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“What does it mean . . . ‘from?'”

March 4, 2011

“Where are you from?”  It’s seemingly a simple, straightforward question.  I was at the big, rectangle table with a group of students several weeks ago, and heard students comparing notes about where they are from.  We are lucky to have an interesting mix of nationalities – although only 3 of the 21 students are completely non-Lebanese, meaning they have no genetic ties to Lebanon, the rest are a schmorgesborg of Lebanese, Lebanese-American, Lebanese-British, Lebanese-Jordanian, etc.  Most of the kids that fell into one of the Lebanese categories who were at the table identified themselves as Lebanese, although a few recognized that they were born elsewhere.  One student said he was born in Cambridge, England (he was), and attempted to prove it by saying so in an “English” accent (it wasn’t).

Then I was surprised when one student with two American parents and a clear–cut American accent asked,  “Miss Lauren . . . what does it mean, ‘from’?”  (Now, trust me, this girl knows the word from and can use it appropriately in a sentence.  This is the same child who wrote the above poem on the family computer at home, color editing is hers)  I had assumed that she would identify herself as an American.  Clearly she was thinking otherwise, and frankly, why not?

“Well, my family was here, and then moved and I was born in Saudi, and then we lived in China, and now we’re here!!! So I don’t know!”  Then she continued working on her drawing.  She wasn’t sad about the situation . . . “happily perplexed” is probably the phrase I would use.

Since that conversation, I have heard Hannah telling others, confidently, that she’s from Saudi Arabia.  This, it seems, is a logical response, seeing as that is where she was born.  I can respect that.  The rest of the class still think she’s Chinese.

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