Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Character Interview: Jaya from Tell Us We’re Home by Marina Budhos

Today I’m pleased to welcome Jaya, one of the characters from Tell Us We’re Home by Marina Budhos, to the blog!

Hi Jaya and welcome!

TFE: How did you feel when you learned you were leaving Trinidad to move to America?

Jaya: I felt strange.  So much had changed in my life, it was as if I wasn’t myself at all.  My father was no more, and my mother had grown stern and removed.  It’s as if I had no say over what was happening to us.  I know she thought it was going to be a fresh start, but I didn’t feel that way at all.  I was too sad and confused to understand our leaving.
TFE: If your father hadn’t passed away do you think you would have ever moved to America?

Jaya: I don’t think so, not right away.  A lot of people emigrate to the U.S. all the time, but my parents were happy where they were.  My father loved Port of Spain, he had his painting and his work, and my mother planned to be a nurse.  Sure, there are opportunities in America, but we felt cozy and right where we were.
TFE: Being the daughter of a maid wasn’t easy for you, but do you feel it gave you some advantages that the rich crowd at your school didn’t have?
Jaya: I didn’t feel those advantages until I became friends with Lola and Maria, and we started sharing stories. Then I felt a little as if I ‘had’ something on the other kids—I could see through them a little more and their games and popularity stuff seemed silly.  My mother tried to tell me I was better than those other kids—better behaved, more mature—but I didn’t exactly feel that way. Mostly I was sad because I had lost so much and I couldn’t figure out how to be in America. The only other way I felt as if I had an advantage is I think I’m comfortable being myself, not having to be with a crowd.  I can spend a whole afternoon drawing, or I don’t mind being with the grown-ups, or my mother’s friends in the park.  Some of those other girls seemed a little desperate to fit in or be on the top, and I feel lucky not to be driven by that so much.

TFE: When your mother was accused of stealing Mrs. Harmon’s jewelry what stopped you from asking her if she did it? Looking back now do you wish you would have asked her?
Jaya: Yes, I did, but I was so scared.  Some part of me believed she had stolen it, especially when I saw her sitting at the table trying on the earrings.  There was so much pleasure in her eyes, so much longing, I was sure that she couldn’t help herself.  I was terrified that my mother had changed so much that she would actually steal something valuable.
At the same time, I knew how she felt! All around me the kids had so many great things that their parents bought for them.  I also sometimes wanted to just steal what they had—that cool purple parka one girl wore or that pair of boots—it seemed to make them so alive, so part of things.  So maybe I was scared that my mother did it because I could imagine doing it too.
And there’s another thing: in Trinidad, we children don’t question our elders, right out like that.  It would be disrespectful.  And especially since my mother had grown very strict with me since we immigrated and she had so much responsibility, I didn’t think I could.

TFE: Your friendship with Lola and Maria seems to be one of a kind. Describe each of your two best friends with just one word.
Jaya: Maria: Giving
Lola: Crazy-smart (Okay, I know that’s cheating!)

TFE: What song comes to mind when you think of your friendship with Lola and Maria?

Jaya: Oh, that’s a hard one!

TFE: Can you offer any advice for teens who feel alone and like they don’t fit in with the popular crowd at school?
Jaya: Try to find the thing that’s yours, that you feel good about, even if it’s different. Try not to always pine after what other kids have.
 It was really hard for me because my mother was always on me about doing well in science and math because she wants me to be a nurse.  And probably I’ll do what my mother says.  But that doesn’t make me happy, doesn’t make me feel solid inside myself.  So if you’re in a crowd and they make you feel weird about yourself or you find yourself doing things that you don’t like, try to pull away.  It just isn’t worth it.  
TFE: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Do you think you’ll still be friends with Lola and Maria?
Jaya: Absolutely!  They’re my best friends and I can’t imagine going ahead without them.

Thanks so much for stopping by and giving readers the chance to get to know you better!

Check out the trailer for Tell Us We’re Home:


  1. What a cool concept and post. I love character interviews :)