INTO THE WORLD
By Karen Hunt
Excerpt: Reflections from Istanbul
Istanbul, July, 2014
I was ten years old when my dad heard the voice of God telling him to give up his business career and become a writer. He gathered our family of six into his study, randomly opened his Bible, pointed at a verse and read, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel.” Then, he raised his eyes, aflame with fervor, and said, “That is what we are going to do.”
It was the turbulent 60s and it might have seemed the height of folly to give up everything that was safe and secure to head off for the unknown with only God’s voice to lead us. Yet, not to my parents. They always obeyed God’s voice, as interpreted by my dad. So, we packed our bags and boarded a plane for London, the idea being that we would travel for at least a year, and that our adventures would inspire my dad’s writing. We were to be ambassadors of the Lord, spreading God’s light in the darkness. We should be “IN THE WORLD BUT NOT OF IT,” that was the calling of all devout Christians.
Last summer, I returned to Istanbul to write, remembering how forty-eight years earlier my family had fled across the border from Syria into Turkey just as the 6 Day War was starting, a mere few hours before the borders were closed. On June 6th, the official start of the war, I celebrated my eleventh birthday in Ankara, my family seeking news of the conflict with dread.
During this most recent visit to Istanbul, I stayed in a penthouse flat just off Istiklal Cadessi, with a view of the Bosporus and the giant ships sailing in and out of port. Once while sitting in my favorite café, I watched the riot police go by, and then a group of running protestors, unable to stop myself from following after them. Listening to their voices singing for peace, I could not have anticipated that I would return home to news of the fatal killings by police of unarmed Michael Brown and Eric Garner and a nation in turmoil. And right now, as I write this, I am reading of Freddie Gray’s death in the back of a police van, the result of a “Nickel Ride,” a torture practiced by police where a suspect is handcuffed in the back of a van without a seat belt and driven recklessly around town.
Sitting on my terrace in the evening with a glass of wine, I had the uneasy feeling that nothing much had changed in the ensuing years. The summer of 2014 saw the war in Gaza explode onto the world stage, ISIS become the new Satan, and Malaysia Airline flight M17 shot down over the Ukraine. Walking to get my coffee one morning I encountered boys playing in the streets with guns under the benevolent gaze of old men hunched on chairs and gossiping and drinking tea. “Free Gaza” posters had sprung up overnight, plastered on buildings everywhere.
There has never been any shortage of enemies to fight out there in the big wide world. Now, more than ever, the evil terrorists, those fundamentalist crazies who are endangering all the Christian principles upon which the United States has been founded can be battled not only in the field but on social media. How is it possible that so many could hate us so much?
A better question is, how could they not?
I have a long history of traveling the world and experiencing the dangers that go with it. In the 1980’s I lived in London and in Tito’s Yugoslavia. In London, terrorism was an everyday concern. One morning, upon arriving at the corner shop on Bayswater to buy my daily newspaper, I found that it had been blown to pieces. Looking out for suspicious packages on buses and trains was a natural part of life. In the Slovenian village where I spent my summers, I heard stories of the hatred that had been brewing to the South for hundreds of years and which, sure enough, exploded to the surface after Tito’s death.
When I visited my family in Los Angeles and saw the excess and heard how people raved about President Reagan, I wondered how Americans could be so ignorant of what was going on in the rest of the world; the common perception being that United States was despised because people from other countries were jealous of us. All those foreigners were hypocrites, complaining about our materialism while watching our movies and drinking our Coke. The United States was the richest country on earth and we had the possessions to prove it. Obviously, they wanted to be just like us—hell, they wanted to be us. My friends and family didn’t see the dangers, not the mention the absurdity, of this one-dimensional attitude. If I ever dared suggest that I understood why so many people of other nations despised us I was quickly shut down as unpatriotic and corrupted by living abroad.
In 1966, I was a naïve kid, under the subjugation of my fundamentalist Christian parents. I didn’t question what I was told: that my religion and my country were righteous and good and that God was on our side. I was raised a Plymouth Brethren. Not a lot of people know what that means, but Rebecca West, a favorite author of mine, made a biting comment about it in an interview with The Paris Review Fiction No. 65. She said her paternal grandmother “was a member of the Plymouth Brethren and a religious fanatic with a conscience that should have been held down and, you know, eunuchized or castrated.” I completely appreciate this description. Religious fanatics are tormented by a conscience at war with itself, telling them they must do right and good while at the same time telling them that they will never be right or good enough. And so, they must continually justify themselves, while castigating everyone else as beneath them.
Christians are going to heaven and heathens are going to hell. Conservative fundamentalists are raised on the Book of Revelation. It is drilled into us that after the Rapture, God’s Faithful Army will return with Christ to massacre the infidels who remain on earth. What this means is that if you are a Christian mother, for example, and your child is not a Christian, you will come back and run that child through with the sword without any compunction. At the same time, we are taught to “love” those infidels with a love so pure that mundane concerns such as feeding and clothing the poor can only be important if they lead to “saving souls.”
Never would it have occurred to me that such a mindset was not much different from that of fundamentalists from other religions. I didn’t question the inconsistencies, not to mention the absolute horror of such beliefs at the beginning of our trip. But by the end of it, the way I saw the world and the people in it would be far removed from the precepts upon which I had been raised.
August 16, 1966 we boarded a plane for London, the first time I would be leaving my safe and well-intentioned world. I didn’t know that on August 1, 1966, an ex-marine named Charles Witman had killed 16 in a bloody rampage at the University of Texas. I didn’t know that on the 5th Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was stoned during a Chicago march. Or that race riots had broken out in Lansing Michigan on the 7th. I didn’t know the darker truths of my nation. I was firm in my faith that we were the good guys and the people we would encounter on our travels were heathens.
But then, I met those heathens. And when I think of meeting them and how they changed my perspective, I think especially of a certain Nubian sailor in Egypt and a young boy on a mountainous road in Turkey.
Egypt May, 1967
We’d crossed a choppy sea by ferry from Greece and were excited to reach Egypt.
Land of the pharaohs, pyramids, enchantment, romance, ha! It took forever to get off the boat, even with the self-appointed “official” who attached himself to us, demanding $10 for his services. A horrifying amount, my mother thought, but she was gratified to see how once money was exchanged, things began to happen. Our official was now our loyal defender, going so far as to physically assault any other “official” who dared to come near us.
It was a relief to finally get inside our VW van and on the road, although all sense of safety or security vanished when we noticed the guards armed with machine guns patrolling the streets. Newly installed artillery could be seen along the waterfront. At every intersection the grainy voice of Nasser spouted from P.A. systems, denouncing Israel, accompanied by frenzied applause from the crowds.
We drove to Cairo on a dusty, desert route lined with crumbling flat-roofed dwellings or tents and here and there a camel or a donkey, dejected, head hanging low. It was an odious drive, continually interrupted by checkpoints, impossible to tell which were official and which weren’t. Along the loneliest stretch of road, suddenly, an officer jumped out of a moving army truck just ahead of us, imperiously flagged us down, and to our astonishment, jumped into our car. He rode with us into Cairo, asking questions about what we thought of Egypt and Nasser, to which our parents replied diplomatically.
We were greatly relieved to see him go and even more relieved to reach our Cairo youth hostel. Once in our room, we threw open the windows to the most chaotic and intimidating city we were to experience on our travels. Donkeys, camels, chickens, pedestrians, bicyclists, merchants hawking their wares, buses, dilapidated trucks and rickety smog-pelting cars all vied for space on the streets and sidewalks. In fact, the sidewalks seemed to be equally considered a place on which to drive as were the pock-marked streets. A constant barrage of horns, angry voices, barking, bleating, and braying animals left me confused and disoriented.
In her journal, my mom described the city as having a “holiday air” as it prepared to fight. The papers were filled with references to the evil aggressor, the United States, and Israel being the “stooge” of the Imperialists. As Mom so astutely observed, “While the people themselves are friendly on an individual level, they are united by hatred of Jews and of the U. S. and a holy war seems imminent, to annihilate Israel.”
We were excited to find a store with books in English, although we were confused to see that they were published in Moscow. My mom picked up an oversized photography book about the United States, expecting to see beautiful pictures of scenery and impressive cities. Instead, it was filled with photos of ghettos and claims that we were a “Gangster State” and Israel was our “Gangster Stooge.” On closer inspection, we realized that most of the books were filled with propaganda against our wonderful country. Mom was incensed and complained to the clerk, who was Russian. “How can you publish these lies? How can you claim that in America ‘a few billionaires live in palaces and control and exploit the country, compared to the rest of the people who live in miserable shacks crowded into narrow streets with no trees?’” The clerk remained stone-faced and disdainful. My mom shook her head and we all walked out in a unified huff.
None of us were sorry to leave Cairo behind, as we traveled south along the Nile to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. On this tortuous road of four hundred miles we met only one other foreigner—going in the opposite direction. We waved and honked, feeling more alone for having seen him. Gone were the army trucks and the screaming voice of Nasser and the mindless crowds. Instead, fields of golden grain stretched out before us, bent figures cutting it with short knives and gathering it into sheaves. The road often became no more than a dirt camel path, yet children would suddenly appear out of nowhere, running alongside our car and yelling for money and candy. Stopping at a ramshackle food stand, hot bodies pressed up close to inspect us, and I came face to face with girls my age with thick, dark hair and open mouths, staring wide-eyed, as if I were a movie star.
At last we made it to Luxor, excited to stay in our only experience of a first class hotel, the Savoy. After all those youth hostels, we expected this to be the best night of our lives thus far.
What a disappointment. The air-conditioning didn’t work. The toilets didn’t work. There was no hot water.
“I wouldn’t mind so much,” said Mom severely, “if it weren’t for the ‘Nasser folders’ that they have on the bedside table. Listen to this!” And she read from the folder that described Egypt as the wonder of the world for its beautiful blending of the past with the even more glorious present.
That night the air grew insufferably still and suffocating, and we dragged a mattress onto the balcony hoping for a breeze. There was no relief from the mosquitoes, though, which brutally attacked us and buzzed in our ears. My last impression before sleep finally carried me away was of the Nile bathed in moonlight, the savage barking of wild dogs floating across the river.
When the Nubian approached us in the hotel lobby the next morning and offered to take us for a sail on the Nile in his felucca, our parents said yes while I wanted to scream no. It was too hot, the bites on my body too painful. I just wanted to lie down somewhere and wallow in misery, dreaming of hamburgers and French fries and my own bed and bathroom.
“Ah, you can be relaxing on the boat,” said the Nubian, as if reading my mind. “Never you see anything so beautiful, so peaceful.” Somehow, his noble, graceful movements and melodious voice silenced further protests and off we went.
Once on the boat, I forgot all about my homesickness and the bites. It was always like that, yearning for comfort and familiarity one moment and then suddenly, an onslaught of extraordinary beauty, sites, smells, sounds hitting me and exhilaration overcoming my depression. I wanted to float along forever, the breeze that I had so craved filling the sail and gliding us forward, bringing relief from the still heat of the shore. The boat was old but sturdy, as if it had sailed back and forth for a thousand years and no storm or drought could conquer it. The man was thin and sinewy, the veins showing on his forearms, so shiny-black against the white of his robes. He looked like an extension of everything around him, as if he had grown out of the earth itself.
The Nubian’s robes flapped in a sudden breeze and he grasped them between his teeth as he expertly maneuvered the sails. I wondered how he put on his turban and if he didn’t get hot under it. Anyway, what was under it? Hair or a bald head? I didn’t dare to ask.
I felt suddenly shy as I realized he was smiling at me.
“You like this sailing, yes?”
I nodded, unable to speak.
“Let me tell you of this Nile, so important for us,” he said, his black eyes shifting from me to the far horizon, as if he saw the past and present all as one. “The king in reign of Ramesses III, 20th dynasty, he and all royalty sail down this Nile from Karnak to Temple of Luxor. In this most important temple rite, the king and his Ka, that is to say, uh…his divine essence created at birth…unite into one and he become divine being. Crowds, they cheer, be very happy, running beside this river. They be given much loaves of bread. Beautiful, happy celebration. So now, you, young lady from United States of America, you be queen, sailing in royal boat to unite with Ka, become immortal, yes?”
I liked that image. Me a queen. “Do you believe those old stories, that they’re true?”
The Nubian threw back his head and laughed, then raised his hands joyously to the heavens. “I believe in Allah, merciful, compassionate, just. This is truth. This is what I know.”
We continued to sail lazily along. The Nubian motioned towards an upturned barrel and I sat on it.
“I tell you a story, yes?” he said.
I settled down happily. To sail the Nile, listening to a robed and turbaned Nubian tell a story, what could be better?
“A man, he live in my village, born with crossed eyes, never looking straight. Always, the old ladies whisper, ohhh, they say, he has devil inside! They say if he look at you with one eye, the other looking in opposite direction, he steal your soul, taking it in one eye and out the other into underworld. For this reason, since a little boy until a grown man, he was outcast from village, sent to live in reeds and mud, no home. One day, a little girl, she fall in river and the cross-eyed one, he save her. You think the people thank him, yes? But no, only they hate him more. They stone him then, say he throw her in this river, try to drown her. No matter it not be true. You see, people for so long make him something evil, it then impossible to say, oh, excuse us, we be wrong. So, when he show them how good he is, they just be more angry. The little girl, she grow up and move away from the village. She go to Alexandria, go to college. She become a writer and make a story of cross-eyed man and people hear this story and it help them live better life. So, I ask you. Was that man with cross eyes lucky or no?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, pretty sure I was giving the wrong answer though I couldn’t think of why.
The Nubian threw up his hands and laughed more joyously than ever. “Allah be praised! He was lucky! He save girl who go on to make his story in words. And his story teach many good lessons. So, forever in story he live. Maybe he suffer in life, but he live forever. So I ask you if you rather have easy life and disappear to nothing, or suffering life and live on in stories?”
“I don’t really want to suffer,” I said truthfully.
The Nubian’s white teeth gleamed, the smile engulfing his face. “Life is suffering.”
How, I wondered, could he smile like that while uttering such a bleak statement? This was something I would struggle to comprehend for many years to come.
It was hard to say goodbye to the Nubian, but when the moment came, he bowed solemnly, his hands clasped together as if in prayer. I bowed back.
“Allah be with you,” he said.
“And God be with you,” I said. We both smiled. Then he turned and strode proudly back to his felucca.
Back at our hotel, sitting outside on our balcony and swatting at the interminable mosquitoes, I asked my dad about Allah.
He was sternly emphatic. “Allah is the devil and those who believe in him are destined for hell.”
“But our guide was such a good man, I can’t see him in hell,” I argued.
“Karen, you know people can only be saved by asking Jesus into their hearts.”
Long after I lay down, hot and sweaty and unable to sleep, I thought and thought about what it all must mean. Why did I have such subversive thoughts? I simply could not accept that the Nubian was going to hell. I’d never met anyone who deserved to go to heaven more than he did.
It was sad leaving the land of the Nubian, but not the land of Nasser. Our last morning in Cairo we awoke to find the entire city plastered in posters of red and black Arabic, which it was probably better we couldn’t read. Our desire had been to get to Israel but every time my dad asked at the travel bureau, they screamed back—and I mean screamed, “Israel does not exist!” Screaming was beneath my dad, but he did respond in a loud and commanding voice that carried throughout the vast room, “Yes, it does!” He was so brave, so sure in his convictions. I felt like such a coward, terrified that his claims would get us all killed.
As much as Dad believed it was God’s will we go to Israel, he had no choice but to book passage on a boat to Beirut and we sailed to Lebanon, arriving on May 29th.
We settled into a charming coastal bungalow for just six dollars, realizing that the rest of the bungalows were ominously empty of tourists. And so we found ourselves stuck in this beautiful place, our tension growing with each passing day. There were no ships except back to Alexandria. We reached the conclusion that our only way out was through Syria into Turkey. It wasn't part of our plan, but if war started, our lives wouldn't be worth much in this part of the world.
Once in Syria, we passed through villages built in the shadows of mountaintop crusader castles, the people looking at us with curious surprise. I had never felt so conspicuous or alone. There were no other tourists, no one else foolhardy enough to be stuck in this part of the world during such a dangerous time. We reached Latakia, the last town before the border into Turkey. The streets were lined with men carrying bayonets, mouths unsmiling beneath luxuriant mustaches, eyes fixed on us, and my skin crawled with fear. Driving slowly through the narrow streets, we felt naked and exposed in our fire engine red van, but managed to pass through without incident, making it to the border before sundown. Later, we discovered that it was only a matter of hours before the borders were closed.
Turkey June, 1967
Once in Turkey, it was as if we'd been holding our breath for days and could finally release it. We wound through cool pine forests, past tumbling streams bordered by wild oleander, suddenly opening into high valleys of waving grasslands, mingled with wildflowers, craggy outcrops, and then more mountains and valleys beyond.
As we traveled a lonely mountain road, the setting sun painting the sky in a fiery glow, we came upon a little procession, appearing magically, as if out of nowhere.
Mom clapped her hands in delight. “It looks like a courtship.”
A young woman, dressed in her finest gown, gold coins dangling from her forehead, ears and neck, walked beside a young man, dressed in his finest suit. Both were strolling lazily and chewing on long strings of sweet grass. Behind them, at a discrete distance, rode a woman on a donkey, with a young boy walking beside her.
“No doubt her mother and brother. Chaperones,” said Mom.
We waved as we drove past and they waved back, the young woman sweetly shy, her cheeks rosy, the young man leaning towards her instinctively, possessively. The mother on the donkey slapped her thigh with a switch in merriment and the boy ran after our car, waving his arms and yelling something we couldn't understand.
I hung out the window, waved and yelled back, “Have a nice life! God bless you!”
He sped up, trying to catch us but couldn't. Finally he gave up and stopped running. I continued to watch as he grew smaller and smaller and then disappeared entirely as we rounded a corner.
Maybe our paths would cross again someday. Maybe twenty years from now, we'd both be in a restaurant or an airport. Maybe in Tanzania, or Venezuela, or New York. We'd be grown up and we wouldn't recognize each other. We wouldn't know that many years before we had waved and laughed and exchanged words we couldn't understand on a lonely mountain road, the sky on fire above us.
At Antakya, we were welcomed like superstars, as if we'd been expected, the roadside lined with greeters who waved and shouted us into town, the only tourists to have come out of Syria. Such a difference from the border town of Syria, where we'd been afraid of bayonets piercing our lungs. Strange, so strange! What made it different? We weren't any different. The people in either town weren't any different. But in Syria, circumstances had forced us into reacting to one another with suspicion and dread, whereas here, we were all friends who could embrace one another without fear. It just went to show how ridiculous, how stupid and ignorant war was.
My birthday was celebrated in Ankara, but it wasn't much of a celebration. We listened for news, trying to decipher what must be true and what wasn't. Jerusalem was in flames, Cairo bombed and the American Embassy burned, an Israeli plane downed in Lebanon, bodies piling up. Israel had overrun Sinai and taken Suez. A great victory. But at what terrible cost?
“Maybe some of the very ones who were kind to us are dead,” Mom worried.
On June 12th we left Turkey and entered the Communist Block at Bulgaria. We were on our next mission to smuggle Bibles into Romania. My dad had a contact to give the Bibles to, just like a spy in a thriller. Only there was nothing romantic or spy-worthy about smuggling Bibles. And yet, we could be imprisoned for doing it. Just one more righteous act we were performing in order to save lost souls from hell.
In the summer of 1967, our marvelous trip ended and we sailed across the Atlantic and began the long, cross-country journey. I was surprised at the emotions welling up inside of me. I wanted so badly to get home, sleep once again in my own bed and see my friends. Nothing would have changed, would it? Desperately I wanted to believe that nothing would have changed. To have come so far, to have crossed the stormy ocean and then still having to travel across a continent to reach my home was almost unbearable.
Traversing the southern states, I only remember cockroaches as big as my fist, or so they seemed to me, and once, getting out at a gas station in a town that boasted a sign—Friendliest God-fearing town on Earth— terribly thirsty, and approaching the drinking fountain to find a sign in bold black letters Whites only.
That sign stopped me cold. I didn't know what to do. I’d been in many countries where I’d feared drinking the water because it might make my body sick. But never a fear like this. Never a fear that if I drank this water, my spirit would become infected with a disease far worse than any bodily ill. How could I drink from such a fountain?
It seemed worse than walking through Dachau and seeing the ovens and the pictures of all those suffering millions. Well it wasn’t worse, there was no way to make a comparison. But that at least had been a walk through the past, ghosts and bones left as reminders so that we as conscious human beings could learn and change our ways. Yes, Dachau was a story to be told so that it would never be forgotten, hopefully not re-lived.
But this, in my own country, was real, right now, in front of my face. I stood rooted to the ground, the heat from the pavement searing my feet through my thin sandals, unable to move. I stood as surely as I had stood in front of the Berlin Wall, a wall that had claimed the lives of so many while trying to escape to freedom. Here, too, was a wall enslaving an entire race of people. It was an Evil, as vile and insidious as anything that had happened down through history. This reality that confronted me was not yet a story to be told, a story to be learned from. It was happening right now, I was experiencing it in my homeland, in my world.
At last, I could stand my thirst no longer and I drank from the fountain. It came down to a physical need, no longer moral or philosophical. The water was cool and refreshing as it ran down my throat. It did what it was supposed to do: quenched my thirst. What about the man or woman who craved water in this God-forsaken land but did not dare approach? And it was a God-forsaken land, no matter how many Bible thumping churches were spread across the towns and cities. It was God-forsaken to have a sign like that, plain as day and no one thinking twice about it. What was the difference between one person and another? We all got thirsty. We all cried and laughed about the same things, wished and hoped for the same things.
I remembered the Nubian sailor, his face chiseled as if from obsidian, long robe billowing behind him as he stood proud and tall, guiding his boat through the water. He had shown me profound beauty in the flow of the river, the bending of the reeds, the curve of the banks, the unbearable blueness of the sky. In those few hours he had enlightened me in ways that all my hours in church had not.
What about the boy in Turkey who had waved at me on that country road and to whom I had felt such a connection. Was he going to hell, just because he had been born there instead of in my neighborhood?
I felt ashamed that my thirst had overcome my convictions. Couldn’t I have been stronger? Couldn’t I have done something? At least, I could have torn down the sign and then taken a drink. But to what end? I was just one person. I supposed there were many like me who came to the fountain, disapproved of what they saw, but drank anyway, rationalizing their actions by thinking that they were just one person.
And that is the problem: we all think we are just “one person.” And we are. But one person can start a revolution of thought and action. Still standing in front of the fountain, not yet able to turn away from what I had done, I thought of what kind of courage it took for someone to bend down and drink. Certainly more courage than it took for me not to drink, and I hadn’t even accomplished that much.
I thought of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He had that kind of courage. His voice had risen against the tide, compelling people to rise up with him. Less than one year later, that voice of searing truth would be silenced by an assassin’s bullet. But of course, I didn’t know that then.
I turned from the fountain and headed back to the car. A hot breeze kicked up dust and a miniature tornado whirled dizzily past, carrying debris along with it. The owner of the gas station, a beefy fellow in bleached overalls, waved at me and smiled. He seemed nice—and he was nice, that’s what made life so maddening.
“Your daddy told me about your journey. You must be dying to get home, young lady.”
I nodded. Yes, I was.
“Have a souvenir from the friendliest, most God-fearing town on earth,” he said, clearly oblivious to the irony of that statement. He handed me a miniature New Testament, shiny-black with gold-trimmed pages, and I was too timid to refuse, not wanting to see his nice façade fall away and the judgment appear.
Driving through the deserts of Nevada, profound beauty that made me gasp with wonder, it dawned on me what I would find at the end of my journey. I had desperately wanted to return home to my comfortable, familiar world and find it exactly the same as when I’d left. And so it would be. But the thing was, I was different. My experiences had opened my mind and heart to the wonders of the world, and I had embraced all of it.
We passed through Las Vega,s and my parents actually made us avert our gaze from the city of sin. Arriving in Los Angeles at last, the city lights twinkling at dusk, I made a resolution. I might only be one person but I would do something with my life to change the world. I would stand up against wrong. It was a tall order. An enthusiastic commitment made by a young girl with very little understanding of the impact such a resolution would have on her life.
But we all must start somewhere. There must be a place where we draw that line in the sand and then consciously step over it, embracing our journey, no matter the consequences. There must be a time when we tear down the sign and invite everyone to drink at the fountain.
Karen Hunt’s writing is inspired by her travels to over fifty countries and her experiences living in England, Switzerland, France and Slovenia. In a world increasingly divided by violence and fear, Karen is committed to connecting children from diverse cultures through her MY WORLD PROJECT.
She is the co-founder of InsideOUT Writers, a creative writing program for incarcerated youth, and the only female boxing and kick-boxing trainer at a gritty LA boxing gym.
The first book in her YA Urban Fantasy series NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES is soon to be released by Evernight Teen. She is the author and/or illustrator of nineteen children’s books (many under the name Mezek Leimert) and has written numerous essays about raising kids as a single mom. Her greatest inspirations are, and forever will be, her three children and her two grandchildren.
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