My first generation American experience was plagued with the quest to be authentic. To fit in with the culture of my household and that of the country I lived in. It’s an impossible ambition because it’s a problematic notion to buy into. It’s an imaginary set of keys – keys to a certain social crowd, keys to certain narratives and histories that you get to claim as your own. I wanted those keys.
That is the African Diaspora. We all came from somewhere but where are we now? And can we ever really go back? My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Kenya, East Africa in the late 80s. And here I am, the first U.S.-born person in my entire family. Mom and Dad were the young trailblazers, the ones that left home for good. This is where some of the guilt comes in, because I would die if my parents ever thought I was unappreciative of the sacrifices made to be here. My life is sublime. I’ve never wanted for anything and it’s without a doubt because of my parents. But sometimes I wonder if it’s so wrong…that sometimes… I think I would trade it all to, you know, have a relationship with the vast majority of my relatives? Is being American worth only seeing your grandmother 3 times in your life?
At some point, stories don’t cut it anymore. I want memories. I wanted memories of grandma, who I’m named after. Even when she talked to me, I didn’t understand what she was saying because I’m one of those African kids. The kind that never learned their mother tongue.
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