Author in search of identity

I grew into a lost, lonely, empty shell of an adult. I made poor decisions trying to re-create my dysfunctional relationship with my father with other men. I ended up hurting the people who cared about me the most. In the aftermath of all that chaos, I hit rock bottom. But in retrospect it took this level of anguish for me to break free of the hardwired, oppressive chains of my family of origin.

In search of an authorial identity

And I have. Akemi Dawn Bowman, author of Starfish. I felt afraid of the world, and how big it was, and how many times I was bound to get things wrong. And eventually not feeling like I was enough became my own monster. And then my daughter was born, and my world changed. Because she was so much more than enough—she was everything.

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And I was everything to her. And I knew then that I had to break the cycle. Instead, my blond, blue-eyed brother and I would run around the beaches of Mexico, speaking a mix of English and Spanish depending on our company. One summer, I was by the ocean reading when a dark-eyed boy came over and joined me.

Our Mission

In perfectly cultivated English, he introduced himself as Carlos, asked where I was from, and told me he came to the resort every year from Mexico City. He was friendly and had beautiful eyes so when he asked if I wanted to go for a drink I rose and followed. We slipped into the pristine pool, heated from the long day in the Mexican sun, and swam to the submerged stools underneath the palapa bar.

Carlos was over eighteen.

I was not. The bartender, Juan, was a friend of his so I could order whatever I wanted. It came in a cool coconut with a toothpick-spiked cherry. We drifted off the stools, Carlos swigging a Pacifico, me sipping coconut milk foam through a straw. Maybe Juan needs to spike her next drink? I handed the empty coconut to Carlos. I shrugged.

I can see that. My half-ness never bothered me much, though. I felt comfortable in situations I otherwise might not have. We should remember what that feels like. Because we need to try not to prejudge others. Eric Smith, editor of Welcome Home. I can still feel that fall down the hard stairs of my junior high school. I scrambled to my feet, my back against the wall, my nose already bleeding all over my shirt.

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My Mom and Dad sacrificed so much so they could bring me home. I think year-old me almost had a breakthrough that day, but I shut down. Choose your battles, right?

I continued to ignore the jabs, until they stopped in high school. I was driving through Oklahoma wearing half of a jester costume when I found a dog by the side of the road. Four shows a day. Three hundred bucks a week.

Drive the van yourself. We were heading to Tulsa when we found the puppy. Covered in fleas, but very kissy. While we performed, the puppy ate chicken fried steak in the administration office. Then I had to sneak her into the Days Inn inside my backpack. While I checked in our troupe, she kept kicking me. Finding a no kill shelter can be surprisingly difficult, so while Kate and Alex the other actors called around, I gave the puppy a bath and some more food.

I dreamed of never finding a shelter, and having to take the puppy on the road for another two thousand miles. Alex, who played the prince, loved the idea. Eventually, we got the puppy into a humane shelter. We filled out the paperwork, kissed her goodbye.

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The instant we gave her to the shelter lady, the puppy fell asleep. She knew she was safe. We named her Shenandoah after a John Denver song on the radio. Good thing we chose that one, because Alex wanted to name her Monkeyhead. When I was in third grade, I thought I was half-dragon. And when I was in fourth grade, I started reading Animorphs , so I decided I was a half-dragon capable of morphing, too.

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Jessie, like me, was also a half-dragon who could morph. But she was a different type of dragon, which explained our fights. We were frequently bats and biking into the woods, in swimsuits, so we could morph for battle. As you do. Back then, we took stories into our bones. My cousins, siblings, and I had a secret spot in the woods, loosely modeled after the picture book Roxaboxen and middle grade novel Bridge to Terabithia.

What we read we incorporated into our own lives, blurring the line between fiction and reality and wholeheartedly embracing imagination. And when I sleep in the bunk room, I remember sleeping on the top bunk, whispering to my cousins that I was starting to morph. Because of enmity between Hindus and Muslims, my family fled to India during the war before I was born.

This man had commandeered the property, and my Grandfather had died a bitter, cheated man.

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I was here to make peace. I glanced around. Sunlight sparkled on the pond. Mango trees were heavy with fruit. I paused at the threshold. Now I was a stranger from far away. Suddenly, the door flew open, and a circle of women drew me inside, laughing and chatting. I admired sleeping babies and tucked cash under their pillows.