Chapter One, page 16
include a fair amount of information about my family. Page by page,
in handwriting that I recognized as that of my grammar-school teachers, my
record revealed every detail of my life.
Father won’t let her become a Pioneer, my first-grade teacher had written. Mother takes an extreme interest in the child, even sitting in class to learn modern mathematical concepts. She has a sixth-grade education from the years before the revolution, the teacher went on.
Child likes to read, wrote my second-grade teacher, a man who used to give me books about the Vietnam War as rewards for my good grades.
She is precocious. She shows potential but won’t participate much in political activities, wrote my third-grade teacher. She has relatives in the United States, and the family regularly communicates with them.
This student still goes to church, wrote Tania.
Excellent grades but needs to become more involved in revolutionary activities, wrote my sixth-grade teacher.
By the end of the report, I was holding the notebook away from my face so my tears wouldn’t stain the pages. Now I knew why I had not been picked for the school of my choice. I’d never really had a chance. Mercifully, I was alone in the house. I didn’t want my parents to conclude that their ideology was hindering my education. I slipped the notebook back into the plastic envelope, slowly pushed the staple through the holes, and, with the back of the knife, pressed it closed.
Sometime later that year, the president of the block committee approached my father one day at dusk, just as he was coming home with a bagful of potatoes he had purchased from a farmer, a forbidden transaction then. When are you going to join us? she asked him, eyeing the illegal potatoes. My father froze in place. He knew that she could call the police right there, but he hoped she wouldn’t. After all, he had been buying food on the black market for years, and so far no one had said anything. This time was different, though. He could sense it. The president of the block committee was upset because ours was the only one in the neighborhood that did not have 100 percent participation. And