My full name is Sara Kathryn, but it's never meant much to me. I'm named after great-grandmothers, black-and-white faces I've seen in photos but whose stories I'd never heard. Beyond their names, I knew almost nothing about great-grandma Sarah and great-grandma Katie, not even where they came from.
When, as a child, I was assigned class projects that required me to trace my family tree, I always hit stumbling blocks. "Where are we from?" I'd asked my maternal grandparents.
My grandfather, a jovial dentist with a penchant for corny jokes and bolo ties, was characteristically upbeat. At this this question, though, he hardened: "We're Jewish," he responded. Every time.
"But Grandpa," I insisted, "That's not a place. Where are we from?"
Despite my protests, he never gave me any other answer. That's all there was to it.