I was an immigrant before my first birthday. We left Iran in 1975 for Peoria, Illinois, home of Caterpillar; my father transferred there from the company’s Tehran branch. The Iranian Revolution began in 1978, while my family was on our first return visit, our last shared visit, to the country of my birth. I was four years old. Several months later came the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy. Both events chased us to the other side of the world.
The revolution cleaved our lives into before and after, into happy and unhappy days. Iran transformed from an exotic and ancient civilization into something ominous. Growing up in the United States required a new durability, a thicker skin to tolerate the demonization of Iranians as religious fanatics, our reputations put at risk by the crowds on the other side of the world chanting “Death to America.” Who I would be