The United States has been going through inevitable demographic shifts lately, not only quantitatively but also qualitatively. Incessant migration has dominated almost all these changes. The increasing number of minorities is especially noteworthy and game-changing.
Immigrants from numerous countries have migrated to America. In particular, many Iranians have migrated to America over the past few decades, especially after the advent of the Islamic Revolution and the installation of Islamic government, not only in search of better living conditions but also to escape religious persecution and what they have considered unbearable living condition in Iran. Since their arrival, they have worked diligently to successfully establish themselves financially, socially, professionally, politically, and intellectually in the U.S. Even though they are relatively new, Iranians have been quite successful in America in many respects. Particularly, when it comes to academic, business, medical, and technology fields, their report card is quite impressive.
Although the level of curiosity about Iranian-Americans is high, the public awareness of their community is shallow and often imprecise because it has been grounded on inaccurate information that often provided by lopsided mass media. For example, a typical American cannot distinguish between Iranians and the other Middle Easterners; most Americans are scantly familiar with the historical contexts for the current bickering and the antagonistic relationship between the U.S. administration and the Iranian government. Even as recently as today, Iran is still identified by the U.S. government as a hostile nation and the sponsor of terrorism despite the fact that there is no credible evidence to support such accusations.
As Iranians become increasingly visible and more established as a minority group in America, they have no choice but to integrate deeper into the dominant culture of their new country and build their own identity nonetheless, an identity with fitting elements. For Iranian immigrants, constructing an identity is a tedious endeavor that takes a long time; however, doing so serves as a conduit through which they can earn deserving recognition and political power.
Iranian writers, I believe, have strived diligently to properly inform the public about their community and its unique aspects by addressing the key social and cultural issues in their writings and expounding on the type of identity Iranian-Americans want to be associated with. These writers have eloquently told stories by narrating their upbringing, lifestyle, the Iranian culture, food, music, their longings, their aspiration, and where they want the Iranian community to be in the future. They have addressed these issues thoroughly in their books published in recent years mostly in form of memoires. Among other things, the works of these writers have served as excellent mediums through which group identity has been constructed and intercultural issues have been addressed. They have voiced their opinions regarding these issues and have told their stories for multiple reasons. Foremost, they want to promote public awareness and to clarify the misconceptions regarding who Iranian-Americans are and what they stand for, and to gain the recognition they deserve as well as the political power that comes with such recognition.
The salient fact is that most of such books/memoires have been written by female Iranian authors, who departed Iran after Islamic revolution, simply because they have been more frequently discriminated against and claimed to be oppressed by the government in Iran and thus had no choice but to leave in the face of harsh living condition. Oppressed people have more emotional memories to draw upon and more touching stories to tell. Owing to female’s charm, women are usually better storytellers and offer more intriguing accounts of their life. Additionally, the popularity of feminism in the U.S. makes these books more appealing to mainstream American audience and thus more marketable
What is important for us Iranians is to claim our rightful niches in this great nation and elucidate the way we want to be known and be portrayed as a community. Writing has always been an effective means of parlaying the forces of identity and putting an accurate face on human life in general and the Iranian community in the diaspora in particular. Iranian writers, as mentioned above, have done a fantastic job of telling their stories in an attempt to not only shed some light on a number of social, cultural, political, and human rights issues, but also they have composed a rightful identity for Iranian-American community. Particularly, in the aftermath of any calamitous events like the terrorist attacks, they have felt more obligated to clarify the Iranian position and repudiate any blame placed on Iran or Iranians for such attacks.
In a nutshell, Iranians in the U.S. are best presented by their writers and thought leaders. The stories they have told in their memoirs, although their own, are also serves as the building blocks of their group identity. Delving into these memoires gives us good insights into the self-portrayal of Iranian-American community. They want to bring to the fore the issues they think are momentous to them and need to be addressed, and their writing is also a response to the priorities of their American audience and the diasporic Iranians. These stories represent the events, experiences, memories, and traditions that comprise the group’s ethos.
The US is one the most welcoming places for immigrants. While religious and cultural diversity is less tolerated in developing countries including Iran, tolerance is one of the attractive most attractive magnets of American culture. We Iranian immigrants appreciate it profoundly. Respect for diversity and multi-ethnicities, freedom of expression, as well as equal protection under the legal system are among the fundamental values of modern societies wherein people thrive and get along better.