Shoba Sreenivasan is a forensic psychologist. She earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is a clinical professor at the University of Southern California. She has published numerous papers and co-authored two motivational books. "Mattie" is her first work of fiction.

My American experience begins with my parents' memories of Midwestern American decency and kindness towards two young people in the 1950s who were a world away from their home — Bombay, India.  I was born in Columbus, Ohio where my father was a scientist on a post-doctoral research fellowship at Ohio State.  We then moved to Peoria, Illinois and then back (for them) to India when I was three.

School started early in India.  At four I revealed the core of who I was: proud to have that school bag, enthusiastic about learning, but always serious and determined.  My father's heart, however, was captivated by the United States and he yearned to return.  And so we did, in 1966, to Fargo, North Dakota.  I remember my first day in the third grade at McKinley Grammar School.  The teacher asked the class to name the national fruit.  While everyone else said "apple," I said "mango" — I was not in Bombay anymore!  But this was a fabulous place.  Among other things, I discovered the wondrous holiday of Halloween (what a great country this was — free candy!!).  We then moved to Hackensack, New Jersey when I was nine, where I attended Fairmount Grammar School. We later moved to Paramus, New Jersey.

Growing up, I was embarrassed by my long name that no one could pronounce, and wanted desperately just to be "American."  I hated the question, "Where are you from?"  I hated it because I wanted to say, "Right here, the U. S. of A., just like you."  But here again, I would be struck by the great and wonderful evolution of this country.  Roots, the TV series, became a hit, and the hyphenation of American identity came into popularity.  Suddenly, the "Where are you from" question wasn't something to make me feel less American.  It was an acknowledgement that we were all from somewhere else; this was a country composed of a tapestry of people.

I came of age in the seventies, but the adventurous spirit that had me hitchhiking with abandon was quickly nipped by reason and rationality.  I rubber-banded back to the personality of a studious little girl proudly clutching her school bag.  I went to college, and graduate school, obtained a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UCLA, and received specialized post-doctoral training in forensic psychology from USC.  I hold an academic position, publish papers, and work as a forensic psychologist.  I have also been honored to serve our veterans through my position at the Veterans Administration.  So, it has been a rich and fulfilling professional life.

But now, so many years from my days at Fairmount Grammar School, I recall the feeling of wonder, of new places and new experiences.  I recall the possibility of the impossible.  The ancient stories of the great battles between good and evil that run like sounds of an endless stream over stones...eight magic stones.


Shoba speaks before a packed auditorium at Cole Elementary in Murrieta, California

Shoba presents "Mattie Spyglass" to the Young Writers Conference at Cole Elementary in Murrieta, Calif., May 23, 2013.

Shoba works the crowd at Cole Elementary 5/23/13

Shoba works the crowd at Cole Elementary.

Shoba does a reading before an enraptured room at Cole Elementary.

Shoba does a reading before an enraptured room at Cole Elementary.