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Fiction in response to Reduce Inequalities
October 2018

Study Hard

By Grace Muresan

“Papa?” I looked up at him. “Good luck.” “Don’t you worry ‘bout me, baby,” he said in his trademark deep voice. He crouched down to hug me. I went up the stairs to the bedroom I shared with my three-year-old brother, Jaymore, as Mama said her goodbyes. Little Jaymore had mumbled his goodbyes before me with the English he knew.


I heard her voice through the thin walls: “Noah, don’t you let them stomp you down! They shouldn’t care if you got dark skin because you are more qualified than all of them put together!”

The rest of their conversation was quiet, and I knelt beside my bed and prayed that Papa would get a job. If he did not, we would be evicted and have to move out. Mama said that she knew somebody who would probably let us stay a few weeks, but where would we go after that?

As I heard the door close, I quickly started changing into school clothes. Mama called to me from the stairs. “Ashleigh, are you done yet? Come on, Mama needs to go to the library!”

At school I couldn’t stop wondering what would happen to Papa. Someday would I be in his place, struggling to find work, living off paycheck to paycheck just because of my skin?


When I got home I waited nervously at the dinner table, doing my homework, and expecting bad news. Did Papa get a job? Did he not? Would we have to leave our home? Meanwhile, Mama was out of the house as well. She had gone after walking me home. To where? I had too many questions.

Finally the door blasted open to reveal a disappointed father and a proud mother. At the same time, Mama screamed, “I got a job!” and papa said, “I got rejected.” I looked back and forth between them. “So… will we have to move?” I asked nervously. Papa and I both looked at mama. “Absolutely. We are moving to Houston, Texas!” Her excited shout was replied to by a confused silence. “Why?”

“I got a job in NASA!” she shouted excitedly.


“What’s NASA?” Jaymore mumbled gently, tilting his head and staring into the sky out the window.

“NASA is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. They make rockets that can fly to the moon and back.” Mama said with a delighted tone and exaggerated hand gestures. “I got a job there as an aerospace engineer, and I will earn enough for us to buy our own house after a while!”

Papa looked at her for a while, as if contemplating reality. Then he hugged her and held her tight for a long time.


Mama turned to me and Jaymore. “Children, study hard.”


One month later…

I am now in fourth grade. Jaymore started preschool, and we both study very hard. He is learning to read, and I am learning how to construct sentences. Mama is very smart and has a high paying job at NASA, so despite her race and gender, she will not be easily replaced. Papa works at a nearby auto-repair place. Our family owns our own house now, thanks to both of them. I also have a tip that I will have to remember to tell my kids when I have them: study hard.

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