My name is an immigrant's story and, like all immigrant stories, an amalgam that's rooted in the past and striving toward the future. My mother Jacqueline arrived in Chicago in the early 1950s just a few years after the death of her own mother, Miriam. Born in Oran, Algeria, she came from a close traditional Sephardic Jewish family of 10 children. America was Oz for Jews of that era, a heroic place, as it has been for many immigrants beset by war, oppression, and poverty. As soon as she could, at age 17, Jacqueline travelled alone by boat to join two of her exotic older sisters who had romantically married American GIs. She was seeking the freedom of a new world, but not ready to release the old - a dichotomy that would stay with her throughout her life. She soon met and married my American father, and I was born within a year. She was 21 years old and a force of nature - vibrant, charismatic, fashionable, progressive, and fiercely loyal to her family and roots. She gave me my first name, Mari, for two reasons: as an homage to her mother Miriam (also my hebrew name), and for her first American best friend, Mari - a bow to her new life as an American. My official middle name, Etta, was for my father's grandmother, Yetta. Together, the two names were hard for Americans to grasp. Everyone pronounced my name MaryEtta. This galled my mother who insisted on the proper pronunciation, MahryEtta - hinting at her third influence as a French citizen. I gave up correcting people long ago, because I know who I am: the proud daughter of a woman who bravely wove her past with the hopes of the future. My name says it all.
Today, one of my best friends is named Mari.
-Marietta, New York