Living grandma's dream
Her intelligence, stamina, and persistence gave me inspiration
By Farzaneh Fouladi
November 17, 2001
I have been an active reader of your online magazine for over three
years now. This year I am graduating from high school and awaiting my college
acceptance to god knows where. I have written an essay to one of the many
prompts each college application has asked for: How has my life been altered
because of my surroundings?
Upon this request, I wrote a short essay of how my grandmother, whose
obviously Iranian, has basically made me a stronger person as a female and
a scholar. I hope you will read it and find it amicable for publication.
I will enclose my essay which i wrote totally by myself and hope that it
will be published somehow.
A baby doll, a stand-in mirror and an active imagination takes a little
girl to uncharted worlds. This little girl grows day by day believing that
fairy tales do come true, that one day she too will change into a beautiful
princess who will eventually marry well and have wonderful children. She
puts on old, dusty lace dresses that her mother used when she played dress-up.
The little girl imagines in a fairy tale fantasy that one-day she too will
be praised her magnificent beauty and intelligence. She glides through her
bedroom as if she was on center stage and imagines her prince charming.
This little girl continues to grow up and the more she thinks about her
wild fantasy of becoming that "princess" life takes an unexpected
As the girl matures, she is eventually belittled and forced, without
her consent, to wear the Islamic hijab. This is the standard garb Muslim
women are required to wear. She must obey her father and brothers (regardless
if they are younger than her) because she is a female and deemed their inferior.
She is brought up in a world and culture where she is brainwashed to believe
that she can only amount to nothing more than a housewife and mother. Maybe
after slaving over a kitchen stove for 20 years, she would gain some respect
as a cook.
This little girl's dream becomes a nightmare as she is forcefully married
off at a ripe age of fifteen. By then her breasts have developed and her
hips are wide enough to allow her to bear children. A mixture of politics,
religious doctrine and culture smothers her from receiving an education
and blinding ignorance, blocked her from ever succeeding in her world. She
would never become the true "princess" she ought to be or have
that passion, education, or adventure she yearns for simply because she
is a woman. As the inferior sex, she was brought into this world to become
the archetypical servant; one who is required to slave in the kitchen, and
serve the whims of her husband, father, and brothers.
This little girl is my grandmother. This little girl could have been
me. I was born in Iran on August 1, 1983. By the early 1980's, Iran was
in complete turmoil. The Islamic Revolution was in full fury and the country
had reversed its timeline from the golden years where women were honored
and respected to time where they were now degraded and placed in a low position
in society. Women could no longer have personal freedom; freedom to wear
as they pleased, freedom to study and interact in politics, including most
of all their personal independence. It became a society of conformity and
despair for many women. This was also a complete backlash to the women's
movement that took place in the 1960's in Tehran, Iran's capital.
I came from a family of strong independent women, who refused to allow
society to disillusion and control them. My grandmother lived in a small
village in Semnan, just four hours away west from Tehran. Her ignorant father
would keep her and her sister locked up in their house for days. They lived
on a farm and were given freedom only to attend to the farm chores. However,
their courageous mother would sneak her daughters from the backyard and
allow them to receive the best education that could be offered during the
Reading and writing skills were acquired without her husband or father
ever knowing. My grandmother eventually completed the fourth grade before
her father learned of her secret. Despite her father, my grandmother was
extremely determined to continue with her education even though she could
not keep attending grammar school. She forced her younger brother, who eventually
went on to law school, to send her books and other reading materials. This
allowed her to stand up to her three brothers and be as educated as them.
My grandmother was a strong and fierce woman who did not allow herself
to be degraded by anyone, man or woman. She refused to allow these religious
doctrines to get in the way of her education. This was true even though
she was unable to continue going to school. She may have been forced to
marry at a very young age and raise six children, but she demanded that
each of her three daughters be respected by their father and brothers. Her
intelligence, stamina, and persistence gave me the inspiration I needed
to realize that despite all the obstacles blocking my way to success, I
am able to control my own destiny.
Like my grandmother, I have had the same difficulties in achieving my
goals although to a lesser degree. I came to this country with my parents
when I was a year old. We began our life in Florida with little money and
little knowledge of the language. My mother never lets me forget that the
reason why we continue to live in the United States is because it gives
us freedom. Freedom is something that we would never have enjoyed if we
had remained in Iran. I have been blessed with the opportunity of going
to college and being able to study whatever I please. While at the same
time, I need not worry if my scarf is big enough to cover my hair or if
I know enough about the religion of Islam to allow me to apply to a certain
I wanted to prove to my mother and grandmother that we women, given the
opportunity, are able to prosper in whatever we choose. That is the reason
why I elected to take as many challenging courses as I could throughout
high school. I even attended Princeton University summer school in the summer
of 2000. I cannot forget the look in my grandmother's eye when she came
into my dorm and looked at me with such pride. The pride and her support
are always with me. She inspires me to always do my best!
Throughout my high school career, I refused to allow my culture, religious,
background, or my sex to get in the way of my dreams. This is the reason
why I have always been attracted to politics. My life evolves around politics;
it is politics that influenced my grandmother's society and now it's politics
that prevents a new generation of immigrants from paving their road to their
ultimate utopia. Even now in the twenty-first century, many people in Iran
are under the illusion that a Muslim-raised first generation Persian woman
could not understand politics.
To prove that I can get myself involved in politics, during my junior
year of high school, I applied for an internship position with my local
Representative, Congressman Peter Deutch. I remember distinctively that
everyone, including my parents, were skeptical that I could get the job,
but I did. I was able to become an intern for my congressman. I was able
to get myself involved in politics, which was unheard of in my cultural
Despite all the obstacles in my way, I was able to accomplish what I
sought throughout my high school career. This is because I realized that
before my generation, women such as my grandmother never had the opportunities
I now enjoy. As I am becoming a woman, I will continue to strive to do the
best I can do to achieve my dreams.
My goal now in life is to study political science at a respectable educational
institution (hopefully yours). I want to continue the political life I have
begun and continue to prove to the people around me that despite my sex
I am equally intelligent, strong, and fierce as the next person. Eventually
I wish to continue my internship for my congressman and attend law school.
This is a dream my grandmother was never able to even hope of accomplishing.