Where Are You From

by Cindy Nguyen


  Where are you from?  The basement beneath my grandfather’s footsteps.  It was the first home I had ever known, the only  place my parents could take refuge in until I was eight years old.  Where are you from?   That’s a question I was asked almost daily in my  youth, my status as an American questioned so  constantly that I felt the need to grasp onto it tight.  They were only ever asked in innocence and yet it  made me feel like a roadside attraction all the same.   Where are you from?  See, now you’re trying to psych me out now  because you know that’s a hard question for me to  answer. It grates on my nerves every time I hear it.   Where are you from?  Well, everything began with living in the basement  of my grandfather’s house before he moved out and  left my father the key. I don’t remember much of  those days. My mother told me that she and my  father had good enough savings when it was only  me and my older sister but then they were reduced  to living on pennies when the twins were born. We  now live in a house big enough for a bedroom for  each daughter but I remember a time in my life  when we all had to claim different corners of a  single mattress in order to sleep. We were all curled  up like little cats resting beneath a strip of sunlight.   Where are you from?  Both of my parents were born and bred in Vietnam  and immigrated in their adulthood. My  father’s father lost a finger in the war that got brushed over  in every U.S. history class I ever took while my  mother’s father was briefly imprisoned. My sisters  and I were born and bred in America, a country that  has so deeply scarred so many other countries in  ways I never learned until after high school. For the  entire breadth of my life, America has ostensibly  been at war in the name of the freedom to drop  bombs on kindergartens and weddings.   Where are you from?  At school, I can be found hiding away in the corner,  with nothing to say to anyone there. The same goes  for family gatherings where everyone is speaking a  language I have yet

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