Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Sanctuary - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled “Sanctuary.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.

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I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.”

Paola Mendoza has always loved stories. When she was a little girl, she asked her mother to tell her the story of their first year in America. And she asked for that story over and over again. Not because she didn’t know how it went, but because there was a comfort in hearing the story of their family told and re-told.


Paola: I would ask her about the stories of when we slept in a park because we had nowhere to sleep at night, and how that came to be. And she told me, you know, she had gotten kicked out of the apartment we were in, and all she had was her jewelry: her wedding ring and a necklace and some earrings. And she was going from apartment to apartment building, talking to the landlord or whoever she thought was a super of the building and offering her jewelry in exchange... to get an apartment for a month. And those were the stories that I have always kept inside of my heart.


“Terrible, Thanks for Asking” is about stories. We believe in the importance of letting people tell their own story, in letting them reveal not just what happened but why it is important.

We know that, if we had the budget and the staff, we could make this podcast every single day for the next 100 years and never tell the same story twice. Because a story is not just what happened, it’s what it means. A story changes depending on who is doing the telling. 

Today, you’re going to meet Paola Mendoza. Her story could be told as her being a co-founder of the Women’s March, as her being a filmmaker, her being a writer. And we will talk about at least two of those things, but we’re going to start at the very beginning.


Paola: My story begins in Bogota, Colombia, which is where I was born. And I immigrated to the United States when I was three. And I had an older brother who was seven. And I came with my mom to Los Angeles. And we were being reunited with my father, who had come a few months earlier than us. My entire family for generations had lived in Colombia, and we had no friends, no family. And we didn't immigrate to the normal places that Colombians would immigrate to, which would typically have been Miami and/or Jackson Heights in New York. For some reason my mom and my father, they chose Los Angeles. 


Paola’s mother had been born in the United States when her own father was getting his master’s degree. So, she was an American citizen with an American passport who had lived her whole life in Colombia.


Paola: So when we came to the United States, we came with my mom having an American passport. My father, my brother and I with green cards. And that obviously gave us a huge privilege that many, many immigrants don't necessarily have when they come to this country. 

I was always very curious about our stories growing up as a child. I always asked my mom from as early as I can remember, “How were our first days here?” My mom was very honest with me about our story from the very, very beginning. When I was five years old, she explained to me that she came to the United States because her marriage to my father was in a really bad place, and she thought that starting fresh in a new country would give them a new start as a couple and as a family. 


It didn’t work. One night, just a few months after they moved, Paola’s dad went to work and never came back. He’d left his wife and his kids. 


Paola: So he abandoned us with my mom, who spoke absolutely no English. She was a young mom at that time. She was 24 with two kids, no English, no family, no education, no job, and like two or three hundred dollars in her pocket. It was maybe for a couple of days we slept in the car, we slept in a park while my mother figured out how she could find a house. But I will say that what that... created for my mother is that my mother was so focused on our education, that that was the thing that we had to do, that we had to go to school. And yes, by and large, we hear the story often that immigrants, they want their children to go to college. And so often their children are the first generations to go to college. That was the case with my mom. But it also felt that, you know, my mother had gone to the precipice of losing absolutely everything. And she was able to stave off losing everything by a mere inch. But because she had been at that precipice, she... desperately knew that she didn't want her children to get anywhere near that. And so she created all these machinations and ways and life skills to make sure that we didn't have the uncertainty that we had growing up. I think she probably still feels really guilty about that. 

Nora: Tell me about what some of those machinations and some of those magic tricks that she pulls. 

Paola: So one of my memories as a child is that my mom's first job was at a fast food restaurant. Her first job in the United States. But what I remember from those times is that every night, our dinner was hamburger and French fries. And I asked her as an adult or as a teenager, why did we always eat hamburgers and French fries? And she said to me because that the fast food restaurant, they would give her free lunch. And so she would take her free lunch, and she would save it for our dinner. I think my mother is extraordinary and I love her and she is very special. But I also know now that I am a mother, I would do the same thing for my child to make sure that they are able to survive and eat and thrive. 

I knew that I didn't fully belong in the United States growing up. One way that I knew that I didn't fully belong is because I had to go to downtown L.A. to immigration every few years to update our paperwork, to reapply for a green card, whatever it was. I have many, many memories of going to immigration and my mom being afraid walking into that office. Even though my mom was a citizen. There was still a fear. There was a dehumanization that happened when the officials spoke to my mother. And when they spoke to me, I knew innately that I had to act a certain way, that I had to be very submissive to the guards, to whoever was asking me questions. It was always very stressful. 

I grew up with a mom who was like... she was strong as hell. She got things done. She was strict. She was boisterous. She had an opinion. She was intense. Right? And when we walked through those doors in immigration, that woman completely disappeared. It was very confusing as a child because your rock, the person that you know, when they transform into someone that is meek and scared to speak and only speaks when spoken to, and barely speaks louder than a whisper, and gets flustered easily, your world falls apart, and you feel unsafe, and you feel like you need to do the same. So there was an unmooring there that happened whenever we were in immigration.


Paola grows up outside of Los Angeles, in a rural area. And she felt that same sense of unmooring — of unbelonging — not just in the immigration office but in the town that was supposedly her home.


Paola: So I remember, like, running around in the desert and playing with, like, insects and bugs and, like, in dirty ass desert water. I had a lot of freedom of movement growing up as a kid just because we were in such a rural area. I also remember not fitting in in the town that we were in because it was mostly a white town. And we came with an influx of immigrants and Black working class... transplants from L.A. And so it was an unwelcoming place for us. So I felt like I didn't really belong, though it was also my home. And then also amongst the immigrants, I didn't really belong because they were all Mexican and I was Colombian. 


Paola’s experience is different — her family came with green cards. Her mother is a U.S. citizen, even if her children aren’t. And then — there’s how Paola’s mother looks


Paola: So my mom presents as white. She's like 5’11”, super light skin, freckles everywhere, small eyes. She walks down the street and you think she's probably Russian or Eastern European. And when she speaks, she has a very, very thick accent. And it's very clearly a Spanish-speaking accent. But people, because of their own ignorance, they just cannot place that she is from Latin America. They think that she's Russian, and her accent does not sound Russian at all. So all that to say, that's the setup. 

So I was playing with my friend outside my house and I'm not sure exactly how it came up. And I was like, “Oh, yeah, you know, my mom's American.” And she said with such disdain and, like disbelief, she was like, “Your mom is not American.” And I was shocked. My mom had always identified as American because she was. She was born here and she came to her home country years later. And I was super confused. And I was like, “No, she is American.” And she said to me, my neighbor, she's like, “She can't be American. No one that's American speaks like that.” And I just remember this, like... feeling of not belonging. Of realizing that with her, my neighbor, my best friend, like I would truly never be fully accepted, that there would always be this, like, “you are them and you are not one of us.”


We’re going to take a quick break



We’re back. Paola is growing up outside of Los Angeles as a Colombian immigrant, not really feeling like she belongs… as an American, as an immigrant. 


Paola: And this was in the ‘90s. And so there was a lot of gang culture where I grew up. And so I started gang banging when I was around 12 years old. And that means that I was in the sixth grade. In the sixth grade, I was just hanging around a bunch of gangsters. Right? Like hanging out after school, hanging out in school, like, nothing of... any sort of real issues. It was just a bunch of kids hanging out. And what it provided me was a sense of community, a sense of acceptance. 

I had so much anger with my father's abandonment that I didn't have the resources to go to therapy, to go do art, to explore my emotions via theater or dance or anything. I had sports. I played baseball growing up, which was great, because I was able to get some of my frustration and anger out there. But then I also just had my community, which, you know, my personality in general is I'm a very adventurous person. I love to live on the edge and and have adventures, just have fun. With my son, I would have adventure Fridays, and on Fridays we would go and do fun things all day Friday, and we would figure it out as we went. And so with that in mind.... I say all of that because my personality gravitates towards extreme-type feelings, like I want an adrenaline rush. And so I would also get that with my friends when we would go and do stupid shit that we shouldn't be doing, when we would go and fight and get in fights, when we would get jumped or whatever it was. So it is ultimately a community support that I felt loved by and I felt safe with. And it was what was around me, given where I was growing up. 


Paola always did really well in school, but in seventh grade, she finds herself in something called a self-contained classroom. 


Paola: We were put into trailers, each class was an individual trailer, and each class had about seven to 10 students, so very small classes. Most of the kids in there were Black and brown. There was a handful of white kids. And we were in those trailers from the moment school started to the moment school ended. We would get released from the trailers to have lunch at a time when no one else in the school was having lunch. So if lunch for the rest of the school was between twelve and one, our lunch started at one thirty, and it was just us from self-contained classrooms that had lunch together. And this was... I wasn't asked if I wanted to go into these classrooms. My mother was not consulted. 

It's a dark, like, fluorescent lighting. It's super small. Most of the days, our teacher, he was disciplining students rather than teaching. There were fights that were breaking out, desks being thrown, chairs being thrown. Because, again, we were our self-fulfilling  prophecy. I don't recall a lot of learning happening, to be honest. But what I do recall is a lot of the students in there had trouble reading, had trouble doing math. So for me, the schooling aspect was super easy, and I would get done with the work very, very fast. And then I would just sit there, so I would be bored. So, of course, I would get myself into trouble. And I would pick fights with people. And so it was chaos. What I remember is, my seventh grade year of junior high school was complete, utter chaos. And young people don't thrive in chaos; we just become more chaotic. And so that's the heartbreaking thing about that time in life is that all of these kids were just going through chaos. 

They already started — they being the system, they being the school districts — started institutionalizing me for failure. They didn't allow me at the age of 12 to really have access to changing any sort of behavioral problems that I might have had. Saying, you know what, she's actually really, really smart, but she has some behavioral problems. So what is the issue here? What is the question? How can we help? They at the age of 12 gave up on me and put me in self-contained classrooms and assumed that I was going to just fail and go to jail. I had a parole officer as well in school. Even that name, “the self-contained classroom,” it was about containment. It was not about education. It was about containment. 


Paola described it as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell a kid they’re not going anywhere, they’ll prove you right. If you tell kids they are bad, they’ll prove you right. Paola had begun to internalize that story about herself, and to live into it. But a teacher — Mr. Atwood — notices Paola, and tells her something else. He tells her that she’s smart, she’s worthy, and he worked the whole school year to get her back into the main school. 


Paola: But when I got out into the quote unquote, real school, I didn't feel like, again, like I fit in. I didn't feel like these were my people. I had made all my friends there. I had self-identified and believed that I was bad, that I was not worthy, that I should, you know, be in jail, that I was a troublemaker and I didn't, quote unquote, want to be out in the real world. Again, that is the mentality in many ways of being and getting locked up. And so the teacher saw something in me and fought to get me out. But there was... 50 other students that were given up on at the age of 12. And that is the heartbreaking reality. That is the unfair reality. That is the systematic racism in the United States and the lack of belonging. What that does to us and lack of resources, obviously, too, to help students that need the extra help. 


Even in the “regular” school, it’s not much better for Paola. The setting has changed, but she’s still hearing the same story about herself. 


Paola: Most teachers didn't like me. Like, I had very few chances to mess up, because if I messed up, it was a much bigger deal than, say, if, you know, Jennifer messed up. So my safety net in the school was very, very minimal. And so I think, you know, at that school, there weren't metal detectors, there weren't police officers in the school. And I think it's important to note that, like, that's not the only type of violence that exists, or militarized school systems that exist for young people. It is also just in the system that exists that says that Paola, if she's late for class, she gets this punishment, which is very severe. If Jennifer is late to class, she gets this punishment, if it's a punishment at all. And so that in of itself creates a militarized experience for me, because the repercussions of me fucking up were way more severe. And there was always the threat that I could go back into self-contained classrooms, where Jennifer, in this scenario, that existence is not even a reality for her. 


These are all messages that Paola receives — telegraphed through her environment, through her interactions. They tell her she’s not going anywhere, and she believes it. And I want to say, a LOT OF TEACHERS LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST. I know and love a lot of teachers, and when you hear your work being criticized, or even just the area of work that you work in, it is very easy to feel defensive, to be like, “What? We’re doing our best here!”

Paola’s story is not THE story of American Education. Which is kind of the point. It’s the story of the education system as experienced by her and kids like her. A system that is made up of some good people, and some not as good people, and some bad people (Betsy DeVos).

Middle school marches on for Paola. She’s smart, but school is boring. She’s still hanging out with the gang she was hanging out with in sixth grade… but now it’s the summer before 9th grade.


Paola: So my mom, being an immigrant, she had no idea what gangs were, what was happening. She knew that I was really angry and started to put together that I was getting into trouble. But she really hadn't put it all together probably until, like, the spring of my eighth grade year. Basically, my mom realized that three things were gonna happen to me. Either I was going to end up in jail, I was going to end up dead, or I was going to end up a drug addict. 


Paola had a habit of sneaking out, of running away. And one Friday night, she tells her mom, “Hey, I’m going to a friend’s house.” And she DID go to a friend’s house, but she and her friend had snuck out to go to a party. And when they come back, Paola’s mom is AT THE FRIEND’S HOUSE! They are BUSTED. And Paola’s mom grabs Paola and says, “You’re coming home with me. NOW.”


Paola: She took me home and she said, “You're leaving to Colombia on Monday. I don't care what you say. You're going there for a year.” So she took all of my shoes so I couldn't run away. And then she posted up in my bedroom from Friday night until Monday morning. She didn't leave once, and I was not allowed out of the bedroom either. And I couldn't go anywhere because A., my mom was in the room with me the whole time, and, B., I didn't have any shoes, so I couldn't even, like, jump off my roof and run through the desert, because I couldn't get anywhere without any shoes. 


They spend an entire weekend like that — in a room together, watching one another, Paola knowing that when she DOES leave this room, she’s going to be sent away to go to a country that is no longer her home. On Monday, it’s time. Mom gives Paola a pair of shoes, and they drive to the airport. 


Paola: And at that time, you could still walk people to the gate of the airport. She walked me to the gate of the airplane and sent me down the jetway. And I got on the plane. And eight hours later, I was landing in Bogota, Colombia, to live with an aunt and my cousin, who was one year older than me at the time. 

And I think my experience in Colombia, and this is again, Colombia in the ‘90s. Colombia in the ‘90s was at the height of Pablo Escobar. It was the height of drug violence in Colombia. It was a very dangerous place. And yet my mother was willing and did send me back to Bogota during this very dangerous period politically because she felt that I would be safer there than I was in L.A. 


Paola steps off the plane, and enters a whole new world. 


Paola: In the United States, I lived in a three-bedroom tiny house, probably a thousand square foot house, one bathroom, small backyard. And my mom worked from 8:00 in the morning till seven p.m. at night. She came home. She cooked us Hamburger Helper. And we cleaned the house while she was gone. Right? And we watched TV most days. And when she was at work after school, like, we would go hang out with friends and kind of like run around wherever it was that we wanted on bikes or catch rides from people that we knew. 

In Bogota, I moved into a house that had a chauffeur, that had two live-in maids. And it's important to note that in Latin America, middle class families tend to have maids, too. So while we had two, it is not as abnormal as it is here in the United States. The house that I moved into was... it was very, very big. It was a two-story house with a huge terrace outside. There was a doorman at the door... like it was, it was... I was going to an all-girls private Catholic school in Bogota with all also very, very wealthy families. And so it was the complete opposite of what I had grown up with. And that experience of being A.) accepted, which for the first time in my life, at the age of 14, I had family around me, which was so transformational for me. I remember when I first arrived in Bogota how much I loved to say, “Oh, I'm going to call my cousin,” or “I'm going to go hang out at my cousin's house. I'm going to call my aunt. Oh, I want to see my grandmother this weekend,” because my entire life I had never been able to say that because it was always just the three of us. But in Bogota, I had this whole extended family that was rooting for me and helping me. And I felt so comforted, and I felt so welcomed.


That environment — of having a whole group of people rooting for her — it changes everything. 


Paola: I didn't do anything extraordinary. I just did what was expected of me. When I got to Bogota, I was put into a school where I was expected to do well, where they demanded excellence of me, where I was challenged educationally in a way that I had never been challenged before. Education was now hard for me, where I was expected to have dreams and ideas and desires for the future, where the system was set up for me to succeed rather than set up for me to fail. And so I, very similarly to when I was in L.A., I was a self-fulfilling prophecy to the desires around me. When I was in Columbia, I became a self-fulfilling prophecy to the desires around me, but in a positive way. And I think that that's really important to understand. I was the same child, but with different expectations. And in both expectations, I fulfilled them.


Here, Paola was hearing a new story about herself: that she was smart, and worthy, and that expectations for her were high. Just like she did in that self-contained classroom, she lived up to the story she heard about herself. 

And we’re going to take a quick break.



We’re back, and Paola is in Bogota, living with extended family and THRIVING. But after junior year, it’s time for her to go back to California and finish high school… at the same place where she’d been written off as a bad kid with no future. At the same place where her mother was sure Paola’s future had three options: addiction, death or prison. But she’s not going back as the old Paola.


Paola: I go back very determined to go to college, to have a future. But I also am very well aware that I'm going back to a neighborhood and an environment that knew me as a certain person. And I was nervous. I wasn't sure what was going to happen, if there was going to be a conflict with my old friends and who I was now. But I was very determined that I was not going to fall back into my old ways. And I didn't. And there was some conflict at the beginning. There was definitely some peer pressure and some dislikes and some threats. But I held my ground quietly and just finished my senior year of high school. So I just had one year. I finished my senior year of high school quietly. I found the theater by accident, and I fell in love with the theater. And I kind of got, like, wrapped up with a bunch of theater dorks and nerds and, like, that became my family. And I didn't know anything about how to get to college in the United States. I knew nothing about SATs. I know nothing about ACTs, and my mom obviously didn't know anything about that either. And to be frank, I don't even know if my high school had college counselors. So there was no help from the school perspective either. So the only thing I could do was go to my local community college, and my local community college had a dropout rate of 80 percent. But I was really determined that I was going to transfer out and get to a university. 


And she does. It takes three years, but she eventually transferred to UCLA. 


Paola: When I left the city that I had grown up in, it was a huge relief. Like, I felt like I got out. I was like yes I made it. I'm out. And that that was like a weight off of my shoulders to be able to get out. 


We are not just a collection of things that have happened to us, but these experiences do help shape us. And they help shape what we do, how we operate out in the world. Paola is now a filmmaker, an author, an activist. And all of these experiences from childhood  have shown up in her work over and over again.

As a kid, she’d ask her mom to tell her the story of her family coming to America, of her dad leaving, of what happened afterward. As an adult, these are stories that fuel her, and the stories that show up in her work. Those stories about their first summer in America — her father leaving, she and her mother and brother sleeping in a park — were used as the basis for a fictional film she wrote and directed. 

All creative work allows us to process the stories inside of us. Fiction gives us a space to get beyond just the facts of what happened and unravel the truth of it. Telling these stories as an adult has helped Paola to understand the father who left her over 30 years ago… and even to forgive him. 


Paola: To come to a place of understanding that my father was not this demon horrible person, he was a man that made a bad decision out of weakness because he couldn't fulfill the shoes of what it meant to be an immigrant in this country with a family. And that kind of framed the rest of my journey thus far of my life, one of feeling sad for him and not being angry anymore and also having a lot more compassion for people when they make decisions that end up being lifelong bad decisions. And the only reason I was able to get there is because as a writer, I needed to put myself in the shoes of my father and ask the “why.”


I found Paola’s work through her newest book, Sanctuary. It’s a young adult novel set in a near-future where all American citizens are microchipped and tracked. The protagonist, a teenage girl named Valli, is an undocumented immigrant from Colombia. 


Paola: Vali and her mother and her little brother, Ernie, when they decide to take a journey across the United States to try and get to California, because they are living in a futuristic, authoritarian United States where the president has created a deportation force that is rounding up all the undocumented immigrants. And the only place that they can find sanctuary is in California, and they decide to take off there. It is those individual people and decisions that influence their life and their journey.

So I have over the past 10 years heard the stories of probably at this point thousands of undocumented immigrants, migrants and refugees. And I often hear their stories in their most vulnerable moments of their lives. And so I've kept all of those stories in my heart for years, and it is with Sanctuary that I have been able to take pieces and parts of their stories and weave them into the pages and into the characters of the story of Sanctuary.


The idea for the book came to Paola the day after the nationwide marches against family separation, which she had helped organize. She was feeling empowered and inspired by the hundreds of thousands of people who had taken to the streets — and also fearful of what could happen to undocumented immigrants if this administration was re-elected. 

It’s easy to talk about systems and forget that we’re talking about people. It’s harder to talk about people and not realize the way systems impact everything about the way we live.

In the novel she wrote, Paola imagines a world where citizens turn their backs on the mistreatment, dehumanization and systematic disappearance of anyone who isn’t them. It is the imagining of a worst possible future for America… but it also feels extremely familiar. 

The week I wrote this episode was the same week that a whistleblower alleged that women in an ICE detention center in Georgia were given medically unnecessary hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures that they didn’t understand. I live in a state where our country is building a wall to keep out immigrants. And depending on the stories you’ve heard, that’s smart to you! Or it’s a huge waste of money.

I live in a country where some people are saying things like “America First!” And based on the stories you’ve heard, that’s good, that’s fine! Yes! Or that’s deeply disturbing. That’s wrong.

So, the book itself is fiction. And like most fiction, there is a lot of truth to it. 


Paola: This particular story that I'm about to tell are not in Sanctuary. The pain and the visceral danger and fear is 100 percent palpable in Sanctuary. So I went down to the border in 2014 under Obama, it's important to note, because there was a surge in unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States. It was one of the first immigration crises we had had with so many children crossing into the border of the United States. And I couldn't grasp my head around, I was like, what does this mean? 

So I was in a shelter that was housing people that had just crossed and we were doing intake of people that had just come in. And I was talking to a woman who had just arrived at the shelter and she was in complete shell shock. And her little son, who is probably like ten or eleven years old, was emotionally just not present. Something really bad had happened.

And she started telling me her story. And I tell this story because she told me that she wanted people to know her story, and she wanted to know why she had fled her hometown, her home country, which is in Central America. And she said that, you know, where she lived, there was a lot of gangs, huge gang problem. And she had come home. She had two sons, a 16-yea-old and a 10-year-old. And when she had come home from work, there was three gangsters inside of her house from a very prominent gang where she lived. And they had her 16-year-old son sitting in a chair. And they had two chairs across from him, where her 10-year-old boy was sitting in one chair for her. And they had said that they wanted her son to join the gang. And she had said no and her son had said no.


So this is really hard. It was hard for me to hear when she told me, and so we’ve decided it’s just too hard to put out there into the world. It happened, and it’s a true thing, and it’s just too terrible to repeat. So I’ll just tell you only that these men tortured and killed this woman’s son in front of her and in front of her 10-year-old.


Paola: And that night she left her hometown with her 10-year-old boy and came to the United States looking for safety, refuge and sanctuary. And so these are the types of stories that inform Sanctuary. And this is the reason why people leave their home countries. Now, in Sanctuary, we're talking about 2032, and people are fleeing within the United States. But the fear and the possibility of losing one's life is palpable. And the question becomes, “What would you do?” Could you really tell that woman, “Don't come here. Wait in line,” when there isn't a line to wait in to say you are not welcome here. That to me is crazy. I would hope that most people would provide safety and refuge and sanctuary for that woman when we have the ability to do so in this country. 


The power of story is that it moves us, it affects us. That we all affect one another, even when we aren’t trying to, when we are sure that we have nothing in common. It’s us and it’s them, and we can hunker down on our own sides and that’s that. 

Except it isn’t. Because we do share this world, this country, these sidewalks, our school and all of our systems, with one another. We are a part of each other’s stories. The stories we live, and hear, and tell affect how other people live, and hear and tell their own stories. 

Our actions have reactions. They reverberate through the lives of other people for better or for worse. And sometimes we know that, but mostly I don’t think we do. Mostly, our impact on other people remains invisible to us.


Paola: My real life story has been influenced and changed by individuals that have come in contact with. Mr. Atwood, getting me out of my self-contained classroom. My neighbor telling me that my mother wasn't American enough. My mother learning English at her first job. My father's abandonment. All of these individual actions created the path of my life and really allowed me to be here at this moment with such a privileged life. I've traveled the world. I've organized the biggest protests in the world. I've traveled with migrants as they are walking thousands of miles to the United States borders. I've really had such a full life that I'm so honored and in awe of. 


A story isn’t just what happened, it’s what it means to the people it happened to. Paola’s stories — the ones she lived, the ones her mother told her and the ones she tells now — aren’t just about what happened but about the impact that these actions have on the people we share a world and a community with. 

You so rarely know when you’re changing a life or when yours is about to be changed.


Paola: And I think it's really important to note that one action can change someone's life for good or for bad. Mr. Atwood changed the course of my life. My father changed the course of my life. And so I think, you know, that's important with this book, too, is that we each individually must realize that when we see injustice happening around us, when we act or when we don't act, could be so important to the person that is experiencing that injustice.


This has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” I’m Nora McInerny. I’m your host. I’m a writer. I make this podcast with Marcel Malekebu, who is our senior producer. With Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, who is... not entirely sure of her title. With Hannah Meacock Ross. With Jordan Turgeon. With Phyllis Fletcher, a genius editor who we cannot live without. Don’t make us. Don’t even ask us to. We will not do it. We won’t do it.

Who else? Who else? Who else do I have to thank for this episode? (Me?) That’s my child, Ralph. He crept in at the end, so if you hear, like, heavy little footsteps and breathing in the back, he’s home from school. He’s in the credits. The closet door was shut, but somebody did not respect the shut door and that is okay. 

Our theme music is by Geoffrey Lamar Wilson. You know Geoffrey, Ralph. He makes the theme music. (Dun, da da.) That’s right. No, that’s close. Dun Dun Dun. (Duh duh nuh nuh nuh.) We’ve got new theme music, and it’s The Simpsons! (The Simpsonnnnns.) “Terrible, Thanks for Askinggggggggg!” do da loot, do da loot, do da loot loot do dooo doooo da doo doo. That was good, Ralph! Wow.

We are a production of APM. What do you think APM stands for, Ralph? (American Public Radio?) Pretty close. It stands for Always Punching Mammals. You’re a mammal. We’re mammals. You better watch out. It stands for American… what’s another P word? (Poaching?) American Poaching… what’s an M word? (Mammals.) We’re stuck on mammals. We are stuck on mammals, aren’t we? (Oh! Men!) MEN. Okay. American Poaching Men. Well that was…

Do da doooo. You can find Paola’s book at our Bookshop.org link in the (Pfft.) show notes. Fart noise, Ralph. You can sign up for our newsletter. We do it twonce a month, twice a month. Twonce a month, that means once or twice. Twonce a month. At TTFA.org/newsletter. 

Thank you for listening to this podcast. We appreciate it greatly. Anything else you need to say, Ralph? (Farts, farts and away!) Farts, farts and away. (I pledge allegiance to the American Fart Flag.) Haaa ha ha! (What? People like saying that. There’s a giant flag and we put our hands on our hearts and we say, “I pledge allegiance to the farts of poop.”) I love it. Very subversive. (Farts and poop.) Okay, that’s enough.