When I moved to the US, I remember feeling a lot of disappointment.⠀

Everyone had been saying how New York was amazing and how much I’d love it. Once there, there was so much I didn’t understand about the way people lived—and I didn’t understand why so many images in my mind did not match the reality I was seeing.⠀

I went to a small gym studio owned by a Mexican woman and a Peruvian man; everyone there was from Latin America. It was kind of like a family, everyone speaking the same language and yet somehow so removed from the New York I had seen in the movies. Why had I never seen this in the movies?

I heard stories of people who had spent their last 15 years undocumented and therefore unable to go visit their loved ones in the places they had left—Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Mexico. I heard them share ‘tricks’ to obtain a green card; get married to someone and 5 years later, once you had said green card, get a divorce to be able to marry your actual significant other.

Last weekend I picked up The Sun Is Also a Star, a book by Nicola Yoon at the Foreign Language Bookstore here in Shanghai. It starts with the story of Natasha who’s in her last high school year in NYC and supposed to be deported ‘back’ to Jamaica with her family, a country she left when she was 8.

Inside me, there was a sigh of relief when I read the first pages of the book. I can’t believe it took me so long, so many romance novels, to get to one that tells a story similar to the ones I heard during my time in New York.

Today I read Natasha and Daniel fall in love and I thought about all the people and the places that make me feel home. I cried a little thinking about my fellow humans who have to struggle a billion times harder than me to feel safe in their own homes, in their own communities. Why does it have to be so hard?

What are you currently reading? How are books helping you process your human experience? Share it below or write to ely@ebsnotebook.com.

About the Author

Ely Bakouche

I'm Ely, pronounced Ellie, or /eli/ if you speak phonetics. I'm the writer behind EB's Notebook, a multilingual place off the noisy world of the internet dedicated to curiosity, questioning, and calm. My toolbox for thinking includes language, rest and savasanas, dancing, reading, discussing, and traveling. I'm also the magazine editor at shutupandyoga.com, where we bring critical thinking into the yoga space.

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