People write letters to one another out of love and in confidence. But what if letters are written out of complaints in the age and rage of growing up? This is the foundation of the ‘Dear Mama’ letters. Based on the timeless format of letter writing, these pieces are a young girl writing letters to her not-so-beloved mother in an effort to make peace with life and herself. These heart-wrenching letters are written out of love, written out of despair, and written in the loneliest of nooks for all that needs repair. By bequeathing these letters to them, I wish my readers an immersive, epistolary journey into girlhood and beyond.

-Heena Khan
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

(Date stamp: Sometimes after I noticed the family album)

Dear Mama,

I am looking at the family picture book — the big hardbound with a red and green floral printed cover stashed away in the bottom-most drawer of your closet. I have read many board books, and this one is about us. 

I am excited in my silence as I pour over the book, pausing often to stare back into myself captured in various pops of color and hairstyles. It is easy to recognize myself. I am not smaller in any of the pictures than today, but it is difficult to spot my sister, who is much smaller as a baby. There are none that I can point to as equal to me in my crib. “Where are my baby pictures?” I ask hands on hips to Phuphi, the youngest aunt from Daddy’s side. Short and full bosomed Phuphi with a quick humor and a stored warmth waits on me for one long minute, and I wait back on her eager-eared. 

“You were too dark skinned as an infant, with small eyes and reed thin physique. So, we did not keep any of your pictures,” she explains, adding a famous pop culture rhyme-of-the-time with her characteristic dancing brows: “Dark maiden, lamp, and needle; run children, the trouble arrives.”

I am the trouble in your life, Phuphi indicates in her funny way. And the family album, too, points it out to me. 

I find myself blinking back at Phuphi, this time in my absence of big eyes. 

Your Dark Little Girl

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