Got ya all excited, didn’t I? You thought I had published my picture book, “Because it is Also Your Story” (co-authored with Danna Massad) or my upper middle grade novel, “Amina and the Green Olives.” Actually, neither is published yet, in fact, both are are still seeking representation. And my women’s literary fiction novel, “One Year in Beit Hanina” is still several months away from being a completed first draft.
So why am I announcing my first published book? Because when I was in Pasadena, California this summer, helping my mother move out of her home of 41 years, I found (drum roll) “The Three Fishes.” “The Three Fishes” was my first published book. (Scroll to the end of this post to see it!)
The publisher? Mrs. Paula Rao, a creative, energetic, loving teacher that I had the pleasure of studying with in the first, second and third grades at San Rafael Elementary. She published several of my books, all in hard cover, all with fancy title lettering.
Don’t laugh at my excitement. When you’re seven years old and you don’t know how to write a story (but you also don’t know that you don’t know how to write a story) and a teacher like Paula Rao publishes your book, it matters. You turn a corner. You can imagine yourself as a writer. You can imagine yourself doing anything that you can imagine.
Amidst piles of decades-old memorabilia, I also found a book I wrote that was illustrated by my best friend from those years, Desiree Larsuel (now Rollins). I found another book that I wrote which listed her as editor! I showed the books to Des one night when I took a break from sorting and packing. She laughed and laughed. She remembered those books as clearly as I did. They mattered to her too.
Before the end of the night, Desiree and I (seen in the photo on the left, taken around 1971) were talking about writing a movie, a kind of memoir of our experiences during the early years of integration in Pasadena. You see, my first grade year was the first year of busing — I had attended a segregated kindergarten class in the very same school the year before.
We have many stories yet to tell. Thanks, Mrs. Rao, for helping me to find my voice. I’m using it to give people insight into life in Palestine.