Where are you from? Part 1

I want to begin a project about, for lack of a term, what I’m calling “fromness”. That is, the sense that you belong somewhere, there is a beacon calling out to you, a sense of home. Perhaps you don’t have that sense, perhaps you crave it, perhaps you miss it, perhaps it doesn’t really figure large in your life.

I’m constantly preoccupied with longings for home. My family has a rather transnational history and, although I personally have lived in Australia all my life, it’s a foreign country to my family. I don’t think I could belong anywhere else, either. Even if in fragmented, alienated ways, this country is what I’ve grown up with. But Australia is never going to be a good enough answer to ‘Where are you from?’. I don’t belong here – and never will – because I’m not accepted here, because this is not where my familial history has been, and always, always because my being here is predicated on the deaths of people who were here before me, and the continued marginalisation of Indigenous Australians.

I dream of being from somewhere, of being comfortable, of being at home. Not being from anywhere, never being able to belong anywhere: that’s something that makes me feel fundamentally insecure.

I want you to begin thinking about what the question ‘Where are you from?’ means to you. And we’ll go on a journey.

92 comments for “Where are you from? Part 1

  1. ellen
    March 2, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I’m from South Wales. I didn’t realise how much I identified with being Welsh as well as British, until I went to university in England. Studying in England has made me realise my own Welshness! It feels a bit weird to realise that I’ll never really live in Wales again – I’m in the last year of my degree and then I’ll train to become a barrister in London, and then work in London.

    On that note, happy St David’s day for yesterday everyone! (St David is the patron saint of Wales).

  2. March 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    It means, from the South, or more specifically, from Alabama. For all of the things I reject about home, the instant I find someone from there, I’m the first to offer a handshake or a hug to someone else who is also a native.

    And this is a phenomenon that obviously arrives when one is not there, physically. People where I live now are more private and guarded with their feelings, and I think this degree of instant recognition between two people from the South is a means to express what is our natural method of socialization.

  3. Chabas
    March 2, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    When my boyfriend and I drive to his mom’s, there’s a place along the route where he visibly relaxes, because he’s *home*. I, on the other hand, only have a vague and convoluted answer to “Where are you from”. I was born in one part of the country (that is, the Netherlands), raised in another that I don’t identify with at all… I do strongly identify with what I perceive to be Dutch national identity, but that’s currently getting REALLY snowed under by parties who have a totally different concept of our national identity, and the place I’ve felt most at home is Dresden, Germany…

    So yeah, VERY elusive concept to me.

  4. Zoe
    March 2, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    I’m from a house across a bridge in central Pennsylvania. I don’t identify too heavily with the town that I’m from (too much ignorance, too much prejudice, too much hate). When I go home to visit, the town makes me physically sick with emotion. I don’t have friends there anymore, I don’t belong there anymore. But I know I’ll always have my house to call home. It’s my family, my childhood, it’s the love in my life. I graduated college last year and I’m trying to get a job in Seattle while living with my aunt and uncle. Until I grow my roots here, I’m feeling that sense of not-belonging. If all else fails, I have a base to return to, no matter what.

  5. March 2, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I’ve spent nearly my whole life in or near Minneapolis, MN, and for a long time, I naturally just said “I’m from Minneapolis.” I still feel this way, to an extent; that is, I consider Minneapolis to be “home,” in the sense that I imagine I will always come back here if I go anywhere. I’m used to the culture, the people, the activities, the politics, the climate… I can hardly imagine being “at home” anywhere else.

    On the other hand, I’ve lately become much more sensitive to the idea of “home” as the place where I was born, where my dad’s family calls “home,” which is in northern, rural Missouri (Jameson, MO, specifically… anyone heard of it?). My family moved from there to Minneapolis when I was 3, and even though I spent/spend a lot of time in Missouri visiting family, it’s always felt like such a foreign place to me.

    But, as I get older, my visits there are much different. I feel a lot of peace and calmness in those scraggly dirt roads and barely-usable gas stations, and old, run-down Baptist churches, and the abundance of rickety trailer homes. And there’s something so intense about the smell of nature that, as an avowed urban-dweller, I am constantly in awe of for its sheer novelty and closeness to the earth that I don’t spend all that much time engaging with around here. I think this sense of nostalgia and olfactory memories are what propel me to listen to the grossest and most misogynist country songs I can find, simply because it reminds me of a much simpler and peaceful life in Missouri that I have deliberately separated myself from for many years.

  6. March 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Lately mine’s been more a “who are you from?” than “where are you from?” I’ve lived in the Midwest my entire life, but my dad’s family is from Italy, and I strongly identify with that even though I grew up — and am closer to — my mom’s family. (My paternal grandparents died when I was fairly young.) I guess it seemed more like “someplace,” even though I’ve never visited Italy, and can only speak a few words of Italian. I’ve been researching my mom’s family history recently, which is a blend of Acadian, German, Scots, Native American, and Sephardim. It’s much richer than I could have imagined.

  7. Becca Stareyes
    March 2, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    It… depends. Right now, I’m a graduate student with intents on pursuing a career in academia. If my father’s career is any indication, I expect to move several times before I settle down. So, I tend to answer ‘Where are you from?’ with ‘Nebraska’, since I lived there over a decade (from elementary school til college) and have my immediate family there, even though I’m six-years-and-counting living away from it. Occasionally, I might answer ‘I live in upstate New York, but I grew up in Nebraska’, because… well, I haven’t lived in Nebraska in six years, though I still have some fondness for the place, even if I don’t fit with a lot of the politics.

    Though more and more I’m switching to ‘where I live now’ as where I am from. After all, I’ve lived in Ithaca for a long time now. A lot depends on the context, and I think I’m learning how to carry my home with me (and keep part of it on the Internet).

    But if I’m at a conference/at work, I’m ‘from’ Cornell University, since that’s my academic institution. In context, I immediately parse the question as ‘where do you work?’, just as ‘where I came from’ is University of Nebraska. Academia is a world unto itself, and when I’m in scholar-mode, I tend to parse questions differently.

  8. March 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I’m from California, the land of self-reinvention, the land where people come to escape, as the Eagles sang, the “old world shadows that hang heavy in the air.”

    I have two passports (UK and USA), and I feel at home on Carmel Beach, and the green hills of Devon; I feel at home in Manhattan and London and Jerusalem and the Pico-Robertson in Los Angeles. My father was a Jewish war refugee, who always liked the idea of having multiple passports, multiple languages, and a suitcase ready to be packed in case you needed to go and go fast.

    Home is where my wife and daughter are. When I’m at work, as I am now, I am “from” their arms, wherever those arms might be.

    Ain’t nothin’ wrong with itinerant cosmpolitanism!

  9. March 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Even though I moved to Canada only 16 years ago, it feels like home to me. The various places in New England where I grew up and lived for a long time no longer do. Which is odd, I suppose. But there’s something about where I am now that says “home” to me. I have no nostalgia for New England. If I have nostalgia for anywhere, it would be Quebec, where two of my grandparents and all of my great-grandparents were born. In a way, moving to Canada (though not to Quebec) was indeed coming home.

  10. Roisin
    March 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    I was born in Ireland to an Irish father and half Irish mother, but moved to England very young due to mum divorcing dad (it wasn’t legal in Ireland until very recently). Whenever I went over to visit the family always welcomed me “home”, and as a child I took that as a given. Now due to having no connection to my family there I feel that sense of belonging has faded. But I don’t belong where I had my teenage years, or where I am now (London). I’m pretty sure this means I am from nowhere!

  11. Heather
    March 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Comrade Kevin: It means, from the South, or more specifically, from Alabama.For all of the things I reject about home, the instant I find someone from there, I’m the first to offer a handshake or a hug to someone else who is also a native.
    And this is a phenomenon that obviously arrives when one is not there, physically.People where I live now are more private and guarded with their feelings, and I think this degree of instant recognition between two people from the South is a means to express what is our natural method of socialization.  

    I didn’t know you were also an Alabamian! This resonated so much with me. I never felt a connection to the South until I left. It’s just silly little things that are different, but sometimes I do get a little homesick.

  12. March 2, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I moved from Northern Ireland to Scotland when I was 18, and stayed there up until a year ago (aged 32). I consider both home, but Scotland’s the one I expect to return to living in, if and when I finish this travelling-without-end thing (which, of course, is a whole other story!).

    However, way back when I first moved to Scotland, it was a surprise to me how little people knew about where I was from, seeing as it’s so close. Identifying myself as Northern Irish turned out to be kind of redundant: everybody from the island of Ireland was seen as one and the same. Few people knew the difference, whether it was about politics and nationality or whether it was about the signifiers which to me were obvious (differences in accent, for example). I wasn’t massively invested in Britishness anyway, but this really brought home to me how much of an afterthought we were. So where am I from? Somewhere with a fucked up history, a place that our neighbours – and compatriots, depending on how you choose to view it – mostly don’t know a whole lot about, or care.

  13. KJ
    March 2, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I grew up in Texas for 21 years, but I feel home is the high desert and pine forests of Arizona. For three years, I lived there and was at peace with myself. The previous 21 years were misery, but in that dry country, I was happy. I’m now in a different part of the states, because to achieve the career I want I need to be here, but I will go back to the rocks and the trees of the desert. People laugh when I tell them that, because everyone says where I live now is so green and beautiful, but it isn’t peaceful. It lacks something. I’m not sure what ‘it’ is, but the only place I found it was in Arizona.

  14. Angie Jackson
    March 2, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    I am “from” a family, culture, and religion I can no longer identify with.

    It’s kind of lonely not belonging in the place you are “from” anymore.

  15. March 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Can I talk about my relation to the antithesis of this? It is not the being fromness that exercises me, instead it is the lack of the “where are you from?” question that sometimes gets me. I am a fist-generation Canadian. My parents are immigrants. But because I am Caucasian, no one ever asks me where I am from. In contrast, many of my “ethnic-looking” friends (including, many-generation Canadians and including Native Canadians) get asked in my presence (often) where they are from.

    This I find unsettling.

  16. Mike
    March 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I’m from Iowa. It’s where I grew up, and even though I’ve grown beyond who I was there, it’s still where I’m most comfortable. More generally, the American Midwest is the part of the world I’m most comfortable in. I’ve traveled around the world – spent time in Thailand and China, some time kicking around Europe, a while in the Dominican Republic and other parts of Central and South America – but I always come back to the Midwest. Rolling fields of corn soothes my soul.

  17. Kristen J.
    March 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Fromness is a loaded concept in my life because my life has been full of enormous and life changing transitions. Am I from the places of my childhood? I feel enormously disconnected from that aspect of myself. Am I from the places where my family is from. That fills me with a great sense of revulsion. Am I from the place where I long to be even though I rarely get a chance to go there and may not live there for decades more?

    None of these senses of home *feel* correct.

  18. libdevil
    March 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    The answer to the question is somewhat context specific, for me.

    I grew up in Ohio. Lived in the same house my parents still live in for the first 18 years. So that’s home. But I spent more than a decade in Durham, North Carolina, for grad school and thereafter. That feels like home too. Even in my own head it’s not always clear. I’m stuck somewhere that is decidedly not home right now, but when I think of NC, I’ll often think “I need to go home and visit friends.” But when I think of family, Ohio is home. All the relatives I’ve ever been close to live or are buried in northern Ohio (more distant relatives are scattered somewhat farther afield).

    But then there’s a more immediate definition too – where I’m at now isn’t home, but when I shut the door of my apartment behind me, I relax, because I’m home. That little tiny corner of this part of the world, just a few hundred square feet, is home. Even though when I move out, I won’t hold any nostalgia for it at all. It’s home because that’s where my books are, and where nobody else is to bother me, and because it’s where I’ll curl up and go to sleep.

    And in a professional context, the question “Where are you from?” often stops even being about home, and becomes a question about your education and professional background.

  19. Nimue
    March 2, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Bakka: Can I talk about my relation to the antithesis of this? It is not the being fromness that exercises me, instead it is the lack of the “where are you from?” question that sometimes gets me. I am a fist-generation Canadian. My parents are immigrants. But because I am Caucasian, no one ever asks me where I am from. In contrast, many of my “ethnic-looking” friends (including, many-generation Canadians and including Native Canadians) get asked in my presence (often) where they are from.This I find unsettling.  

    I know what you mean here; I’m an international student at a Canadian university, but I have had experiences just like yours. I’m white and can talk “Canadian” if I feel like it, (which I normally do-constantly talking in a Southern accent would draw *way* more attention to myself than I am comfortable with) and everyone I meet assumes I’m Canadian. I don’t like it. I don’t have anything against Canadians, but I’m not one. It makes me wish I looked “different” enough for people to realize that I’m not one of them.

  20. Saskia
    March 2, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    After I started college, having a sense of “home” became really important to me. I may not have lived long enough to have the diverse sense of fromness I may one day have- and apart from my years at college, I’ve never lived on my own- but Queens has always been a huge part of how I identify myself. The experiences I had growing up were quintessentially from my borough, and they shaped how I am today. Being from Queens allowed me to be comfortable with myself- people have told me stories of their experiences as second generation immigrants, and I’ve never felt alienated like they have. The huge variety of cultures I grew up around made me comfortable to be a mixing pot myself.

  21. k not K
    March 2, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    @ Bakka, I’m a white, US-American immigrant to a European country that has plenty of anti-immigrant sentiment, and I know just what you mean by NOT being asked. Now that I have no identifiable accent, people will even say anti-immigrant things in front of me. I’ve had conversations where people make it quite explicit that I’m “one of the good ones”.

    It took me a long time to start thinking about where I’m “from” in a deep way myself, probably because I was so consumed with the task of functioning in a new country. But yes, it is important to me, even if I have a complicated relationship with my home country and home region. My hometown had an attempted bombing on MLK Day this year, and my dad was marching in the parade that was nearly bombed. I think of my hometown as a beautiful place, very connected to nature and the outdoors, and I remember my time there fondly. Yet the disturbing cultural undertones of the place are such that I high-tailed it to a different continent, pretty much. Sometimes I feel bad for not giving the rest of the US a chance to become my new home.

    No matter where I end up I’ll never forget where I’m from. But I know after almost 10 years I am not going back.

  22. NotFromHere
    March 2, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    I rejected the idea of ‘fromness’ for years. When I was younger I didn’t identify with Australia and from computer screens in other countries would cringe whenever an Australian politician mouthed off about the evils of Islam or the irrelevence of traditions valued by Indigenous Australians. Then I settled into myself. I started to like who I was and I started to notice the moments when I really didn’t understand the people amongst whom I lived. I didn’t develop a single close female friend in all the time I lived in France. The Irish amongst whom I lived were amazing and fun and really understood me, just like the folks back home, but then they would become incredibly inflexible about something and I’d feel confused and alienated. I’ve travelled the world and at times thought that I’d never be happier than I was in x place but I viewed these places through a prism of ‘other’.

    I returned to Australia a few years ago and fell back in love with Sydney. Whilst the collective sum of Sydneysiders/ Australians do not necessarily reflect who I believe that I am personally, this is the place where I feel safe and understood. This is the place that I have a deep and enduring love for, as opposed to the fleeting giddy passion I often have for somewhere new. People are honest and good everywhere but it’s here that they’re the same sort of honest and the same sort of good that I’m familiar with. I’ve thrown myself with abandon into Sydney and I realised that to love something is the choose to love it. I’m too old to be anxious about how I’m percieved anymore. If an Australian is a jackass well, they’re a jackass. It no longer feels like they’re speaking for me.

  23. March 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    I know just what you mean. Every day I dream of getting to go back to the city where I’m from. One day I shall manage it.

  24. March 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Bakka, Nimue, et al, yeah, it is hard either way, whether you’re pointed out as having difference, or having experiences in which your difference is erased!! I get it both ways as a non-white person with light colouring, grr.

  25. March 2, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    I was born in Canada, but I’ve had a lot of conflicted feelings about where I’m from and where I belong. I’m a White Canadian and I grew up taking everything around me for granted in those terms. I never felt particularly “from” anywhere – I just was. I grew up in a mid-sized city with a small town, conservative mentality in the middle of one of the most populated provinces in Canada, and I didn’t have any particular loyalty to my city, my province, or my country. It was all just kind of there.

    The first time I was challenged on the validity of my national identity from an anti-colonialist perspective, though, I got very defensive. Even though I’d never valued it, I assumed that of course I had to belong somewhere, have some kind of sense of geographic identity. Despite my petulance, I did mercifully start thinking about it more deeply. At first I wanted to run away from my colonial privilege, but I felt that there was nowhere else in the world for me to go that wouldn’t be just a repetition of the same thing on a micro-scale – if I can’t be anti-colonialist here, I can’t be anywhere. I think about a future in which Canada is not a colonial, racist nation founded on lies and theft and erasure, and the possibility of being the kind of place where White isn’t the default for “being from here” (because we try to dismiss any type of “belongingness” of Native people here – they’re extinct, they don’t deserve it, they’re just background scenery, they gave it to us, etc. – as a way of shoring up the legitimacy of our country in its current conception), but right now I feel like “Canada” is a ghost or a cloud that hovers over the land, but isn’t of the land.

    In the meantime, I try to think humbly, and be someone who feels like she belongs to the land rather than the other way around, and I don’t get a say over who else does or does not belong to it (although I know I do have this privilege in practice – I just don’t believe I’m entitled to own that feeling). I think a lot of people feel that way, but it took me a while to get around to it. The places where I feel most at home are the places I spent some of the least amount of time, but the best of it – my mother’s home and the Bruce Peninsula.

  26. RD
    March 2, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Bakka: Can I talk about my relation to the antithesis of this? It is not the being fromness that exercises me, instead it is the lack of the “where are you from?” question that sometimes gets me. I am a fist-generation Canadian. My parents are immigrants. But because I am Caucasian, no one ever asks me where I am from. In contrast, many of my “ethnic-looking” friends (including, many-generation Canadians and including Native Canadians) get asked in my presence (often) where they are from.This I find unsettling.  

    “Where are you from?” “Colorado” “But where are your parents from?” “Oklahoma and Virginia.” “Really?” I don’t even really look non-white (except sometimes read as latina especially by latin@s, which I am not), but I do look “exotic” (or so people – especially my mother – tell me)…so yeah, I get that a lot. Especially in NYC for some reason! I guess because so many people there are immigrants, so people are more likely to think that I am one. I am probably like 0% eastern european or jewish but I get both of those a lot too.

    On topic, I don’t really have a “fromness.” I guess I claim Colorado but you know, that’s complicated.

  27. RD
    March 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Although, eastern european girls were overrepresented among my friends when I was young, especially middle school. For some reason.

  28. RD
    March 2, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Especially for Colorado, which doesn’t have a lot of immigrants, and most of the immigrants are mexican, not eastern european. So yeah, a little odd.

  29. March 2, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Wow – an excellent topic. I’ve lived in the southern US for 25 years, and have used the cliche “I’m not from the south, but I got here as fast as I could.” My origins are the suburbs of New York City, and my memories of childhood and young adulthood are very mixed indeed. A lot of my classmates and their families were “city folk,” and before that, European immigrants. I think they faced some tough times before moving to the ‘burbs, because despite the pastoral setting, the kids in our town struck me as rather mean and scary. There were more than a few bullies, and I felt targeted. I felt like I didn’t belong there. The cold winters were another factor. By the time I was a college sophomore, I’d begun dreaming about moving to the south. A different climate, in every respect. Well, it eventually did happen. I worked very hard at fitting in (even became a born-again Christian for awhile). I have found southern culture to be fascinating and was happy to forget New York. I did move back there for a year and once again felt out of place among these aggressive, blunt-talking people. It was good to get back below the Mason-Dixon line.

    But — once I joined a Unitarian Universalist congregation and began rediscovering my liberal roots, all of a sudden, being from the Northeast became attractive again. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with some classmates that I never imagined had anything in common with me. Together, we reminisce about our little town.

    Sometimes the narrow-mindedness of southerners wears on me, and periodically, there are other reminders that I’m still just a “Yankee transplant.”

    But I stay. The mild winters have spoiled me beyond remedy.

  30. karak
    March 2, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Home is where the culture is–my family is all transplant Southerners, on both sides, that have moved to the Midwest. We’re full of that Southern hospitality and rural white outlook on life (I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that home=complete lack of PoC). The smell of the trees and grass in Central Illinois is always comforting to me, and I can tell what local town someone is from by their accent. When I head down South I inevitably pick up the accent for the whole time I’m down there–I’d love to move to Nashville for a while.

    At the same time, I lived in Arizona for a number of years, and while that’s not home, that’s where I feel like I’m meant to be, if that makes sense. The desert feels like an extension of my body and I’m fiercely protective of it.

  31. March 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    I live in Edinburgh. I was born about three miles away from where I live now. For ninety percent of my life, I’ve had my home within that three mile radius from the place where I was born. I am the only person in my immediate family, apart from my nephews, who can say that of myself: everyone else in my family has moved hundreds or thousands of miles from their birthplace.

    I’ve travelled thousands of miles in the forty-plus years I’ve lived – I’ve been to the US, Canada, China, Ireland, France, Germany, other places – but I’ve always known that I’m from Edinburgh, I’m Scottish, here is where I’m from and here is where I always want to come back to.

  32. RD
    March 2, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    I relate to you guys who love the desert. I’m in love with castle valley, utah, but I haven’t spent enough time there for that to be home.

  33. craftydabbler
    March 2, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I’m from a particular part of Seattle, but I’ve only ever lived there for about a year total. I just identify with it, and when I return from out of town that area is where I feel an internal sigh, like I’m home, even though I don’t live there.

  34. book_gal
    March 2, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    I am white, Anglo Canadian who has been living in Australia for the past two years. Like Bakka and Nimue I have had people assume that we are from the same place and make comments about international students and immigrants, assuming that I am neither. Or, when I call them out on what they are saying about me, they say “oh you know what I mean”, meaning that they only dislike non-white immigrants or international students.

    Home for me is still Ontario. Coming back here after 2 years is so lovely. The smells, the sounds are all very homey.
    As NotFromHere said, coming back to Toronto means that I’m encountering people who “are the same sort of honest and the same sort of good that I’m familiar with.” That sameness is so refreshing and comforting.

    However, I’m having to consider this more and more as I’ve been waiting here for a visa to allow me to return to my partner in Australia for 2 months now. Not having him with me makes everything feel less like the home I’ve built with him and more like returning to my childhood self and home. That my two homes are so far apart is a source of anxiety and sometimes pride, that I have created something very much by myself.

  35. isitisabel
    March 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I am from Minnesota, and I have only recently begun to be proud about that. I had a wonderful, loving childhood, but as I grew older I began to realize exactly how much I did not fit in with my hometown. I felt stifled and just wanted to get out of my small, conservative town just outside the suburbs, a feeling that intensified every time someone incredulously asked me, “You are going all the way to New York for college?”

    Going home after my freshman year changed my mind. Yes, I loved being in New York, but being away from Minnesota gave me the time to work through my feelings of stagnation that probably have as much to do with age and a need for independence as anything else. I also took a couple road trips up north over spring break and the summer, and I realized how beautiful my home state is. The pine forests, lakes, bluffs, and yes, even the corn fields that surround my home took on a whole new level of physical and emotional beauty. I think I got more homesick this year than I ever did last year because I now have a greater appreciation for where I am from.

    It doesn’t hurt that my ability to stand harsh winter weather has become a point of pride among the largely East and West coast based student population at my college.

    I have only been away from home for two years, but in that short time my affection has only grown, and no matter where I end up calling home, Minnesota will always be a special place.

  36. Jane
    March 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    This is an awesome conversation. It took me such a long time to realize that not everyone feels as — deep-rooted? — as I do. I am from Iowa, too — a tiny rural town in western Iowa. My brother will be the fourth generation of our family to farm some fields in this county. The last ancestor of mine to come the U.S. was in 1905 or so from Czechoslovakia. Most of my family came from England or Scotland between the late 1600s and mid-1800s, so I feel really disconnected from my European heritage.

    The thing I find weird is that while western or southern Iowa are the only places I feel like I really belong in, but I don’t really feel like they are where I’m supposed to be. I have traveled some — went to school in Boston, worked briefly in Tokyo and Madrid — but I always kind of feel like I’m stealing space from the people who really live there.

    I think I struggle more with anti-colonialist viewpoints because of my background — not only because it’s white and privileged, but because my family doesn’t really have a remembered history outside of the U.S. To be honest, reading anti-colonialist literature focused on the U.S. mostly just makes me feel lost and like I’m from nowhere at all, especially because my family’s profession (farming) sort of depends on owning expanses of land. . . I feel like if I accept my family’s history is illegitimate, then my “from-ness” is illegitimate? I don’t know. I don’t think this is really a very correct or helpful way to feel, but it’s something I have to work around and with when trying to understand anti-colonialist perspectives.

  37. Kristen J.'s Husband
    March 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I hope this isn’t a derail and if you consider it such, please delete.

    I’m curious about how much our sense of “fromness” is tied into the comforting sameness of culture and whether that comfort represents a position of privilege within that community. I am most at home in Hawaii where I was born and raised. When I unpacked that feeling, I realized that part of my discomfort with the mainland is that I am not “equal” to others. In a real sense home for me is about relaxing my guard against people who may wish to do me harm because of my ethnicity. But in Hawaii I am not simply “equal” I am a well-educated, Japanese, heterosexual, TAB, cis man from a somewhat prominent family. I experience substantial privilege and I wonder how much of my feelings of comfort are the product of the additional benefits I receive as a result of that privilege.

  38. March 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Jane: To be honest, reading anti-colonialist literature focused on the U.S. mostly just makes me feel lost and like I’m from nowhere at all, especially because my family’s profession (farming) sort of depends on owning expanses of land. . . I feel like if I accept my family’s history is illegitimate, then my “from-ness” is illegitimate? I don’t know. I don’t think this is really a very correct or helpful way to feel, but it’s something I have to work around and with when trying to understand anti-colonialist perspectives.

    This captures really well something I have felt and struggled with.

  39. Placebogirl
    March 2, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    I love this question, though the answer hurts me. I’m a child of a Canadian mother and a Kiwi father whose earliest memories are in Canada and the US, but who grew up most of her life unaccepted in New Zealand. I now live in Australia, but I most strongly identify with Finland, a country where I speak the language, and where I spent some formative time as a young person (though I look different, and for a variety of reasons I can’t live there now).

    In the end, I have citizenship of two countries, reside in a third, have early memories of a fourth and strongly identify with a fifth. Home is everywhere and nowhere.

  40. tirzah
    March 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Where am I from?

    1) My mom. She makes me feel at home in all the positive senses of the word: Accepted, loved, safe, okay, cared for.

    2) The Pacific Northwest. I was born in Oregon, and I think more importantly, my mom hails from there, but I spent most of my life in other states. But still, every time life takes me to that area for a visit, I feel instantly at home with the people there. Maybe someday life will take me there for longer than visits.

  41. CecilBeeber
    March 2, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I’m from Indiana – I’ve lived in Central Indiana most of my life, but Northwestern Indiana is home. Like Mike(#16), I find the corn fields soothing, but ours aren’t so much rolling as they are dead flat.

  42. David
    March 2, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Washington state. Bless it’s godforsaken rainy heart.

  43. March 3, 2011 at 12:29 am

    AWESOME. I will totally go on this journey for you. I am fascinated by the places that I have felt I am “from” and find it a strange and sort of mystical thing that I love to talk about. :) Will be very interested to read your posts on the topic.

  44. Tony
    March 3, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Home is where you make it; it is where you identify. Looking at the comments above, many people identify with their ancestral homes over where they currently live. I still identify with China, where I was born, even though I have not lived there since I was three. I certainly do not identify with the Washington DC suburbs where I have spent most of my life.

    But it is something I have to work at- learning and practicing Mandarin, learning the history of my country, visiting when I can, meeting family and keeping in touch with them even if I do not see them for years. It is not something that just falls into my lap. It can be lost.

    Secondly, as suggested by tirzah, home is people. It is family, it is friends, it is memories with family and friends. These things give physical places meaning.

  45. Asinknits
    March 3, 2011 at 12:30 am

    NotFromHere: I rejected the idea of ‘fromness’ for years. When I was younger I didn’t identify with Australia and from computer screens in other countries would cringe whenever an Australian politician mouthed off about the evils of Islam or the irrelevence of traditions valued by Indigenous Australians…. I returned to Australia a few years ago and fell back in love with Sydney. Whilst the collective sum of Sydneysiders/ Australians do not necessarily reflect who I believe that I am personally, this is the place where I feel safe and understood. This is the place that I have a deep and enduring love for, as opposed to the fleeting giddy passion I often have for somewhere new. People are honest and good everywhere but it’s here that they’re the same sort of honest and the same sort of good that I’m familiar with. I’ve thrown myself with abandon into Sydney and I realised that to love something is the choose to love it. I’m too old to be anxious about how I’m percieved anymore. If an Australian is a jackass well, they’re a jackass. It no longer feels like they’re speaking for me.  

    I guess I share that conflicted position towards Australia, and for me specifically towards Western Sydney – I feel comfortable from Parramatta to Penrith and there are some fantastic, unpretentious people who I’ve met and called my friends, and I have deep roots in the place, as I have never lived anywhere else (been on holidays other places though). However, there are a lot of people here that make me cringe deeply, whether they are the suburban bigots, born to rule conservatives, corporate denialist/contrarian types or the inner city slaves to popular opinion and fashion, who don’t say anything without carefully checking that it is sufficiently cool.

  46. JustDucky
    March 3, 2011 at 2:16 am

    I moved from a small town on the Oregon coast to Portland when I was 19 – I’ve been here for 11 years. Before my mom died about 6 years ago, Portland felt like home. I was able to have that connection to her over the phone and visiting and that sort of thing.

    Since she’s died, I’ve felt this longing to go back. It doesn’t hurt that my husband, who I met in Portland, is from a closely-neighboring small town, and he still considers that home, too, since all of his friends are there. My brother still lives out there, as well, so I really do “go home” when I head back to the coast.

    However, my husband grew up in a teeny tiny town in Central Oregon, which is where his parents still live. I go there to visit, and I immediately feel like I’m home. His parents are amazing, his brother as dorky as ever, and the neighbor lady totally crazy… But it’s a comfortably sleepy, slow-paced atmosphere with gorgeous desert and river nearby.

    So I guess small-town Oregon is sort of the answer. And I can’t wait ’til I’m done with my degree, and with grad school, to get back to it.

  47. Yael
    March 3, 2011 at 2:34 am

    I was born in Maryland, grew up in New York till I was 9 and my parents moved my family moved to Israel. Six months ago my husband, children and I moved to California. When I was in Israel I was from NY. Now that I’m back living in the US I am from Israel. But since I don’t have an Israeli accent when I speak English people don’t realize I haven’t lived here most of my life. Its a little confusing since I no longer think of myself as from New York, but I am also not just from Israel.

  48. Grace
    March 3, 2011 at 3:21 am

    I feel the same way about Australia as you. Particularly the “and always, always because my being here is predicated on the deaths of people who were here before me, and the continued marginalisation of Indigenous Australians.”

    I was born in Australia, I’ve lived my life in Australia and I love so much about it. But I have always been aware of this feeling that I actually do not belong. This has been resolved a little by moving to Melbourne — I’ve lived in various places throughout NSW, never feeling like I fit in, but I feel like Melbourne fits me right and I am pretty certain I will consider it my home forever now.

    I do not feel much of a right to Australia. I do not feel very Australian in many of the ways I am “supposed” to. I am always acutely aware that my heritage is distinctly the people that stole this land from its indigenous people and from so many other places too. And so this is what troubles me about Australia because it doesn’t feel mine and I don’t know if I deserve it. My nationality is solely the consequence of British officials deciding to put my ancestors on a ship bound for a land that was not theirs to claim and it’s not something I’m comfortable with.

  49. Kaz
    March 3, 2011 at 7:37 am

    This is a pretty complicated question for me.

    On one level, it’s simple. I’m German. I’m ethnically and culturally German, as are my parents, as is my entire family, my native language is German, I lived in Germany for most of my childhood, I strongly identify as German.

    But! The next question people usually ask me is “so where in Germany are you from?” and that gets complicated. Am I from the town I lived up to age five, which I don’t actually remember any of and where a few years ago I visited the house our flat was in and it seemed totally unfamiliar? The town that’s in Bavaria, when I really don’t consider myself Bavarian? No. Am I from the town I lived ages eleven to eighteen, where my parents still live, that I didn’t actually set foot into before age eleven? I say “yes” because it’s the closest, but it’s still complicated. People generally assume either that I grew up there, which I didn’t, or that I went to university there, which I didn’t. I went to high school there and go back there for holidays. That’s it.

    (It also makes regional German identity hella complicated, because my mum’s from Westphalia and my dad’s from the Rhineland and I’ve never lived in either of those places and don’t feel a real connection with either; I consider myself from Lower Saxony because that’s where my hometown is but see above re: complications of “hometown”.)

    The next comment people make is usually something along the lines of “oh, how are you liking the UK?” and. Um. I’ve lived in the UK for the entirety of my adult life so far. Soon I’ll have lived here for longer than I’ve ever lived in a country at one stretch. In a lot of ways I’m more familiar with how things work in Britain than in Germany (have never lived in Germany as an adult), so in some sense this is home now. Except that I can’t say that because saying that implies I’m British, which I’m not. But then saying I’m German seems to imply I’ve come over *recently*, which I haven’t.

    Then there’s the US thing – I lived in the US for a large part of my childhood and actually have a US passport as well, but don’t consider myself American. This is an… immensely painful and conflicted thing for me, even while I try to be aware of the privilege that being a white person with US/EU dual nationality carries. Let’s just say I had rather mixed feelings about the border guard telling me “welcome home” when I travelled to the US over the summer.

    There’s some accent stuff and language stuff and so on here as well but this is getting long enough so I’ll just make two notes:

    – I sometimes feel that there’s a certain privilege associated with being part of the dominant group in a country and not really identifying as being “from” there, not because you have conflicted feelings or are from an immigrant background and have a connection to that or feel disenfranchised etc. etc. but just because it’s so normal to you that you don’t *have* to identify as being from there. In a sense, because I’ve spent half my life as a foreigner (and indeed in some respects I actually consider “foreigner” to be a part of my identity sometimes), I’ve *had* to identify strongly as German and work out what that means for me because I didn’t have a choice.

    – for me things are tied in with being autistic as well, because part of what being autistic means for me is that I always feel a bit out of step, a bit different everywhere. (One of the analogies people like to use is that it’s a bit like being in a foreign country where you don’t know the culture except everywhere you go; for me that really rings true.) In fact, in retrospect I think one of the reasons I went to the UK for study is because that way I could blame my various faux pas on cultural misunderstandings, both to others and to myself; in Germany I didn’t have that excuse and would just end up feeling awkward, weird, stupid and (because before I figured out I was autistic I often blamed this on having lived in the US) as if growing up in the US had somehow permanently ruined my ability to fit into German culture, which hurt quite a bit.

  50. Kaz
    March 3, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Argh, another thing I wanted to say:

    I should add that I think my ability to identify easily as German is a very privileged thing as well, however, because I’m definitely part of the white ethnic majority in Germany and do not have an immigrant background. German national identity can be a very tangled mess for people who don’t have that privilege, and in particular I know that PoC in Germany and descendants of immigrants in Germany can have a very very hard time.

  51. Gudknit
    March 3, 2011 at 8:08 am

    This might be a slightly different take on the prompt, but here goes…

    I’ve lived for over a few years in Boston, Ohio, San Francisco, and now Connecticut, and have spent significant amounts of time (but not more than a year) in Chicago, Colorado, Santa Fe, Ireland, central Italy, Berlin, and New York City… all in the last ten years, since I left my mother’s house. People always ask where I’m from, and I don’t have much to give as an answer. I often feel that, inherent in the question, is an assumption of a lifestyle that I don’t experience.

    Usually, the asker-of-the-question wants to know some combination of the following information: “where do/did your parents live?” (Boston/Virginia and Long Island, with ties to Piland and Ireland four generations back) “where did you grow up?” (Boston). “where are your things?” (all over the place) I usually give a simple answer: that I’m American (if I’m abroad, or talking to another international type), that I grew up in Boston, or, if I’m feeling whimsical, that I’m a San Franciscan, since that’s the only place I’ve ever belonged, even though I only lived there for about three years.

    I know that folks asking where I’m from often mean to ask, what is my ethnic heritage… I do feel strong ties to family’s history, but because I spend so much time traveling, the term “home” is loaded in a different way… so the question is asked in one way, but answered in another.

  52. Florence
    March 3, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Map! You def need a Google map share for this post.

  53. March 3, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Wow. I have lived in one country all my life (the US) as did my family on both sides for at least three generations. However. When I counted it up a couple of weeks ago, I realized I have lived in over a dozen different states, and in at least two situations, I have lived in very different parts of states.

    What I have discovered is that I can’t honestly say (only) that I’m “from” Vermont (where I was born) or New Mexico or California (where I went to junior high and high school and much of my young adulthood) or even Missouri (where I have lived for the past fifteen years).

    Each of these places is a part of my identity, as is the identity as Irish American. And even Irish American is misleading, because while my ancestry is almost entirely Northern and Western European, it’s probably no more than about half Irish, and I identify much stronger with other cultures I have been embedded in over the years.

    This is complicated by the fact that I can’t in good faith identify myself as African American, or Chinese American, both of which cultures I have strong ties with, so instead I accept the label of ally and work very hard to earn it.

    The intersection of regionalism and skin color and identification is much more complicated for many of us than our outward appearances would indicate.

    Thank you for opening up this conversation. It’s something I muse about a lot.

  54. March 3, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I am a hardcore Floridian. I LOVE my state (despite its always-fucked-up politics). I spend a reasonable amount of time explaining Florida to people in other places, especially people in other parts of the US. Most of it is not “southern”; the farther north you go, the more southern it is, and people occasionally tell me that I have a northern accent, or a Philadelphia accent, or that I sound like I’m from Sweden (that guy was drunk). It’s hot and humid here and there really are palm trees everywhere but also loblollies and cypresses and oaks, and there are cold springs like you wouldn’t believe, and conch fritters, and a weird amount of death metal in a certain central FL city, and of course Disney World. Ah, Disney World. It’s excellent and awful. It is full of immigrants from all over, which I am glad of. It is a melting pot in the best and worst possible ways–the best because cultural diversity is a wonderful thing for a society, and the worst because, of course, the current state and city governments are for the most part horrific and unsupportive of immigration. People ask me why I like my state, how I can stand living there as a progressive and a feminist, and sometimes I don’t know. Sometimes I hate it. But my home is here and it always will be (even when I move to Cleveland, OH this summer). In the book Dune, a character says, “Parting from friends is a sadness. A place is just a place.” Not true, at least not for me.

    I think there is something to be said for heart fromness too. Landscapes of the heart. Places you maybe have never lived, but which form a significant part of your brain or psyche. For me this is London. I’ve never lived in London (the longest I was there was for three months for a study abroad experience), but I read so much about it and so many travel guides and so much British literature in my formative years that it is where part of my heart lives.

    Some of the places I am from I can never go back to. The religion I was raised in is something that I now feel very far away from–but it remains tied up in some of the most wonderful memories I have of my childhood. That is a strange brand of homesickness.

  55. dontboxsarah
    March 3, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I am a fairly-privileged queer white TAB cis USian woman. My parents moved all over the country when I was a child, finally ending up on the west coast, I went to the other side of the country for college, lived abroad, and then moved to the midwest.

    I never know what to say when people ask me where I’m from. I have no desire to give them the run down of all the places I’ve lived, and “all over the place,” “not here,” and “nowhere” seem equally valid answers. After moving to my current location, I thought a lot about what it would be like to stay in one place long enough to build up a palimpsest of memories and associations over one place, to stay somewhere long enough that I could put my address on my checks and still expect it to be correct when I had gone through all of them. That was four or five years ago now, and while I’ve stayed here longer than many of the other places I’ve lived, and while I’ve built relationships here, I still feel profoundly dislocated. I get the urge to just pick up and be gone as frequently — and often at the same time — as I want to feel like I have roots somewhere.

    When I think of where my home is, though, I think about the women’s college I went to, because it was the first place that ever felt like home. The first place The only place I ever felt like I belonged. Growing up, while I wasn’t made a target for bullies, I never really fit in with my peers, and never had close friends. While I am somewhat connected to the lesbian community here (and I say lesbian, not queer, deliberately), it doesn’t feel like my community. Where I am from is a specific house at a specific women’s college where being queer was a non-issue.

  56. March 3, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I was born in Scotland, lived in England and Ireland, and consider myself “Irish.” But I don’t feel like I’m “from” anywhere – I feel an attachment to all of the places I’ve lived geographically, and to the people in those places. But the (albeit slight) disconnect between by cultural origins and geographical origins/history has stopped me thinking of a particular Place as my point of origin. There are places in England, Scotland, and Ireland that feel like home when I’m there, and that I feel homesick for when I’m one of the other “homes.”

    There’s a big disconnect from the geography of where I’m from and Who I Am, though all the places have been part of the latter.

  57. dawn
    March 3, 2011 at 10:21 am

    I’m adopted, so for most of life, I’ve considered myself to have come from nowhere and from no one. I was supposedly born in suburban Detroit (I am not legally allowed to obtain a copy of my original birth certificate, so I can’t ever know for sure where or when I was born). I’ve lived in the region for my whole life, but don’t know if I’ve actually ever considered it home. The closest I’ve had to sense of home is travelling to large, denser cities like Chicago and New York, and feeling like this is somewhere I could belong.

    It’s only within the last few months that I’ve reunited with my (birth) dad that I’ve been able to consider myself having any roots and any personal or family history before my (adoptive) parents adopted me. It’s still very new and confusing right now, but is also immensely gratifying and validating to be able to know that I actually have roots and that I have actual, specific relatives (that may even/do look like me or share interests or personality traits with me!) who do exist or have existed and that they came from or lived in actual places like Quebec or California or Poland, rather than just maybe I possibly have some relatives out there somewhere.

  58. miga
    March 3, 2011 at 10:30 am

    It’s funny. I’m part Blackfoot, Cherokee, Flathead (First Nations tribes) as well as Black, Japanese (Okinawa), and Mexican. So my roots actually do in part come from the U.S., where I’ve lived all my life. Despite this I get that question asked so often. I’m from HERE, DAMNIT!!! So it was only when I left the U.S. to study in Japan that I felt like an “American,” because most people would assume that’s where I was from. Funny how that is.

  59. March 3, 2011 at 10:34 am

    I grew up in a very rural town in Georgia, and though my family had long resided in the community, I never felt that I belonged. I’ve lived in twelve cites across three states in the Southeast, and I never felt that warm contentment of belonging in any of them. I still feel like I don’t belong, and as I apply to graduate schools that feeling drives my choices. Where will I be most at home?

  60. March 3, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Wow this is timely, I just wrote a post about the town I grew up in. Though I identify as a proud Americubarican (American, Cuban Puerto Rican), in terms of homeness, New Jersey has a very special place in my heart.

    Here’s the post! It pretty much explains in detail my home, which is very much where my heart is.


  61. March 3, 2011 at 10:38 am

    dontboxsarah– To me, “home” is the college I currently attend. It’s a small, very nerdy, very hippieish liberal arts college, and it’s the first place I’ve been where I’m understood. It’s a place where who you fuck is about as much an issue as your hair color, where a significant proportion of the bathrooms are gender-neutral, where some guys wear skirts and no one cares. This is where I belong.

    So yeah. I totally understand what you mean when you say where you’re from is a specific house at a specific women’s college.

  62. dontboxsarah
    March 3, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I should also say that I struggle with the idea of fromness because as a white woman I’m here (US) through colonization and whole lot of historical nastiness. That’s not something that this country deals with very well and I struggle with how USians (of many heritages) can recognize and work through this mess of colonization, immigration, slavery and not-being-from-here-ness in a healing way.

  63. dontboxsarah
    March 3, 2011 at 10:51 am

    ozymandias: “It’s a place where who you fuck is about as much an issue as your hair color.” Yes. This is my new favorite way to describe that. I try to explain it to folks sometimes as being something nobody cared about, but then I feel like I’m lying because in reality my roommate and I talked about queerness & who was queer all the fucking time. But only because we were happily excited about who might be dating whom, or whom might be available. Not because it was a Deep Dark Secret Associated With Small Windowless Spaces. Anyone could be queer at any moment, just like anybody’s hair could suddenly be blue at any moment, and people would just be like ‘oh awesome!’ or ‘omg did you see her hair, check it out!’

    For me, fromness has much more to do with a feeling of family (whether chosen or biological) and with being from a certain community, than from a certain place.

  64. xtinApdx
    March 3, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I’m from the forest. Not literally-I grew up in the ‘burbs and hated nearly every minute of it. I’ve spent most of this long life outdoors as a groundskeeper, hiker, mountain climber, etc. in what we call Cascadia aka the Pacific Northwest. When I’m where I can recognize the plant life I’m home. I’ve traveled all over but always come back here. Liked the Netherlands where my kin came from a couple of centuries ago because folks just seemed so familiar. But as the late (and local) Dave Carter sang:
    this is my home/ this is my only home/this is the only sacred ground that I will ever own/and if I stray/in the dark night alone/rock me, goddess, in the gentle arms of Eden

  65. Mounia A.
    March 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    “I’m from…it’s complicated.”
    That’s the usual answer I give, because it gives the illusion that if I had time to explain, the whole identity/being-from-somewhere thing would actually make sense.
    But it doesn’t, really. I was born in Montreal, I have a Canadian passport, but I grew up in Rabat, Morocco – and I went to a French school, French is my mother language and I speak it with an obnoxious parisian accent, and I spent obscene amounts of time in Eastern France growing up. So the place I feel most comfortable in is France, even though I’m not actually French. Which is kind of inconvenient, considering the anti-north african immigrant sentiment omnipresent in France, and the whole colonization baggage thing.
    To complete it all, I go to school in the US and will for the forseeable future – and thus will get a lot of the “where are you from” puzzled questions in the future.

  66. rae
    March 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I lived in the same house in suburban Nebraska for the first 18 years of my life with my mom, dad, little brother, and a dog. We had a community of neighbors who were like secondary parents to me, and whose children I was friends with. My grandparents lived in the next city over, and I saw them nearly every weekend of my childhood. This is my home, my childhood home where the rest of my family still lives, where I grew up happy and secure. But I change while it stays the same. Every year I am gone I become someone else, while the 1950s fantasy of home continues to be lived out by my loved ones. It’s a dream I want to hold onto but it’s slipping though my fingers, and I know I can never go back. The more time I spend thinking and learning about the world as others know it, the more I am distanced from the sometimes oblivious privilege my home is comfortably nestled in, the more I would feel suffocated by its homogeneity.

    For me, home is a contradictory pair of feelings of belonging and unbelonging. It is where I originated in body, mind, and spirit; it is the people who unconditionally love and support me; it is the place where the roots of myself sprouted; its meaning can never totally dissipate. But it’s also a place where everyone is white, everyone is Christian, where women are expected to stay home with children and never to have sex before marriage. It is a postcard of the American Dream, but I only fit in if I stuff my empathy, curiosity, and rebelliousness into a box and hide it in the attic of my mind. I will always love home…but I can’t ever go back.

  67. March 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I like this idea. When people ask me where I’m from, I pause because I lived a nomad’s life as a child. I lived in four of NYC’s five boroughs, then I moved upstate, then I lived in four different cities in the course of two years. But when I reflected on it, I felt like where I’m from can be defined as the place that I feel the most allegiance to, the place where I felt I became the most of myself. For me, that’s the Bronx. My home, now, is a physical place in Austin, Texas. When I visit some place and someone asks me where’s home, I still sometimes say the Bronx, depending on the day. But I’m actually now, after several years, from Austin. In some sense, though, going from the first definition, I can never really be from Texas. I’m always going to be from the Bronx, on a spiritual, emotional and psychological level.
    Side note: I keep a picture frame with photos of me in different cities and stages of life that says “Wherever you are, that is home.” As someone who was once homeless, I have believed that more in some cities and on some days than others. But I think it’s deeply connected to where one believes/wants/needs to be “from.”

  68. Morgan
    March 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I’m from the Northern England. Where I identify as from is a bit funny, because if you ask for my national identity, I’d say British rather than ‘English’ – I don’t have a particularly strong attachment to ‘England’ as a country. But at the same time I am very definitely a Northerner – I do identify very much with North-East England.

    Both my parents originally come from the South, so I have a lot of their accent and people often find me very hard to place – Northerners think I’m Southern and Southerners think I’m Northern – but regardless of whether other people think I’m an incomer, I’m definitely from the North-East.

    My maternal grandfather spent forty years researching genealogy, so when I say I’m British – my mother’s family, at least, has been here since the Norman Conquest.

    Which is in itself an interesting thing, because at a glance Britain would seem like a place where you’d be safe from “my being here is predicated on the deaths of people who were here before me” – but all being somewhere like this really does is push it further back. There were waves and waves of people conquering and oppressing each other over here for hundreds of years before they moved on to America and Australia and so on. When is it long enough ago not to matter?

  69. Morgan
    March 3, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    *the North of England, or Northern England. That first sentence ended up halfway in between…

  70. Rkel
    March 3, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    This question always brings up my insecure colonial identity.

    As others have said, those who live in the Anglo colonies and are aware of the horrors of colonialism often have conflicted feelings about identity and belonging with their nation. I know that the land my family house is built on lies less than 3 km from an old Maori fortification and was almost certainly part of the local Iwi’s territory at some point.

    But this land is now ours. And I can’t really do anything about that, no one in my family has lived outside of Australia or New Zealand in over a century; we have literally no idea where our ancestors lived, or how they lived. We have no connection to our ancestor’s culture and no wish to rekindle it, for we have no right to do so. What, are we supposed to turn up in Ireland and relearn the ways so our national identity is somehow more secure?

    Not to mention the fact that white New Zealand culture is largely derived from British and NA culture. We have little in the way of unique, new culture of our own (other than cultural myth that remains strong in our psyche but is alas still myth) to tie us to this land.

  71. Allison
    March 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    I’m from Texas, the end.

  72. March 3, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    dontboxsarah: I think you’ve managed to perfectly express what I think about my college: that it’s the family and the community that make my school home, not the place. The place I could care less about. The people… the people matter.

  73. ACG
    March 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    I’ve never had a quick answer to the question of “fromness.” Usually my answer is just “Around.” I was born in Virginia, but since we left there when I was five most of my “home” memories from there take place with relatives. I lived in northeast Tennessee for the next six years, and while it definitely felt like home then, I’ve been away for so long I don’t really know it anymore and I don’t know that it counts as “from.”

    When I was 11, we moved to Georgia, and I lived in various cities around the state for the next 15 years. But my time in Columbus was so deeply miserable–at age 11, the locals generally have as many friends as they’re interested in having, the Army kids hang out together, and the funny-looking know-it-all who reads a lot is on her own. (Befriending the Designated Crazy Girl didn’t help my stock.) Columbus saw so many literal and metaphorical beatings of my ass that I could never see it as a “from” place. But Athens wasn’t a “from” place, and Atlanta was an “in” place but never a “from” one. And while Alabama is becoming more and more “home”–despite its failings, which are many–I can’t think of many times I’d say I’m “from” here.

    For me, “home” has always boiled down to a few specific places–my mom’s kitchen, the window at my Detko’s house that overlooks the hayfield, the disco ball hanging over the landing at my grandmother’s house. That field with the sheep in it in Williamsburg. The smell of English boxwood. Little things like that. And everything around it–for instance, the entire city of Columbus–is just something I have to push through to get to “home.” So because no one would really understand “my mom’s kitchen and some sheep” as an answer to “where are you from,” I generally end up going with “around.”

  74. Gentleman Cambrioleur
    March 3, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    My family on my mother’s side is French, going back a very long time (probably from the time of the first colony, in fact). My father’s mother (and therefore my father, as a consequence of matrilineal bloodlines) was Jewish of German ancestry – her family came to Canada before the Second World War. There have been speculations on my father’s part mostly about a possible Huron ancestry, although my family for some reason seems to be hard to research. I know the line about “my great-grandmother who was a Cherokee princess” is a progressive cliche and there are arguments (which I won’t get into, as someone who is not indigenous regardless of my ancestry) arguing whether claiming that one is Native based on remote ancestry is appropriative or whether it harks back to the old racist “blood quotas.” I’ve always been more interested/frightened by the idea that such Native ancestry implies, not consensual romantic interracial relationships, but probably rape or at the very least coercion on the part of one’s white ancestors given the extremely unequal social conditions. Because I have no certainty about my ancestry and no personal or cultural ties to indigenous communities, I identify currently as a white French person with Jewish ancestry.

    I have heard many powerful arguments in favour of giving Canada back to indigenous peoples and I agree with them and would like perhaps to go back to Europe eventually, but I’m not sure where I would go. I’m not particularly drawn to French culture. I have been thinking of visiting Germany, Sweden and Russia eventually to see if I connect to the land and culture. Currently I stay in Canada out of poverty and apathy. It’s not a particularly cheerful situation, but I recognize that I am significantly privileged compared to the many people who are here as descendents of slaves or who have indigenous heritage that has been lost or forgotten.

  75. Kristian
    March 3, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    I am from the Blue Mountains. Specifically the national park and bushland that I grew up surrounded by, exploring, marking, tending.

  76. March 4, 2011 at 11:29 am
  77. ks
    March 4, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    That question really has two answers: where I live with my husband and our kids and where I feel *home* in my bones. Home is NW Ohio, in my little house in my walkable neighborhood with my little family.

    But *home* is where I’m from and I’m *from* southern WV, in the mountains. My people are coal miners and mountain people who have been in the area for at least a couple hundred years. I don’t live there anymore and I don’t have much family there anymore either, as most of my generation has left for better economic opportunities, but it is *home* and it is where I am the most comfortable. Whenever I go home for a visit, which is not nearly often enough, just crossing the bridge over the Ohio River makes me feel a little more relaxed. And assuming that there are any mountains left by the time I’m old enough to do so (damn strip mining operations ruining the place), my dream is to retire to a small house on the side of a mountain in southern/middle Appalachia with a little garden and be home.

    For my husband, though, it is a bit more complicated. Whenever he gets asked that question (and, being a brown person and an immigrant, he gets asked that question a lot), he answers Toledo, because this is where he’s lived the longest–over 20 years now. And trust me, people never let that one go–he can’t be from here. But he was born in Sri Lanka and lived in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria as a kid before coming here for college, and he says that he doesn’t really feel that sense of place and he doesn’t quite comprehend how important it is for people like me who do. For him, home is home is the house we live in, wherever that house happens to be and that’s good enough for him.

  78. March 4, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Weirdly, I was thinking about this issue the other day…because every time I’m feeling in need of comfort, I think, “I just want to go home!” And, even though I live with my lovely husband and son, what I picture when I think of home is my mom.

    So I think my answer is: Home is where my mother is.

  79. March 4, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    On my blog’s “about”, I have *carry home in my heart, not under my feet*….but that’s not quite it…..I mostly wrote that to reflect my feeling of separation from the physical place I live now (and have lived for over 20 years)—I’m here, but I’m not *from* here….I can never be *from* here in the sense that someone who was born and raised here is (it’s a really provincial city; the kind of place that has politicians reciting their local pedigree come election time). I thought karak’s statement was interesting, about being able to tell where in Illinois a person was from based on accent—outside of Chicago, I can’t (and is probably why people are still asking me “where I’m from”).

    So where am I from? I’m Sicilian-American, from Illinois. I’m from the Rust Belt. My midwest isn’t about rolling cornfields and farmsteads; it’s about railroads and rivers, bricks and concrete, factories and fast cars—the kind of place where you get used to the sound of train whistles, peel-outs, racing engines, and loud neighbors fighting or partying late at night, on those nights it’s so damn humid you have to leave the windows open (though…when I stay in Chicago, the El still wakes me up. Don’t know why; I live along the railroad tracks at home and hear the Amtrak and the Illinois Central all night). I’ve lived most of my life along Route 66. My family is mostly from what downstaters call “north of I-80″….Chicago, Joliet, Aurora, Morris, Ottawa, Streator. As a kid, I grew up in what’s now called “metro East” (short for metro East St. Louis).

    I have a sense of home that is only tenuously connected to physical location, partly because I moved a lot as a kid, partly because I connect “home” to ethnicity (translation: the people asking me where I’m from are mostly asking to discover what my ethnic background or race is….not a location)….

    …but also partly because the physical landscape of every place I’ve lived has changed so drastically over the years, that the landscapes themselves have an alternate reality in my mind, in my memories. I have no physical home to go to. Neither of my grandmothers still lives “at home”. My parents house is not my home. My house…..is my home in the sense it is my haven from a place I feel mostly unwelcome…but that’s not the same thing.

    You know where I felt most at home, recently? At the solidarity rally in @pringfield in front of the Capitol. I saw so many people I knew there, greeting me by name, with raised fists and fuck yeahs! and hand clasps and full embrace. Even folks from other locals I’ve either worked with or met at union conventions. Saw a bunch of folks from my UU congregation, too. That felt like “home” to me.

    Home is solidarity. A breath of fresh air amidst the smog and dirt.

  80. LM
    March 4, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I’m from Texas. I’m hispanic but I get mistaken for middle eastern or native american or indian. Happens all the time. And I get a lot of people ask me “where are you from?”

    “Here” is never a good enough answer, but I was born and raised in Corpus Christi and it will always be home.

  81. March 5, 2011 at 6:24 am

    I feel like if I accept my family’s history is illegitimate, then my “from-ness” is illegitimate?

    I believe that there is no such thing as an illegitimate “from-ness”. Explore any family tree in earnest – you’ll discover bloodshed, whether organized bloodshed (war, genocide, etc.) or personal bloodshed (murder, domestic violence, etc.), slavery, exploitation, thieving, rape, betrayal, etc. On a grand scale or individual scale, everyone is a product of people who have done someone wrong at one point or another.

    I have Cossacks, Don and Zaporozhye, on my mother’s and father’s sides of the family respectively. I identify more with the Don ones, they played a bigger role in my life. Every once in a while, I’ll meet someone who’ll want me to “apologize” for this fact or to “acknowledge” it – assuming I’m a stupid ass who doesn’t know her own history. I politely tell such people to fuck off. In part, I’m a product of a people who could be brutal – I can’t change that. Instead, I make something positive of it. I’m glad that some of Russia’s biggest rebels were Don Cossacks. I like to remember the fact that at least one of my great-grandmothers was, for lack of better words, such a tough bitch that even in more “genteel,” post-WWII Soviet times, her entire village was afraid of her. Doesn’t mean I get to gloss over the rest of it – even something as personal as the domestic abuse in her household. I’m glad my grandfather evolved with the times, but also didn’t whitewash his family history nor let anyone shame him for it.

    Having a complicated relationship with one’s roots is normal, I think. I almost prefer it, to be honest. I think it’s better to some people’s flag-waving or other people’s hand-wringing.

    It’s the same with general “from-ness”, isn’t it? So many of us on here have interesting stories to tell about that – what we identify with, what we do not. I was born in USSR, in a part which later became Ukraine, Russian is my first language, most f my family is Russian. I spent most of my life in the US. I lived in the South, that’s important as well. People get upset with me for identifying as American, as Russian, as Ukrainian, but I’ve been learning not to care.

    I’m curious about how much our sense of “fromness” is tied into the comforting sameness of culture and whether that comfort represents a position of privilege within that community.

    I think that’s true, though I also think that some people welcome the opportunity to blend in and the relief it presents. How many hijabis in the US felt more comfortable somewhere where many people wear hijab immediately after 9/11, for example? On American soil, some people were ready to spit on their hijab. But if they had the opportunity to, say, visit relatives in the Middle East, they suddenly didn’t stick out.

  82. Ada
    March 5, 2011 at 8:55 am

    I’m from Spain. That’s the most obvious answer. And still, Spanish was never spoken at home and I’ve never been to Spain (though I’m planning a trip to my father’s region). I’ve lived in France most of my life and though I’d say I’m French without a doubt, I’ll probably never be able to say sincerely I’m *from* France.
    But then again, I’ve never set foot in Spain, so am I at all from Spain?
    When people ask me where I’m from, I feel emptiness. I’m trying to regain a sense of “from-ness” (I like that word), but since I don’t speak much (if at all) to my family anymore, how am I supposed to achieve that?
    So really, I’m from nowhere. I’m from myself. And that really hurts, sometimes.

  83. March 5, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Add me to the “not from anywhere” crowd. I was born in Scotland to English parents, but lived in Alabama till I was seven. A few months in the Netherlands followed, then six years in Kenya. High school in Scotland, university in England, hoping to go to grad school in the States. My mother’s Jewish; I spent a few months in Israel, and definitely have a Jewish identity although I am a believing Christian. All I can say for sure is that wherever I am, I’m not from there. (Although, wherever I go, there I am.) “Home” is wherever I’m not.

  84. Avida Quesada
    March 5, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    I am from Colombia, but due to the complexities in my country I migrated to Costa Rica long time ago (in the late 90s, how time has pass). I normaly work outside the central area of the country (Central Valley). That’s the reason I normally don’t have internet access. I use the network of a friend of mine when I am visiting.

    Big hug,

  85. Vic
    March 6, 2011 at 9:00 am

    I’m from the Philippines.

    Being a Literature major, I know how fragmented the identity of a postcolonial country can be, and that it could easily be the same with those of individuals.

    So sometimes I do feel at home partaking in what seems “genuinely” Pinoy: commuting in passenger jeeps, eating street food beside typical workers, and speaking in Filipino.

    And sometimes it’s the opposite. To name one example, Philippine mainstream entertainment nauseates me, with its melodrama, blind consumerism and patronage of a small clique of celebrities. And it’s what those everyday people watch and see everyday.

    And I feel that I should be elsewhere, in consideration of sex as well. Western society seems much more liberated when it comes to it and a lot of people don’t seem to be weighed down by gratuitous expectations or stifled by the unrealities of the church (the country’s predominantly Catholic, you see).

    I remember a metaphor a poet used for folk like me in the Philippines: like a coconut, brown on the outside and white on the inside. Perhaps, perhaps.

  86. March 6, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I wrote about this here. Or else I’d have just droned on. xD

  87. March 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Vic: Psst, really not cool with the use of blind like that.

    There are so many metaphors like that banana one, aren’t there? Bananas and coconuts and oreos and apples…

  88. March 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Wonderful project, beautiful concept (fromness)!

    To authorities and dominant culture, it seems so arbitrary. I may become a citizen of the EU due to a three-generations-back relative who migrated to Australia from Greece. Twenty-something years after this migration, Indigenous people were decreed citizens of their own land.

  89. Vic
    March 6, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Chally: Why not use “blind”? Is it too much of a stock phrase altogether or is consumerism becoming a little more self-aware nowadays? If it’s the former, I apologize (nooo, I’ve failed my literary degree). If it’s the latter, people really do mostly watch what’s on TV and on the theaters without protest, even if it’s just the old formula rehashed–again.

    And really, I just paraphrased that coconut metaphor from some local poet. (We do have a lot of coconuts here. We call them “niyog.”) I thought it was apt to share it, because I heard it from a talk about Filipino-American fiction, and about how this genre demonstrates how these people are in between Filipinoness and Americaness.

  90. March 6, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    It was more an issue of disability as metaphor that bothers me. :)

    Regarding coconuts: Very apt indeed!! :)

  91. Annie
    March 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    La Lubu: I’m from the Rust Belt. My midwest isn’t about rolling cornfields and farmsteads; it’s about railroads and rivers, bricks and concrete, factories and fast cars—the kind of place where you get used to the sound of train whistles, peel-outs, racing engines, and loud neighbors fighting or partying late at night, on those nights it’s so damn humid you have to leave the windows open (though…when I stay in Chicago, the El still wakes me up. Don’t know why; I live along the railroad tracks at home and hear the Amtrak and the Illinois Central all night).

    I’m from a working-class neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, and this comment hit the nail on the head so freaking hard.

    I’ve lived in Hawaii for almost a year now, with lots of time spent here prior to that, and Hawaii is also starting to feel like home. Which is a whole other thing.

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