Where Are You From?
By Daria Peoples-Riley
Because people come to live in Las Vegas from all over the world, before the exchange of names or even general references to the scorching weather, we often ask, “Where are you from?” Regardless of how often I’ve been asked this question, I still hesitate when I answer. In the awkward pause of my new acquaintance awaiting my response, my mind shifts and shuffles.
I think about the way I wish to answer, “Well,” I’d begin, “I come from gold-plated thrones in ancient palaces and sugar cane fields on plantations. I come from liquor and shuffled cards in bars, and from a stained-glass white Jesus hanging behind a pulpit on Sunday morning. I come from a bubble gum-pink house and Mardi Gras beaded-trees that remind me of rainbows.”
My pause causes alarm, often signaled by a right eyebrow raising. A cleared throat leads to a scratch on the back of a stiff neck, and I immediately become apologetic. I offer a half-hearted smile and abandon my truth for “I’m from California.”
I think there is a better introductory question when folks meet each other for the first time in Las Vegas, or maybe any city for that matter. Truthfully, we want to know where a person comes from to give us an indication of who they are, and if we can find a common conversation, but the problem is we all come from a history way too expansive to attempt to qualify it with one simple location. So I suggest, if we truly want to know more about a new friend, we should ask a different question, like, “Where do you belong?” which, in my opinion, conveys so much more about someone we seek to know better.
As an artist living in Las Vegas, I’ve asked myself many times if I belong here, and for many years I’ve unconsciously waited for the answer but not so long ago Nevada Humanities asked me to represent Nevada at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC to promote my debut picture book, This Is It and participate in my very first Nevada Humanities Literary Crawl in Reno, Nevada.
Though it may have not always been obvious to me, Las Vegas is exactly where I’ve belonged for all of these years, and a place where so many of my dreams as an artist came true. Representing Nevada was my first, fully funded, publicity opportunity—an applause from an audience I didn’t even know was watching.
Nevada Humanities acknowledges the value and importance of Nevada artists, and I am forever grateful for their support, and their reminder that an artist’s dreams can definitely come true in Las Vegas. We belong here.
Daria Peoples-Riley’s first job was at nine years old in the children’s section of her hometown library. Much later, she became a teacher, and now she is a full-time author and illustrator. This Is It is her first picture book inspired by her daughter, her rich cultural background, and their first visit to New York City. I Got Next, a companion book will follow in July of 2019.
She lives with her family in Las Vegas, Nevada.