Born in England and granted United States citizenship after 9/11, New Yorker staff writer Rebecca Mead lived in New York for thirty years. With the country’s profound shift in values under Trump, from tolerance to open hostility towards immigrants and naturalized citizens, Mead decided to move back to England this year, even though it no longer felt like home.
Fittingly, Mead writes in The New Yorker about becoming a New Yorker. While her life in America gave her unparalleled opportunities to report on two decades of American culture and politics, it also provided a lifelong lesson in how to “belong to a country while also profoundly questioning it.”
Now, in the summer of 2018, thirty years after arriving in New York with two duffel bags and a scholarship from N.Y.U., I am exercising my choice: I’m leaving, with a shipping container full of books and other possessions, with a career, and with a family. I am repatriating to the U.K., but I’ve been gone for so long that it hardly feels as if I am moving back. London is the city of my birth, but I was not brought up there, and have spent only a fraction of my adult life there. In London, I have no youthful history to reminisce about, and now when I walk its streets I wear the invisibility cloak of middle-aged womanhood. It will be peculiar to live in a place in which I have no past—or no sense of a past beyond an atavistic one. After George and I decided to look for a house in the borough of Camden, I had the uncanny experience of realizing that, nearly ninety years ago, when my father was a small child, he lived in a cramped Victorian flat less than a mile from where my family and I are now planning to make a new life. I suppose I am going back, in some sense larger than I yet know what to do with.