IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — Minoo Sharifan came to the United States from Iran in the 1970s for graduate school, and like many others, wound up settling in America, starting a career and raising her family while a revolution upended her homeland and fractured relations with the U.S.
It’s against that tense backdrop that Sharifan and others from her generation seek to build a connection to their Iranian heritage and culture among their American children and grandchildren.
Now 67, Sharifan oversees the Persian collection and programming for a library in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, that hosts a weekly story time for Iranian-American children that she began six years ago.
Many who came to the United States after the revolution thought they would someday return to Iran but decided to stay amid icy relations between the countries.
Many Iranian immigrants recall being taunted as children after Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran were taken hostage and held for 444 days.
Today, many are separated from their relatives overseas by the Trump administration’s travel ban, which has made some Americans of Iranian heritage feel their standing is in question despite their citizenship status and longstanding ties to the U.S. “In economic terms, it has been a pretty successful community, however, we have been dogged by 40 years of bad relations between the United States and Iran,” said Persis Karim, chair of San Francisco State University’s Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies.
After the revolution, many Iranian immigrants sought to distance themselves from the upheaval in their homeland by calling themselves Persian.
The second generation, Karim said, has identified more often as Iranian-American to show pride in their heritage and their U.S. citizenship.
The Iranian-American community is itself diverse and includes Jews, Muslims, Zoroastrians and others with diverse views and a shared tie to Iranian culture.
And many see a common need to expose the new generation to Iranian culture.
Born in the U.S., Najmabadi said her Iranian father came to the country to study in the early 1970s and met her mother, a South Dakotan of Norwegian descent.
While she grew up speaking English, Najmabadi said she was surrounded by the Persian culture and language when her father’s family came over from Iran in the years after the revolution, and she wanted to learn more.
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