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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    Aug 5 2013: I have always dreaded the "Where are you from" question because I don't always know how to answer.

    In person, it might not be a bad thing as I express "Half Pakistani, Half Kuwaiti, Part British, Part Indian and grew up in California since I was 3 but born in Pakistan" and usually it'll lead to an interesting conversation. It's nice to be able to explore and discuss the different places we all resonate with one way or another.

    On paper (for the census, college applications, internships, jobs, etc.), I absolutely hate this question for a few reasons.
    1) I am multiracial so I can't simply choose one location without feeling uncomfortable.
    2) Even if I am allowed to display my multiracial background, it doesn't do justice to who I am or what that means.
    3) I don't believe that where you come from should define where you're headed.

    Something I enjoy doing on questions that ask your ethnic background and leave an other option is check off the other option and write in "human." At the end of the day, I am loving hearing about everyone's cultural backgrounds and their stories but we all really do share the commonality of being human and that I think is beautiful.

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