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Each year, 826LA partners with one Los Angeles public school for the Young Authors’ Book Project (YABP). Volunteers work with students for seven weeks to write pieces around a central theme. In collaboration with students from Alain LeRoy Locke High School, the 2017 YABP publication, When the Moon Is Up, contains stories from young people in South LA, inspired by the 25th anniversary of the 1992 LA Uprisings. The book’s 61 student authors depict the modern lives of youth in stories about responsibility, family, loss, courage, and favorite pairs of sneakers.
Alicia’s “Let Yourself Go”
When I was little I believed life was easy—that I could do whatever I wanted, that I could go everywhere, and that the money came easy. I didn’t care about anything. I just played alone with my toys and watched TV. I was a happy girl. I had good grades, I did my homework, and my teachers always told me that I was a good student. I was always smiling; many people would tell me that I looked pretty smiling, and I made them happy. But something was missing in my life, in myself.
“I was only one when my mother had to go to the United States because she didn’t have enough money to give us a better life, and my father was always working.”
I was only one when my mother had to go to the United States because she didn’t have enough money to give us a better life, and my father was always working. He didn’t live with us since before I was born. My parents had divorced. My mother had to go work on her own to have something to give us. When it was time for my mother to go, it was difficult for my sister and my brother; they were little when my mother made that decision.
When my mother arrived in the United States, she started to work and would send us clothes and toys. Every year when it was my birthday, my mother would call me and tell me that she loved me so much and that maybe one day we would be together. It made me cry because I needed her to be with me. My aunt showed me many pictures of my mother and would tell me that she always worked very hard for us. A lot of people would always tell me that I looked much like my mother. She was skinny, she had long hair, and our eyes were the same.
“Every year when it was my birthday, my mother would call me and tell me that she loved me so much and that maybe one day we would be together.”
I felt empty and alone. I cried when I was without my mother and father. I got angry at them, especially when there were ceremonies at my school; and I always wanted my parents to be there with me, watching me. I was like the other girls. I needed them.
In those years, without the love of my parents, the only thing—the only person—who always made me happy was my sister. She was always with me; she was with me when I graduated from kindergarten, and when they gave certificates for being a good student. I loved her so much; she was my favorite person, and I always did things right because I liked to see her happy. She filled that little empty space that I had inside of me. She was only twelve years old. She couldn’t enjoy her childhood because she needed to be brave for us, her little siblings.
When I came to the United States I was scared because I was going to meet my mother. When I met my mother, I got to see all that she did for us. She would tell me about what she went through because when she arrived to the United States she was alone. She slept on the floor, she did not have enough clothes for herself, and she always gave us more than she gave herself.
“She would tell me about what she went through because when she arrived to the United States she was alone. She slept on the floor, she did not have enough clothes for herself, and she always gave us more than she gave herself.”
Now I don’t care so much about my father, although I missed him very much. He wasn’t with me, even when we were in the same country. He worked every day and that was the reason he couldn’t visit me. Now that I’m with my mother and I see how my stepfather and my mom hug my little brother, I get sad and angry because I didn’t have the love of my parents. Sometimes because of those feelings, I can’t talk with her. Because if I tell her how I feel when I see them giving him their love, I think she’ll get mad or something like that. Those feelings hurt sometimes and I don’t want to hurt them, so I need to keep them inside of me. But I need to accepted the reality that I’m not in my country anymore, I’m not with my family anymore, and I need to let go. I need to start again, enjoy the things I have with my mother, and take advantage of the opportunities I have in front of me.
Every day of my life is a blessing because I have something to eat, to drink, and I still have my family with me; even though some of them are in Guatemala, I’m finally with my mother. Every morning the first person—the first face—that I see is my mother’s. She always wakes me up at 7:00, and she makes me a delicious coffee that smells good. When I have to go to school I give her a big hug and a kiss on her cheek. Sometimes when I wake up I’m scared because I don’t know if I’ll ever see my family in Guatemala again. It’s something that worries me.
“Every morning the first person—the first face—that I see is my mother’s. She always wakes me up at 7:00, and she makes me a delicious coffee that smells good.”
When I come home from school I do my homework and I help my mom clean our house. Sometimes at night when we are together in the living room, my mom and my aunt prepare dinner and we watch a movie, or they talk about their childhood. Those times are my favorite because for a moment we forget about our problems.
Life taught me that I need to value the sacrifices that people make for me; my mother always thought of us first. My aunt stayed up late for us and always helped us with our homework. I sometimes saw how my aunt cried, and I asked myself, “Why is she crying?” She was crying because sometimes she felt like she couldn’t go on anymore. She had to take care of us, and it wasn’t an easy job.
We’ve gone through a lot of difficulties in our lives, but we’ve also enjoyed amazing moments with people who changed our way of thinking and taught us to value what they’ve done for us. I have met a lot of people in my life, many of whom have changed it.
About the Author
Alicia is a ninth grader who is almost at the end of her school year. She isn’t like other girls who like to put a lot of makeup on their faces. She still uses bows and likes to watch the Tinkerbell movie. She is a quiet person and sometimes when she is sad, she prefers to be alone. She always tries to help others and put a happy smile on their faces. Her favorite sport is basketball. She likes to play with her little brother. When she is alone in her house, she puts loud music on and sings while she cleans. At home she does her homework and helps her little brother with his homework. Her favorite color is black. Her favorite food is pupusas. Her goal is to graduate from high school, and her dream is to make her mother happy and to see her brothers again.