TED Conversations

Kate Torgovnick May

writer, TED


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For people who have a hard time answering the question: "Where are you from?"

In Pico Iyer's talk from TEDGlobal 2013, he looks at the complex nature of the question: "Where are you from?" Because while his family originally comes from India, Iyer himself grew up in the United Kingdom. He spent the next 48 years living in the United States. Meanwhile, his heart resides in Japan. He calls these the "pieces of a stained glass self."

As he notes, in our increasingly global world, it's not uncommon to be a half-Korean, half-German woman in love with Paris or a half-Thai, half-French man in Canada.

And so we're curious: what are the pieces of YOUR stained glass whole? Share here and you may see your answers on the TED Blog soon.

I'll share first: I am a half-Italian, half-Polish Jewish-Christian with a Russian last name, who grew up in the Southern United States and now calls herself a New Yorker.

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  • Jul 28 2013: I sometimes point to where I was a few seconds previous and smile.

    The way in which "where are you from?" is predominately interpreted has within it an assumption that is means geographically and by extension, I can perceive, if not actually understand, the cultural, social-political landscape that has informed a least a part of your life. It is very similar to the question "what do you do?", meaning your career, as this gives many a sense that they can ascribe qualities and indeed value, from what you do in terms of employment or lack there of.

    Other quips to challenge the conventional assumption as it relates to the question of "where are you from?" can include pointing to your head/heart (this is from where my sense of truest self resonates), say "my mother" to donate your biological place of "from", or indeed point up...we have all seen "The Most Astounding Fact."

    With Genuine Interest,


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