Said Sayrafiezadeh: “Forbidden Fruit”

In this excerpt from his forthcoming memoir about growing up Communist in America, Iranian-American essayist Said Sayrafiezadeh turns a childhood memory of his mother’s grape boycott into a darkly comic, profound meditation on how desire is whetted by prohibition:

In 1973, when I was four years old, César Chávez, president and co-founder of the United Farm Workers, called for a national boycott of iceberg lettuce and table grapes. The Socialist Workers Party, which my mother was a member of, honored the boycott immediately. Under no circumstances, my mother informed me, were iceberg lettuce and grapes permitted in our household any longer….

Even though my mother never once relinquished and allowed grapes to cross the threshold of our apartment, they became a constant, unyielding presence in my life, following me like a shadow. There were political posters about not eating grapes, fliers about not eating grapes, T-shirts about not eating grapes, conversations about not eating grapes. There is a very real possibility that I did not even know what the fruit was until the very moment that it became unavailable to me. I existed in a state of infinite longing that intertwined so tightly with my desire that it was impossible to distinguish one feeling from the other and which set a terrible precedent for me. I was acutely aware that there was something out there in the world that still existed—that was still being enjoyed by other people, even—and that had once belonged to me, but was now forever out of my reach. Desire = longing. All of this culminated in the horrific button my mother made me pin to my jacket, which featured the logo of the United Farm Workers—a stark black eagle with wings spread wide against a blood red background—along with the unequivocal imperative, “Don’t Eat Grapes.” It was not a declaration to the outside world, but a scarlet letter that constantly reminded me of my own sinful desires, which, if I ever managed to quench, would be quenched only through the immiseration of others….

I had become the fox in Aesop’s fable who jumps again and again without success at the dangling bunch of grapes hanging on the branch above him. The rationalization that the fox eventually concocts in order to soothe himself and allay his disappointment is that the grapes themselves are most likely sour and not, in the end, worth his trouble. The conclusion I drew, however, was of a different nature. As the boycott progressed, I began to see what my mother saw: the flaw existed within me. Desire under capitalism—all desire—was a shameful, unwanted condition, and one should never attempt to satisfy their desire, but instead, through heightened consciousness of the world, transcend it, and by so doing rid themselves of it forever.

Read the whole essay on the New York Foundation for the Arts website.

Visit Mr. Sayrafiezadeh’s website here.

2 comments on “Said Sayrafiezadeh: “Forbidden Fruit”

  1. Profit Kmb says:

    Smoke with three initials, paint’s my eyes red.

    As bad writing is alternative drugs do help.

    I drowned politically, Classicaly trained, Piano has a psuedo grasp on the death of my history.

    Breahte and stay alive with knowlege, even if the scariest nightmare is awoken. Your living and your not dead. You are high with cotton mouth and legitimizing intellegience with procrastination, because you can.
    Stop rolling over in you bed, as you watch re-runs of you foavorite worst late night frustrations.
    Read Borges,with an ac’ cent and Chompsky with a Noam and maybe you will find a student in Corvallis attend Linn-Benton Community College in Albany OR understanding the (CCC) High do talk to you, the one with the tongue reading what YOU question as possilby being coincidince. I too am a Poet who would love taking place as a Volunteer because the age Of 21 is not all about fun
    But the concscieness of a carrer which has a resume that can always be enhanced. Tell me what you see when your eyes are on me?
    ANd philosophy with a piano playing peace
    waving Chicano, will Tell you… Well actually ask you: How can you help me spread a message for Alternatives2War?
    Your Mother wants you to answer your calls, and your annoying your friends, Get your life together and admire your blood line- “Kick The Habbit” and End this Endless War!

  2. zhenimsja says:

    Hello, guy! I am absolutely accede to this way of assessment and all of joined.

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