by Yuly Restrepo
April 8, 2021
I’ve lived in the United States for twenty years now, which is more than half my life, and I have never felt like I completely belong here. I very much appreciate all the advantages of living in and being a citizen of the US, but there has always been a void that only Colombia can fill. The first decade or so of living in the US was especially difficult because I couldn’t travel back to Colombia, since my family and I were political asylees. The homesickness was physically painful at times, and the first time I was able to go back, in 2009, felt like a huge release.
Of course, I don’t think this is an experience unique to me. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the overwhelming majority of my fiction is set in Colombia. It’s the setting I’m obsessed with, and I don’t think that obsession is going away any time soon. The novel I’m working on is set there. So, now that I’m fully vaccinated, I will be using some of my grant funding to travel to Colombia this summer, to continue to work on my draft and put some finishing touches on research that can only be conducted by being local. It’s a really strange time, and I’m so fortunate that this grant and a full vaccination are affording me the opportunity to both work on my writing and relieve my homesickness.