“Where from?” is the question I can never answer. Not long ago, when this challenge was hurled at me by a professor of immigrant literature, I replied: “Why do you think people have to come from somewhere? Lots of people come from nowhere.” Like many immigrants, I issue not from a place, but from a historical experience. To ask someone where he comes from offends not only in that it excludes the object of the question from his society, but also because it misconstrues the nature of immigration. Some people may pass from one conveniently narrow cultural enclave to another: from the Azores islands to Dundas Street in Toronto, from rural Haiti to the Pie-IX neighbourhood of Montreal, from Shanghai to Richmond, BC. Even these transits may conceal layers of contradiction which easy categorization fails to capture; but many of us were hybrid beings, enfolding multiple identities, before we arrived in Canada.
Where are you from? Like its corollary, “Where is home?” it’s a question I’ve often been asked and one that I’ve struggled to answer. Home, I usually say, is wherever I happen to find myself. My origins recreate themselves with every move, every experience, every encounter. I’m from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
Where are you from?