An Na was born in Korea and grew up in San Diego, California. A former middle school English and history teacher, she is currently at work on her third novel. She lives in Vermont.
In the United States we are accustomed to seeing names presented in a certain way. A first name followed by their last or surname. In Korea, the reverse is true. The last name or surname is always presented before the first name/given name. And often, the given name consists of two syllables, like Sung Ho. The concept of a middle name does not exist in Korea. Rather, the double syllable stands as the entire given name. For example, in a formal introduction or in written form, a Korean name would be presented in this way: Kim Sung Ho. The last name or surname is Kim, the given name is Sung Ho. In casual or friendly situations, people call each other by their first name or given name: “What’s up Sung Ho?”
In the author’s case, her father believed that Americans would have a simpler time pronouncing just one syllable—Na (pronounced Nah). Yet, unlike other Koreans, who are simply called by their first name at home or with friends, the author’s parents always used her last name or surname-An (pronounced Ahn or On) with her given name-Na. “An Na.”
Why? In Korea, women do not traditionally lose their last names after being married. In America, of course, it is a common practice. As a way of preserving her Korean heritage, her parents used her entire name—An Na—as a double-syllable first name. Then, when she got married, she could always keep her last name as she was meant to. And her given name evolved into the Americanized “Anna.”
Whew. Did that all make sense? And you just thought her name was simply a palindrome.