Daniel Fenton

Israel/Palestine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Canada, France


When did your family immigrate to the US and where exactly did they move? What made them come?

My father immigrated when he was 12 and my mother when she was 4.

What is the first language you learned? Do you speak any other languages?

I first learned English, and then learned to speak Spanish while living abroad. While my parents spoke to each other in german and yiddish, they never taught me or my brothers and sister.

What language do you primarily speak when with your family? 

English.

Have you ever visited or been back to your family's native country? If so, how often do you visit and for how long? What is that experience like? Do you have relatives there?

I've visited Israel/Palestine and France quite frequently. My family and I try to visit once every 2 years. We will visit for ~2 weeks. I have relatives in both countries and love being in both countries.

Describe your experience growing up in America as someone who is so closely tied to another culture. How did you feel? What things were easy? What did you find difficult?

This is my stream of consciousness: The culture with which I identify strongest is my Jewish culture and heritage. Growing up first generation in West LA surrounded by Jewish people, I couldn’t escape being Jewish. I use the word “escape” because I was so curious to see and experience what other, non-Jewish life was like. I wanted to taste a cheese burger, I wanted to celebrate Christmas, I wanted to go out on a Friday night and not light the candles. I had mostly Jewish friends, not on purpose, but simply because many Jewish people live in West LA. But my Jewish friends were not like me and my family. They were allowed to eat shrimp, they could and did celebrate Christmas, they went out on Friday nights. I saw this contradiction, why did I have to participate in this tradition, while other Jewish people did not? I thought it wasn’t fair, and so like the stereotypical teenager, I rebelled. It began with marijuana, but slowly evolved to bacon. College is when I did the most exploration. I ate and celebrated every non-Jewish food and holiday there was. It was great. It was delicious. It was fun and I felt like I could pass. Which is a strange sensation for a white boy with privilege spilling out of his pockets, wherein he “passes” everyday; I am able to hide my heritage, my culture.… I remember feeling embarrassed about being Jewish. I remember going on dates (and sometimes this still happens) and making sure to hide my Jewish-ness from the woman sitting across from me… I remember learning about the gas chambers when I was 5 and learning that other people hated me so much they wanted me and everyone like me dead…

Today is a different day. I embrace my Jewish traditions like I never had before. I immerse myself in them. It’s a sense of community that I often long for when Im alone and, as a Ph.D student Im alone a lot. But when Im in my community, I’m in it and it feels like a hug.

What type of food do you eat at home? What are some of your favorite dishes?

My mother make the best falafel

Describe your experience making friends as a kid growing up in the UNITED STATES.

Easy, we were all of the same culture.

Do you consider yourself as more of an American or that of your parents' native country?

I consider myself more of an American.

Are you proud to be American? 

Yes, I absolutely am.

Do you plan to pass along aspects of your parents native culture to your children (if you choose to have them)? What parts of the culture do you want to keep if any? If yes, how important is that to you, and how do you plan on doing so?

I really don't know...

What's one thing you wish people knew about your culture? 

We're a loving, welcoming people... Most of us, at least.

Are there any specific thoughts / inspiration behind the way you took your photos and what you took photos of? Feel free to use this space to express your photographic inspiration for this project. 

I took these photos before and during an interview process for my last year of my Ph.D program. I flew all over the country. I reflected on where and what my parents were doing when they were 28 years old. My father was already a dad. My mother was already a mom. They had settled down and made a life for themselves and their future children. They worked hard and pushed themselves to allow me and my brothers and sister to be where we are today. And for that, I am grateful.