Dad looking out on Tata Sabiha’s backyard one morning in his Phoenix Suns Steve Nash pajamas.
Dad looking out on Tata Sabiha’s backyard one morning in his Phoenix Suns Steve Nash pajamas.

In January 2018, I went to Algeria for the second time in my life. I was 9 the first time I went, in the winter of 2006. This time around, I was going to see my family and my dad's home again as an increasingly aware adult, no longer a child with a narrow and naive view of the world.

From the moment I arrived, I found that I was constantly searching for myself in all of my experiences there. I searched in my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, the food, the mountains and the city. I searched in the foreign, dirty alleyways of Algiers, in the rolling green hills outside of Bourmerdès. I think that I was, still am and will always be looking for a sort of affirmation that I am indeed Kabyle, with blood in my veins from Tamurt Idurar: the land of mountains.

I grew up in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona to an Algerian father and an American mother with an Ashkenazi Jewish background. My mother spent her childhood in the leafy town of Poughkeepsie, New York, while my father spent his between school-years in Algiers and summers in the mountainous Kabyle countryside.

My identity feels liminal. My whole life I have teetered between these worlds, often not feeling like enough, like a racial imposter. Am I American? Am I an Ashkenazi Jew? Am I a Kabyle Muslim? Will I ever fully fit in any of those categories? These are questions that will never stop.

When I fill out the census or other forms asking for race and ethnicity, I usually check the "some other race" or "other" boxes.

This ongoing project, in its infancy right now, will explore all sides of my identity.

Mom rubbing in her lipstick just before Ali’s wedding.
Mom rubbing in her lipstick just before Ali’s wedding.
A woman and child silhouetted on the steps of the Ketchaoua Mosque, near the Casbah's beginning in Algiers.
A woman and child silhouetted on the steps of the Ketchaoua Mosque, near the Casbah's beginning in Algiers.
An empty courtyard in Algiers by the water. We ate really good seafood a dozen feet away at a small restaurant.
An empty courtyard in Algiers by the water. We ate really good seafood a dozen feet away at a small restaurant.
Judi prays at Tata Sabiha's.

Judi (grandfather in Kabyle) prays at Tata Sabiha's.

Mom and Ben, my brother, dance during Ali’s wedding.
Mom and Ben, my brother, dance during Ali’s wedding.
Judi (grandfather in Kabyle) dancing with Ali, my cousin, at his wedding. Judi cried that day and the night before. It was the first time our whole family had been together in the same room in 12 years. We're always the ones missing.

Judi dancing with Ali, my cousin, at his wedding. Judi cried that day and the night before. It was the first time our whole family had been together in the same room in 12 years. My immediate family - my mom, dad and brother - we're always the ones missing.

Setsi and Judi, middle, cousins and aunts take a break from dancing at Ali’s wedding.
Setsi and Judi, middle, cousins and aunts take a break from dancing at Ali’s wedding.
Ben walking through the Roman ruins of Tipaza.
Ben walking through the Roman ruins of Tipaza.
Man on top of a roof at sunset next to the Ketchaoua Mosque.
Man on top of a roof at sunset next to the Ketchaoua Mosque.
Dad and Ben eating sfendj, Maghrebi fry bread.
Dad and Ben eating sfendj, Maghrebi fry bread.
Lyssia making crepes and Nailya eating those crepes at Sabiha's.
Lyssia making crepes and Nailya eating those crepes at Sabiha's.
Boy in Rouiba.
Boy in Rouiba.
Sunset over Algiers from El Aurassi Hotel.
Sunset over Algiers from El Aurassi Hotel.
Setsi walking in Rouiba.
Setsi walking in Rouiba.
Copyright © Eli Imadali, Eli Imadali / Austin American-Statesman, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana Kaimin. All rights reserved.
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