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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps, and today we have a man with an awkward last name.
ALLAN FUKS: Hi, this is Allan Fuks. My last name is spelled F-U-K-S.
INSKEEP: Yeah. He's the son of Russian immigrants - grew up in the United States, getting a lot of taunting about that last name. He recently talked about the teasing with his middle school classmate Spencer Katzman.
FUKS: No one really called me by my name. I was either the F-word, Dumbo - because I had, like, huge ears - or a combination of the two. It was like I was walking around with an army of hecklers behind me (laughter).
SPENCER KATZMAN: I just feel that there was just kind of this, like, baseline taunting that was always there.
FUKS: Right. Like, how do you remember the first time you saw me?
KATZMAN: You kind of stood out on the first day. You had a Allan gold chain, you know...
KATZMAN: ...Across your chest with a TV anchorman haircut.
FUKS: Ted Koppel haircut.
KATZMAN: And I don't know that I had it in me to stick up for you at that age.
FUKS: (Laughter) No one did. What are you talking about? That's a kamikaze mission. You know, this country is so polarized, but kids of all demographics - they were united in making fun of the last name Fuks. (Laughter) That brought people together. I remember even, like, the kids on the lowest social rung didn't want me sitting at their lunch table. So I would go to the library because I didn't want to sit alone, and I remember I read the entire Holocaust encyclopedia. I recognize now that's kind of dark, but I was such a lonely kid that to have human contact at 12 years old I would call the Nintendo hotline to have someone to talk to me. I remember trying to painfully segue from a conversation about video games into just, like, so how's it going in your life? (Laughter) And he's like what? That's basically my childhood. And then around 16 years old, my parents decided to try a name change. They were like you're pale. You could be Irish. So we threw all these Irish names that started with F into a hat and picked out Finn (ph). And then I went to school, and I was like, hey, guys. I'm no longer the F-word. I'm Finn now. They're like what? What are you talking about?
KATZMAN: I didn't buy it for a second.
FUKS: No one bought it. But, you know, this past year, I decided to go back to Fuks. I just got it into my head that I'm letting the bullies win. And I remember reading about this philosophy of a broken vase that you glue back together and you show proudly because the glue is now part of the art. And I'm hoping to achieve something like that (laughter) in my own life and start gluing the pieces back.
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INSKEEP: Allan Fuks talking with Spencer Katzman in New York City. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress.
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