Spotlight on Home Home (Lisa Allen-Agostini), Plus Excerpt!
Today we're excited to spotlight Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini.
Read on for more about Lisa and her book, plus an excerpt!
Meet Lisa Allen-Agostini!
Lisa Allen-Agostini is a widely published novelist, journalist, and poet from Trinidad and Tobago. She writes primarily about the Caribbean, its people, and its culture. Lisa lives in Trinidad with her family; her dog, Sassy; and her fabulous cat, Fennec. Home Home is her second novel for young adults and a CODE Burt Award finalist. To learn more about Lisa, visit lisaallen-agostini.com and follow @AllenAgostini on Twitter.
Meet Home Home!
Fans of Monday's Not Coming and Girl in Pieces will love this award-winning novel about a girl on the verge of losing herself and the unlikely journey to recovery after she is removed from anything and everyone she knows to be home.
Moving from Trinidad to Canada wasn't her idea. But after being hospitalized for depression, her mother sees it as the only option. Now, living with an estranged aunt she barely remembers and dealing with her "troubles" in a foreign country, she feels more lost than ever.
Everything in Canada is cold and confusing. No one says hello, no one walks anywhere, and bus trips are never-ending and loud. She just wants to be home home, in Trinidad, where her only friend is going to school and Sunday church service like she used to do.
But this new home also brings unexpected surprises: the chance at a family that loves unconditionally, the possibility of new friends, and the promise of a hopeful future. Though she doesn't see it yet, Canada is a place where she can feel at home--if she can only find the courage to be honest with herself.
~ Excerpt ~
Lucky for me, Akilah realized I was having a hard time and had defied the rule to be there when she knew I needed her. Lucky for me, she was a great friend.
She was my best friend—and she was my only friend. “God,” I groaned. “Ki-ki, I’m dying.”
“No, girl, you’re not dying,” she responded. She was whisper- ing and walking at the same time; and behind her the sunlight was blinding. She stopped and stood in the dappled shade of a mango tree, its dark green leaves rustling noisily in the breeze. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” I said. “Everything.”
“That’s not an answer,” she scolded me. “What is causing you to feel like this right now?” She was familiar with my panic attacks: I’d get sweaty, my heart would race, I’d feel breathless and terrified and end up sobbing for hours. It wasn’t a good look. What amazed me was that she was always ready to give me a shoulder to cry on. Before I’d gotten to Canada, hers was the only one I had.
“I am walking to the bus stop, trying to get home . . . ,” I started to explain before trailing off.
“And?” She waited for me to answer. It took a while. I took another step on the long white highway.
It was about seventeen degrees Celsius, warm for Canadians but cold for me; I haven’t gotten used to the weather yet; though we use the same temperature scale as Canada, they use the lower parts much more than we did. For them seventeen degrees is a nice day, and they put on shorts and tank tops and walk around like I would at the beach or in the park, but for me, it’s just another wrap-up-tight day, wear-my-coat day, feel-too-cold day. Home was never this cold, even on the chilliest nights, even up in the high hills of Trinidad’s Northern Range where mist covers the road in the early morning.
Almost as though in sympathy with the windy day in Trinidad, the wind picked up. I felt it blowing through my short black hair, trying to ruffle it and failing. Canadian wind, oh you don’t know anything about hair like mine. You haven’t seen enough of it in this quiet backwoods on the prairie. You think my hair is gonna just submit to you, flip and dance in you, fly and move in you? Not my hair. It’s worked too hard for too long to just give in to you. It’s tough hair, wiry hair, strong hair, hair that won’t be cowed by some damn prairie wind. No sirree, not this hair.
“Sweetie?” Akilah asked sharply.
When I’m having a panic attack I can find it hard to carry on a conversation. My thoughts become confused and all the words become tangled in my mind, a ball of stifled self-expression. So I tried to focus on the road I was walking on.
A long concrete road, it was four lanes wide and full of zooming, beeping, clanking, whooshing cars, buses, and trucks. Trucks especially. They weren’t allowed to drive on the cross streets, only roads that ran the length of this part of Edmonton.
The trucks were big, lumbering, trundling things that passed too close to me as I walked. The pavement and road were the same color, the same texture. Home home, roads were black, the way roads should be. Roads back home were made of asphalt mined
from Trinidad’s Pitch Lake. Not here. Edmonton’s bone-white, cold concrete highway scared me in some primal way. This wasn’t a road into anything good; it couldn’t be. And I’d never seen so many trucks. They were like huge devils with horns blaring and fangs in their grilles, evil grins, bad intentions, bearing down on me from behind, leering at me as they powered past, warning me they’d be back for me—not now but at some unspecified, very real date in the future. The wind they raised was bitter and hot, not like the wind that normally blew cold, odorless, and sterile. The wind blown from the sides of the trucks was dusty and tasted like ashes in my mouth.
Houses ran alongside the road. Stretching over the four lanes every now and then was a big blue road sign that told me where I was. I also kept track by counting the street signs at each corner. Twenty-First Street. Twentieth Street. Nineteenth Street. The streets seemed inordinately far apart. I had four more blocks to walk before I turned in to the bus station.
“What’s going on?” Akilah was now insistent. All she’d heard was the jagged sound of my breath as I freaked out, abrupt inhalations and shaky exhalations that would stop me from screaming. I must have looked awful.
“I’m in the middle of nowhere.”
“Why are you walking in the middle of nowhere?”
“I should take a bus from the city to the station, then from the station to home,” I confessed. “But I never remember quickly enough which bus to take to get to the station. I feel like an idiot standing there staring at the transit map. I keep some schedules in my pocket, but . . .”
It sounds stupid, but I was always, always easily flustered when I had choices to make, even simple, everyday ones. Should I have rice or pasta? Lettuce or cabbage? The Fourteen or the Eighteen? My choice could kill me. At least, that was what it felt like. And please don’t get me started on multiple-choice tests. Exams were always hell. I never knew how to decide things.
So instead of trying to figure out which bus to take when my brain was stuck in a goo of confusion, I walked to the little bus station, with its heavy, warm air panting out of buses that crouched in a waiting lane, engines still running. Meanwhile, the drivers used the bathroom or made phone calls to their families, or just chilled with other workers in the small office behind the bulletproof glass of the customer service counter.
The bus schedules in my pocket, clutched too tight too many times, had become grimy and old through the weeks I’d used them. No matter how many times I took the bus, I always forgot which one I needed. I sat and took really deep breaths, I could remember that mornings my bus was the Fourteen, going north into the city; and evenings my bus was the Eighteen, going south into the suburbs. But when I was in the grip of a panic attack there was no way I could remember that, as ridiculous as it might sound. I had to pull out both schedules every time I walked to catch a bus. I had to smooth out the wrinkles, squint down at them and look to see which bus went where. And as soon as I put them back into my pocket I’d forget again. Which bus goes where? What time is it running? Am I in the right place?
Having a panic disorder really sucks.
By: Lisa Allen-Agostini
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: May 26th, 2020