It is a complicated question, you know—when you ask someone, So, where are you from?
Seems simple enough. I'm from Dallas, Texas. Or…I was born in California, but I grew up in Chicago. Or…my mom grew up in Ohio but she's actually Brazilian, and my dad was born in New York but his parents came over from Ireland. They met in college and after they got married, they ended up moving to North Carolina, where I was born. But when I was ten, we moved to Atlanta. Then, well, they got divorced when I was sixteen, and I went to live with my mom in Florida because she had family down there. Now, I visit my dad and his wife in New York for Thanksgiving, sometimes. And my mom and her boyfriend live in Arizona.
This is a complex, often fragile, question these days—when you ask someone of his or her origins.
I never really know what to tell people, because I never really know for what exactly they are asking. Do they want to know where I was born? Are they inquiring in response to the color of my skin, the blackness of my hair, the shape of my eyes? Or do they want to know where I have spent most of my life?
In their minds, it is a very simple question.
However, a simple question does not indubitably produce a simple answer.
Honestly, I don't even really know what to tell people most of the time. So I just say, everywhere and nowhere.
Sometimes, an uninterrupted stream tumbles out in a single breath—Well, I was born in Korea, but I was adopted by an American family when I was an infant, and my dad was in the Navy, so we moved around every one to two years, so really, I didn't grow up in any particular region, but I'm basically American, because I was raised by Americans.
And I feel just as idiotic every time I blurt out my little synopsis of origin. I'm basically American, because I was raised by Americans? I make it sound as though I’m some kind of Tarzanette or the lone human infant raised by a pack of wolves.
But it all seems that complicated in my mind.
Do I view myself as Korean? Or more specifically, do I feel Korean, do I think like a Korean? Absolutely not. Especially when I am in the presence of “real” Koreans. I always refer to Koreans as "they," never "we." "They" are so nationalistic. "They" are so exclusive. "They" this, "they" that.
Now, do I view myself as an American? Or more specifically, do I feel American, do I think like an American? Perhaps, more so than I feel or think like a Korean. But even so, most often I refer to Americans as Americans. "Americans" are so arrogant. "Americans" are so spoiled. "Americans" this, "Americans" that.
Something in me wants to be identified with neither one. I do not want to be identified as the Korean. I do not want to be identified as the American. Yet, inevitably, I demonstrate characteristics of both.
But she looks so Korean, doesn't she? She doesn't act like a Korean though, don't you think? Or maybe you don't look Korean. But then you all look the same anyway, isn't that right? Where did you say you were from?