Grannie Annie, Vol. 6, and Grannie Annie, Vol. 6 Expanded
Stories Dated 1975 – 1999

Hide Away

Greensburg, Indiana, USA; c. 1975

It was a cool and crisp Indiana day. In Greensburg a small group of fourth graders had gathered in a small field in the corner of their playground to begin the fourth grade boys’ baseball World Series. My dad was playing for the “Cincinnati Reds” team, and, true to the name, the day before, he had bought a brand new red bat at the general store down the street. Skipping occasionally to avoid the burs, he ran to his position behind the batter; he was the starting catcher.

Since the boys only had a thirty-five-minute recess, the pitcher quickly threw the ball. BANG! It smacked against the fence. “Foul!” The game continued this way until the eighth inning. The score was Reds 5, Mets 7.

SCREECH! A huge whistle sounded, and echoed around the playground. It was Ms. Plat, or as my dad’s friends called her, “Policeman Plat.” After about thirty seconds of whistling, the batter sarcastically remarked, “I guess she wants us to come in now?”

“Boo —” he declared. “Who cares about her? This is the World Series, after all. Plus, this isn’t fair,” he said, stomping his foot into the sand and creating a whirlpool of dust. “I’ll bet you that we [the Reds] could wipe you guys off your feet and win if we just had ten more minutes.”

“Okay then,” someone named Ryan said. “Bet’s on.”

Before anyone knew what was happening, Ryan pulled his teammates down and into the scraggly bushes, leaving the Reds players standing alone in the field. Seconds later Ms. Plat, after making sure everyone had gotten the message, turned to face someone. This is what the Reds needed. Pulling on each other’s “crafty” homemade jerseys, the remaining players crashed into the brush. They hid until the last sounds of voices disappeared into the building and the last helpless students had been marched in.

Slowly, one by one, all fourteen boys stumbled out of the foliage, whispering to themselves in silent wonder that their mission had been successful. Even though the building lay very far in the distance and the real chance that any teacher in the building would ever be able to hear them was extremely unlikely, the boys still began their game ever so quietly.

Ten quiet minutes elapsed, until the ecstatic Reds found themselves winning the game. Soon each Reds player emitted a surprisingly loud victory cry, yelling, “I told you so!” too many times to count. In fact, it was so loud that they didn’t notice the looming figure until it was too late.

“What are you children doing here?” Principal Lundly boomed.

The group shriveled. “We . . . we . . . ,” my dad faltered, “we didn’t hear her. We were — uh — too concentrated. Yes, that’s it. We were too concentrated.”

So our story ends with the students being marched inside and yelled at. My dad and his friends continued to play baseball, but never again would they hide away.

Sarah Holdeman; Texas, USA


Innocent Punishment

Gbanlin, Ouesse, Collines, Benin; April 8, 1975

You might think that getting money from his teacher was a great thing, but my dad learned otherwise. In the end, there were an empty backpack, the word expelled, and a dreadfully long whip.

In the spring of 1975, when the trees were tall and the mosquitoes large, my dad was in third grade. Being in the only school in three villages made going to school hard. So if you dropped out of school, you might as well drop your chances of ever going to school again and pick up your farmer’s hat.

The main thing that would get you in trouble was playing poker with your money. Back then, if you played cards or any sort of gambling game while you were in school, you were bound to become a thief or some other sort of criminal.

So my father’s teacher gave each student in his class different amounts of money. Some would get what would equal two United States dollars; others got what would translate into barely fifty United States cents. He passed the money out to see who would play cards with their money.

But the students caught on easily. Those who had accidentally played cards with their money would replace it with their lunch money the next morning.

There were days when the teacher checked to see who had their money. And then there were the days when he checked to see who had their money — the days when the teacher’s eyes gleamed like the brightest stars in the sky, the days when his whip looked the most monstrous. That happened one day when my father was at a class president meeting with the principal.

Fabi, the only other person who sat at my father’s table, was also the main card player of the village. So, naturally, he had spent the money given to him. On that special day of the week, that day when every student’s heart was beating miserably, he hadn’t had enough time to replace the money.

So, seeing my father’s bag on the floor, Fabi grabbed it and did the only thing he could to save his own back: He stole my father’s money. When my father came back and was asked to show his money, he confidently strode to his bag, only to find it empty. He got the worst beating that teacher had ever given out, because he was supposed to be a role model to the others.

With every lash he got, my father would scream that he hadn’t done it, until finally even Fabi couldn’t take it. He stood up and declared that it was he who had played cards and had stolen my father’s money.

So instead of continuing the beating, the teacher apologized to my father and expelled Fabi. If you find Fabi today, he is probably somewhere farming. But my father ended up graduating.

Adinawa Adjagbodjou; Texas, USA


Temporary Home

St. Louis, Missouri, USA; 1975–1979

When my mom, Stephanie, was five years old, her mother left her, her sisters, and her brother. Her family was different from most families in 1975. They had four girls, one boy, and a mom and dad who were both alcoholics. When her mom left, her father didn’t know what to do with five kids. He didn’t know how he would take care of them. He wasn’t sure if he could provide food and care for all of them.

My grandpa couldn’t afford to take care of five kids all by himself. He had to send them all to different homes where people could take care of them. Two of my mom’s sisters and her brother went to a foster home. She and her older sister went to an orphanage. My mom saw her family every other weekend at her dad’s house. They were always excited to see each other. She knew they wouldn’t see each other for two weeks. My mom and her siblings would always ride bikes and play in the creek all day when they saw each other on the weekends.

When Stephanie was sent to the orphanage, she didn’t know what to expect. She thought it would be dark, old, and scary. She thought wrong. It was more fun than she had expected. She had to share a room with about fifteen other girls. The orphanage had 100 to 150 kids. The orphanage had both boys and girls. The ages that were there were supposed to be six- to twelve-year-olds. But they took five- to seventeen-year-olds, because some kids would never leave. There was always someone to play with.

My mom had fun and some good memories there. She always had plenty of toys to play with and people to play games with or jump rope with. My mom loved playing with Little People play sets, jumping rope to songs, and playing with a miniature kitchen set that she loved. She also loved when it was summer, when they got to go swimming in their pool. There were volunteers that would take some of the kids to places like the circus or the park for the afternoon. They would get a lot of donations from people who would give toys, books, clothes, and shoes.

There were also some sad times. She didn’t like going home on Sundays, because she had to leave her siblings and dad. She didn’t like hearing the sounds of kids crying at night because they missed their families. It made her sad that some kids would never see their families. There was never anybody to hug or kiss good night. She didn’t like that her sisters and brother couldn’t live with her.

Although it wasn’t like a normal home or a normal family, my mom grew up with a good family and good people who cared for her and loved her — and made her the wonderful mother that she is today.

Molly Newport; Missouri, USA


One Last Test

Fort Smith, Arkansas, USA; 1975

When my grandma was pregnant with my mom, she felt like the happiest woman in the world. My grandma went to the hospital for a check-up about every month so that the doctors could make sure that my mom was healthy and there were no problems with her.

When my grandma went for her check-up around the third month, she took a test to make sure she was pregnant. The test came back a few days later. And no one was ready for what happened next: The test came back negative.* My grandma was devastated.

The doctors thought that my mom was cancer.

My grandma just couldn’t believe that she wasn’t pregnant; she just knew that she was pregnant.

About a week later my grandma wanted another test. My grandpa said, “If the doctors say it’s not a baby, then it’s not a baby.” But my grandma demanded to have another test. So my grandpa drove her to the hospital. The doctors did the test. My grandma and grandpa were really nervous. It was a long five days before they got the result of the test, and it felt like five years to my grandma.

The test result finally came in, and my grandma didn’t even want to open it. Once she opened it, she started crying, because the test was positive. My grandma was the happiest she has ever been in her whole life. She had known that she was pregnant, and she was. My grandpa and the doctors were amazed.

And that was the time the doctors thought my mom was cancer. And that one test saved my mom’s life. If you think about it, even with all the technology we still make mistakes. And we will always make mistakes, no matter how much technology we will have.

*A negative test result meant she wasn’t pregnant.

Michael Salley; Texas, USA


A New Land, A New Life

Madrid, Spain; Tampa, Florida, USA; 1977–1979


When the world says, “Give up,”
Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”
—Author Unknown

Have you ever been treated unfairly because you were different? Felt isolated and alone because nobody understood you? That is how Sergio, my dad, felt every single day.


Another school day in Madrid passed, and when Sergio reached home, his mother said, “Sergio, sientate.” As told, Sergio sat down.

Nos estamos moviendo a los Estadas Unidos.

“We’re moving to the United States?!” Sergio exclaimed (in Spanish). He felt excited, but nervous; happy, yet sad; full of wonder and anxiety all at once. Am I going to make any friends in the United States? What school will I be going to? Countless questions swarmed in Sergio’s brain like millions of bees in their hive. One thought kept coming back to him repeatedly like a broken record: I do not know any English.

The first step into a new world began with the first step onto a plane. Sergio peered out the window and gazed at the land he would be fleeing. Eight hours later he awoke to burning rays of sunshine blinding his vision, and new scenery overwhelming him in Miami, Florida. The “new American” could not believe that he was actually in America on July 4, 1977.

Before long, Sergio and the other students filed into Pearce Junior High School with one debilitating difference between him and them: He did not under-stand their English chitchat. He tried to blend in and nonchalantly search for his classroom, but to his surprise, he was assigned to a special-needs trailer where the kids who needed to learn English spent their days.

This separation made Sergio feel like even more of an outcast. As the days wore on, staring became commonplace, whispers increased, and Sergio realized that he was the target of this negative behavior. Suddenly, immigrating to America was not the exciting adventure it had started out to be.

Every day Sergio wound his way through the maze of kids staring, glaring, and x-raying his entire body. Students laughed and pointed, called him names and bullied him until penetrating his innermost feelings. As the weeks passed, the bullying continued, turning into vicious comments and false rumors. Sergio felt alone and friendless, like an insignificant ant trying to conquer an entire jungle. Everywhere he turned, he heard “retard,” “stupid,” or “Duh, I no speak English!” Sergio felt beaten up and isolated just because he spoke a different language. Surprisingly, he also felt determined to conquer the English language and silence the ignorant, shallow bullies.

Those early days set the foundation for a future that may not have happened otherwise. Overcoming relentless bullying and isolation, Sergio took the negative and used it as fuel to propel him to success. His endurance and perseverance turned the impossible into possible, and in no time he was speaking fluent English. Ultimately, the voice of hope and persistence rang out above the world’s voice, and Sergio proved that anyone could succeed if they set their mind to it.

Madeleine Cuan; New Jersey, USA


Life-Changing Journey

Coahuila, Mexico; c. 1978

In his head he thought, “We are approaching.”

When my father was sixteen years old, he decided to cross the border into the United States to find a better life, a better job. As the days passed, my father thought more about whether he should do it or not, because it would be risky. But in his head he thought to himself that yes, he would be doing it.

When he knew he would be doing it, he quickly looked for a “coyote” (which is someone who smuggles people across the border into the United States) that wouldn’t be too expensive. One day he told his friend about his major problem, and his friend said he knew a guy who could do it for a low price, so my father said (in Spanish, of course), “Okay, man. Thanks for hooking me up.”

His friend said, “No problem, man.” After that, he never saw his friend again.

The next day my father met the man, who said, “We will smuggle people next week.”

My father asked, “But how will I know when the time comes?” He gave the man his address, and the man walked off. My father felt like yelling at him, but knew it was hopeless.

The next day my father told my grandmother he would be leaving in the coming week, and she begged him not to go. Over the next few days he packed all of his stuff in his backpack.

In the next six days there was a knock at the door. A boy said, “Are you Jose Rojas?”

My father said, “Yes.”

“We’re leaving today.”

My father sighed, because he didn’t really want to go, but it was his only choice. He told the boy to wait a minute. He got all of his stuff. Then came the hard part — telling his mother and father. He walked into their living room and told them that that day, right then, he was leaving. His mother cried, but his father stayed strong. From his father’s eyes, though, my father knew he was sad, too.

My father got into a van that the boy led him to. Surprisingly, there were already six people in the van. After five minutes of dead silence, except for the van’s engine, my father said, “So where are you guys going to?”

One said, “Houston.”

Another said, “Sacramento.”

And another said, “Dallas.”

A couple of the people stayed still, not saying a word. The ride to the border was quiet.

They passed through Piedras Negras. They went through a “back” crossing. When they got there, the border guy went to the window. They exchanged information. Then the man let them pass nicely. They drove to Houston, and that’s where the coyote dropped them off. After the van sped away, my father said bye to the other men. He had no money because he had spent it all on the coyote.

That’s how my father crossed the border illegally. Today, though, he is a legal immigrant.

Jose Enrique Rojas; Texas, USA


What Sticks, Half-Lick?

Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA; 1978

My mom was ten years old in the blizzard of 1978. My mom and her two brothers, Dave and Nick, were home alone, because they had another brother being born that day. Since there were several feet of snow, my grandparents had to call 911, because my grandpa’s car couldn’t get through the snow to the hospital. A four-wheel drive Scout vehicle had to come pick them up, because the ambulances couldn’t get through the snow either.

That particular day, the snow was finally letting up. It had snowed so much during that blizzard that it was hard to get out, as the snow had drifted up high against the doors. But the emergency crew had shoveled a path for my grandma, so since my mom and uncles had been stuck in the house for a few days, they got bundled up and went outside to play.

They had only been outside a few minutes when they heard their dog, Fluffy, start to cry. The siblings went over and saw that Fluffy’s tongue was stuck to the storm door! All three of them started to panic. Dave tried to gingerly peel Fluffy’s tongue off the door while my mom and Nick tried to keep the dog calm.

But it only seemed to make the dog more restless and scared. Then they tried to let Fluffy pull her tongue off by herself, but it wasn’t looking so good. They watched in horror as the dog’s tongue started to tear!

Then my uncle Dave started to realize that maybe water would help. Well, the dog’s tongue was stuck to the door they had come out from, and all the other doors to the house were still blocked by snow. So my mom had to hold Fluffy while her brothers eased open the door so Dave could get some water.

When Dave came back, he had a cup of warm water in his hands and started to pour it on Fluffy’s tongue while Mom and Nick pulled at the same time. Fluffy finally got unstuck from the door, but the part of her tongue that had originally started to tear ripped completely off! A little piece of Fluffy’s tongue was still stuck on the storm door. And from that day on, Fluffy was always known in their family as “Half-Lick.”

Olivia Thomas; Ohio, USA



Chicago, Illinois, USA; 1979

It was 1979, Chicago. The autumn leaves were falling, and the spirit of Halloween was in the air. My name is Cheryl, and I was about nine years old when I went trick-or-treating that year.

“C’mon. Let’s go! I want to get good candy. They always give out good candy first,” said my friend Traci. She was an angel; my other friend, Tori, was a bumblebee; and I was a big fat clown with white make-up, the big red nose, and three pillows inside the fabric.

“Okay, guys, have fun!” said my mom. This was the first year I got to go out around the neighborhood without my mom. So then we went trick-or-treating in my neighborhood, alone.

About forty-five minutes into trick-or-treating we went to a house and rang the doorbell, but no one came. “Hey, look here,” said Traci. “There is a bowl that says to take one piece of candy.” Traci crouched down and took one piece from the bowl; so did Tori. I took all the rest.

“Hey, Cheryl! It says to take one,” snapped Tori.

“But they are not home, so it does not matter, Tori,” I replied. So we just went on trick-or-treating.

It was getting dark. I got a little scared, so we headed home. We were almost home when we passed by some teenagers. “Hey, where do you think you’re going?” said one of them.

“Home,” I replied. “I have a huge bag of candy, and I’m tired, so I am going home.” They had this weird little look on their faces. One of them came for my candy bag, and I hit him in the face with my full pillowcase of candy. Then another came and snatched it right out of my hands. I couldn’t fight them off because of the big pillows inside my costume. I was really fast, so I ran to try to catch them. But I couldn’t — I was in my heavy clown costume. Instead, I walked home feeling sorry for myself.

I slammed the front door behind me as I barged into my house.

“What’s wrong?” said my dad.

I didn’t reply. My friends came through the door behind me and told him the story. I wasn’t sad; I was just so mad! I then thought about how karma would come around to those kids. But wait — could it have been my own bad karma from when I took all the candy? I didn’t leave any candy for anyone else, so I guess maybe I deserved what I got.

Matthew Leigh, son of Cheryl; New Jersey, USA


The Magic of Writing

Houston, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri, USA; c. 1980–2010

Did you know that writing is a very helpful skill in life?

Well, when my father, Lihong Wang, was in high school, he thought that writing was needless. Aspiring to be a scientist, he thought that all he had to do was to list equations. Since he believed writing had no use, he didn’t bother learning it and was a horrible writer.

In 1988 my father became a graduate student at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He was asked to write an abstract for a conference paper. My father just put things down in random order, not even caring if it made sense. His advisor, who later won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, nearly rewrote the abstract. The abstract looked terrifying, filled everywhere with red pen markings and circles. In fact, the advisor numbered all the sentences and reordered them.

My father then realized the importance of writing, even for a scientist, and was shocked at how much he needed to improve his writing. His advisor didn’t say his writing needed improvement; but based on how many marks there were, my father was definitely alerted and motivated. He took time studying books on writing, learning from good papers, and understanding edits on his mistakes.

Gradually he became much better at writing and ended up writing a book on physics at Texas A&M University. In 2010 my father won the Joseph W. Goodman Book Writing Award, which is only given out once every two years. He received that award in San Diego, California, and met Professor Goodman, a highly respected book writer himself.

Five years ago my father got a new job at Washington University, so my family moved to St. Louis. At Wash U my father is a distinguished professor. His students frequently ask him to edit their papers, even after revisions by Wash U’s professional editors. He makes very good corrections, and one of the editors even said, “Dr. Wang, your corrections are dynamite!”

Because my father worked hard and was persistent, he is now an amazing writer. Writing has helped his career immensely. He has published three books and 250 scientific papers in journals. He has won twenty-seven research grants totaling thirty million dollars. I hope to be as successful, and to write as well as my father someday.

Julia M. Wang; Missouri, USA


The Flying Man
English Translation from Romanian

Bravicea, Calarasi, Moldova; c. 1984

My father’s childhood was full of funny misadventures.

Once when my grandmother was at work, my father, with his older and two younger brothers, decided to fly with a parachute. Not really . . . because a parachute they did not have. They found some sheets that were hanging outside, drying in the frost. After they tied a rope to the corners of each sheet, they attached the rope to their waist and began to jump, one after another, from the roof of the house onto a haystack. They jumped with the parachutes until they were ripped. They hadn’t meant to rip them, and in order to avoid punishment they hid the sheets under the coal that was kept behind the house.

When my grandmother came, she asked the boys where the sheets were. From what my father and uncles said, she understood that the sheets had been stolen, but she doubted their story. They had a narrow escape! So they thought, but the truth was bitter.

In spring, when the snow had melted and only a little coal remained, my grandmother found the sheets that were as black as ashes and torn as if a dog had scratched them. My father warned his brothers, and they all fled into the forest near the village, thinking to find something to do there until evening, when everything would be forgotten.

When dusk came, they didn’t have the courage to enter the house, so they entered later when everyone was already asleep.

In the morning when my grandmother woke up, she saw my father and his brothers sleeping on their beds as if they had been thrown from an airplane. She felt sorry for them, so she didn’t wake them up and allowed them to sleep. By the afternoon everything was forgotten. After all, they were children, and their bad deeds were unintentional.

So this is how my father tried to fly with a parachute. After that, other incidents followed, but the boys escaped unpunished.

Catalina Ecaterina Tarasov; Calarasi, Moldova


Stop! Grandpa! Stop!

Spring, Texas, USA; 1985

My dad had been saving up money ever since he was fifteen for one reason: to get a car. One day my grandpa took my dad to a car dealership. He was looking around for a car he liked when he saw the one he wanted. It was a $2,400 brown Plymouth Horizon.

“I want this one,” he told my grandpa. My grandpa agreed, so they went inside to do the paperwork. After that, the dealer handed my dad the keys, and my dad drove home alone.

When he got home, he parked the car in the street and ran inside. “Hey, everyone, I got a car!” he shouted.

“Cool. Can I see it?” said his grandpa Charley.

“Sure,” said my dad, and they went outside.

“I want to park it in the driveway so I can wash it,” my dad told his grandpa.

“Can I park it for you?” asked his grandpa.

My dad said, “Sure!” and they both got in the car to do so.

His grandpa turned the key and pressed on the gas. They slowly started to advance forward. They were going faster now, and they started to reach the end of the cul-de-sac. My dad assumed that his grandpa would turn right, but instead of turning right he slammed on the gas and turned left.

“Stop!” yelled my dad as they hit the curb and barreled into someone’s yard. “Grandpa, stop!” my dad screamed. They smashed a lamppost, flattening the bottom half of it. The top half flew over the car, but still the car didn’t stop. THUD. They hit a mailbox. Speeding left, the car made a sickening grinding sound as the bottom of the car scraped against the curb. They were back on the street! My dad let out a sigh of relief, only to realize that the car wasn’t stopping. The car hit the curb on the other side of the street, and they flew up in the air. Time seemed to slow down as they hit the grass on a set collision course for a giant oak tree.

Stop!” shouted my dad, screaming at the top of his lungs. But there was no such luck. The car flew straight into the tree and did what it hadn’t done before. The car stopped. For a minute my dad just sat there, dazed by the whole experience.

Finally he spoke. “Why didn’t you stop?” asked my dad.

His grandpa answered glumly, “I couldn’t find the brakes.”

Not even listening to what he said, my dad opened the door and jumped out of the car. He stepped back to see the damage. The whole front of the car was flattened. He started walking back to his house. He never got to wash his new car.

Now my dad is a lot more careful about who he lets drive his car. And he makes sure they know where the brakes are.

Isaac Eastlund; Missouri, USA


Tiananmen Square Crackdown

Beijing, China; 1989

My parents lived in China in 1989, which was a time that most Chinese college students wanted to be free from the Chinese government’s harsh rules. Rules like having only one child per couple were greatly enforced. Many people didn’t like these rules. They wanted to vote for their rights and to be able to have more than one child. They wanted a democracy.

Then the students realized that they wanted a democracy. They wanted the people to speak for themselves instead of having a dictator decide.

Soon the students started to protest, waving signs that said FREE US! or WE WANT INDEPENDENCE! Trying to catch people’s attention, the students paraded around Tiananmen Square.* The protest worked, all right. People listened, and more people protested with them, and they stayed there for days.

One evening at nightfall, people could see lights in the distance. “Tanks are coming!” the people screamed. People gathered together in front of Tiananmen Square. They weren’t about to let the government come in and ruin their protest. My dad stood there with his friends, bracing themselves against the tanks as hard as they could. Some people climbed on top of the tanks and yelled into bullhorns. “We want freedom!” they chanted. They blocked the tanks with all their might.

The tanks fired, but my dad and his friends didn’t dare back down. Many were hurt badly, and some were arrested. A couple of Dad’s friends died. Dad was scared like most people were. Anything could happen; his life could be hanging by a thread. He could be arrested and forced to leave his family, but he didn’t back down. He wanted freedom, he wanted to have more than one child, and he wanted to have rights that he could vote for.

So did my mom. She worked in the hospital during the fight. She led doctors and nurses into hiding the patients so the government wouldn’t find them. She had an important job to do. If she hadn’t hidden the people, they would have been arrested.

The night was long; many people were injured, killed, or arrested. Soon people began to lose hope. The government took control of the streets, and no one was allowed to protest anymore. The government also took away school rights. They said they wouldn’t fund the school if students there were learning about democracy. People were scared and were left without hope. Some left to go to places with democracy.

Three years after the crackdown, my parents moved to America. They wanted to live in a democracy. As much as it hurt to leave their family and friends, they wanted freedom. My mom and dad were happy with the life they had in America. They had three children, and they could now vote for their rights. Meanwhile, in China the government has slowly been improving, but the country is still not a democracy.

The Tiananmen Square crackdown will be a memory my parents will hold forever. For them it was a great step toward finding what they really wanted, and accepting it.

* This is the largest city square in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people were involved in this seven-week protest.

Shirley Yu; Missouri, USA


Mother Knows Best

Mexico–United States border near Brownsville, Texas; 1995

In the summer of 1995 my parents were not yet married. My dad had already proposed. My mom had said yes, but there was one big problem: My mom lived in Mexico City, and my dad lived in the United States. It was going to be hard to bring my mom to America without a marriage visa. Along the way my dad learned many lessons. The biggest lesson was You should have listened to me.

My dad drove from St. Louis, Missouri, to Mexico City with a small trailer to pick up my mom and half brother, Jose (who was nine at the time), and all their belongings. Driving from St. Louis to Mexico was the easy part. The hard part was getting them from Mexico across the border to Brownsville, Texas.

They arrived at the checkpoint with their car and a full trailer. My mom suggested that she and Jose should walk across the border. My dad said no, because he was afraid they would split apart. They all went into the customs house together. They told the man that they were going to visit some friends — and they were — but while they were there, they were also going to get married. They got permission to go across, but the guy had not seen the trailer full of stuff.

They left happy and relieved. The car next to them was being sniffed for drugs by guard dogs. They watched the dogs for two minutes too long. The guy ran out and knocked on the window and said, “You are not just visiting. You’re not going anywhere. Give me your visas.” Without her traveler visa my mom could not cross the border or get married to dad.

My mom, dad, and brother went back to the customs house. They waited for the supervisor to come. The officer was furious, because he felt they had lied to him. He had called the supervisor, hoping she would send them back to Mexico City. When she arrived, she asked questions in English to my dad but in Spanish to my mom and brother, trying to see if they were lying or telling the truth. My dad was so nervous he turned very white; he almost threw up and fainted. My mom, on the other hand, was cool, calm, and collected. They could kind of tell that she knew what they were doing. To their relief and surprise the supervisor said, “Okay, you are good to go.” The officer, on the other hand, was even more upset.

My mom, dad, and brother went straight to the car, turned on the engine, and left without waiting one more second. Once they crossed the border, they had a sigh of relief and were smiling and laughing. Then my mom said, “You see — you should have listened to me.”

Veronica Zapiain Luna; Missouri, USA


My Epic Journey

Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina; 1995

The hardest part of my life was living through the Bosnian War. It was a horrible time. I still get images in my head about it. Just thinking about the war gives me goosebumps. It was about fifteen years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. The loud sounds of gunshots filled the air, cannons were fired, and different parts of houses were found everywhere.

I was sitting in my living room with my family when a cannon hit the top corner of my house! I ran to the door, but it collapsed on my left leg. When we all got out, I had to stand there and watch my house fall apart. It was awful. I just wanted to get out of that place as fast as possible, but I couldn’t because the Serbians surrounded the whole country. There was no way to escape. There was no food to eat, and it was hard to sleep because shots kept being fired. Also, I worried about my kids every day, hoping they were alive. Can you imagine that? You are hungry, tired, and worried all at the same time. It’s a lot to take on all at once. The thing that kept me alive was the food that was dropped down from the airplanes. It really was a sight to see.

The U.S. Army came with buses. They picked up kids and women, and took them to a different area far away. Men had to walk six days straight to get there. The bus took us to some sort of campsite. There were more than one thousand people there! We all had to stay there for eight days. We were fed and we got rest, but we hadn’t showered for weeks! All I had to sleep on was a rough blanket on the grass.

After eight days at the campsite, the bus took me and several others to a gigantic gymnasium, where we slept on mattresses that were lined up one by one on the ground. We got food, rest, and shelter. More than one hundred people were there! We all stayed together in the gymnasium for three months! As time went on, houses were rebuilt, and I, my youngest son, and my new daughter-in-law all moved into a house. My granddaughter Almira Mujic was born in that house. We were there for about two and a half months. We later moved into a bigger house in a bigger city and stayed there for about three years. After that, we decided to move to America.

I lost much during the war. I lost my oldest son, my youngest sister, and my nephew. But I also gained a few things. I gained courage, strength, and stability. The war made me appreciate how lucky I am to have healthy food, a nice shelter, good hygiene, a medical program, and so much more. I went through a remarkable experience.

Almira Mujic; Idaho, USA


A Lucky Day

Beijing, China; 1999

My parents weren’t born in America. They were both born in China but decided to move to America later. However, to do this, they were each required to obtain a visa first.

My mother was a good scientist who would benefit America, so she was allowed to obtain a visa along with my father. They went to the embassy in Beijing after working very hard to set up a date and waiting a very long six months. But then my mother fell into a state of panic and desperation as she remembered something: She needed evidence that she was a good scientist worthy of obtaining a visa — evidence that my mother did not have with her at the moment.

The evidence (publications, discoveries by my mother, etc.) was in my mother’s office in Tianjin. My parents were in Beijing. They couldn’t go back after painstakingly applying for a date to obtain their visas! What could they do? Fortunately, my grandmother was with my mom. Also fortunately, there was a store with a fax machine and a phone very close to the embassy. With these two elements, my mother hatched a plan.

The plan went like this: While my mother waited in line, my grandmother was to go to the store, phone her friends in Tianjin, and ask them to fax the evidence over to the fax machine in the store. There were a lot of papers, so my grandmother had to take a pile of pages as the rest of the evidence was being printed, take it to my mother (who was standing in line), run back, and repeat. (They had to do this because who knew where my mother would be in line after all one hundred pages were printed?) As my grandmother did this, the people in the embassy and store were all probably wondering why a fifty-year-old woman was sprinting up and down the street. There was only one flaw in the plan: The store owner asked my grandmother to pay. But after much intense arguing, the store owner eventually let my grandma have the pages for free.

As my mother waited urgently — as she slowly moved to the front of the line — my grandmother came rushing in with the evidence. My mother handed these papers in to the person behind the counter, who asked a few simple questions to verify that this evidence was legitimate. My mother answered these questions easily. After all they had gone through, my parents were finally allowed to obtain their visas!

My mother was incredibly lucky to have been granted a visa, considering the circumstances. She was lucky to be a good scientist, lucky to have my grandmother around when she was waiting for her visa, lucky that the embassy was near that little store with the phone and the fax machine, and very lucky to have thought of that idea. Because of the luck that my mother experienced on that lucky day, she is now living happily in the United States of America.

Jinghang Zhang; Missouri, USA



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Individual authors
retain the copyrights to
their works, which are
published here with

The setting of each story is
noted below its title. In
cases where the exact year
is not known, “c.” (circa)
indicates that the year given
is approximate.


Stories on this page:

1. Hide Away (c. 1975)
Sarah Holdeman
Texas, USA

2. Innocent
(April 8, 1975)
Adinawa Adjagbodjou
Texas, USA

3. Temporary Home
Molly Newport
Missouri, USA

4. One Last Test
Michael Salley
Texas, USA

5. A New Land,
A New Life
Madeleine Cuan
New Jersey, USA

6. Life-Changing
Journey (c. 1978)
Jose Enrique Rojas
Texas, USA

7. What Sticks,
Half-Lick? (1978)
Olivia Thomas
Ohio, USA

8. Karma (1979)
Matthew Leigh
New Jersey, USA

9. The Magic of Writing
(c. 1980–2010)
Julia M. Wang
Missouri, USA

10. The Flying Man
(English Translation
from Romanian)
(c. 1984)
Catalina Ecaterina
Calarasi, Moldova

11. Stop! Grandpa!
Stop! (1985)
Isaac Eastlund
Missouri, USA

12. Tiananmen Square
Crackdown (1989)
Shirley Yu
Missouri, USA

13. Mother Knows Best
Veronica Zapiain Luna
Missouri, USA

14. My Epic Journey
Almira Mujic
Idaho, USA

15. A Lucky Day
Jinghang Zhang
Missouri, USA


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