Sunday, November 16, 2014

Disliking Gravy: A Friendship

"Madam, I've been looking for a person who disliked gravy all my life; let us swear eternal friendship."
-Sydney Smith

This is the story of a friendship.

Owl spent last year at journalism school. She was absolute pants at it. Columbia has some mysterious definition of an ideal journalism school student. Owl never managed to figure out what exactly it was, except that she wasn’t it. She read too much fiction; she’s all about emotional truths; and talking to strangers upsets her.

She was also pants at making friends with her fellow classmates. They were well-informed, well-dressed, and well-spoken. In contrast Owl was two-steps behind on the gossip mill, never combed her hair, and was, you know, awkward. Owl felt like a beached whale attempting to frolic with seagulls. Often she wondered what she was doing at journalism school. 

In the spring Owl scored a place in book writing class. Book writing class, Owl had heard, was THE class. You apply by proposing a book topic (memoir not allowed) and if you get in, you spend a semester pegging away at a book proposal. The professor puts the living fear of God into his students. Book writing class is like going through the forges of hell. You get burned, you come out stronger, and afterwards nothing can destroy you. The gift you leave with is the conviction that you will write a book, so help you God. 

Owl stumbled across Shep in the dining hall of her dorm after the first bone shaking class. Owl recognized him from class: he’d seemed unusually serene while Owl wanted to be sick all over the table. But, they were both half-Chinese and both living in the same dorm. Owl figured this was enough grounds for a friendship and plunked herself down next to Shep. Then she started wailing. Her book was a memoir masquerading as a social history of Asian immigration and she had a nasty feeling she was going to get booted out of class if she admitted she wanted to nix the Asian immigration part and just write a memoir.

By contrast Shep had everything under control. His book proposal was about an imprisoned Chinese Democracy activist. He’d stumbled upon the family at a rally during his first semester of school. He’d already gotten the story on a radio show and had interviewed most of the immediate family. Shep was wearing a button down shirt, had his hair slicked back, and had accessorized with a newspaper or four. (Owl would soon learn this was a typical Shep uniform.) Shep was doing the two year journalism school track instead of the one year so he could pick up a side degree in computer science. In other words, Shep was everything Owl should have been.

Shep had very little sympathy with memoir writing and Owl's wailing. He wanted to know why Owl couldn’t suck it up and write a history of Asian immigration. Owl managed not to thump him. She’s noble like that. (Very noble. Shep requested the nickname Shep because he thinks his spirit animal is a majestic German Shepard. Owl is privately of the opinion a grumpy beagle would be more accurate.)

Somehow they agreed to edit each other’s essays before class on Monday. When she handed Shep her essay, Owl wanted to disappear. She’d written a piece about her father. It was a small, quiet essay that skated horribly close to being memoir instead of some glorious reporting odyssey.  

When Shep finished reading, he put it down and choked. “I can’t believe I got into the class when you can write like that,” he said. Owl sat a little straighter. She was still terrified of class, but she walked in the next day, comforted in the knowledge that someone thought she had value.

Editing became a Sunday night tradition. Shep would lecture Owl on being a better journalist and clean up her erratic punctuation. Owl would rip apart Shep’s structure and attempt to psychoanalyze him which met with varying results. They never stabbed each other with pens which is a victory. A lot of times editing turned into meandering conversations featuring serious gossip, the strange loneliness of growing up a little bit different, and country music. (Shep spent time in Kentucky which warped his musical taste.)

And somehow this became a friendship. Most of Owl’s friendships are built on the easy outpouring of emotions. Listen, share, validate, rinse, repeat. Not this one. If it’s after 2:00am Shep will occasionally share about his emotions. He shuts up rapidly if Owl is too validating and gets cranky when Owl tries to couch criticism in compliments. “Stop sugar coating everything,” he told her. He means it. Shep has told Owl off for being un-American, reading fiction instead of the news, and having no journalistic instincts. They squabble.  

But they have each other’s backs in a way that Owl’s never quite seen before. Every Sunday night before book writing class Owl edited and re-edited Shep’s drafts on-call. The night before the Columbia career fair, when Owl was hyperventilating about being useless and unemployable, Shep sat down and tutored Owl on spinning her resume. Then he handed her a stack of his old newspapers and subscribed her to his weekly media round up. Owl walked out of the career fair with two internship offers. 

Later, when Owl got stuck on a story during her internship, Shep was there with angle suggestions and sources. And still later, Shep passed on freelance opportunities and job tips. When Shep gives Owl a compliment she believes it. Shep doesn’t deal in fluff.

And then Owl got hired and moved to San Francisco. And she wondered what happens to the strange alchemy of friendship when you up and away. Can you still be friends when the structure the friendship rests on fades away? Owl has friendships that are based entirely on conversation, she’s capable of spending six hours on the phone with her friends, and once pulled an eight hour conversation with her boyfriend, but she and Shep are more about sticking up for each other when life gets hairy than serious soul spilling ad infinitum. 

Owl moved. Owl messaged Shep about having no friends. Shep arranged for her to hang out with a friend of his and called to ask how it went. Owl gave Shep the down low on his lineup of professors and told him he absolutely would get a job when he was having a bad day. 

Last week Owl was attending a tech conference and peacefully scribbling down notes during her lunch break when she got a text from Shep. My life is so hard, it said. Attached was an invite to the National Book Awards. Shep had been invited by the president of the dorm, because that’s typical Shep. The text message exchange went something like this:

Owl: …I’m sorry, excuse me, WHAT?
Shep: I have class at the same time. 
Owl: Ursula Le Guin. Louise Gluck. Mark Strand. Marilynne Robinson. URSULA LE GUIN. FORGET CLASS.
Shep:  Who?
Owl: If you don’t go, I will gut you and eat your entrails. I’ll go. I’ll pretend to be you.
Shep: Okay, okay.
Owl: Can I come as your plus one? I’ll carry your tux tails and everything. Seriously, I’d fly from San Francisco.
Shep: Okay, if it means that much to you. Let me ask. 

Ten minutes later Owl’s invite was confirmed. 

 Friendship: when you move across the country but the essentials stay the same.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Motorbike That Didn't

When Owl was offered a Fulbright to teach in Malaysia for a year, she came up with a list of lofty personal goals and one very concrete one. Learn to drive a motorbike. She lusted after a motorbike. As a child, when Owl visited her cousins in India, they plopped her on the back of a motorbike and drove her up and down dark green hills. 

During orientation Fulbright officials explained the lay of the land. Everyone would be sent off to their towns and there local teachers would help them get settled and buy motorbikes, which were the cheapest way to get around.  

On the best of days Owl is an unsteady driver and has shit coordination on a bike, but no matter. Owl was going to learn to drive a motorbike. She pictured herself zooming across Malaysia on weekends, and becoming a road warrior. She was going to be such a badass.

Then Owl arrived at town and realized that it wasn’t going to be all that easy to materialize dreams of badassery. Owl’s mentor winced when Owl brought up a motorbike.

“Motorbikes are dangerous,” Owl’s mentor said. “I understand you need transportation…how about a car?”

Owl could not precisely afford a car. Also she had her heart set on a motorbike. She asked other teachers for help, each fobbed her off on someone else. Most said they drove cars, others redirected Owl back to her mentor. Everyone ended with a story about how dangerous the roads were. Finally, Owl’s mentor pointed her to a teacher who had a scooter for loan. 

Every week Owl went over to the teacher and asked about the scooter. Every week the teacher smiled at her and said something about waiting. It was a delightfully sweet interaction, Owl clearing her throat because she was nervous about being a pest, the teacher all apologetic froth. 

Meanwhile, Owl tried to picture herself on a motorbike and got more and more nervous. She heard stories about students who ended up in accidents. Owl herself tended to daydream when she was behind the steering wheel of a car. What if Owl got into an accident? 

And while Owl’s town wasn’t exactly walkable, Owl could make do. There was a small strip of stores within walking distance. Owl could figure out basic food and laundry. For anything else, well, it’s good to practice living a simple life, right?

On spring vacation to Laos, Owl convinced her friend Peter to teach her to motorbike. [Peter’s motorbike story was comparatively simple. He arrived at school. Teachers brought him shopping for a bike and gave him some lessons.] 

Owl clambered onto the bike. Owl’s shit balance kicked in, the bike wobbled, Owl revved up the bike, shot forward and nearly knocked over a backpacker.

“You almost killed me,” the woman screamed. “Stay off of those.”

“I think we better end lessons,” Peter mumbled. It took Owl’s girlfriends glaring at Peter and talking about strong independent women to get the lessons started again. This time Peter sat on the back. Owl’s girlfriends cheered and clapped as Owl wobbled around a street corner. 

“You aren’t bad,” Peter said. “With some practice you could learn to drive this thing.”

Owl went back to school and continued her campaign for a bike. The teacher with the scooter was even more apologetic than usual. She was busy, she said. Her mother had cancer.

Cancer! How could Owl be selfishly pestering someone about motorbikes when there was cancer afoot? She decided to wait a few weeks.

Shortly afterwards, Peter swung by Owl’s town to take her to a friend’s English camp. On the way they crashed into a pole and tumbled off, splattering against the road. They were lucky: they were wearing helmets and thick clothing. They walked away with no more than a few bruises. Still, Peter still has the scars and it would be a full year before Owl was able to run or walk without limping. Lesson learned: motorbikes are dangerous.

When Owl came back to school with a bloodied arm and knee, her mentor looked her over.
“I told you to stay away from motorbikes,” she said and stalked off. She did not speak to Owl for the rest of the day. It was up to Owl to figure out where the doctor’s office was, walk over, and get treatment. For weeks Owl figured if she got into a second accident she’d rather get smashed up and shipped home in a box than face her mentor and explain she’d been riding motorbikes again. She promptly gave up her campaign for a motorbike.

 In flat comparison, Peter was given the day off and a teacher took him to the doctor’s office to be patched up. 

Owl grew during her year in Malaysia. She walked places. Every weekend she wrote up a list of whatever she needed that couldn’t be procured on foot. She befriended a taxi driver who took her to the bus station every week so Owl could go out of town. They practiced speaking Malaysian together. Owl had the bus time tables and routes memorized.  

Owl got by. During Ramadan when everything was closed during daytime and Owl was too tired to walk to the restaurants and shops when they opened at night, she lost some weight. C’est la vie. 

During her last night in Malaysia, Owl went to dinner with the teachers at her school. Owl was fairly pleased with her year. She’d crossed off her list of goals plus a few more, she was sad to say goodbye, but excited to go home. The conversation swung towards next year’s Fulbrighter who would be replacing Owl. All anybody knew was he was male.

 “Ah, we’ve got to see about getting him a motorbike,” one of the teachers said. “He’ll need to get around. I’ll have to take him to the shops.” 

Owl ate a disgusting amount of dinner to soothe her feelings.

To cap off the end of the year, there was a closing ceremony where all the Fulbright grantees gathered to discuss how the year had went. Transportation came up as a point of contention. A lot of the females in the program said it had taken them a long time to get a motorbike, if they had managed to get one at all. The boys mostly talked about how they’d been taken to the shops immediately.

Everyone was tired. Everyone was somewhat out of temper with each other. It had been a long hard year full of routine failures, small victories and homesickness. Emotions ran high.

A Fulbrighter got up. He was the pull yourself up by the bootstraps type, and he’d bought a sick beast of a motorbike.  “I don’t get it,” he said. “Why couldn’t you all just cut through the bullshit and walk into a store and buy a motorbike by yourself?” 

Owl was filled with a deep shame that somehow it had never occurred to her to find the motorbike shop, walk in, spend roughly $500-$800 on a vehicle she didn’t know how to drive in a foreign country and get it back to her house without any help. Weak indeed.

If Owl could do it over again she wishes someone had sat her down and said: you deserve a motorbike but the cards are stacked against you. Fight. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s too dangerous, and don’t let anyone shame you for fighting. Fight like a motherfucker because this isn’t a fair game and there’s no way you’re winning unless you put in everything you’ve got. Don’t stop until you get what you want.

Owl lost that fight. She wonders how many other fights she’s lost because the cards were stacked against her and she didn’t realize.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Saving Time: Momo by Michael Ende

Owl is at journalism school.

J-school is hard.

There are days when Owl rolls out of bed at 8:00, appears at class from 9:00 until noon conducts an interview during lunch hour, sits through lecture until 6:00 pm, conducts another interview, types everything up and submits before midnight. She eats breakfast on the elevator, lunch on the train, and dinner at her desk. 

Actually this is most days.

J-school is challenging

The work is a delightful. It is a privilege to be out on the street collecting stories, and writing them up, but the work rolls on and on. If an assignment is finished, it could be done better, if it is done better, then there are hundreds of extra gold stars to work on collecting for the resume, because journalism, ah, me, my, it doesn’t have many jobs. But does it have a job for Owl?

What if she works very very hard?

One of Owl’s college friends got engaged and it was a solid week before Owl was able to call her in congratulations. Even then, Owl had to cut the call short so she could attend lecture. Afterwards Owl wondered how she could justify the hour spent on the phone call to her professor or her resume. Improved communication skills? Networking? 

Owl’s parents came to visit one weekend and were startled by the transformation.

Let’s go eat things, her mother suggested.

Owl snapped that she didn’t have the time.

What would you like to do? her father asked.

Work, Owl muttered and went on a tirade about how everyone wanted something from her and there weren’t enough hours in a day. 

Then she burst into tears, and wondered why no one understood why working was more important than eating things.

Daily Owl struggles. She asks herself who she wants to be. The person who calls her friends or the person who has a job? Can one ever justify writing off work to call a friend? Can one ever justify writing off friends to work? What is the proper balance? How do you attain it?

Sometimes the struggle boils down to a different question, one Owl has no answer for: who am I becoming?

Today, Owl behaved disgracefully.

She slept in.

She did laundry.

She ate lunch.

And as she ate, she read Momo, a children’s book by Michael Ende.

In Momo, Ende winds the clock back to childhood, back to a world where the protagonist, Momo, lives in a ruined amphitheater and spends her days listening to her friends tell stories.

And then the Men in Gray arrive. They carry suitcases and puff cigars and convince everyone to save time.  What, they ask, is the point of sitting around doing nothing? Why waste time talking with your friends? Spend your time making money, or don’t spend it at all. 

Listen to their siren song:

The first question to consider, pursued the man in gray, “is how much your friends really gain from the fact of your existence. Are you any practical use to them? No. Do you help them to get on in the world, make more money, make something of their lives? No again….You may not realize it Momo, but you harm your friends by simply being here. …Is that what you call love?

And like that, Momo’s world falls apart, replaced by a new reality where people run around wearing suits, making money, talking far too fast, and children play with expensive toys wondering if their parents have stopped loving them because they no longer play with them.

Michael Ende writes fantasy. Glorious fantasy where children are heroes and heroes go on quests to save the world, and in the end all is well in the world.

So Ende, because he can, trots in a magic tortoise with answers written on her shell, and the tortoise's help Momo restores the world back to its proper order. She (spoilers, sorry) destroys the Men in Grey and all is well again. The world is restored to a place where time is an endless fountain to be spent on the people you love best in the world. 

(Ende, very conveniently, doesn’t talk too much about what Momo eats.)

But Owl? 

Owl set down the book, utterly charmed, determined to carve out a new reality for herself, and found eight hours of homework, a stack of internship and job application, and a pile of unanswered emails and phone calls from her friends waiting for her.

What do I do? she wailed to Ende (because talking to writers is this totally normal actvity Owl engages in).
Destroy the men in grey, he said. Destroy the system.

How? she asked.

She's still waiting for an answer.

Or a magic tortoise.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

We Are All Naked Before Poetry

Owl wrote this last April for National Poetry Month. And then decided to put it on the back burner. And then revised it in October but had the irking feeling that poetry was not appropriate for the month of ghosts and candy so she decided to bin the entire thing. Only, well, it's National Poetry Month again and Owl has the strange yen to talk poetry.

(And to post partial nudie pictures of herself. Poetry does that.)

It’s National Poetry month, the month where people pretend they care about poetry. They dust off the same fifty or sixty shopworn poems by the same thirty or forty poets. Then, come May they trot the poems back up to the attic where they belong. For heaven’s sake, the last time Owl went to a bookstore, she saw that the poetry shelf had been downsized to make room for paranormal romance. 

Owl is cranky. Poetry makes Owl cranky.

Every so often a well-intentioned soul will ask Owl if she writes poetry. Owl will inflate, insulted, and huff, Absolutely not. When pressed, Owl admits she may have written one or two poems but that is entirely not her fault, they were homework assignments.

When people tell her they are poets, she edges away because it might be catching. She both loves and loathes the person who can stand up and say in all seriousness, I am a poet.

Mario Vargas Llosa describes fiction as a reverse strip tease where the writer “goes through the motions of getting dressed, hiding the nudity in which he began under heavy, multicolored articles of clothing conjured up out of his imagination.”

Poetry is just a strip tease. It’s all about the truth, and like strip teases there are two options. Either the audience is completely enchanted and there is no need to say anything more, or the audience is…not enchanted. The less said here the better because everyone’s trying to self-oblivate. The intimacy of poetry makes it vulnerable to such failure.

Owl is not a risk taker. Owl prefers the safer middle ground of fiction, where you can write everything off as an untruth or harmless entertainment. But poetry? Poetry has to be about the truth, raw, naked, glistening. Owl does not have the guts for this.

This is completely at odds with the fact that one of Owl’s all time favorite college professors is a poet. There was a time when Owl read his poem The Sublime before breakfast to give her courage to plough through the day. When the daily rituals of her life seemed ridiculous, getting up, pretending to be a working adult, laughing at jokes she did not understand, she clung to the lines of his poetry. If there was no truth in her life, at least she could borrow truth, borrow it in the way that made her throat go dry, made her eyes wet and made her feel, still, that there was some point to carrying on with the brave day.

But still, to admit to liking his poems, to share them with any stranger on the street, or to casually say to an acquaintance, oh yes, I've been reading poetry—Owl could not do it. It seemed to smack of some internal weakness on her part. Possibly a liver ailment.

“But what was it like growing up and loving poetry?” Owl asked her professor once, because he ran wild in the woods of West Virginia, and if Owl did not have the courage to owe up to needing poetry in a city full of yuppies and intellectuals, she could not imagine how he survived, a poet boy among woodsmen. 

“Oh, sometimes, well, people talked crap and you had to thump them,” he replied.

Owl was maybe too interested in the thumping—thump them how? with sticks? spoons?—because her professor patted her on the shoulder and told her to focus on loving language more, and finding herself, and Owl wanted to explain, no, that's precisely the problem.

It is far easier to be violent, to veer off into the comfortable land of satire and half humor, than to peer at yourself in the mirror, to see how weekly your pulse throbs in your throat, how limply your smile curls across your face, and how behind it all, there is deep seated hunger for everything that is raw and living, blood, tears,  twisted love—in short, everything that is poetry.

This is Owl's pick for National Poetry Month. (Kind of maybe sort of stolen from Patrick at Beyond Easy.)

EMBARRASSING, Czeslaw Milosz

Poetry is an embarrassing affair; it is born too near the functions we call intimate.
Poetry cannot be separated from awareness of our own body. It soars above it, immaterial and at the same time captive, and is a reason for our uneasiness, for it pretends to belong to a separate zone, of spirit.
I was ashamed of my being a poet, as if, undressed, I would display in public my physical defects. I envied people who did not write poems and whom for that reason I ranged among the normal. And in this I was wrong: few of them deserve to be called that.

Not gutsy enough to be fully naked

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Shores of Malaysia

For the New Year Owl washed up on the shores of Malaysia. More specifically, she arrived in a five star hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur to begin Orientation for her Fulbright grant to teach English. At first she did not know what to do with herself. She had sailed through the month of December in a delicious haze of sleep and books, and she was not prepared for the dazzle of Kuala Lumpur, the chatter of her fellow grantees.

Actually it is a wonderful thing to have the run of a five star hotel in the middle of downtown Kuala Lumpur with forty nine other like minded people. Kuala Lumpur is a city of glass buildings and towers squashed between extravagant shopping malls built of marble and light. Here, the days stretch into the nights, and the nights into day. Everyone is bright with laughter and fellowship. The party is all the more hectic because everyone knows the time is short. Orientation is three weeks long, then the party is over, everyone disperses to a remote town.

People are easing into Malaysia, some sinking comfortably into its softness, others landing awkwardly and bruising. It is not easy. Malaysia is different, roughly 70% Malay, 20% Chinese, 10% Indian; three cultures folded into one, and so mixed that their edges blur and it is difficult to distinguish one from the other.

The breakfast buffet has Chinese porridge, Malaysian nasi lemak, Indian dosas and while most of Owl’s cohort marvels (or despairs) over the food, Owl is jaded. Owl has seen it before. This is exactly what Owl grew up eating, it is a combination Owl never expected to see outside of her house.

And this is where Owl struggles.

Malaysia is more home like than home.

Owl is the product of an Indian father and a Chinese mother who was born and brought up in Indonesia. Owl grew up in the flatlands of the Midwest where non-Caucasian people were a rarity and anything like her combination was unheard of. Owl grew used to explaining her heritage constantly, almost hopelessly in an attempt to explain who she was and what she knew, because still, no matter what she said people would say, oh you are Asian! Oh you are Indian! And the combination of all three was always lost.

It is too complicated, a professor told Owl once when she tried to write a story about her heritage. You must choose one culture to write about.

He did not understand, poor man, that he was saying, pick your mother or pick your father.

At some level Owl grew to accept that she would never fully be understood, and conversely that she would never fully understand a culture and for this reason alone she would always be somewhat of an observer.

Occasionally to fit in with her cohort—Owl has learned by now that it is on her to fit in, not for the world to fit around her—she feigns surprise over whatever it is that is being presented. Oh my. A dosa. Now what is that again? A paper crepe stuffed with potatoes and onions and, good lord what are those black balls? (Mustard seed.) How strange. But oddly delicious. A little bit of condescension is the hallmark of fitting in, Owl has discovered.

And sometimes Owl does this so she doesn’t come off as a complete asshole, because, because my God, Owl walks down the street and it’s an explosion of Bahasa. Owl with the proprietary ignorance that comes from growing up as a minor minority, considers Bahasa to be her private language, something to use in public. Woven into the Bahasa are bits of Chinese, lumps of Hindi, everything sprinkled over with English, and this is Owl’s language, this is the language she grew up hearing and never, never expected to hear anywhere outside the walls of her house. In her mother’s family it was always Bahasa-Chinese, in her father’s family, Hindi. Never, all three together.

And Owl’s Bahasa, broken, inarticulate, bubbles out of her, Owl is stuffing her face with her mother’s food, her father’s food, her food, and Owl is spinning around and around looking at the streets, the stalls, trying take it all in, cram it into her soul, because this belonging, this strange strange familiarity is utterly foreign.  

Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur

And in the midst of all of this, Owl discovered something else.

Owl has a passing knowledge with food and gestures of her heritage, enough to make polite conversation about eating and the weather, but beyond that her cultural and literal vocabulary is limited, anything more complicated than “I am fine, a little tired,” or eating bread with her hands, is utterly beyond her. Morals, values, ways of thinking? Owl is utterly American in her thoughts, and her philosophy.

It’s not easy to identify what it means to think like an American, it is one of those things you discover during a conversation with someone else in another culture. The conversation goes, it goes, and then it hits a wall and the two people are left staring at each other bewildered. But why do you do things like that? It is wrong. It is unthinkable, one will not say. And of course the only, also silent, reply is, What do you mean? You’re the crazy one, not me.

People can gloss over food and handshakes, but try sex, gender roles, religion, race and politics and things start to go pear shaped.

So far, for Owl, American means a certain amount of confidence, a firm handshake, a fierce desire for equality and attention; a belief that she deserves to get whatever she wants, and that she’s going to get it.

In Malaysia the handshakes are limp, and actually you aren’t supposed to shake hands with the opposite gender. Everything is divided alphabetically by gender. The boys are slathered with attention. They are served first, they get the best, and the most. There is a certain amount of racial profiling, people fall neatly into categories that define who they are, and the more Owl interacts with Malaysians the more she understands that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

It is not that much of a task to change your handshake, but to live in a different belief system, to take a back seat to boys when you have never had to do that before, all of that is a shock.

Owl’s familiarity with Malaysia is surface, as surface as the earth’s crust.

Owl isn’t home. Not really.

Malaysians on the street go up to Owl, they see her brown skin, black hair, and if she keeps her mouth shut, and all of them, the Indian-Malaysians, Chinese-Malaysians, and Malay-Malaysians, and they speak to her in Bahasa, they say oh, you are one of us. There is nothing in Owl’s appearance to warn them otherwise.

And Owl, Owl who has been told she looks like and Indian except there’s something terribly off about her, Owl who is never identified as Chinese, and Owl who always wants to fit in, who has never been claimed as the child of one country or another, Owl clenches her fists because a slow desperate scream is rising inside of her that grows louder each day:

I am an American. An American.

Owl is oh-so American