My Iranian and American side
By Siedeh Rezaei-Kamalabad
November 14, 2002
I love the smell of Tehran with its mix of cheap colognes and perfumes, benzene,
saffron, fresh bread, and dust, creating an aroma that intoxicates me. Being raised
in two cultures has never been easy. It has been a constant struggle of resisting
assimilation into mainstream American culture, dealing with the biased views of Iran
ingrained in most Americans by the media, and searching for a balance of the two
cultures in my life.
My first trip to the land of my father's family was when I was six. I don't remember
much, except an instant acceptance. This is not a surprise to me. I was raised with
the Iranian culture dominating my home life: eating Iranian food in a house set up
Iranian style with wall to wall Persian rugs, following Iranian cultural mannerisms,
respecting of elders, having gender appointed roles, realizing importance of family,
everything meticulously clean and obeying one's parents, especially the father.
To fit right into the culture of a land whose essence had run through my blood even
before my feet touched the dry soil, seemed only natural. Since then, I have traveled
back three more times; the last time was this past summer.
When I am in Iran, I am one of a 66,622,704 Iranians; no one ever suspects me of
being anything but Iranian. In America, I am the only Iranian in my high school;
most people do not even know I am Iranian. There are not many Iranians in Boston
and there seems to be a common desire among the few to forget Iran, the culture,
the history, and become "American".
The political relationships between the two countries and the biased views many Americans
have for Iranians, cause many of them to veil their identity. Iran is the land the
American media presumes is full of chaos, oppression, terrorists, and the evil of
the world. I have never met any terrorists while there; chaos can only be used to
describe the traffic and driving skills; oppression, oppression exists everywhere
in the world; and in Iran, I was only embraced by love, not only by my family, but
by all who met us. Iranians find western culture and Americans intriguing.
As much as I love being in Iran, I could never live there. In Iran, my American side
is held down by cultural expectations. I am very independent in America and accustomed
to having many opportunities. In Iran life is harder. To purchase "suggestive"
American music, one must wait for an hour near the entrance to a parking garage where
a man usually selling socks will come out with a plastic bag of copied CDs. Pay him
quickly and hide the merchandise before the police see the transaction; this is how
Iran's youth buy Western pop culture.
The government holds tightly to Islamic laws and
Iranian traditions in fear of being Westernized and losing all the values that are
important in their daily lives. Iran and I are dealing with the same dilemma. How
does one progress in a world dominated by Western capitalistic culture and still
hold on to the morally important values and beliefs from a distant culture? How do
I hold on to my heritage and its important role in my life and still fit into American
culture? I struggle to find a balance; with each trip to Iran I come back with a
deeper sense of how to be Iranian and American.
Following my last article, "Half
& half", I received detailed letters from others like me who suffered
from the same confusions and who, like me, thought they too, were alone. There are
many of us out there, not just Iranians, but people of other cultures, who struggle
with how to preserve their cultural heritage and harmonize with American culture.
Diversity of cultures is the foundation to the world's intrigue. I strive to be immersed
within this pool of civilization, hoping to emerge from beneath the waters with the
ability to encourage the public to jump in with me and abandon the media's given
Does this article have spelleeng or other meestakes? Tell
me. I'll feex it.
By Siedeh Rezaei-Kamalabad\
Growing up Iranian and American
Realizing that Tehran is the only city you have ever loved
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