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Why Does Your Hair Grow Like That? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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You are eight years old and have no idea what is going on. You know you are going somewhere and that it's for the best. At least, that's what it seemed like at the going-away party. They told you that you are headed to a place where the electricity never goes out. You are excited as you give your dad one last kiss. You are going to New York City.

Step into a world that you only imagined. No matter how many times you ask your mother to take you back to that place you called home she always says “No.” Even if you yell, “Odio este lugar, me volvere loca.”

You start school two weeks later. Walk into the third-grade classroom. When they ask you your name, proclaim, “No speak English.” Pray to God they don't roll over laughing.

Back home you were constantly showered with compliments about how light your skin is. Now you look like burned meat among a plate of delicacies. It's hard to be someone who sticks out like a sore thumb. You are the only Hispanic in your third-grade class, in a school where the population is 90 percent Polish. Immediately rush to a quiet corner. Say nothing. A wrong pronunciation can lead to hours of mockery.

Rip out your heart and replace it with an ice cube, small and cold. Pay no mind to the rude comments. They don't realize that you can understand a language before you speak it. Maybe you can speak it, but are afraid of being ridiculed. Hold back tears as the “pretty” blond girl with blue eyes asks, “Why does your hair grow like that?”

Discover that the building that looks like a house and is located a block away from school isn't really a house. It's a library. Realize as you walk in that it is the only place that has felt like home in months. Discover your addiction to the smell of books. When you read in silence nobody makes fun of you. Fill your mind with knowledge as you turn the last page of Nancy Drew. Wish you were in Narnia or attended Hogwarts.

After months of being called “Hey You” by the light-skinned people, finally proclaim, “My name is not Hey You, my name is Oelania.” Stand in silence and observe as they laugh at your name. Four months ago you would have cried but now, no te importa.

Your efforts will get you transferred to the advanced fifth-grade class. When the teachers say you have a natural talent, say “Thank you” in English. The knowledge you gained from books will take your hand and lead you from the empty corner to the top of the world. Get to high school and be recommended for AP Composition. In that class you will get an assignment. That assignment will be an essay. You will write that essay, in English.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

ImagineBelieveHope said...
Mar. 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm:
This was truly AMAZING. I had the same experience when i was in first grade, because we had just moved here from india when i was 1...and i didn't learn english till i was like 5....on the first day of preschool, a girl came up to me and asked why my skin was a pancake color. i replied, "Because i'm sweet."
 
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MsFerraez said...
Feb. 5, 2011 at 1:56 pm:
What a positive, motivational message! We cannot always control prejudice and mockery, especially amongst children... but for you to be able to be so strong and future-minded... I think you can serve as a role model for many. 
 
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LucifersAngel said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm:
I love this too! I think it's really amazing, being hispanic myself. Truly an inspiring story :] Keep writing, it's beautiful.
 
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Julia P. said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 4:08 am:

This is awesome. I am Polish myself, and we are indeed rather fair-skinned:) I'm sorry about what had happened to you and how these kids treated you. Your English is great too, you could become a writer.

I used to feel weird in front of 'real Americans' when I was younger, too, but I gained some self-confidence.

What you wrote is very inspiring. Thank you:)

 
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oelania said...
Jan. 5, 2009 at 11:12 pm:
awwwwww u guys really liked it n kathii u really did go online to read my article wow. thanks teenink publishing this for me really did help out alot
 
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wingedgirl4eva said...
Dec. 30, 2008 at 11:02 pm:
That is awesome Oelania! You inspired me! Great job, and keep up the awesme effort and great writing! Most of all, never be ashamed of who you are or where you come from. That is what makes yo who you are.
 
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GORGEOU5Z said...
Sept. 16, 2008 at 3:09 am:
i love this article !!!
 
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