Where are You From? An Introduction
Series Info | Table of Contents
It was 1990, I was five. “Where are you from?” I was asked this seemingly harmless question over and over again. I felt like a broken record reciting the history of my parents and myself (or as I had been told to explain). It was never a short answer. At times I would try to answer simply, “I moved from California”, but if it was an adult asking, they almost always further probed, “Where are your parents from?” I had just moved to Reno, Nevada from Los Angeles, California. It felt like a punishment.
Where I had come from everyone had a story. It was a melting pot, a blend of first and second-generation American children. Here I was shocked to hear that some of these kids had never left the state, and their parents and grandparents were born in Nevada! I stuck out like a sore thumb, and the kids here let me know it. It didn't help that I was also younger than everyone in my class…my Father had insisted I be moved up a grade when I started school moving from Pakistan to Los Angeles. I could keep up with the kids in academics but didn't understand sarcasm or most of their jokes. I would later discover this difficulty understanding sarcasm was more a quirk in my personality and less due to my age as it persisted well into adulthood.
At my old school, the other kids let the way I talked slide, I never got questioned much about why I used certain words like "tissue" instead of Kleenex and "frock" instead of dress. They just went with it. Here I was constantly being reminded. "Oh, you mean…." Some of the kids were worse than the others…mostly the other girls. Most memorable was "listen to how she says thumb! Tum! Hahahaha." Luckily at that time in my life, I did not have much reason to say words that started with a w or a v, they would have had a field day with the mispronunciation, as I still struggle with ensuring those sounds come out right.
I was afraid to talk, afraid to stick out, knowing I did in every possible way. I found comfort spending time with the only other people that were different. This ranged from the only other kids of color, two African American boys and a Mexican American girl as well as anyone that was too shy to have friends. There were countless lunch breaks and recesses playing Oregon Trail in the computer lab.
At five I learned that I would have to balance my old identity, with one that would be more acceptable to these new people I was expected to spend the majority of my time with. To make it in this new town, I would have to appeal to what they considered "normal" and "acceptable". I was never actually embarrassed by my background or where I came from, but I knew that things would be easier for me if the explanation of my identity was presented in a digestible format for those around me.
Balancing, the act of distributing weight equally to prevent the chaos that may ensue if one side is unequally heavy or light. In my life, balancing is no less equal to its true definition. I am striving to maintain perfection amongst the many aspects of my identity and life….no one aspect of my life needs more attention than the other….so long as the balance is maintained.
Rebecca Holland      4/24/19 8:54 AMI feel for you. As a person who is half-Filipino and who was raised in a mostly white town, I got this question all the time (and still do).
Jazbeen Henna      4/25/19 5:13 PM
Thank you for reading! So glad someone can relate to this!
Kerriann Curtis      9/08/18 10:24 AMLooking forward to reading more!
Jazbeen Henna      9/08/18 12:36 PM
Thank you! More coming 09/15!