“The World is a Broken Puzzle,” according to a new book by Darien High School senior Maya Nalawade.

Nalawade was born in the United States and is an American citizen. She lived in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in her early childhood from 2003-2007. She lived in New Delhi, India, from 2007-2011 before returning to the United States, where she has now lived for nine years.

“Yet, my Indian immigrant parents and their cultural traditions have made an America for me that is different than that for most people,” Nalawade stated.

Besides living in these three countries, her German grandmother’s stories about her childhood and culture held a strong presence in Nalawade’s life.

From the earliest moments of her life, Nalawade struggled with her cultural identity.

“Throughout the years, I grappled with finding that ‘one’ home or place where I was from,” Nalawade stated.

“I often asked myself: do I feel American, even though I haven’t lived here for half of my life? Do I feel Indian, even though I have lived with my German grandmother for much of my life?” She recalled.

Nalawade said that her motivation to write a book started her sophomore year in an English class with a (then) first-year teacher, Erin McCarthy. During the last segment of the school year, students were required to choose an author of interest and read several of their books. Students had the task of exploring the author’s identity and identifying that author’s consistent perspective throughout their different books.

She chose to study Salman Rushdie, a British Indian author.

“He talked about the idea of identity and struggling to figure out where you might belong,” Nalawade stated.

“For me, that resonated. I have lived in two other countries and have cultural ties to many more.”

Nalawade applied her love for poetry to this newfound inspiration to utilize writing as a resource to share her perspective; at 16 years old, she decided to write a book.

It took Maya about a year to write the poems- though she giggled when stating that procrastination is inescapable in the midst of her rigorous high school course load. Most of the physical writing began in December of 2018.

By February 2019, Maya began sending her work to as many publishers as she could find.

Nalawade stated that this was the most challenging part of the process. Most publishers were unwilling to support a high schooler without an agent.

“They didn’t want to take a risk,” she stated.

Luckily, in July, Nalawade found a loophole through this. Amazon now allows writers to organize and design the book yourself. They also were willing to sell the text on the online platform, where it is now available.

With this hurdle, Nalawade found herself taking on all roles: publisher, designer, editor. Nalawade stated how grateful she was for her family’s support through this, as her parents were extremely helpful in designing the cover.

Initially, Nalawade was nervous about sharing her excitement with the task to her family. She stated that as Asian Indian immigrants with children, there was this preconceived notion that STEM was the way to success and acceptance. Nalawade was initially nervous about embracing that her passion lay in English because of this.

But her parents were nothing but supportive.

Nalawade stated another challenge she faced was formulating the story. Though it is told in poetry, there are five parts. Part one explores the emotions of identity struggle and the emotional baggage that comes with the challenge of defining the culture we belong to.

The next three parts were written based on three different perspectives: a biracial student, an immigrant student, and a child of immigrants born in America. All three roles personify three different common struggles, and though there are many more, all three come to embrace their confusion and learn from it.

Part five is the most significant part to Maya as it relates directly to her personal story.

“Through these characters, I have realized I have to come to terms with all parts of myself. Hopefully, this book can encourage my readers to do the same,” Nalawade stated.

Nalawade’s book is available for purchase on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com.au/World- Broken-Puzzle-Exploring-Belonging/dp/1698302886.