I took my kid to Bookpeople Saturday, and he disappeared promptly after we entered the store. I stayed calm and picked up a few titles to peruse in the rocking chair in the kid’s section (my usual post at Bookpeople). These titles included the new Bee Lavender book, Wendy’s book, I’m Not The New Me, a Patricia Highsmith bio in which there’s a photo of her topless (purrrrr…will try to find the photo and post it one day), and a copy of Bitch magazine. Then I went hunting for the cub.
I found him 3 minutes later sitting in a chair and listening to a reading. The authors were a husband and wife team, a writer and illustrator of children’s books about Native American kids and their horses. The husband was drawing a picture of a horse. It looked like a deranged dinosaur. But my son nodded, and whispered, “it looks so cool!” helistened to the author read from her book, and closed his eyes to imagine the scenes.
After the reading, I flipped through my books and my kid flipped through his comics. A few minutes later, he looked up and said, “Why don’t you write a book about us?” “You mean a children’s book about you?” “NO, like, a diary about us?” “Because one day, you’ll be grown up and it’ll make you mad that I wrote about you.” “No way! I want you to write about me. It would be cool. Write about the stuff we do together.”
These days I have been alternatively disheartened and charged up about writing. My friend Alaa, who lives in Cairo, read my novel and loved it. He wrote a post about it in Arabic, which made me cry. While I was writing my book, I was suffering from the “inauthenticity” issue that a lot of Arab Americans go through (“I’m not a real Arab. Who am I writing for?” etc.) Over time, I slowly stopped worrying about people who slung the inauthenticity rock. Most of those people were just voices in my head, anyway.
Still, it’s reassuring to know an Egyptian friend in Cairo liked, and related to, my novel. A real relief.
These things are related somehow, I promise: my kid and the authenticity and the writing and all that. Because I’ve always felt so in between, in all senses of the word, but especially when I start a novel, which I am doing now. I struggle between writing something completelly fictional, and something completely autobiographical. With the first one, I found a good balance. I guess I am having a hard time trusting myself to find that balance again. But I’ve always struggled with the fact that I write things that are semi-autobiographical, or that could be perceived as such, because then it may give others the excuse to pull the rug from under me and expose me as a fraud, because, since I write things that I draw from my real life experiences, I am not a real writer. Or because I am American, I am not Arab. Or because I am Arab, I am not American. Or because I am a single mom, I am not interested in success. This is all simply not true. I am learning to see what is, and repeat it to myself, daily. Lately I have been dreaming that I am riding a bicycle. In my waking life, I am also searching for a good balance.