People march around a truck bearing pictures of Khamenei and Khomeini during a rally to mark the anniversary of the revolution in Qom, February 2011
Morteza Nikoubazl / REUTERS

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

Finish reading this article for free.

Enter your email and we'll send a paywall-free link directly to your inbox.

In addition to your unlocked article, you will receive our flagship weekly newsletter Foreign Affairs This Week, as well as occasional updates and offers from Foreign Affairs. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, visit our user agreement and privacy policy.


Get unlimited access to all Foreign Affairs. Subscribe now.

Are you already a subscriber? Sign in.