A friend posted the below on Facebook today. She’s a multilingual academic with HUGE brains and an even bigger heart. Her post made me think of my mum who was pulled out of school when she was 13 by my grandfather. She went on to raise four university-educated kids, one of whom writes for a living. Despite difficulty with her spelling and writing, she got her degree in her 50s. She’s a voracious reader and last night she stayed up to translate Urdu poetry for me.
All this working class, immigrant parental background stuff is often packaged to suit political, social and personal agendas. I’ve seen it used repeatedly as a humblebrag from people who have succeeded “against the odds”, particularly minorities, in a way that comes across as a desperate need to get mainstream voices to recognise the weight of our achievements. Screw that.
I’ve also seen these kind of histories, deeply personal histories, mentioned as proof that Western-style social mobility and education systems etc “work”. That they undo all the terrible things that we do to ourselves. Here’s the thing though: to the state, the politicians, the individuals (including myself), listen to Leyla when she says “the achievement is not mine.” It’s not yours either.