By Mana Mostatabi
The Iranian-American experience is hard to define, particularly for those of us who moved to the U.S. at a young age or were born to first generation parents.
I grew up marking “white” on the demographic section of our standardized exams, but grew up knowing that when the substitute teacher took a long pause while taking roll, then she was about to make a culturally sensitive attempt at saying my five-syllable, four-voweled last name.
My classmates wondered about the weird fried, brown thing our mothers lovingly tucked into lavash and garnished with pickles. (It was kotlet for what it’s worth.) And my parents nagged me as to why we always went to our friends’ houses and never had them over to ours. I could only ever offer an awkward teenage shrug as I struggled to avoid the real reasons: the snacks were weird to my friends, the Persian rugs were loud, and I never felt so disoriented as when I dropped an American friend in the middle of all of it.
But of course my experience is hardly singular, and only when I connected with other Iranian Americans did I begin to appreciate my experience and my culture. And it was only when I picked up Firoozeh Dumas’ Funny in Farsi in 2003, at the age of 16, that I adopted a willingness to navigate my sometimes confused identity.
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