Canadian | Iranian

I identify as half Iranian and half Canadian. My Dad is from Iran and my Mum is from a small town in England. My Dad came to England on a sponsorship from the Iranian government to train to be an accountant. While they were both studying, they met, fell in love and then moved to Iran after they were married. My Mum knew when she met him that he was expected to move back to Iran, but I don’t think she knew what that meant for both of them. I have a lot of respect for her though as she learned to speak Farsi, got a job and had four children in Iran. Even in times when the Shah’s leadership was ending, and the Islamic Revolution was gaining momentum. Although my Dad tried hard to live there despite everything, even he realized we’d have to leave. We went via England and eventually he got a job in Edmonton, Canada after responding to an announcement that Canada was looking for chartered accountants.

I was born in Iran and grew up in Canada. I don’t think my parents ever talked to me about being mixed-race or about identity. We were an immigrant family and, although I was light-skinned, we were very aware that we were different. I grew up in a very White, middle-class suburb and was surrounded by my Iranian family and relatives so holidays, meal times, festivals always took on a different meaning. Despite the Iranian influence, my Mum was the main caregiver and had a huge influence on how we were brought up. The bridge between Canadian and English culture wasn’t that big. So we went to Church but then celebrated Iranian holidays, the two never seemed at odds to me.

Though I tried to assimilate as much as possible into Iranian culture, I often felt a little different. In high school, I was given half-membership into the ‘Brown’ club (yes, there were only a handful non-White people in my school) and it was in University that I really was able to explore and put words around what I’d felt all my life. Not really knowing where I belonged or why I felt different but didn’t always fit into a specific category.

My partner is Nigerian, and I now have three amazing daughters who are mixed Iranian/Nigerian and English. Because of what I went through and because nobody talked to me about identity, I make a point of speaking to them often about the different cultures and ethnicities that make up who they are. My first two daughters have lived in Nigeria, Canada and England and are very comfortable with speaking about being mixed. I’ve also made it my career by starting a blog for parents of mixed-race kids in the UK because I don’t think we talk about it enough- or at least as much as our neighbours across the pond. My blog is called and it’s to support other parents who are on a similar journey raising mixed kids.

I don’t speak Farsi which I have a lot of regret about. But my parents came from a generation where speaking English was much more important, and they were afraid we’d not speak it well if we were to speak another language at home. It often made me feel like a fraud when laying claim to being Iranian because language is such a big part of the culture.

Being asked ‘where are you from?’ is such a loaded question that I often stiffen up when it comes to answering. Since I’ve been in England, it’s been easier to say that I grew up in Canada, but I was born in Iran. If probed about my looks (because that is often what people want to know about-either accent or looks) I admit that my Father is Iranian, and my Mum is English. I wonder how my children will answer that one. So far, they spout out every different culture which seems a long list!

Being mixed offers such a layered experience, such exposure to different ways of thinking, of experiencing things, of speaking, of celebrating, belief. It can be confusing at times but really, it is so enriching and I’m so glad my children have been so exposed to such a diverse set of beliefs and cultures.