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'When Skateboards Will Be Free'

WHEN SKATEBOARDS WILL BE FREE, by Said Sayrafiezadeh. The Dial Press, 287 pp., $22. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Said Sayrafiezadeh led a through-the-looking-glass existence. His estranged parents were members of the Socialist Workers Party who schooled young Said in the evils of capitalism. He was forbidden to eat grapes (the United Farm Workers boycott). When he asked for a skateboard, his mother balked at the $10.99 price tag; skateboards would be free for everyone, she assured him, "once the revolution comes." "I somehow sensed that I was following a peculiar set of rules," Sayrafiezadeh writes in his achingly truthful new memoir, "When Skateboards Will Be Free." "They were, of course, the correct rules, but they had set me in opposition to the rest of the world." Sayrafiezadeh's Iranian-born father walked out when the author was 9 - to "fight for a world socialist revolution" - and Said was raised by his American mother, who deferred her own dreams of being a novelist to volunteer for the Party. The pair drifted through a series of ramshackle apartments, always cluttered with copies of The Militant newspaper. "[My] mother actively, consciously chose not only for us to be poor, but for us to remain poor," he writes. But there is no rancor in this book. Today, Sayrafiezadeh lives in New York, works as a graphic designer at Martha Stewart and shops, with some bewilderment, at places like Bed Bath & Beyond. "Skateboards" is not a pat tale of redemption but an adult's honest reckoning with his peculiar American childhood.

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