December 08, 2020
Yara Elmjouie is a Webby Award-wnning, James Beard-nominated video producer, journalist, and host at AJ+. He's also a great voice in the Iranian American community, creating engaging videos explaining current conditions in Iran, and documenting the experiences of Iranian Americans. He was born in Los Gatos, California, but grew up visiting Iran often. By the time he got to high school and college, he had an insatiable thirst for deep diving into his language and culture. He currently lives in New York City, and much of his current work chronicles the experiences of the Iranian diaspora.
November 11, 2020
For this Raising Neem-Roonis interview, we talk to Mona Kiani, founder of Englisi Farsi where she creates books, flashcards, and other learning materials for people wanting to teach their kids Persian using phonetic English script. She grew up in Australia with two Iranian parents, but like many second generation Iranian kids, rebelled against the language and culture. She married a Singaporian-Australian, and it wasn't until she was six months pregnant with her first child that something clicked and she felt a desperate urge to connect with her mother tongue. However, she found resources for people like her- who could speak Persian conversationally, but couldn't read and write it comfortably- were sorely lacking. So, she created them herself, giving rise to Englisi Farsi- a fantastic resource for other second generation Iranians with similar experiences.
October 21, 2020
Azadeh Shams is a toy designer living in Milan, Italy. She specializes in creating toys for children bilingual in both Persian and English. She has also become an internationally known expert on raising bilingual children, frequently appearing on the massively popular Man o To network. I became familiar with her work on Instagram, where she frequently posts videos on how to raise bilingual children, and often teaches by providing scenarios and offering multiple choice answers of how to deal with challenging situations.
June 15, 2020
Tehran Von Ghasri is a half African American, half Iranian comedian who reads and speaks Farsi fluently. Originally, I wanted to interview Tehran to ask him about being raised in a half Iranian family and how his father managed to keep him interested in the Persian language and culture. However, our interview took place a couple weeks after the death of George Floyd and the reemergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and all over the world. I had a lot of questions about his unique perspective of being half black and half Iranian, and particularly about the role of Iranian Americans in this movement. I learned so much from our conversation and hope that you will too. Listen to the full podcast or read the transcript below (edited for length and clarity):
May 26, 2020
When I first envisioned the Raising Neem-Roonis project, one of the first people I knew I had to interview was Shabnam Rezaei, co founder of Big Bad Boo, a production company that specializes in animated series that showcase different cultures and languages. I actually met Shabnam many, many years ago in New York. I was working on a board game that teaches kids the Persian language and Shabnam interviewed me for a really successful blog she had at the time called Persian Mirror, in which she wrote about Iranian culture. We've kept in touch throughout the years, and it's been incredible to see her develop and grow as a successful Iranian business woman, and to be doing such incredible and impactful work.
May 21, 2020
While learning a language is an important way of understanding culture, food is an equally important universal language. Iranians in particular are very passionate about cooking and eating, and in particular, cooking and eating together. We're raised knowing that there is always a seat at the table for guests, and that food is a pleasure best when shared.
May 19, 2020
Adib Khorram was born in Kansas City, Missouri to an Iranian father and American mother. He studied theater at university, but later returned to a love of writing. His book Darius the Great is Not Okay is about a neem-Rooni (called fractional Persian in the book) named Darius who is struggling, as most teenagers do, to fit in, while also exploring his Iranian roots. In the book, he visits Iran for the first time. He is frustrated by the feelings of inadequacy of not being able to speak the Persian language, but also demonstrates an apprecation for and understanding of many of the unique aspects of Iranian culture (especially the food and the chai!).
May 09, 2020
Reza Aslan has in recent years become one of the most respected and recognizable Iranian Americans out there. He has many titles, but to name a few, he's the author of several books including his number one New York Times bestseller, Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, he's a commentator, professor, producer and scholar of religions. I met Reza at a podcasting conference last August shortly after coming up with the idea for this podcast series. He was there as a keynote speaker promoting his new podcast Metaphysical Milkshake. After his presentation, we met for coffee and he told me his experiences raising three, which has since become four, neem-Rooni children. He enthusiastically agreed to be interviewed for the Raising Neem-Rooni series and connected me with several other people I ended up interviewing. So I really thank him for his encouragement and for his help along the way with this project.
May 02, 2020
Maz Jobrani is the most well known Iranian-American comedian, though he is currently extremely active in many different roles- making regular appearances on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, doing stand up comedy around the world, acting in movies and TV shows, and even hosting his own podcast, Back to School with Maz Jobrani. On top of all that, he's also the father of two half Iranian half Indian children, ages 9 and 11. Although his comedy isn't centered around being Iranian, he's well known in the diaspora, and he's very active with Iranian causes. So, I was interested to see how important it was for him to teach the Persian language and culture to his children, especially since they have another heritage in the mix as well.