Category Archives: cultura y mas: research and backstory


I’m still…somewhere.

I had the idea that Winter term would be less work than usual, instead of three times as much. Besides the trial advocacy workshop, I had journal work, an issue of the paper, and a looming moot court brief I haven’t written a word of. I haven’t written a word on the novel since my last post.

And I’m disappointed, but I still feel optimistic about the whole thing. I look forward to getting back to my family and story. I wish that were now, but I like what I’m doing, and I KNOW I’ll be writing again soon. I wish I had been a shining beacon of reliability, churning out 5 pages a week, but life happens, and I’m hardly defeated.

I’m in an immigration clinic this semester that will have me working on real asylum cases like Mili’s – I know a lot intellectually about asylum, and I’ve worked with asylees in intake and after they’ve already won, but never on the case itself. I have the feeling this is going to give me something amazing for Mili’s story. And maybe it’s good to soak in that information BEFORE I write 50 pages of factually incorrect stuff about her and have to go back and change it.

Hope I’ll have plenty of page counts to post here in the coming month.

The Cameroon Story

So I recently assigned an important supporting character, Emiliane (Mili), the nationality of Cameroonian. She needed to be applying for political asylum in the U.S. (not arriving as a refugee), and she needed to be French-speaking, Christian, and clearly non-Mexican looking. After looking at a chart of who applies most for asylum, I switched from my first idea of Congo to Cameroon. But I didn’t know anything about the politics of Cameroon. And I had to construct her story of persecution, as my main character meets her translating for her at the community organization representing her, and her asylum interview and hearing would figure in the story.

Two Fridays ago, I got a very last-minute opportunity to go to the Boston DOJ Immigration Court for a training on appearing before the court and a mock asylum hearing. The night before the training, the HLS contact emailed us the mock affidavit of the client, stating his entire story of persecution, and mock direct and cross-examination questions for him.

Are you ready? The pretend client was from Cameroon. Of all things. I was literally handed the life story, family and geographic details, and tale of political persecution of a person from this small and unknown country. City names, names of opposition groups. Hard to believe.
I couldn’t think anything but that, I better keep writing this book. Mili is very pleased that she’ll get a strong and accurate story.