Home is where your heart belongs or is it something else?

Fan Wu & Sandra Cisneros

This morning, my friend Stephanie sent me several TED Talks about “home.” Two weeks ago, we discussed things like home, belonging, community, etc. during our long walk at Vasona Park.

Where is home, what’s home, who are we in relation to “home”? According to Merriam-Webster, the first definition of “home” is “one’s place of residence.” But of course, physical location speaks of just one element of this word’s broad coverage.

In the TED Talks Stephanie shared with me, Pico Lyer says that home is where you have become yourself. Taiye Selasi says that for those who have lived in many different parts of the world, they are not multinationals but multi-locals, defined by the places and people they have had close contact with. In my latest novel manuscript, Song of the Daisies, the protagonist, Moli Yang, an Asian-American woman, decides that home is where one’s heart belongs.

I’ve lived in the US for many years, yet I’m reluctant to call here home. Neither my husband nor I have family other than our kids, in the US, and we travel to Europe and China as often as we can to visit our parents and siblings. When I tell people that I’m going to China, I don’t use the word “去” ( go to), but the word “回” (return). Yes, it’s a homecoming, though not entirely so–I feel an outsider where I grew up. Nostalgia is bitter-sweet, like dark chocolates, as I wrote in a recent post.

Stephanie and I have known each other for just several months, yet she said that she felt closer to me than to many of the people she had known for years. Being a black raised in an almost-all-White community in the Britain, being an accomplished violist who is now seeking a new career in the tech-driven, white- and Asian-dominated Silicon Valley, and being married to a Caucasian man, she has always been trying to find out her identity.

As for me, I came to the U.S. in my early twenties, and didn’t devote myself to writing until having worked in high-tech for nine years. I live in the heart of Silicon Valley, where technology and entrepreneurship are valued more than everything else, where engineers and VCs thrive, not writers.

Stephanie and I have a lot in common: the sense of displacement, the dilemma of wanting to be here and there at the same time, the guilt of being away from aging parents, the challenge of raising children in an unfamiliar educational system, the thrill and learning of being in an interracial marriage……

For both of us, it’s no easy task to define “home,” which is subjective, relative, and hard to be captured in one brief statement.

What does “home” mean to you?

Featured image: me with Sandra Cisneros, a writer I admire deeply. Taken in San Francisco. “Home” is a major theme in her writing.

Author: Fan Wu

Fan Wu grew up on a state-run farm in southern China. After college, she received a scholarship from Stanford University to come to the United States. Her two novels are February Flowers, translated into eight languages, and Beautiful as Yesterday, praised by Amy Tan as “a story with intelligence, insight, and heart.” For more, please visit www.fanwuwrites.com