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.
April 24, 2020
If you're familiar with 'Iran twitter,' you've most certainly come across Arash Karami, a long time contributor for Al-Monitor. He offers some of the most astute and timely analysis of Iranian politics on the platform, and is followed and retweeted by the greats in the diaspora. He's also one of the reasons the Raising Neem-Roonis series came about. Arash wrote me on Twitter a while ago asking if I was teaching my children the Persian language, and we had a lively conversation about the challenges of passing on language and culture to the next generation. I knew this was a question many of us in the diaspora have, so I decided to take this question to other hyphenated Iranians with half Iranian children.
April 21, 2020
Raising Neem-Roonis is an interview mini-series featuring Iranians in the diaspora that are married to non Iranians and raising half Iranian children (hence the term neem (half) Rooni (Iranian)). Throughout the series, we explore the challenges and unique opportunities presented by raising half Iranian children, with topics ranging from raising kids to be bilingual in Persian (or not) to different aspects of Persian culture that should be passed on to the next generation (or shouldn't).
February 26, 2020
First things first- March 19, 2020 marks the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, and the first day of the new year in the Persian calendar, our biggest holiday also known as nowruz (also spelled Norooz, Nowrooz, Noruz). Even though Iranians are spread out all over the world in different countries, with different ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs and political tendencies, this holiday unites us all! In fact, even Iranians in the southern hemisphere, where spring is nowhere in sight for the coming months, join the rest of us by welcoming new beginnings and new life. Tracing back to Zoroastrian times, nowruz has persisted and resisted through the millenia, and I like to think that this is because it strikes at a truth deep within the soul of the earth- that the beginning of spring is time for all forms of life to come together and rejoice in peace and harmony!