The Narrative Burden

Asking adoptees ‘Where are you from?’ is never simple

A.J. Bryant


young boy holding up cart loaded with bags on the street
Photo by Hans Eiskonen — Pexels

Where are you from? Usually a basic question, but for international adoptees, it’s not.

My typical response is, “I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and moved to Central New Jersey in my teens. I’ve lived in Washington D.C. since 2005.”

Which elicits a frown, or quizzical facial expression. Their follow-up question is “Where are you really from?”

I assume they’re asking the “really” part because I have brown skin and speak without an accent. I must be forgoing details from my origin story, confusing them.

Most times, I’m happy to converse with total strangers and continue the conversation.

“Well, actually I’m adopted from India.” I rejoin. But other times, I don’t want to share my life story with those I don’t know. I repeat the Wisconsin, New Jersey, Washington D.C., spiel leaving them perplexed.

‘Where are you from?’ Most people can give a simple one or two-sentence answer.

For those whose physical appearance, mannerisms, and language don’t align with society’s preconceived notions, it’s never easy.

Years ago I attended a conference comprised of transational adoptees. I heard a great term describing the question “Where…



A.J. Bryant

Adopted from Kerala. I write about adoption, my intercultural marriage, contemporary India and more. Prawns are my love language.