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Necessity for American History This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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At 52 years old, my grandmother, Ida, went to study at Truman College. After spending 50 years living in Russia, jumping from job to job, working as a Morse code signaler and interpreter on a boat, and raising my mom as a single mother, she decided to try her luck at beauty school.

Like the stereotypical, Eastern European immigrant, she’d dyed her hair a shade somewhere between platinum blonde and finished-wood red. She figured that since she could cut her own hair, she could do the same to another person’s hair. She didn’t even need to speak comprehensible English.

Ida walked to Truman College in the unkempt area of Chicago to take her beauty school entrance test, for which she had studied for nearly as much as her citizenship exam. In fact, my grandmother and great grandmother, Polya, prepared long and hard to become American citizens. Ida devised a system for Polya; they memorized the last letter of each question and matched it with the correct first letter of the answer. Anyway, the effort that went into becoming an American citizen was extraordinary.

So she sat for her beauty school entrance assessment and felt increasing confidence in her responses. The following day, Ida schlepped back to Truman College to find out which direction her life in America would take. She waited patiently to receive her test scores and then stepped up to find out if she would attend beauty school.

“’I’m sorry’ they told me,” recalls Ida, twenty years later. “’You did very well but your scores for the American history section were not good enough’,” she cracks up. “So I went into child development because you don’t need American history for that!”



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