A few years after Ruth Behar and her family arrived in Queens, New York from Cuba in the early 1960's shortly after Fidel Castro took power, they were in an awful car accident that killed five teenage boys and left her in a full-body cast for most of the next year. She was nine years old, and spent her 10th birthday in that cast.
She tried, at points, to tell the story of that time as an adult looking back, to make sense of the trauma from that accident and the year that followed — the panic attacks she's had, why she still doesn't like to drive on highways. Eventually though, she figured out it should be written from the perspective of that little girl, confined to a bed, with no idea when she'd be able to get up or if she'd walk again (Behar says she never did run again).
Behar is an anthropologist and professor at the University of Michigan and has written a lot about Cuba and the Cuban diaspora, including for her project with poet Richard Blanco, Bridges to/from Cuba. Her story of that year became her first novel, a novel for children, "Lucky Broken Girl" (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers Group). The book also taps into the experience of being Cuban and Jewish, growing up among other immigrants from India, Belgium, Russia, Turkey, Mexico and beyond, and losing your country.