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Ever Wanted to be a Genius?

If you’re wondering how Jasmin’s character in Stolen Diary was born, I must return to my

childhood, a time when I thought a person, by studying the right things, could become a genius. You might guess that my childhood dream was to become a genius!

As a kid, I loved to draw and paint. Birthday gifts were usually books on Italian renaissance artists, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Rafael, who created masterpieces. At first, they were children’s books and as I became older, they became full tomes, all of which I read voraciously. These brilliant artists symbolized PERFECTION.

At age nine or ten, I asked my parents why we did not live in Italy instead of Mexico. Intrigued by my question, my mother quizzed me why I wanted to be Italian.

“That’s where all the geniuses live,” I whined. “I don’t stand a chance to be a genius here.”

In Casas Grandes, the small town in northern Mexico where I grew up, we did not have a museum, a library, or a cultural center. We had a makeshift outdoor theater that was set up once a week in the summer with wooden crates for seats where we sat entranced by the movies that had made their debuts in worldwide theaters at least ten years earlier. I figured all films were made in Italy. Watching Sofia Loren confirmed my suspicion, and I added her to my list of geniuses.

When I attended the University of New Mexico, my world expanded, and I discovered theoretical physics and famous physicists like Richard Fineman, Hans Beta, and Enrico Fermi (an Italian American!) who had worked at Los Alamos National Laboratories. Brilliant scientists fascinate me – they create theories that encompass the origins of the universe.

By my university days, I realized not all geniuses were Italian, and much to my chagrin, I also realized I was not on my way to becoming a genius myself. That was a shattering acknowledgement!

The character of Jasmin, the young math prodigy of Stolen Diary, came to my mind out of nowhere while I was listening to a pianist in the lobby of a graceful old hotel in Budapest, Hungry.

Jasmin must have come to my consciousness knowing that I’ve always been fascinated by extraordinary minds. She was the muse to inspire me to write about the challenges faced by brilliant yet socially awkward people. Jasmin has made the full circle for me – she is from Mexico, not Italy, and although she’s a math prodigy, she also has social issues that make her life difficult and create challenges for her. This fictional character taught me that even geniuses are not perfect!


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