The book I'm writing:
With stolen plane tickets on his lap, my father closed his eyes and traced his finger over a topographical map. Indonesia. The word sprawled. He landed his destiny there when he met my mother. Glances, gestures, and subtext had to suffice; they didn’t speak the same language. Thus I was born in Indonesia to odd soul mates: a Javanese countess and palace dancer and a quixotic, Jewish, New Yorker, poet/activist dad. True to my animist Javanese upbringing, I thought it kismet that Dad died—after a long battle with cancer—on the anniversary of my parents’ wedding.
So I took a year off from school, packed my notebook, and traveled to Indonesia for the first time in twelve years. I’ve dedicated the years since Dad’s death to writing a memoir: a weave of travel narrative, magical realism, family folklore, my own childhood memories, my father’s role in overthrowing Indonesia’s Suharto dictatorship, and the global journey I made with his ashes. I happened to land in Bali on Kuningan: a day marked by ancestral spirits descending from the heavens. On the road, I buried some of Dad’s ashes next to Mama’s grave. The rest, I unearthed. I salvaged family relics, revisited cached memories, retraced my parents’ footsteps, interviewed anyone and everyone who knew them, and chronicled it all. Political refugees? A Parisian artist commune where Dad lived with Salvador Dali? My mother’s death—a possible murder plotted by the regime? Deciphering their stories was like trying to read burnt pages of a book that crumble away as soon as your fingers touch them. I played detective—a fierce attempt to interpret fragmented fables passed down my ancestral totem pole and shape them into literature.
Here is an excerpt from my memoir: