Happy May Day everyone and yes, in case you didn't know, I'm back from vacation and I have lots to share about everything I saw and did, including tons of pics. But before that, I've got a First Impressions thanks to Gwen Dandridge, who has graciously submitted the first page of her YA novel, HYBRID. You can also find Gwen here.
2004 Mosul, Iraq
An electric fan whapped around and around, barely stirring the hot, dry air. I kept my eyes on the two-holed outlet behind the woman speaking.
Above that a large poster of the Lady holding a torch stared back at me. It had something to do with America and freedom.
My eyes wandered to my left where a gold flag, with a white-headed eagle in its center caught my attention. Screaming Eagles, 101st Airborne Division.
Mawoma, my mother’s father, snapped his finger across my wrist to get my attention, an impatient gesture from an impatient man.
I ran the words through my head again before speaking aloud, “She says it will take time.”
He slapped the bundle of papers against the gray steel table with his vein-lined hand. “Tell her this is what we have, all you need.”
“I did.” I reply. He could understand as well as I.
“Tell her again.”
The woman’s buffed fingernails lay like stone chips on the other side of the desk.
“Mawoma says that these are the correct papers.”
She pursed her lips, flipping through the papers again. “I see that, but as I keep telling you, this isn’t something that happens in a day or a month. It takes time. No matter the paperwork.”
She leaned back. “Where is your mother?”
“Dead. She was a translator for you Americans during the Kuwait war.”
She then pointed to my grandfather, “You have relatives here, kinsmen.”
I stared back down at the outlet, remembering the last time I had seen my aunt, my grandmother, my uncle. Remembering the wailing as they were buried under the hard rocks beneath a clear blue sky.
Mawoma snapped my wrist again. “Lift your head, Nazê. Let the part of you that is Kurdish speak.”
The woman’s eyes followed his hands, then steepled her fingers. “Help me understand. Why is a thirteen-year old Kurdish girl being sent by herself to live in America?”
I couldn’t raise my eyes. I repeated what I’d been saying for the past hour. “Half-Kurdish. My father is American, Stephen Dupres. He came with the Americans after the Kuwait war.”
She wrote that down then shifted through the papers on her desk. “He was with Operation Provide Comfort? That division has been gone for years.”
I shrugged. “Maybe. Is that what the papers say?” I felt Mowatma’s gaze hit me.
My thoughts: 1. "I kept my eyes on the two-holed outlet behind the woman speaking." This confused me. What is a two-holed outlet? An electrical outlet?
2. "Above that a large poster of the Lady holding a torch stared back at me." Above what? The outlet or the woman speaking?
3. "I ran the words through my head again before speaking aloud, “She says it will take time.”" Did the woman mentioned earlier speak? If so then maybe say: I ran the words through my head before repeating them out loud.
4. After that bit of confusion the rest read pretty smoothly to me and the set up comes nice and quick: Half Kurdish/half American girl is going to see America for the first time and possibly reunite with a father she doesn't know (or does she know him?). What a great what if! The only thing that might make this first page a little better is to give us a reason to care even more by sharing how our narrator feels about what's happening here. You show us a little by the way her gaze shifts about but I want to know more. Is she afraid to go to America? Does she want to go? What feelings arise at the memory of her dead relatives? Anger? Grief? That could really make this first page pop, imo. Not that I wouldn't have turned the page anyway..
Readers, what did you think of Gwen's first page? Any suggestions, comments? And do check out Dianne's thoughts on this first page over at her place. Lastly, Gwen, thanks so much for sharing your first page :)