The Best American Essays Fourth College Edition

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The professors left me the elements to their own success, and all my life I’ve been trying to make my own reaction.

Ultimately, the suction of the vacuum is what sustains my family.

Each year, we issue an open casting call for high school seniors who have dared to address money, work or social class in their college application essays.

From the large pile that arrived this spring, these four — about parents, small business, landscapes and the meaning a single object can convey — stood out.

All the mirrors she’s cleaned could probably stack up to be a minor Philip Johnson skyscraper. The vacuums and the gloves might be, but the work isn’t. She spent countless hours kneeling in the dirt, growing her vegetables with the care that professors advise their protégés, with kindness and proactivity.

Today, the fruits of her labor have been replaced with the suction of her vacuum.

Economic recessions came and went, but my mother returned every Monday, Friday and occasional Sunday.

She spends her days in teal latex gloves, guiding a blue Hoover vacuum over what seems like miles of carpet.

It was there, as a son of immigrants, that I read about a young senator named Barack Obama, the child of an immigrant, aspiring to be the president of the United States.

The life that I saw through their home showed me that an immigrant could succeed in America, too.


Comments The Best American Essays Fourth College Edition

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