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What’s in a Name?

What is so important about your name? A popular answer may be that it identifies a

person. However, for María Isabel in the book titled, “My Name is María Isabel” by Alma Flor

Ada her name meant more than just a form of identification. Also after reading this story, I

thought about the meaning of my own name. My father graciously decided to name me Josefina

after his mother or my grandmother. I believe another reason for being named Josefina is due to

a tradition that is naming a child after a relative. However, to me, Josefina is not just my

deceased grandmother’s name but meaningful because it was chosen by my father.

In the story “My Name is María Isabel,” María Isabel faces sadness and perhaps some

frustration with her new teacher who renamed her Mary López. Consequently, the teacher’s

decision to change María Isabel’s name affected María Isabel’s self-esteem. Like María Isabel I

also experienced issues with self-esteem due to my name. Yet, unlike María Isabel who was

proud of her name I was often ashamed of mine. Most girls in school had Anglo or English

names such as Jennifer and Kimberly. My name was not very common in any school or

literature. As a result, I sometimes felt out of place and not very welcomed or safe as María

Isabel expresses in the book about being in a new school where she knew no one.

When I was a baby I was nicknamed Josie by an Anglo employer of my parents. As a

teenager and young adult, I preferred to be called Josie and not Josefina. I also continued to

reject being called by my first name. In fact, my disapproval for Josefina as my name was so

strong that at one point I seriously considered changing my name officially to Josie.

Nevertheless, I decided to keep my first name and not change it when my grandmother passed

away. This event changed my outlook on my name and I learned to value my name for the

person my grandmother was. Ultimately, my first name does not bring a sense of shame

anymore but of remembrance for my grandmother who was very humble, kind, chatty, strong,

and generous.

If I could have chosen my name I don’t think I would have chosen Josefina. I always

associated the name Josefina with someone who is old and as a not very appealing name. As a

child, I remember a specific name that I did think was appealing which was Candy. In books, I

searched for someone that looked like me or had my name. The closest thing I found was a

picture book with a hen that was named Josefina. Although I did manage to find my name in

literature, I was disappointed to have been “equated” with a hen.

Recently, I learned about a new American Girl that was unlike the others I read about as a

child. Oddly enough the American Girl is named Josefina and looks like me. It took several

years but my name is not unknown but can be recognized. Moreover, I now pronounce my name

as it is which has also decreased the number of misspellings of Josephina to Josefina. I also still

prefer to be called Josie mainly because it is what I am accustomed to. However, I do not dislike

my name as much as I used to as a child, teenager, or young adult. I have essentially learned to

embrace the importance of my name.

In conclusion, my name is not something that I perceive as insignificant or inferior to

which I used to be ashamed by. Instead, I now see my name as an extended part of my father’s

side of the family and the remembrance of whose name I bear. Lastly, getting someone’s name

right and validating a child’s name as well as heritage is unequivocally important for the

upbringing of a child. Therefore, as an educator, I have and will use the name a child chooses to

be called by. Although it may seem unimportant and perhaps unnecessary to teacher’s who hold

a monolingual perspective, it is important to the child’s self-esteem.