Volume 12 • Number 2 • Fall - Winter 2020

Leela Kiyawat

American Dreamer

There is a sound so soft and sweet it must be echoed inside of our heads as we walk the streets of this (golden) country.

There is a croon, a cry, a leftover wail, crescending with age, but no matter - pull yourself up by your bootstraps, kid. Yeah, I know. Some bootstraps are tighter than others. No matter - keep your pendulum heart to yourself.

In this country, you are a paradox. I know this makes you angry. Calm your rage with a hamburger. Find yourself on the Disney channel while you’re at it. Can’t find yourself? No matter - lose yourself in the Disney channel instead.

You are an immigrant’s promise, multiplied by history, divided by status, subtracted from singularity. Every child learns what it’s like to carry a country on their back. You must carry two countries, harbor two histories, dream in two languages. Don’t walk away from me - where will you go? Back home? Try it. See where you end up.

Don’t chase circles and then blame me when you’re right back where you’ve started.

Go ahead and cry me a river. After you’re done, put on a bikini and swim in it. Look, observation is your friend, you can easily assimilate before the age of eight. I’ll help you, just look me in the eye and tell me you’re done. Done with baby hands on Mama’s Sitar, and done with the Roti existence. Done with rounder sounds, louder sounds, Hindi sounds. Done with coconut oil nights and turmeric days, done with the cartwheeling accent. Tell me you’re done with it all, and I’ll give you everything you’ve ever wanted.

I’ll give you yellow hair and blue eyes and a little button nose. I’ll give you pop music and Ice Age and cute Mary Janes. I’ll give you Gatorade and jean jackets and tetherballs. I’ll make you a citizen, a part of the population.

Just don’t look in the mirror, and you’ll be fine.

I am the American dream. You could be my American child. Come, child of identity and refuge. Sit by my side. Give me a kiss.

Let’s sit and watch the concrete crack.

Leela Kiyawat is a seventeen year old playwright and performing artist from the Bay Area. She is currently a senior at Oakland School for the Arts (OSA), where she studies in the Playwriting/Directing department. Her plays have been produced with Shotgun Players, the Youth Uproar Theater Company, and OSA, and she won the SF Playground's 2020 Young Playwrights Competition. She has performed with TheatreFirst and Berkeley Playhouse, and has multiple dramaturgical credits with OSA. Leela was also the Education Director for Bay Area Zeta Players, as well as the Assistant Program Manager at EnActe Arts.