Today Maria E. Andreu, author of YA novel The Secret Side of Empty, talks with us about secrets, shame, and writing our truths. I hope you’ll enjoy this powerful, inspiring post. I did.
Leave a comment on this post to enter to win a copy of The Secret Side of Empty; it sounds like a fascinating book. (US residents only.)
Where the Light Enters
by Maria E. Andreu, author of The Secret Side of Empty
The wound is the place where the light enters you – Rumi
I’ve had many wounds. That’s why I was so excited when I found out Cheryl would allow me to do a guest post here on her blog. I figured anyone who’s written a book called SCARS understands about wounds, light and what comes after. There are many of us, and we form a sisterhood of sorts, crisscrossing ourselves and the world in search of light we can learn to stand.
I grew up illegal. Illegal isn’t the “correct” word for it anymore, but it’s the word that describes how I felt. I snuck across the Mexican border with my mother at the age of eight. That’s the word my parents would use when I’d hear them whispering about it in the other room. “Somos ilegales,” they would say, as a preface to some other things that bound us. “We’re illegal so we can’t buy a house.” “We’re illegal so she can’t go to public school.” It was a stain, an identity. It was what I was. And I was ashamed.
I didn’t do anything to earn this brand, but I didn’t know that at eight years old. I didn’t know it at fifteen either. I didn’t know it until well past thirty, after I’d spent a third of my life hiding, measuring myself against others and coming up short. The thing that branded me was something that had been decided for me way before I had reached the age of consent or even understanding. But still it made me so desperately wrong. It was my darkest secret, one that not even my best friend knew. Then I got my papers through an amnesty when I was eighteen years old. I did everything I could do bury that part of my past.
But the light is wily. It found me one day as I drove my late-model German sedan on my way from one part of my shiny, put-on life to another. It came in the form of a hate-spewing talk radio guy saying that if we let “these immigrants” stay, they will destroy our country. He made me so furious, talking about “the fact” that immigrants bring diseases and live off the government. In that moment I realized that by keeping quiet I was aiding and abetting him in making his case.
So I began to speak. And write. I had spent a lifetime wishing to be a writer but hadn’t been able to connect somehow. Stories had gotten rejected. Agents had passed on my work. It was because I hadn’t been writing as my whole self, I realized. When I wrote my novel, THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY, about an undocumented immigrant high school senior, I got the first agent I queried, who sold my book in the first round of submissions with multiple offers. The irony was sweet. My broken places had let the light I had most wanted into my life.
So we are scarred, all of us. And we are still wounded, sometimes, still afraid. But when we speak with voices clear and true, we heal a little, and turn our faces to the light. And we shine.