1.1 But Where are You Really From? Intro

1.1 But Where are You Really From? Intro

Schema Magazine
Schema In-Depth

Jen Sookfong Lee, Founding Senior Editor

With no easy answer to this often complicated question, author of End of East, Jen Sookfong Lee, begins our inaugural special series, featuring no less than SIX highly unique “But where are you really from?” stories.

A seemingly innocent question, one that many people would never even imagine to contain layers of subtext or carry with it a history of exclusion and authenticity. “But where are you really from?” rarely appears in a conversation all by itself. It’s the sum in a complicated equation that reaches deep into personal identity, diversity and belonging.

┬áMany of us know that feeling, that combination of anger, resentment, hesitation and confusion that bubbles up from your gut whenever someone asks you the question, “Where are you from?” Yes, it’s a simple question, and, yes, you know that the answer can be simple as well, but that’s not the problem. Before you even open your mouth to respond, a very familiar thought runs circles inside your head, “No matter what I say, this person will not understand.”

Canada is a great country. I love living here. I love that I was born and educated here. I’m attached to cold winters and ice hockey and the very particular delights of poutine and the polar bear swim (not that I’ve ever participated in the polar bear swim, but I appreciate the urge that propels half-naked people to run screaming into frigid bodies of water on New Year’s Day, the urge, that is, to flout the cold and thumb my nose at my fellow Canadians who run away to Arizona every holiday season to play golf in short pants). I love that we’re a country built on immigration, a country where indigenous peoples and newcomers have the opportunity to live together and constantly renew the pains and processes of diversity, which is the very thing that marks us as uniquely Canadian and which pushes us to learn and re-learn what it means to be part of this human community…

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