Eventually, I got a job as a cleaning lady and a nanny and began volunteering at the library at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts (MET). Not long after, I was hired part-time as a Library Assistant. I had never heard of Ivy League universities and when I started applying to college, the head of the Cataloguing Department helped me research academic programs at Columbia University. I was accepted the following year and leveraging my experience at the MET, I got a job at the university’s library. To pay for tuition, I worked full time while taking classes part time. Finally, I graduated in 2001, fulfilling at least one of my dreams—receiving a college education—and began work as a consultant at the United Nations.
Obsessed with storytelling, I never stopped writing, even during those first years when my English was laughably limited. Over the years, I took classes and workshops on everything writing—from poetry to personal essays to screenwriting. I was blessed with wonderful teachers, including renowned writers like Curtis Sittenfeld with whom I studied at the Iowa Writers Summer Workshop and Anthony Doerr, who led my Tin House Summer Workshop. Eventually, I began to publish essays and short stories and poems. But novels have always been my true love and I finally dared to try my pen at one.