Novel details bullying an immigrant student faced at SHS
Javier A. Robayo emigrated from Ecuador to Connecticut at the age of 13. When he arrived with his family on American soil, after waiting seven years for immigration documents to be approved, he didn’t speak English. From the time he arrived, Robayo said, he was forced to endure racial, cultural and economic prejudice during his freshman year at Shelton High School.
However, he kept most of these challenges to himself. It was only with the publication this spring of My Two Flags, a fictionalized memoir detailing Robayo’s first year in the country, that his close family member and friends learned about events that took place 25 years ago.
Robayo will sign copies of My Two Flags at the Fairfield University Bookstore on Saturday, June 15, from noon to 3.
Because Robayo didn’t want to burden his parents with the bullying he endured, he filled many notebooks with journal entries about his daily trials.
“After all we went through to get here, I couldn’t complain and whine,” Robayo said.
Every night Robayo translated these notebooks from Spanish into English because he was committed to mastering his new language.
Robayo’s personal narrative is told through the eyes of his character, Antonio Amaya, the protagonist in My Two Flags.
When his father and uncle, with whom the Robayo family lived, read the manuscript, they were surprised to learn that he had been physically attacked and lonely because students were intolerant of a foreigner.
“They were crying so much afterward and said, ‘We had no idea,’” Robayo said.
Although many years have passed, Robayo is emotional as he recounts some of the incidents he writes about in My Two Flags. His family is one of millions who have come to the United States in search of safety and security.
“Many immigrants are looking for a better way of life and they’ve fought tooth and nail to get here,” he said. “They’ve come here to reach their potential.”
After graduating from Shelton High School, Robayo settled in Pennsylvania, where he attended college and eventually took a job in a steel mill.
“That was a 13-year nightmare,” Robayo said. “It was a very dangerous job. The employees were treated as if they were an inconvenience rather than an asset to the company. There were many unfair practices, too.”
Robayo stayed with the company, though, because he had met his wife, Sheri, and they wanted to start a family.
In same way he parlayed his immigrant experience into a compelling page-turner, Robayo is working on a novel that deals with his work in the steel mill.
Writing has always been in Robayo’s life. In fact, he said that writing his first two novels, The Gaze and The Next Chapter, “saved my sanity, my life and even my marriage.”
'Able to think clearer'
“When I got around to developing My Two Flags, I was over that emotional low and was able to think clearer,” Robayo said. “Writing was my escape and the only thing that kept me believing I could give my Sheri and our girls the dream life I want for them.”
My Two Flags is published by New England Endeavors, an independent publishing company Robayo founded this year with four other professional writers.
Robayo is in the process of moving to Clinton with his wife and two daughters, Kendra Marie, 9, and Amber Gabrielle, 6.
His parents, Jaime and Ana, live in Ansonia.
He and his sister Lorena Bedoya, who also lives in Ansonia with her husband and three sons, are as close as the brother and sister, Antonio and Paola, in the novel.
Information about My Two Flags may be found at javierrobayoauthor.com.
Details about the Fairfield book signing are available at fairfieldbooks.bkstr.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.