pages, $22.

(Swans – May 4, 2009) When Skateboards Will Be Free is a memoir by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh about growing up with parents who were devoted members of the Socialist Workers Party. The mother is Martha Harris, a Jew who finally leaves the party at the end of the book. The father is an Iranian math professor named Mahmoud Sayrafiezadeh, who remained a member and broke with his son over the memoir. Saïd never became a member, a fact that does not stand in the way of him devoting 287 pages to an angry denunciation of the party.

Martha and Mahmoud not only forced their political beliefs on their son but were responsible for him living in poverty. The title of the memoir derives from an incident that took place over the purchase of a skateboard that she deemed too dear at $10.99. She consoled him with the assurance that “Once the revolution comes, everyone will have a skateboard, because all skateboards will be free.” Their poverty was a result of the father abandoning the family when Saïd was 9 months old plus his mother’s refusal to get better jobs, despite her college education.

One can certainly understand why The New York Times and The Washington Post raved about this memoir. For the price, you get two books in one. It is a neo-Dickensian tale of childhood deprivation with the young Saïd begging for a skateboard rather than more gruel. It is also a melodrama inspired by those 1950s Red Scare movies like My Son John but turned upside down. Now it is the son (Saïd) who is the good American and the mom and dad ruthless fanatics.

full: http://www.swans.com/library/art15/lproy54.html


  1. Good review.

    It would be interesting to search for his surviving family members and verify the truth of the more outlandish stories. I personally smell bullshit, as i said in the other thread.

    As you point out, the only interest of the book is the fact that his parents are socialists, otherwise i don’t think anyone would publish a book about someone’s socially embarrassing or wierd parents. In the UK, there has been a sub-genre of books of people writing in great detail (too much even, since there appeared sequels of the most successful ones) about being abused as children. Probably in the US too, but i wouldn’t know. So, this one, given the “understatement of the incident” of child molestation as the NYT says, could never compete in sheer ghoulishness.

    Comment by Antonis — May 4, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

  2. Nice blog about book reviews.

    Comment by roykeane — May 6, 2009 @ 4:06 am

  3. This book has been chosen for the BBC Radio 4 morning program Book of the Week for the week starting 24th August 2009


    Comment by NollaigO — August 24, 2009 @ 9:04 am

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