Pride and Heritage: A Message from Mani Farhadi
I was inspired by Nahal Iravani-Sani’s article to write about our new tradition this year. Similarly, as she described, every year since Kindergarten I would dress in an Iranian folk costume, and carry my precious Persian presentation to my son’s schools. However, Rodd is now in High School, and Ryon is in 5th grade. With their particular age group and their teachers, the traveling display was not going to be presented this year, which left a sad hole in our annual ritual. I decided since we are leaving the elementary school this year, what better way to make a permanent contribution than to donate some books to the school library about Iran. That way the impact would reach far beyond one classroom, and permeate the entire school.
This idea began a few years ago, when a new family arrived from Iran to our school, with twin girls in 4th grade, who barely spoke English. The school assigned my son Rodd to help them out with transition and translation, for which he tried his best, but it was complicated, since Farsi is his second language. Our family chose to donate a Persian-English dictionary to the Library at the time, so these new students could use it, without feeling awkward about a direct donation. Years later, we found out another new family came to our school, and lo and behold, the student was thrilled to discover that her new school Library had a Persian-English Dictionary! She showed it with pride to her parents, and we realized the value of that gift would keep on being appreciated as years went by.
In Februray, when I saw a display for Chinese New Year at the Library, it made an instant connection for me. Why not have an Iranian New Year display? I contacted the school Librarian, who was cheerfully willing to let us have a display area, if we set it up ourselves. I emailed the Iranian-American parents, found some I didn’t know in the school phone book, and asked them about providing a book to the school. With the help of the Librarian, we distilled the Amazon search to about ten books she felt would be appropriate for elementary school, and the parents divided up the list. Gradually, the new donated books started to arrive and the shelf began to fill with books about Fairytales, Stories, Geography, Culture, History, Photography, Food and Artwork. On the inside cover, each family wrote their name and the year these books were donated to the Library. The finishing touches were provided by some artwork and a mini haft-seen. Voila – pride restored!
The display will be up for 2 weeks, with a one-page handout for those that want to know more. The Librarian even went so far as to pick one of the stories to read to all the classrooms when they had ‘Library Time’ this week. She is reading a book called ‘Celebrating Norouz’, about a young boy from San Jose who celebrates Norouz from a kid’s perspective. Coincidentally, I heard her read it to a group of 3rd graders on Monday morning. As it turns out, the teacher’s 3rd grade class was in the library and an Iranian girl was in her class. After the Librarian talked about Norouz, and they located Iran on a globe, the little girl raised her hand and mentioned how she enjoys visiting Iran. Then the teacher told everyone that her son actually married someone from Iran, so she has been learning about Iranian traditions. What a small world!
I was so thrilled that this idea generated such a comfortable dialogue and made a student feel good to talk about Iran in front of their classmates, and created a cultural bridge for the teacher and librarian as well. Aside from instilling pride in our children for their heritage, this project was also meant to let non-Iranians know a bit more about us and I think we accomplished that. For your info, I attached a one-page Norooz description that I wrote.
Eideh Shoma Mobarak,
Los Gatos, CA