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 recently completed memoir, At the Narrow Waist of the World, traces the impact of a complicated and difficult mother on her young daughter. It's a coming of age story set in the heat of the tropics in Panama that moves from the "America" of Amerigo Vespucci to Alistair Cooke's "America."
I was a small star in the galaxy of family. We traveled in pandillas that reconfigured for a cooling movie el domingo or tea at the house of one of our tías, comparsas at Carnaval, and hanging around in the heat. We learned to choke down a mean remark or swoon over the beauty. We were docile, bound together in comforting clusters. Certain that none of us would fall out.
— from my memoir, At the Narrow Waist of the World