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The purpose of this study is to examine a refugee boy’s experiences with literacy in and out of school in the US. Within these contexts, I explore this youth’s literacy development in light of his identity as a poor Yezidi Kurdish refugee from Iraq. Central to the article are two main themes. The first, life as a scorpion sting, explicates the young man’s life as a refugee, and the difficulties he faces in and out of school. The second theme, reading for mayonnaise, alerts us to the limitations of literacy programs in which unconnected texts and distanced narratives are prominent, and individuals’ real lives are, for the most part, ignored and marginalized even with the presence of exceptional teachers.