written by Jasmin Romero
As a creative writer, I learned to open with a hook. As a journalist, I learned to open with the most urgent piece of news. As a first-generation Latinx, I‘m still learning how to introduce myself.
Let’s start with hello, I’m Jasmin! I recently graduated from USC with a Journalism degree, and I love sharing what I discover through words. Every week, I’ll be answering any questions you may have about our collective. As a creative, it has always been a goal of mine to share a compelling story. But I’ve learned a story can’t hold its own unless the foundation is understood and supported.
Here at Kingdom of Ink, our foundations are supported. We have an unspoken understanding of our love for writing. I’m here to share my journey and show you how I got started,
The Desire to Understand
I’m a child of immigrant parents and a sister of two brothers. We grew up in a northern suburb of Orange County, CA not far from Disneyland. On special nights, we would watch the fireworks from our backyard. Most days, we listened — to the news, music, and dramatic telenovelas blasting from the speakers. It was all in Spanish, the only language we were told to speak at home. My mom was constantly afraid of having us lose our first language.
Despite this rule, my older brothers frequently spoke to me in words I didn’t understand. Staring back at empty phrases, I would respond in our shared language. It wouldn’t be long before I would join them in giving up our cultural ties.
ESL classes greeted me as soon as I entered Kindergarten. I don’t remember much from that time, but I do recall getting special attention. Every afternoon, outside of my classroom, a big blue chair sat in front of a small blue chair. Like clockwork, my assistant teacher would bring me to the chairs, and read me a new book.
Until a few years ago, I assumed our daily ritual was in place because I knew more than the other kids. I thought they were teaching me how to read advanced books. For that reason alone, I’m glad I don’t remember many of the difficulties that came with learning a new language. I know I was confused, and must of been asking myself why I didn’t fully understand anything. Why school felt so much different than home. Why my voice sounded different when shared out loud.
I know this to be true because I asked these exact questions throughout the entirety of my education.
How I Found My Voice Through Writing
Reading has always been a passion of mine. When I learned how to read, I would follow my parents around with a book, asking them, “¿Mami, Papi, te los leo?" Can I read them to you? I couldn’t contain my excitement for knowledge. To this day, whenever I read an interesting passage, I share it with anyone willing to listen.
When I was 8, my family moved to a suburb further south. Our home had changed, and everything around us looked identical to the movies I would watch on television. I was nervous and excited, and the thoughts in my head bubbled up into more questions. That was the year I received my first journal.
I was scared to speak, but my words flowed through my writing. I would write about my days, my current obsessions, and my 3rd grade crushes. One summer I was so bored, I wrote down every commercial that came on cable. A marketing study should have seriously hired me — I did this for three months straight.
Documenting the latest commercials soon turned into creative writing, which soon turned into blog writing. I took what I learned through reading, and I wrote. I wrote to imagine. I wrote to release. I wrote to speak in a language I could understand.
My voice spoke loud and clear through paper, but trembled in social settings. I was scared of answering questions I thought I didn’t know the answers to. I still did not fully understand why everyone around me looked different. Why did my parents continue to speak to me in a language that was now foreign? I hadn't realized the media I was consuming failed to show the life of a 15-year-old Latinx who struggled to speak her truth.
Journalism and Beyond
My professor presented Journalism to me as an honest form of storytelling. I was intrigued by this introduction. I had now graduated high school, and was struggling to find clarity in creative writing. So, I signed up for a magazine journalism class at my local community college. Just for fun, to see if I could learn something new. Boy, it did much more than that. Journalism signed me up for a life-long journey. A journey to underst