What Kind of an American Am I?

From Witches to Baptist Ministers to Native Americans, My Family Heritage Holds Many Stories. But I'm Not Sure Which Ones Are Mine.

I am American. That much I know—but my life’s experience has never taken me beyond that in any way, up until this point. While many Americans embrace their ancestry as part of their national identity, I never have parsed my own beyond simply being, well, American. And white.

I certainly have stories of my family’s past, shaped by witches, warfare, and the Wild West. But with every generation, an ancestral tradition has been shed, a cultural touchstone tweaked, through choice or force, until I arrived at the no man’s …

More In: heritage

A Cultural Touchstone Fends off the End of an Era

In the Age of the Angry Asian Man Blog, 113-year-old Japanese-American Newspaper 'The Rafu Shimpo' Reaches Out to New Readers

Long before I was the English editor of The Rafu Shimpo—the newspaper that covers Japanese-American communities up and down the Pacific Coast and other Japanese-American hubs like Denver, New York, …

Life in Iran Is a Wistful Elegy for the Past

On a Trip Back to My Father’s Homeland, I Found a Country Made Generous by Its Sorrow

It was late April, and the snow had only just melted in Meygoon, a mountain town north of Tehran.

I had arrived in Iran the night before and was staying …

America Is Still Fundamentally a British Colony

Adrian Wooldridge, an editor and columnist at The Economist, says that America has defined itself by accepting or rejecting elements of British culture. He spoke at a Smithsonian/Zócalo “What It …

Fretwork

By the time Mother took me to her birthplace—Bequia—
I was a fifth-grade wordsmith in a first-grader’s body.
H-o-m-e—too easy—was off my spelling list although

I didn’t know what home meant. …

New Orleans Taught Me the Meaning of Home

Though Our Lives Have Picked Different Paths, the City Remains the Ground Zero of Our Family's Dramas

I’d just woken up in my mother’s home outside Bay St. Louis, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It was late February, Mardi Gras season. It was chilly, and as my …