The Real Story Behind Princess Zee Comes To America

Writing Princess Zee Comes to America has been problematic since it’s based on a real story. I struggled to create a plot that offered a conflict and a happy ending while maintaining an upbeat tone that was appropriate for kids ages 3 through 9.

The reason is that the real story is fairly dark for a children’s book. The pandemic caused my wife and me to be separated from our kids for several years. They lived in Jamaica with their Grandmother while we were in Florida.

The US immigration system essentially treats everyone as potential criminals. The requirement to demonstrate non-immigrant intent is considered so important that it’s literally written into U.S. law that there’s a presumption of intent to illegally immigrate. As such, people must prove with documentation that they have major ties to their home country such as owning a home or having a job.

Children, of course, cannot provide this documentation, so our kids were not even allowed to visit for holidays like Christmas. We could visit them in Jamaica, but they were not allowed to visit the USA at all. Our intent was to follow the law and not jeopardize their immigration status, but it didn’t matter. The system unfairly keeps families separated for years at a time.

While many other families went through the same struggles, the major complication was that Grandmother became ill and was in horrible pain. My wife flew to Jamaica to help, but the Jamaican healthcare system could not help due to the strain on the system by COVID cases.

After waiting months for tests, we eventually found out that Grandma had pancreatic cancer. But the Jamaican hospitals could not offer treatment, never mind painkillers. Thankfully, after several months Grandma received an expedited travel visa to receive medical care in Florida.

But it was too late. She already had Stage 4 Cancer and so all the doctors could do was make her comfortable in hospice care.

Thus, the only reason that the real-life Princess Zee was allowed to immigrate to America was that her grandmother died and she was given expedited green card processing to attend the funeral in Florida. Grandmother’s family lost her house. Zee’s aunt and uncle were suddenly homeless in Jamaica, and they could not attend their own mother’s funeral due to the aforementioned immigrant intent in law. That’s not exactly a “And They Lived Happily Ever After” ending…

My wife and I agreed that this crucial part of the real story would not be in the book. What then would provide obstacles for our protagonist to overcome? I decided to make the pandemic the main hardship by shifting the timeline around so that the pandemic began much later in the immigration process.

I also did not want to make our flawed immigration system the villain of the story by overly emphasizing the logistical and political problems. This is a children’s book about overcoming adversity based on good character, not a political soapbox.

I’m hoping that families and their children can identify with the struggles of the fictional Princess Zee. It’s our story and I want children to be encouraged to keep pursuing the right thing even when the system is unfair.

Leave a Comment