If 12-year-old Nayeli were a superhero, her powers would be ballet dancing and keeping her divorced parents apart. Dance was her only safe space–until a chance to audition for a professional ballet company threatens to bring her Mom and Dad together. She wants them to accept both her Mexican and American identities, but after a family reunion gone wrong, owning her true self could mean losing one of her parents forever.
I have more in common with superheroes than anyone realizes.
When I was three years old, my parents got divorced. The judge suggested I be split in two, so each of my parents could get half of me.
They both agreed.
My birth certificate shows my name is Nayeli Grace Miller-Martinez. But that’s not who I am any longer.
With Mamá, I am Naye.
With Dad, I am Ellie.
Even my name has been split in two.
I have two cultures, two families, two houses, two rooms.
In one house I am your average American almost-teenager, living with my Dad, stepmom, and little brother. In the other house I am Mexican living with my mamá and my abuelos, who speak Spanish to me, and I try my best to speak Spanish back.
I’m like Clark Kent and Superman, or Peter Parker and Spiderman. They have two separate identities; they are split.
The first rule about having separate identities is you don’t reveal your other identity. I’ve learned from watching superhero movies that sometimes, it’s the only way to survive, and who am I to question superheroes?
But when I’m dancing? That’s when I’m just me. I am Nayeli. It doesn’t matter what language I speak, the color of my hair, or eyes, or skin, or which parent I’m staying with.
Dancing is my life.