It’s not uncommon for a published author to sign books at bookstores or to travel to other cities to promote the book. If the book is motivational it is not uncommon for the author to speak before various groups. What is uncommon, as Houston Public Radio’s Rod Rice reports, is when the author does all of that during her junior year in high school.
To make Yuliana Gallegos’ story even more remarkable is that this current book is not her first. She wrote her first book when she was seven and still living in Mexico.
“It was called The Rights and Responsibilities of the Children. It was also how I saw children being mistreated in Mexico, how their parents sent them off to work. I wanted to show these kids that we don’t chose to come into the world, that our parents bring us into the world and they are the ones that have to give us love and support and that we have rights.”
Yuliana had to convince her parents that she was serious about writing that book and getting it published. She says she believes that others can keep you from your dreams temporarily, but only you can keep you from your dreams permanently.
The book that Gallegos is promoting now at area book stores and in other cities too is called My American Dream, a book about the challenges she faced when her family came to the U-S when she was nine-years-old. The difficulties she had to face began her first day of school as a fourth grader.
“The first day I felt like I was coming from another planet. Everyone was looking at me up and done like they would to any other new kid in school. The teacher started speaking and I didn’t know what she was saying at all. I was like, ‘what am I doing here’, I just wanted to disappear, I wanted to go back home back to Mexico, back to my friends in Mexico, back to my school.”
Yuliana’s parents told her not to give up that she can do anything she wanted to do and so her first dream was to learn English.
“Sometimes it took me five hours to do my homework; I had dictionaries stacked up next to me because I had to look up every single word. It was really hard at first, we had words posted on the walls, like, as you were coming down the stairs you could see the words so they would stick to your mind, so my family helped me through it all.”
Yuliana than had to gain the respect of her classmates. She says she did that too through hard work, by acing tests and being named student of the week. But not all the obstacles were yet cleared.
“I thought I had friends in school, but then this girl had a party and she invited all the girls in my classroom except me, so that made me feel so left out. I started getting their respect but not gaining friends, so that was my next step, to gain friends.”
And as they say the rest is history, Yuliana Gallegos is 16, a junior in high school, with friends, and plans for the future; University of Houston and then perhaps Princeton. And along the way the chance to tell young people and adults her simple philosophy…
“Never give up on their dreams, there might be rocks in your path, you might fall with those obstacles but just get up and keep on going.”
My American Dream is published by Arte Publico at the University of Houston and is available online and at area book stores.