Living with a Skinhead, While Living in My Brown Skin
As an Indonesian adoptee in Sweden, I was alarmed when my new stepbrother started dabbling in white supremacy. I didn’t realize how far it had gone until I was lying in a dark field, getting kicked in the chest with a steel-toed boot.
On this #MemoirMonday (the last before the 2023 Narratively Memoir Prize wraps up!) we’re sharing this finalist for last year’s Narratively Memoir Prize. It’s one of the most moving and revealing stories we’ve ever published. Dive in, and don’t forget to submit your own story to this year’s Narratively Memoir Prize—submissions are open through this Thursday, November 30.
It was right before midnight when I arrived on our street. I kept my eyes on the pavement and sped up my steps, squeezing the keychain in my pocket until the jagged edge dug deep into my palm. I leaped up the three steps that led to our front door. The only light came from a soft-lit teardrop-shaped lamp through our hallway window. The last person home at night was supposed to turn it off. I was almost an hour earlier than when I usually got back on Saturday nights, although I was right on time for my curfew as a 15-year-old. Once inside, I quickly kicked off my muddy tennis shoes and placed them on the shoe rack. I didn’t have to look around to see whose shoes were missing. I already knew. I left the light on. Without removing my jacket, I hurried across the hallway into my room and closed the door behind me.
I stood frozen against the door, waiting to thaw. I locked it. Click. The sound disappeared in the dark. I was alone. I slid my right hand through the thick, coarse, jet-black hair on the back of my head. It was still there, the bulge where my head had hit the ground on a small tree stump earlier. The bump fit like a piece of a puzzle in my cupped hand. I traced my fingers lightly around the area, still hurting — just like it had been for some time now, even before tonight. Before there were steel-toed boots and skinheads. Before my stepbrother Tobias became one of them. I had already felt it all, I just didn’t know how to put words to it. I was Swedish. My skin was brown. Nothing made sense to me.