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After all, I am Iranian
Do not let us forget who we are

By Shima Jalalipour
July 1, 1999
The Iranian

To be an Iranian teenager in America is undoubtedly difficult. There are so many temptations and pressures. We must preserve our culture, but adjust ourselves to our surroundings. We are expected to achieve great feats, while remaining simple and down-to-earth. To our parents we a reflection of them. We strive to belong; we want to be acepted by our friends, and hope our parents would accept them.

I have lived in America all my life. In elementary school, I was just another kid. No one really knew where I was from. I dressed, talked, and acted like them. But when I got home, it all changed. I spoke Farsi and ate gormeh sabzi for dinner. I listened to the Iranian stories told to me by my parents. I heard Iranian music and watched Iranian movies. After all, I am Iranian.

When I entered junior high school, my parents decided to put me into a private school. It was a bit strange being the only Iranian girl in a Catholic school, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. I did all the expected things; I wore a uniform, studied Catholicism, and went to church every Friday. As odd as it may seem, this made my cultural identity become even stronger.

I did almost everything the typical American teenager did. I was even a cheerleader. But I never let anything get in the way of my Iranianness. I even remember numerous occasions when I would leave practice early to go to an Iranian party or to join Charshambeh Soori festivities.

High school sparked my re-entrance into public school. I attended a suburban, upper class high school. I remain a minority of minorities. Although my friends at school are of all races, I am the only Iranian. That hasn't bothered me. I am in the National Honor Society and a top student at school. Just like many other high school seniors, I am getting ready for college, working, and going out with my friends.

Still, I cheer for the Iranian team and enjoy telling others of my precious culture. I speak Farsi whenever I can.

The only people I have to thank for instilling such tremendous Iranian pride in me are my parents. They made me practice Farsi and my father took me to an Iranian school every Saturday. They showed me how to embrace my culture, and make it a part of myself. I love them very much for that.

Today's Iranian teenagers do not deny their culture, they just want to belong. Parents need to enrich their children's lives, but they also need to trust them. We are not growing up under the same circumstances as you did. Let us go out with friends and try new things. Let us wear our designer clothes and blast our music. But please, please do not let us forget who we are, and the great country we come from.

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