As with most autofiction it’s hard to tell how much of this is straight-up memoir. I found it fascinating, because it directly confronts so many of the issues currently showing up in headlines today. But perhaps it feels timely1 simply because these issues have always been with us: who gets to be American, to participate fully in its society?
It was hard not to think about the Biden administration’s student debt forgiveness plan when reading the following passage:
Debt had value? Yes. Like any loan, debt generated a regular payment, and that payment, the simple fact of it—depending on how reliably it was expected to be made—could be sold. But who would want to buy it? Big money. And the bigger the money, the more urgent the need to find a lucrative parking place, a spot you could put all that cash and watch it grow.
Or this, about how money has become the center of American political and social life:
The market had seeped into our language; we sought upside and minimized our exposure and worried about the best investment of our sweat equity. Even suffrage was monetized, true political power lying not in the ballot box but in one’s capacity to write a check. We were now customers first and foremost, not citizens, and to buy was our privileged act.
Customers, not citizens—I feel that so deeply when I look at how public goods are constantly being eroded to make space for expensive, less equitably-distributed alternatives.
I felt a particular chill reading the long passage where the narrator and his aunt discuss Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, just days after Rushdie had been attacked onstage. ↩︎