Jasmine’s background derives from Palestinian, Russian, and Iranian roots, along with Jewish and Muslim faiths. She describes how her various layers of identity have influenced her outlook on life. She struggled with conservative community expectations that challenged individuality. Jasmine shares how reflecting on her diverse roots helped garner confidence to delve in deeper into embracing her unique identity.

This story was recorded in partnership with MALA and StoryCorps.

 

“My dad is Palestinian, and my mom is half Russian and half Iranian. It’s interesting because my grandmother’s actually Jewish and my grandfather is Muslim – he’s Shia Muslim – and so then my dad and his parents are Sunni Muslim. So, in addition to the different cultural practices, there’s also differences in religious sects. What I’ve realized as I’ve grown up is that one culture and religious sect is more prominent in my life. So, definitely the Palestinian culture and practices, I’ve learned way more about than Iranian culture, or even Russian culture – that’s probably what I’ve learned the least about Russian culture; and then I am a Sunni Muslim too. So yeah, I’ve just realized that I didn’t really have the opportunity to learn as much as I would have liked to about Iranian culture, Russian cultures, as well as like, Judaism and Shi’ism too.

 
Well, initially when I was growing up in the suburbs, it was predominantly white, so even just being Arab and saying that I was Palestinian, which obviously I was other things too, that was different enough, so I didn’t really have an opportunity to explore my identity because everyone else was mostly white and Christian, typically. So, I think as I grew older and as I made new friends and when I started college that I met people who were so confident in themselves and their identity and were so excited to share who they were and I was able to become more confident in myself and realize that I had exciting and interesting things to share too; and that I can contribute things that other people don’t and aren’t aware of. Experiences that other people don’t have and I just feel like I came to realize that I had valuable experiences, I guess, that I could share that just helped me solidify who I was as a person and that my identity was important.

 
With my experience, I think that community pressure is something that is huge and I can speak just, as a woman, with the expectations for Arab women, it’s not just from your family because your family can be very open-minded. For example, my dad is not – and I can see this now, especially growing up apart from the Arab community – he definitely had a more liberal mindset, but that would’ve been limited because of the community and just being surrounded by people that were more conservative and, I want to say, old-school ideals and they held different values. So, I think that community can play a huge role in the way that women, specifically, can be expected to behave.

 
I think it’s really important to know that I’ve become so strong in my identity and proud of who I am and where I come from; and I just want to continue this journey and learn more about my heritage and my culture and my religion and this will just help me to grow and become more confident in who I am as an Iranian-Russian-Palestinian-Muslim-American woman.”

 

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