MARLENA MADURO BARAF is a writer living in New York

Soy panameña y americana. Can you split the two? Born and raised in Panama, I chose to leave my tiny land for Los Estados Unidos de America--a newly minted immigrant. I was in my early twenties then. In my thirties, I swore allegiance to the country I’d adopted and became an American. I raised a family and worked as book editor and designer. 

My memoir, At the Narrow Waist of the World, forthcoming in the fall of 2019, traces the impact of a troubled mother on her young daughter. The story is set in the steamy tropics of Catholic Panama within a lively family of Spanish Jews. It follows the girl from Panama City to New York as she pulls away from her mother in order to thrive and become.

Explore my published essays or my blog.


Your feet know. No mother to pull at you or to send you fleeing. Inside shoes that pinch or that were left in the morning sun to kill the mildew. Like your body, they accept the heat. Your nose fancies the smell of gasoline spilling at the rear of pick up trucks that lift clouds of dust on the half-paved streets of the city, or the fishy smell of the ocean next to the avenue.

 When you leave your tiny land, the pad and heel of your feet make light contact with the ground, the arch doesn’t descend.

 — from  At the Narrow Waist of the World