University of Minnesota
minnesota writing project
center for writing

Minnesota Writing Project.Center for Writing's home page.

Angelina Momanyi



I used to think my parents were withholding.
I felt like they were supposed to expose every moment and
every detail of their lives to me.

I saw images of mothers and daughters bearing witness to
one another. And less often
fathers opening up.
Knowing the reason for every fissure in a relationship.
Knowing the fissures in their own relationship.

My parents didn't have the time or energy for impossible
questions at five in the morning on the way to work or
school, work and school, work and school.

They couldn't peel back their skin and tear out a portion of
flesh for me in those moments.

"Why don't you talk to your brother?"
"Did you ever kill anyone?"
"Why is he so angry with you?"

Never gingerly lobbed softballs,
machetes, heavy, heaved down over head.

So they got me headphones and books and
turned MPR up
and said no, said nothing.
I stopped asking too.

Immigrant parents are supposed to give you stories to fill
that large chasm between you and all the regular kids,
right? The ones who have family reunions every year.

You have never met your aunts and uncles and cousins
scattered across the continents.

Now as you peer down into that great space that
separates the experiences of Americans and the
you realize that your parents are next to you
on the banks,
and that hole is filled with ghosts.

Tell me a story. I'll tell you one with me in it.