Student at St. Bernard High School

Photography by Tess. Lotta

Photography by Tess. Lotta

Dear grandchild,

Read this carefully. There are things you need to know about where you come from: 

Where you’re from, people here—in the United States—they don’t really understand. You’re from the Middle East. Jordan to be exact.

You’re from a land that takes in refugees because neighboring countries at the time decided it was their mission to get rid of Muslims.

You’re a Muslim Arab-American.

I know it’s been hard. You’ve heard about 9/11, I’m sure, and about the Paris attack, but you didn’t hear about the butcherings and bombings in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine. Where you come from idiots take religious texts you love and manipulate them to justify their cruel actions.

Yes, as you know, these people are ISIS. But let’s drop the I in ISIS—we have nothing to do with them. They’re called Dasesh; let’s not give them any validation by slapping a religious label on them.

Because where you’re from, the streets are filled with churches and mosques. Don’t let racists tell you where you come from is extreme. It isn’t. In your history class, your teacher probably won’t pull up articles where Muslims stand in front of churches on Sundays to protect Christians, and Christians stand in front of mosques on Fridays to protect Muslims.

When it comes to how your culture is handed to you—from the media and what you hear—you won’t like it. But you shouldn’t let people who haven’t even stepped foot out of the U.S. tell you about where you come from. You tell them where you come from. You tell them that you’re Jordanian and proud. You tell them you’re a Muslim and proud. Let them know that your family is Bedouin, a name whose origins come from being the first settlers in the desert and can be traced as far back as the time Prophet Mohammad was alive—therefore, Islam is embedded in them. The Bedouins found a way to successfully live in deserts through the use of astronomy. When they wanted to find their way back home, they’d follow the stars according to familiar constellations.

I feel like when Islamiphobia is on the rise, you’ll feel like you’re lost and you can’t find you way home, but you can.

You have to let the stars guide you.

These stars are your hopes and dreams; they can not be taken away from you.

Where you come from there’s a man who sells hummus on the streets at 7:00 a.m., and there’s a large crowd surrounding him waiting and the air is filled with the delicious and steamy smell of mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, yes, and garlic. Where you’re from, during Ramadan it doesn’t even look dark outside at night because of all the lights and decorations. Back in Jordan, the streets are filled with kids playing soccer or cards. There’s so many cafés with couples smoking hookah and drinking coffee. Where you’re from, you can hear prayers being called five times a day and mosques are crowded on Fridays. Here, where you are now, you’re probably too scared to go to a mosque. There have been so many attacks and vandalism—I don’t blame you. I’m so sorry you live somewhere that holds a piece of paper close to its heart called “The Constitution” that states you have “freedom of religion” but doesn’t actually grant you that. Where you’re from, I had the best years of my life. I would go outside and play but would have to be home before the streetlights turned on. I felt at peace, welcomed, and belonged there.

Here, I just feel like a guest staying at someone else’s house. But there’s something that you need to know, wherever you are, that’s your home. You’re home. You can decorate your home as much as you’d like with whatever you like. Want to be a faithful Muslim, go for it. Want to wear a hijab, go for it. Want to go to prayer on Fridays, go for it. Don’t let people tell you how to decorate your home. Notice I didn’t say house; houses can be torn down. Homes are deeper than that—they’re a sense of comfort and belonging. Don’t you dare let someone make you feel uncomfortable in your own home. You need to learn how to build thick skin and ignore ignorant people. Also, you need to stick your head in some books and study up on everything about your culture and the history of where you come from. So when someone says something incorrect, you can catch it so quick and correct them. It’s more effective to be someone who can back up their emotions with their knowledge when it comes to situations like this. I want you to know that you will learn nothing important or accurate from mainstream media or a classroom about where you come from. I strongly suggest going to Jordan and submerging yourself in your own culture and seeing what it’s like for yourself. I’m sure you’ll appreciate the warm welcome from the people there and offers for help in settling in. I hope you enjoy the long hours on roof tops with friends, enjoying a warm cup of coffee accompanied by a hookah on a cold night. I hope you enjoy all the extravagant weddings and the songs they play at them. I hope you feel such a sense of identity that’s so strong you’re certain it’s who you are and where you’re suppose to be. Don’t let propaganda rob you out of your identity. 


Love forever and always,

Your Nana