‘Are There Many Books in LA?’: Locke Student Recalls Her Journey to the United States


By Lily Bangegas
Senior, Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy

This post is an excerpt from Lily’s full essay, “Leaving Home,” which was published in 826LA’s publication When the Moon is Up, a collection of stories written by students at Locke.

In a time of national immigration discourse framed predominantly around policy, Lily’s story reminds us to consider the human experience of leaving home.

I whisper to the clouds, I stare at the blue sky, and I say, “I have to leave my home right now, or I will never be able to leave the things and the people I love. My moment is now.”

I was sixteen years old when I left El Salvador. My mom had told me this day would come, but I didn’t notice when time began to move faster. I thought I was going to finish my studies and spend a little bit more time with my friends. I was not ready to leave.

Since I was a child, I liked to write because this way I could keep all the important events untouched, no matter how much time passed. I wrote to keep the past always present. It was like having a secret friend who I could trust. I would have liked to improve my writings and read more books, but in El Salvador there were not many places to read.

New Beginnings

I wondered if the food would be the same in the United States; what kind of things could I find in that curious country, and most important, would my mom always serve me platanos fritos?

“Mom, are there many books in Los Angeles?”

Are there more books in Los Angeles than in El Salvador? I had too many questions, but I only asked my mom one: “Mom, are there many books in Los Angeles?”

She told me, “Of course there are many books, and I think you can visit many libraries where you can find some of them.”

It was great to know it, but in the United States, people speak in English. I could not speak it at that time, so I asked her if there would be some books in Spanish. I saw doubt on her face.

She was not sure about it. However, with a deep breath, she leaned towards me, “Well princesa, the United States is a big world, and in big worlds you can find many things, like many languages. So I think you will find what you are looking for.”

When the Moon is Up

When the Moon is Up is a product of non-profit 826LA’s annual Young Authors Book Project. This year Locke students reflected on the 1992 Watts uprisings, and reflected on their own experiences in the community. The result is a collection of stories that  reflect the city’s many cultures and dimensions.

Get Your Copy of When the Moon is Up

You may also like: