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Advocates decry CBP plan to build 30-ft wall at Friendship Park

 January 19, 2023 at 4:55 PM PST

S1: Plans move forward to build a wall at Friendship Park.

S2: It's a place that merits a different security solution than does any old stretch of border where they're also building these 30 foot walls.

S1: I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition. IB fraud hits thousands across San Diego.

S2: They are scrambling. The lady I spoke to was getting food from her family , her mother specifically. She had three kids and they didn't know where their next meal was coming from.

S1: We'll tell you how more people are looking to give birth at home. And a local author writes about culture expectations and college admissions in a new book. That's ahead on Midday Edition. U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to build a 30 foot wall at Friendship Park were paused in August after public outcry. But the government announced this week work will resume and released an updated plan which CPB says incorporates some of the suggestions from the public. This disagreement has been going on a long time and park advocates are not happy with this latest plan. Joining me now is John Fanta , still from Friends of Friendship Park Coalition. John , welcome.

S2: Thanks for having me.


S2: There will be one location where there'll be a dip in the wall to the height of 18 feet at a single location spanning just about 60 feet. So that's less than 5% of the total. But these are two new 30 foot walls that will be brought in across the face of Friendship Park. And those walls will extend down the mesa top to the beach.

S1: To help people understand why this is an issue. Can you take us back a bit ? Friendship Park was established more than 50 years ago.

S2: The monument at the center of Friendship Park was the very first monument put in place at the end of the US-Mexico war. So some people call it the birthplace of the border , where the border was first demarcated and marked on the land between the Californias. But as you mentioned , in 1971 , First Lady Pat Nixon inaugurated the surrounding area as California's Border Field State Park. And on that occasion , she said , I hope there won't be a wall too long here. And this is the beginning of international friendship arc. In fact , on that day. She had her security detail cut , the barbed wire that then marked the border so she could enter Mexico and greet the crowd that had assembled on that occasion. And it really is right up until 2008 that people in California were able to walk right up to the border wall and friends in Mexico. And it really was an open and public space in both sides of the border right up until 2008.


S2: We were told to expect about 30 days before the new designs would be finalized , that construction would begin mid-February , and it would be about a six month timeline to complete the new project. We were told that at the end of that time , visiting hours would resume on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. , with 25 people at a time allowed on the US side. Those are terms that dated back to 2011. However , the construction of 30 foot walls will radically alter the visual and experiential environment of Friendship Park. They will obstruct views from one nation into the other. They will overwhelmingly dominate the visual environment so that people in the United States arriving will not be able to discern at all that there is a binational meeting place. They'll eliminate the views that are available now from each country onto the beach and the coastline of the other nation. And they send a symbolic message that Friendship Park is just effectively like any other stretch of border , ignoring the long history and cultural significance of this unique location.


S2: We think this represents the Biden administration really completing Donald Trump's border wall at the most historic location on the US-Mexico border. And we're hopeful that our elected officials will join us in appealing to President Biden to revisit this decision and to reaffirm Friendship Park's unique status as a treasured cultural location and a place where friendship between the peoples of the United States and Mexico should be celebrated rather than walled off.

S1: CPB says it paused work on the project in August to conduct additional stakeholder outreach and to further engage with the community on the barrier requiring repair in this area.

S2: We had many opportunities to speak with CBP officials. There was an opportunity for members of the public to submit comments. Hundreds of faith leaders , hundreds of educators , design professionals , medical professionals , allied organizations all weighed in , as did our elected officials at every level of government , with the request that the current walls at Friendship Park be repaired rather than building new walls which have been proposed. All that. Abel So the process itself , no complaints about that , but the outcome , unfortunately , is exactly what would have happened had they made this decision prior to consultation. There are only two very , very , very minor concessions. One is the dip in the wall to 18 feet for a short stretch of 60 feet , and the other is the return to a previous policy of 25 people admitted at a time between the walls. But after all of that input from hundreds and thousands , in fact , of citizens and leaders and elected officials , after all that input , those are the only two modifications to the existing plan that we perceive to have been affected by this long , drawn out process of consultation.


S2: Yeah , this is a comment. This is a very simple , solvable law enforcement problem. You know , law enforcement agencies around the country have to address concerns of public security at any public location , just like they do here at my local park in La mesa. So there are solutions to this challenge. And Department of Homeland Security knows how to do this. They know how to secure a location and allow safe , secure entry and exit from shared space. They do that at ports of entry all along the US-Mexico border. They do it at several binational parks on the U.S. Canada border. A different environment , to be sure , but this is actually a much more solvable problem. Security is not a major problem at Friendship Park. Those of us who spend time on the ground , hours and hours , hundreds of hours on the ground at French Park know that this is not an unsolvable problem. So we really wish there were more creative thinking that there were a little bit of acknowledgement of the unique character of the place. It's a place that merits a different security solution than does any old stretch of border where they're also building these 30 foot walls.

S1: I've been speaking with John Fanning still from Friends of Friendship Park Coalition. John , thank you very much for taking the time today.

S2: Thanks for your interest.

S1: Imagine you're at the grocery store. You've done your shopping. You're at the register ready to checkout. You put your card in the reader. It's declined and you have no other way to pay. That's what's happening to thousands of San Diego residents who rely on SNAP or food stamps. Their e b t cards are being hacked and drained of funds , leaving them without resources to pay for food. San Diego Union-Tribune investigative reporter Jeff MacDonald wrote about what's going on with cards and joins us now. Jeff , welcome. Hello.

S2: Hello. Thanks for having me.


S2: So they're basically like credit cards that beneficiaries use to buy groceries or , you know , spend money that public assistance programs generate for them. They do not have the security chips that a debit card or credit card that you or I carry have. And I think that's made them especially vulnerable to hacking.

S1: Now , you spoke to people whose monthly benefits were depleted. What did they do ? How did they eat ? Wow.

S2: It's really sad. I spoke to several people , only one of whom agreed to be identified by name because it's you know , it's not the most fun to be publicized as a welfare for food stamps recipient. They are scrambling. The lady I spoke to was getting food from her family , her mother specifically. She had three kids and they didn't know where their next meal was coming from , which is really , you know , sad thing to report in this day and age.


S2: The benefits are typically loaded onto the cards overnight on the eighth or ninth of each month. And so the fraudsters know that. And so a lot of times they go after the they have the numbers in the cards and they go after the benefits as soon as they're reloaded. And so in one victim's case , her whole allotment was spent at a I think a delicatessen in Brooklyn , New York , within hours of it being loaded. So her all monthly benefits went away. Other people told me that they saw a number of charges from different stores. The receipts generally give you a running tally at the bottom of what your balance is on the card. Unlike when we use our debit card or credit card. So that gives the recipients an idea of how much they have left. And , you know , in some cases , the thieves took all of it. In some cases , they the recipients noticed the wayward charges and were able to call and put a stop on the benefits. But it can take a week or two weeks to get the money reinstated. Some people hadn't been reinstated after several weeks , which you can imagine being quite a problem.


S2: It's way above my pay grade as far as technologically speaking. But it's fair to say they get the information. Then they create dummy cards with all the real information on it. So when they present the card to a store or wherever , say , in Brooklyn , New York , they look real and they look , you know , legit and the information is real the same way , you know , regular people get hacked , you know , through Target , you know , breaches or other mainstream stores. Probably a lot of us have been victimized by identity thieves in in the past. It's the same same methods. I think that the data is grabbed on a bulk basis and then sold individually. And then these fraudsters , you know , that make the cards and do the individual victimization. So there's a there's a number of crimes going on. And they're , you know , under investigation by multiple levels of government. But certainly in this case , there haven't been any arrests yet. Hmm.

S1: Hmm.

S2: The law enforcement types didn't want to discuss their investigation status with me last week when I was reporting this issue , which is understandable. But multiple agencies told me that they are working with other multiple agencies. So I know it's getting a lot of attention. It's also getting a lot of attention at the you know , at the executive level. The governor included $50 million in fraud mitigation in his new budget. So that would go a long way , I think , toward upgrading the security standards in the way the benefits are delivered to prevent thieves from getting access to these benefits.

S1: You point out in your story , these cards , these cards look like debit cards , but they're not because they aren't connected to a bank.

S2: I mean , if you get the credit card gets hacked , you'll get reimbursed by your bank or your credit union pretty quickly just by signing an attestation that you didn't make the expenditures. The same thing happens at the State Department of Social Services , which is the state agency that administers these programs. The same thing happens , except the response isn't as systematic and efficient. And I think the hacks are more vulnerable at the state because they have to date invested in the security the way the private sector has. These cards don't have chips. Yours and mine typically have chips in them that identify them as like , who knows all the data that those chips contain , But it's a lot.


S2: Sure. I think there's probably more efficient ways. But , you know , if these cards were seen as a more efficient way , you know , in generations past , you're used to. The reason we call them food stamps is because you literally used to get coupons that looked like stamps or currencies , and they were for different valuations. And you would get a certain amount of them every month and you would spend them at the store the same way you do dollar bills. But that was decades ago. And the the social service providers thought that these cards would be a lot more efficient , a lot more effective. And and for the most part , they are. I mean , the state pointed out to me that the actual thefts that have been identified in recent months is less than 1% of the benefits they pay out , which , you know , sounds like not very much. But when you're dealing with billions of dollars , it's , of course , tons of money , millions of dollars. So is that the most efficient way ? Probably not. But , you know , I think with the upgrades , if they're approved in the upcoming state budget , then , you know , that'll be one one more barrier to the fraudsters who are stealing from these , you know , these needy families.


S2: So that's a lot. That's almost 5000. Some of these victims have been victimized multiple times. So are there 5000 victims ? Maybe not. It's probably in the low thousands , 23,000 range , because I know that , you know , when these fraudsters are able to steal money successfully from somebody , you know , and they don't take evasive action or impose some kind of remedy , then they get they get revictimized the next month when there's additional benefits placed onto the card. So that's happened a number of times that I didn't get a breakdown on how many specific victims.

S1: With so many people on the brink of homelessness here in San Diego. Could this lead to even more people living on the streets ? A financial setback like this ? This has got to be tough.

S2: Yes , I think it could , but it would be hard to say definitively that a theft of your food stamp or CalWORKs benefits would lead directly to losing your housing. I did speak to one woman who wasn't sure how she was going to pay her rent. So obviously that's a huge concern for her and I doubt she's alone. So I think the answer has to be yes. You know , it's just one more impediment or barrier to , you know , making a living here in San Diego where it's so expensive to live. Any one setback can can knock someone off their off their monthly budget.

S1: I've been speaking with the San Diego Union-Tribune. Jeff MacDonald. Jeff , thanks for joining us.

S2: Hey , thank you for having me.

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. Some women give birth outside the hospital by accident. Their babies come too quickly and they don't make it on time. But a growing number now plan to have a home birth with a certified midwife. KPBS reporter Claire TRAGESER says the number has shot up since the beginning of the pandemic.

S3: You get a smile. Maybe not.

S4: It's a warm afternoon and Emily is cuddled up on the couch with her baby Willow.

S3: She's , like , just starting to smile.

S4: She remembers how excited she was in early 2022 when she found out she was pregnant. But she was a lot less excited about the idea of giving birth in a hospital. Especially during COVID.

S3: There might be restrictions on how many people can come in. And you might have to you probably have to wear a mask , all this stuff.

S4: Emily asked to be identified by only her first name for privacy. She says COVID restrictions led her to think about alternatives. She wanted to avoid the medical interventions that can come in a hospital. Then she had an unsettling prenatal appointment.

S3: When I said that my goal was to have an unmedicated birth , she kind of chuckled a little bit and she said , You know , a lot of women come in saying that , but they end up getting an epidural.

S4: That was when Emily made up her mind. She would hire a midwife and give birth at home. Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020 , the number of home births has climbed dramatically , both nationally and in San Diego County. Countywide , the number rose by 28% from before COVID to the end of 2022. Midwives legally can oversee births without doctor's supervision and usually bring medical tools , including oxygen tanks , suturing kits and medication for hemorrhaging. Despite the growing popularity of home births , medical experts still say a hospital is the safest place to have a baby. Here's Dr. Alex Sutton , an OB-GYN at UC San Diego.

S5: There are some complications with birth that we just can't predict in advance.

S4: Emily says she considered the possibility of complications but felt safe because she lives only 5 minutes away from a hospital. Sutton says 5 minutes can be too long.

S5: It takes time to get in the ambulance and get transferred to the hospital. And time can mean more time that someone is bleeding.

S4: She says the most serious risk is the baby could die during labor or after delivery. Research shows that up to a third of women attempting home births end up going to the hospital. But the most common reason isn't a dangerous complication. It's because the mother is exhausted. Her labor has gone on too long and she needs relief from an epidural or other pain medication.

S3: Yeah , great. Though the breastfeeding better ? Oh , yeah. Much better.

S4: Licensed midwife Heather LEMASTER has seen her business boom during the pandemic.

S3: It's been instrumental for families to really stop and go , Wait a minute , I have other options.

S4: LEMASTER charges 60 $800 for a home birth and 2000 more if a woman wants to come to her birth center. Insurance usually doesn't cover the cost , she says , for home births. She involves the whole family as much as possible , including what she calls catching the baby the moment it's born.

S3: Either the partners will catch or if there's little siblings or maybe little bit teenagers. Sometimes they want to catch their sibling. There's an empowerment that comes from that. That's words can't describe.

S4: When Emily's labor started , she alerted her midwife. She was in for a long haul , 37 hours of labor.

S3: And it was very painful , way more painful than I was anticipating.

S4: She was able to push through the pain and remain at home. She created a soothing environment with scented candles , soft lighting and Christian worship music.

UU: I could sing of your love.

S3: By the time we had her at three in the morning , I'd been pushing for 4 hours , which is intense. But it was so it was perfect.

S4: Her daughter Willow is now three months old and thriving , and Emily is grateful that from the first moments she and Willow were able to bond at home. Claire TRAGESER , KPBS News.

S3: You're listening to.

S1: More young people die as a result of accidental fentanyl overdose than any other cause in the U.S.. In San Diego County , the latest data show nearly 800 people died of fentanyl related overdoses in 2021 , many of them homeless. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and the County Board of Supervisors say they are prioritizing efforts to combat the problem. The county in December announced plans to expand efforts by County Health and Human Services to conduct outreach and early intervention and by making the overdose reversing medication naloxone more widely available. While the city is directing law enforcement to prioritize enforcement and is pursuing legislation that would make fentanyl a Schedule one drug. And earlier this month , when President Joe Biden met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador , the two leaders talked about increasing cooperation on the issue. The focus is on drug traffickers , criminal networks and the supply chain of chemicals used to make fentanyl. But how did we get to this point ? In December , I spoke with Sam Quinones , a journalist and author of the book The Least of US True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth. I started by asking how fentanyl has become such a major problem. Here's our conversation.

S2: Well , I think it makes sense to the drug trafficking world in Mexico. It is a perfect replacement for heroin. You don't need to grow poppies. You can make fentanyl in a laboratory without rainfall or sunlight or farmers harvesting it. All you really need now with fentanyl is access to shipping ports on the Mexican trafficking world , particularly on the western side of Mexico , has access to two major shipping ports on that unobserved coast through which they control a lot of the flow and they can get all the ingredients they need not just for funding , but also for for methamphetamine. Of course , Mexico City's airport is also a major source of this as well. And they control the ability to get the ingredients to fentanyl to be able to make as much fentanyl as they as as they want. And so what you're seeing now is that this drug , along with methamphetamine as well , has really covered the country in the making so much that they can really cover the country of the United States with fentanyl. And and it's finding its way into all kinds of things because it's so cheap , so potent. So you're seeing that it's just a stunning ability of production , supply production , because these drugs are now synthetic and they don't obey seasons like like plant based drugs. And that's that's really why San Diego seeing this , but also virtually entire country is seeing the same problem.

S1: And so in response to all of that , we have an executive order from Mayor Todd Gloria , which would increase enforcement measures against the drug.

S2: I don't think their strategies have not been employed regarding not in too many too many places that we've been consumed with COVID for the last two years. And and and I would say that making it clear that sales of fentanyl are a bridge too far , so to speak , is one of the things among many that need to happen. You cannot have no consequences for selling a drug that's akin really to shooting a gun into a crowd. I mean , yourself not knowing , you know , you're going to hurt somebody and it's likely you'll kill somebody. So , yes , enhanced enforcement. I would say this , though , and that is that this seems to me to have graduated to a whole new level in terms of governmental involvement. And I think really now a major part of this needs to be taken up by the State Department with Mexico , Mexico and the United States need to find the ways that we should have developed years ago of of collaborating on these issues over the last many , many , many years. There's no president of either country that I think has done what needs to be done in terms of collaboration with the other part. I lived in Mexico ten years and it was never that that way when I was there. I do think , though , that this has graduated beyond what any city or county can really , in the long run do much about. It needs to get to the national governments as well.

S1: You know , fentanyl has become a major issue facing communities across the nation , as we've discussed.

S2: This has been created by what I was just talking about. So I don't think that this is a natural outgrowth of of of anything. It just is part of a culture that's evolved down in Mexico , away from plant , towards synthetics. And my my feeling is that the more we understand that the addiction epidemics in our country going back now 20 years to the opioid epidemic , the pain pills and heroin and so on , the more we understand the lessons therein. To me , it really feels like we need to focus so heavily on the on the most local things , meaning street level parks , churches , rebuilding and restructure and and strengthening community. To me , these are the addiction issues we've been living with. It's a long story , but but the addiction issues we've been living with have really kind of been rooted in our own a shredding of community across this country for 40 years now , our own isolation , our own of fragmentation , an unwillingness to kind of be we're too prosperous maybe for our own good. We can live on our own without the help of anybody else. To me , this feels like a dramatic cultural pivot that happened in the last 40 years away from being around other Americans , from being part of communities. And you're seeing this in many , many , many ways. One of the symptoms , it seems to me , is this epidemic of addiction that we've seen. It reached new levels in the last 20 plus years. And I think the focus on my last book was really about that , that we we have the ability evolved in us to need community to. And just in this country in the last 40 years , we decided it was not necessary that we could go on being around other people , some painful or pain in the butt. You know , now we've got this this problem that is staring us in the face , the very roots of which are our own unwillingness to to kind of be in community. And we need to think about this in those terms , it seems to me.

S1: I've been speaking with author and journalist Sam Quinones. Sam , thank you so much for joining us.

S2: Great to be with you , Jade. Thanks so much for the interest.

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. Leonardo da Vinci may be better known for painting the Mona Lisa than for writing thousands of pages of journal entries. But playwright Mary Zimmerman was so intrigued by his writing that she took his words and crafted the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci in 1993. She now brings the play to the Old Globe Theatre. KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO speaks with Zimmerman about her decades long fascination with one of the greatest thinkers of all time.


S6: I think all children are fascinated by him. And we continue that fascination. But how I came across the texts actually has to do with PBS in that when I was a kid , I watched Civilization with Lord Kenneth Clarke. And many years later , I was doing a kind of performance art piece , and I wanted some text that had to do with the eye. And I remembered from civilization there was a sepia colored page with these profile drawings and then these sort of radiating lines from the eye or to the eye. And that it was Leonardo. And so I went to the library to look that up. And to my amazement , there were two shelves full of his writings. We don't think of him as a writer. We think of so many other things. But the writing itself felt to me very beautiful and kind of poetic. And to sort of sometimes be hinting metaphorically at more than what it was saying. I found it was sort of overstated for the thing it was saying in a kind of super abundant way that was very attractive to me. And I felt like there was metaphoric resonance I could sort of tease , tease out of it that felt dramatic. And then also just the range , you know , the range of stuff that's in the notebooks , not just writings , but sketches on on a given page would be a math formula , a drawing of a church or an angel , a sort of to do list , some doodling. The page is crowded with so much , you know.

S3: And what did you kind of get from those pages ? You're saying they're crowded with stuff.

S6: At the same time , they're not like , Dear Diary , today I they're they're his own reflections and note taking for projects or for he did write the treatise on painting the treatise on flight that he intended to publish but never did. But it's just a kind of miracle that the unselfconscious thoughts and musings and observations of this mind has survived 500 years. Like , that's kind of unbelievable that that record has come down to us. And it is the unself consciousness of it that I think makes it so authentic and so captivating. And , you know , at times there'll be a long paragraph on , you know , how the face should be drawn or certain gestures. And then on the back of a page , it'll say something like , And if there is no love , what then ? Little hints of the personality come through in this sort of fragmentary and therefore all the more kind of compelling , compelling way. I just find its abundance and how awake and alive he is to the world is what's so is what's so compelling. I think it's common to think of him as like the biggest brain that ever lived. And he was hardly even human. He had such a big brain. I don't really think it's that. I think that he was awake and that that was his genius. He never got bored of the world when we're children. We're full of questions. Everything's amazing. Why is the water in the ocean blue ? But in the bathtub , it's clear. And then as we get older , we just sort of give up and we lose our amazement at the world and trying to figure it out. But he never did. He just never got habituated to the world. And I think that we all carry that potential in us and that any time , you know that , you stop for a moment and notice the light in the evening or the birds and how they sound , or any time you're arrested by natural phenomena on how something looks or just is in the kind of miracle of it , that's the Leonardo in you.

S3: And explain kind of the design of the play in that you have multiple actors all playing Da Vinci. Yes.

S6: Yes. So there are eight performers , five men and three women , and they are all Leonardo. And it creates a kind of great effect. You know , every time a new one steps forward. And this. It kind of turns the page , but it also hints at a kind of multiplicity of the personality , but that it kind of helps convey the scope of him. I think to have not just like one actor has to autobiography graphically trying to encompass this this almost unimaginable person. But it's shared. It's dispersed between eight different voices , and it tracks a little bit like one person , Chris Donohue , who's been in it for 25 or 30 years. He wasn't in the very original , but he was in the next generation. He does take a little bit more of the fragments that are more autobiographical or almost a memoir like.

S2: Once As a Boy , I guess I wandered in the Hills my.

S3: Whole life , and one of the scenes is Da Vinci recounting , being at the mouth of a cave. And this seems to be something that's very key.

S6: There are two key passages that are sort of famous in the notebooks and which I sort of shape our 90 minutes around. They're both sort of referred to three times. He recalls being a young boy exploring in the hills above his home.

S2: I came.

S3: To the mouth of the huge tear gas never.

S2: Before , which I stopped.

S3: For one moment , which I can acquire.

S2: Stupefied by such an unknown. So I get up.

S6: And he is sort of arrested at the threshold of the cave , unable to back away or go forward. And he says that he was sort of terrified of the dark and cavernous cave , but also wondering if it contained some marvelous thing.

S2: I arched my back and up rested. My left hand was mine.

S6: And I've read that when people are recounting a trauma or a really dramatic thing in their life , they'll often approach the key moment and then keep backing up. So they'll say like , Well , he came in the room and I remember there was a dog barking. There was light through the window , like they'll start adding detail to back up from the moment of saying what happened. And I feel that in in that passage that he's kind of still hesitating on this on that edge of the cave.

S2: After a time. There are those who mean to say fear and desire.

S3: And they see that. And at one point when he's recounting this , it's in English and also Italian.

S6: But it also does something where each time we repeat that passage , it gets briefer and then at the end the English drops out. And so it's only an Italian. But by that time the audience has sort of learned the Italian. It's a little bit , I want to say , like shining. It gains a bit of mystery , a bit of a veil of this language. And yet you're in on it because you've learned that language through the little course of the 90 minutes of the play.

S2: Fear of the dog menacing. Chase.

S3: Chase. But all the.

S2: Desire to see whether it contained.

S3: Within it had.

S2: Some moralistic. Gun.

S3: Gun. Gonna go on.

S6: And then at the end , we sort of have an image of him finally entering it , which to me is an image of crossing over into death. And that's when you find out what's in that great darkness beyond.

S1: That was Beth ACCOMANDO speaking with director and playwright Mary Zimmerman. The notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci opens this weekend and runs through February 26th at the Old Globe's Mainstage. San Diego author Tracy Badu as new young adult novel. This is not a personal statement came out Tuesday. It follows 16 year old Perla Perez , the youngest graduating senior in her class and a well-known overachiever. But when she's rejected by the college of her dreams , her whole world is thrown into disarray and she forges an acceptance letter in a panic. This is Tracy's second book , and she's soon releasing a third. She's also a practicing attorney and a mom. And she joins me now to talk about the book and writing. Tracy , welcome. Hi.

S5: Hi. Thank you for having me.

S1: So could we start by having you read an excerpt of the moment Perla finds out she's been rejected from her dream university ? Absolutely.

S5: There it is , The Delmonico in all its glory at the top. Then , dear Ms.. Perez , we regret to inform you that. No , no , no , no. We are unable to offer a place in our first year class at this time. The oxygen disappears from the room. I feel like I've been flung into space breathless , unanchored. That can't be what it says. Because I'm supposed to get accepted into Delmon. I get in. That's what's written in blotchy blue ink and pearls Academic plan. Delmon is the next big stepping stone in my heavily mapped out future. I get in. This damn letter is telling me otherwise. Wow.

S1: Wow.

S5: And I remember reading through it , and my first thought was , Wow , I really understand why they did that. And then I paused and thought , Hey , that shouldn't be my first reaction. The fact that I commiserated and completely understood why somebody would feel the pressure to pretend that they are a student rather than come clean and , you know , let everyone know that they didn't get in after all , that really required me to do some internal digging to figure out why that was my first reaction. You know.

S1: Let's talk about that some more. I mean , in the story , Perla contends with expectations from her immigrant parents , from her community , her high school classmates , even nicknamed her perfect Pearly Perez. And so she decides to forge an acceptance letter , which begins a lie about getting into her dream school. And like you said , you can understand why someone might do this and talk a bit more about why that is.

S5: Well , you touched on it. So even her fellow students nicknamed her Perfect Pearl. Like you said , she went to an academically competitive school where everyone was hyper intelligent and driven. And I kind of grew up in a similar environment. So I wanted in the book to make sure that I emphasize that this was more of a , you know , larger societal thing. It wasn't just her parents placed pressure on her or she internally felt the drive to succeed. Everywhere she turned , there was somebody telling her , You have to be better. You have to be the best.


S5: I feel like teens these days are under such pressure to be everything all the time , to do all of the extracurriculars , to get all of the perfect scores. And there is just this huge weight that is on their shoulders to succeed and be the best versions that they can be. But they're still growing up.

S1: Here , Perla grapples with the concept of Hutong Malabar , where she feels a cultural obligation to repay the people who raised her by being successful. Could you tell us more about that and the cultural influences you drew from for this book ? Yeah.

S5: So The Globe is , like you said , it's a debt of the soul and it shows up in this book with Perla feeling like she owes her parents her success because she worked. They all worked so hard to get the family where they are. And , you know , I don't even know if it's really strictly a Filipino thing , but we just happened to have that name for it. And I feel like first generation college students , even folks whose parents are their biggest cheerleaders , it's never fun feeling like you're letting somebody down. So that feeling like you owe people your success. That's something that I used in the book to really push Perla over the edge because I really had to dig into okay , She got rejected from her dream school. A lot of us deal with some pretty tough rejections all the time.

S1: Author. You're a practicing attorney and a mom of young children , by most standards , a very high achieving person.

S5: This is obviously a much more extreme version of that. I can assure you that I graduated from the schools that I have on my resume. But I wrote it really to dig into the relationship between also Perla and her parents of what it's like to have that pressure to do well. And it's not so much of an exploration of , you know , my relationship with my own parents because they were , you know , fantastic and they support me at every step. But I also wanted to make sure that I don't turn this self-driven , competitive nature that I have and then turn it on to my kids. So this is me getting it all out of my system before they grow old enough to mess them up like that.

S1: Well , you write , and I wonder if as an adult , what wisdom you might have to share with your younger self about achievement and success and family obligations.

S5: You know , if I were to talk to my younger self , I think I would remind myself to cut myself some slack. It's okay to be upset about things that don't turn out the way you want them to. You don't have to overdo it the next time or work even harder. Sometimes things just don't work out , and that's okay. A rejection is just a rejection from one thing and not everything.


S5: I am currently still on maternity leave , so a lot of the writing and kind of book talks that I've been doing are during the day , but when I get back to work , it will be working in the mornings. I work on East Coast hours and then late at night when everybody is hopefully asleep. I will try it again in an hour or so of writing and answering author emails and and that sort of fun stuff. So ask me this question and get it in a couple months and we'll see if my answer is as organized.

S1: It's an evolving response. Me telling.

S3: You that.

S1: Perl is pursuit of perfection could resonate with a lot of high school students stressing over college admissions.

S5: The one that I would have liked to tell my teenage me. Because even if you end up on a trajectory you didn't see for yourself initially. That's fine. You get to decide what success looks like for you. You don't have to abide by. I have to go to this school , this grad school , this career. It changes and it's okay for it to change. And it's okay for you to pursue one path and then go back to another later. So there will always be a path forward , even if it's a little bit windier than you had initially imagined.

S1: I've been speaking with Tracy Badu about her new young adult novel. This is not a personal statement. The book is out now , and Tracy will celebrate with a signing at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore at 6:00 tonight. Tracy , thank you.

S5: Thank you.

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