On Roots and Research

Accessing who you are and where you come from

Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Gay Mag
Published in
10 min readJan 29, 2020

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Illustration by Christina Yoseph

“W“What are you?” ’is a question I’ve been asked by strangers since I was a child. As a little girl, I didn’t know how to answer this question with a simple one-word, one-identity response. And I still don’t. I knew then just as I know now that we were many things. We were American, we were Mexican, we were Filipino and Spanish and Jewish. And on my maternal line, here in Denver I am only a few hundred miles north from where my Picuris Pueblo ancestors lived since the beginning of time. I grew up one of seven children in both the suburbs and an older section of Denver called the Northside, an area that developers renamed to Highlands, a term used by those who flocked to the city during the waves of gentrification starting in the 1990s and charging through today. As a child, I traveled throughout the city with my parents, visiting an auntie on the West Side, a grandmother in Five Points, and another on the East Side. These places were associated with the people who lived there — Brown, Black, and Jewish sections, the unofficial segregation of Denver.

I was in a cemetery when I first realized that my people were seemingly placed in designated areas. It came to me in my early teens, one Memorial Day, a time when my family visits our graves, cleans the stones, and plants new flowers. We circle our dead, burn…

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Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Gay Mag
Writer for

Author of SABRINA & CORINA, a Finalist for the National Book Award, PEN/Bingham Prize, and The Story Prize.