Sharareh Drury’s first name means “sparkling flame”. She says her mom gave that name because she knew that Sharareh was going to be special. Sharareh is of mixed heritage — Her mom’s side of the family is from Iran and her dad’s side is from Ireland. She recently came to the StoryCorps booth in the Chicago Cultural Center where she spoke openly about being bullied as a kid because of her background.
This interview was recorded through a partnership between StoryCorps and the Muslim American Leadership Alliance. This story was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered.
My mother is Iranian. My father is Irish. So, I am Persian-Irish or “Pirish” as I like to jokingly say. And it’s something that I was always very proud of because I felt that just make me kind of cool and unique and it was something I could—I could tell at like show-and-tells and things like that and be excited about. To me it just kinda seemed like I had this really like magical background. I almost though I was magical in some way cause like my mom would tell me beautiful stories of like the Middle East and my father would tell me like Irish folklore stories. And like, to me that just seemed like “This is so awesome. Like, it’s so awesome to be a mixed kid and especially to be Irish and Iranian.”
I think my earliest memory of—of kinda like being questioned or me questioning who I was and not in a good way was probably I think I was—I think I was in 5th grade and I remember I had a very good friend. She was like this girl I would hang out with all the time with after school. One day we were just having lunch and we’re just hanging out and she turned to me and she asked “Do you know that your mother is gonna go to hell someday?” And I looked at her and I’m like “No.” And I kind of laughed at this cause I’m like a little kid here eating like my—like my sandwich and I’m like I don’t understand “Why—why is like my mother going to hell?” And she was like “Well, she Muslim and Muslims go to hell.”
I would say essentially all through middle school and high school I was massively bullied. I had a crush on a boy and I told a friend about it and it angered her to think that I some Middle Eastern girl was gonna go and try and be this boy’s girlfriend. So, she and a few of her guy friends found me after school, picked me up, opened a dumpster, put me in, and closed it, and I couldn’t get out. And eventually, a janitor found me and let me out. I actually didn’t tell a lot of people that. Like, my parents really didn’t know about that. If they were to listen to this now, this might be the first time they heard about it. We could go all day about like the belief systems and why certain religions don’t like other religions or why people don’t like other races but my parents were like “You’re different. Some people don’t like it.” But then the next thing that they told me was “You should never be ashamed for being different. It makes you who you are.” I wish sometimes like you could be your future self and come and talk to your younger self. The advice I would give would just be like to just always try and keep your head high. It would be like how Michelle Obama said “When they go low, we go high.”