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Looking for love

Illustration by Julia Ogden (

Do you remember your first love? Not a crush on a kid in elementary school or the fantasy of being with a celebrity, but real love for someone who made you feel reborn, whom you could imagine spending your life with. For 16-year-old Maddalena in The Wild Impossibility, that love lives a horseback ride away, behind a barbed-wire fence. It's 1945, and though peace has come to Europe, World War II still rages on against Japan.

Maddalena rides to Manzanar as often as she can in hopes of seeing Akira, who works at the hospital and often takes his breaks outside on the steps, where Maddalena can see him from beyond the fence. Only days after meeting him, this boy she can’t stay away from, Maddalena feels both a rush of joy at the newness, the possibility of love, and despair in knowing that more than physical barriers could keep them apart.

One hot night she lies in bed thinking about seeing him on the hospital steps that day and struggling to understand her newfound emotions.

“The simple fact was that Akira made her feel alive, and no other boy had ever done that. When he looked at her, the world seemed as endless as the night sky, full of adventures and surprises. Something had begun, something unknown and impossible. Maddalena thumped her pillow. Even if what she felt was love, she couldn’t marry Akira or anyone like him. He had Japanese blood, and that made him more of a fantasy than Clark Gable. Maybe in San Francisco, where real things happened, where people wore beautiful clothes and went to the movies and restaurants and strolled along the bay, it would be permissible for an Italian girl and a Japanese boy to be together. But not here. People in Owens Valley didn’t think that way.”

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