Exclusive Amazon.com Q&A with Said Sayrafiezadeh
We caught up with the author of When Skateboards Will Be Free to discuss his present-day perspective, writing influences, and politically charged father.
Has your childhood caused you to embrace or run from politics today?
I have a difficult time thinking for myself when it comes to politics. Considering what my childhood was like I suppose this is a natural consequence. I try to stay up on the news as much as I can but I’m wearied by a lot of it. I’m also uneasy. Especially around election time when my anxiety is inflamed by the extreme urgency of both Democrats and Republicans. As a little boy, politics moved at a feverish pace. According to the Socialist Workers Party the world was always on the verge of total collapse, and it was up to us to do everything in our power to forestall that collapse. So as an adult I try to live above the fray as much as I can. My wife and I recently went to Washington D.C. for a week’s vacation. We took every tour we could: The Supreme Court, the House, the Senate, even the Pentagon. It was fascinating to actually visit these places that I had only ever seen at demonstrations. I found that I had a lot of respect and admiration for our political process. But this was countered by a certain amount of guilt, and, rightly so, reproof at some of the more egregious misrepresentations of American history. I have a curious relationship to my country that I haven’t entirely sorted out yet.
How do you feel about the revolutionary heroes of your youth - Castro and Che, for example - as an adult?
I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I think I always will. Castro, Che, Malcolm X. These were the main revolutionary figures for me when I was a child. I considered them less like heroes and more like family. And I don’t think I’m overstating that. In fact, at times they were more personal to me than my family. Certainly more personal than my father whom I didn’t really get to know until I was eighteen. They acted as stand-ins for him. Even though Che and Malcolm X were already dead by the time I was born, I saw them as living, breathing companions, and I imagined that they were working to rescue me and my mother somehow. I felt comforted by this. Even to this day I cringe when I hear disparaging comments about them. But I’m able to handle criticism about my father.
You recall some very personal memories in this book. Would it have been easier to fictionalize the names and dates and write a debut novel?
Probably. But that’s not what motivated me to write this story. I was driven by a desire to have the truth be known precisely as it had occurred. To fictionalize it would have been an act of cowardice. The Socialist Workers Party has always prided itself on speaking out regardless of the consequences. In many ways I’ve become the ideal party member. That’s the irony.
Who has influenced your writing the most? There is no shortage of eloquent thinkers in your family.
I don’t really know. Perhaps it’s a combination of things. The theatre had a big impact on me, for one. I acted in plays as a child and I was profoundly affected by the experience of dramatizing events. And my uncle, Mark Harris, was a successful author, so I saw that it was something that was possible to do. On the other hand, my mother was consistently frustrated in her desire to be a writer. I would often see her working on short stories or taking classes. She had little or no success, but at least writing was a part of our household. I knew she had other aspirations besides socialist revolution.
How has your father reacted to When Skateboards Will Be Free?
In the fall of 2005, I published an essay in Granta about my childhood, and which ended up becoming the foundation for this book. My father hasn’t spoken to me since then. I’m sure he was offended by what I said about him and the Socialist Workers Party. Maybe he was also mortified about the consequences of his abandonment. I’d like to think so. My father’s still a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party, and his reaction has not been much of a surprise since politics have always trumped family. Which is essentially what my memoir is about. So in some ways my point has been proven.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
It was a cringe worthy revelation to the mind set of the hard core socialist believer. The circular socialist value system the author describes self justifies it's faults and... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Kevin J. Kearney
This is an interesting, but sad account of a fellow who was raised by a would-be socialist revolutionary in the USA. Read morePublished 16 months ago by George R Goodson III
A sad memoir of a boy who grows up with hapless, self absorbed Socialist Workers Party parents. A quick and enjoyable read. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Bonita Morgan
Unlike my brother and sister and even my mother I kept my unpronounceable last name because it was my only connection with my father. Read morePublished 19 months ago by L. bartsch
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found the story captivating and appreciated the wit and insight offered throughout the storyline. Definitely worth the time to read.Published 20 months ago by dawndlee
Sayrafiedzdeh tells a story that is sometimes hard to hear with humor and grace. I would read anything from this writer.Published on February 11, 2013 by marcus
This book presents one young man's experience in growing up with parents who espoused commitment to a far-far-left political party. Read morePublished on May 27, 2012 by Senior Critic
I don't understand the rave reviews for this book. I had to force myself to finish it. We got the point about the uselessness of the Socialist Worker's Party early on but so much... Read morePublished on April 17, 2011 by msdillo
As more than one reviewer has astutely pointed out, despite Sayrafiezadeh's positively Dickensonian childhood, he has emerged as bright new "voice" in the book world--scarred but... Read morePublished on August 14, 2010 by S. Maroney