“A Distinctly American Childhood”

An excerpt from Marginal Eyes, Chapter Four:

My dad strapped me to his back and carried me to the top of the Indiana sand dunes; he taught me to play baseball in our backyard; he kept me active at the library and read with me regularly; he drove long hours on our family vacations to see places of national history; he taught me to follow the Golden Rule. Dad earned a lot of our living at a job he didn’t love, made sure I had a healthy lunch to eat each day, helped save up funds for college education, and climbed up a ladder with a sprained ankle to retrieve my kite when I got it stuck in a tree. My dad voted thoughtfully in each election, bought Made in the USA products whenever he could find them, and made a point of helping others at no cost when they needed it. From big to little things, he did a lot that looks like the ideal of an American.

If I don’t say that succinctly, this story won’t be complete. Because, here’s the thing: I had parents who stayed married despite their issues; I lived among good-hearted people; I was given quality education; I always had enough to eat, clean clothing to wear, and a middle-class roof to live under. Nothing is perfect, but many would envy this life and consider it privileged. And it is. It is the American Dream everyone says BIPOC can achieve. Despite all of it, all that two parents in our nation might hope and be promised for their child, by the time my parents raised me with great effort, by the time I graduated high school (with honors to boot), my cold conclusion was that life in the America I knew wasn’t worth living.

How did it come to that?

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