Half Ostrich

The air is buzzing

time passes and life is still

warm skin knows nothing

۲۰۲۰年۰۸月۱۲日


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〇 一 二 三 四 五 六 七 八 九 十 ۰   ۱  ۲   ۳   ۴   ۵   ۶   ۷   ۸   ۹  ۱۰ 0

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 It’s scary forgetting things I should know.

sefr ichi nii san chaar  panj shish shichi ate kyu da. #?電話   ばんごう 

は  何  です  か ۲۰۲۰

年۰۵月۲۹日 1 時 ۵1 分 AM

I once ran across a reaction to a poem. It’s strange to think that I’m exactly like this discovery, I’ve been filtered not once but twice or three times. I guess that’s what being 2.5 gen is like. I’ll get back to that in a minute. So this poem, I don’t connect with all the pieces of this source material, but I connect with everything in the reaction to the poem. I’d recommend taking the time to read it before I spoil the good bits throughout this post. I’ll link it here. It’ll take you five minutes, promise, but it’s important to understand where I’m coming from before we proceed with my stream of consciousness. You might (read: definitely) cry. I cried. I am crying as I read it to formulate this post. And I’ll probably cry when I reread it in a few months for my thesis research. Sarah Heikkinen is the author of the reaction and Mary Hope Whitehead Lee is the author of the poem, it’s called “on not bein.” Sarah Heikkinen beautifully illustrates something I think many mixed kids feel, an absence. We all aren’t enough in varying degrees but when you’re mixed, man that “not enough”ness drives most of your actions. At least, it drives most of mine. 


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ハーフですか。ちょっと。。。母はハーフですから 私は二十五パーセントです。

۲۰۲۰年۰۲月۱۴日

Let’s break down my mixedness shall we? I’m the eldest daughter of a post-revolution Iranian immigrant muslim father and a biracial / haafu christian mother. My mother is the youngest daughter of a white American army vet and an issei / Japanese expat mother. So that makes me a confused individual in terms of identity politics. Let’s also sprinkle in the fact that I grew up in the American south as a raging queer, just for added depth. My existence is at a thousand and one intersections and honestly, that weight is a lot sometimes. When I step back and answer the question “What are you? No really?” a part of me wants to divulge the depth of my mixedness, because I’m finally proud of it. But also f*ck you for asking, because my mixedness is worth much more than your passing (ahem racist) question. I exist between every label and it’s confusing and exciting and painful and spiritual and guilt-ridden and joyful and I finally, finally, think I’m starting to get it. Heikkinen asks “Why can’t I just fit in with the people I feel so connected to? Why can’t I just belong, and not have to exist in this f*cking weird middle space where nobody really understands how you feel because everybody experiences it differently?” And I think I’ve gotten to a point where that anguish  doesn’t matter as much anymore. I have bad days, but I’ve accepted my difference. Not only have I accepted it, but I feel proud because of it. My experience is a singular anomaly but it won’t stop me from participating and connecting with my people (or at least trying to). And my people come from so many walks of life. They come from Vietnam, and India, and Puerto Rico, and Georgia. Their voices are sometimes covered in glitter and other times muddled by smoke or even still, spoken in the beautiful timbre of mixedlish (well known variants are chinglish, spanglish, finglish, or pidgin). My people are all the people who have harbored these inexplicable feelings of otherness. People who are in between and who’ve felt the weight of absence, who’ve failed to fill it. I won’t be able to connect with everything they’ve experienced and I won’t need to because we still have the bond of not fitting in perfectly. So yes, I’m a haafu / mixed Iranian Japanese queer muslim from the American South but I’m also just Leili. 


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“Too westernized for the homeland too fresh for the brits.” 

– Deba Hekmat

۲۰۲۰年۰۹月۲۰日

I’ll end this self discovery with a final (long) diary entry. Originally I wasn’t going to include any of these entries within this post. But I think they capture my inbetweenness much better than any of my coherent writings. Can you tell I’m a little obsessed with language yet? 


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あ いうえ お I’m learning things my mother was never taught. I never called her baachan but now that she’s gone I find myself using words I never knew. What was your mom like? It’s been taken from me. We don’t talk about ourselves like that.

日本語をべんきょうしています。I couldn’t remember 語 So I used google again. It feels like cheating. I’m so American. Some people don’t think I’m Asian.

「Acceptance inshallah」But it’s so far away and I’m impatient. Maybe they’re right. Dramatic I know but a part of me dies when someone mistakes that, when someone sees yellow fever instead of a frightened scramble to catch even a sliver of what my grandmother once held. My grandmothers. 

I’m lucky. No one ever called me a t*rrorist. No one ever called me a j*p or a ch*nk. But a morbid little voice in my head is begging to hear it so i can at least find another family instead of always being on the outside all the time. Am I on the outside all the time? I’m not anything yet I am something. Is it better to be beaten instead of iced out? 

No. I hate feeling sorry for myself. I’m happy mostly but sometimes guilt swallows me. But i’m guilty for things I have no control over. I can’t blame myself for not learning about まmaめmeまmaきki until I was ۲۱ 21. Catching up is the only thing I can do so I’m gonna catch up. 

I get sad when I realize I’ve forgotten important things. It’s the same sadness that fuels my guilt. Time washes away pain but it’s washed away more than that too. 

I’ve cried more than usual this year. 

I’m longing for something that I don’t have access to. It’s lonely but there are more shotor شترمرغ morgh than I know.

So maybe I’m not so lonely. 

۲۰۲۰年۰۶月??日

Translations in order of appearance.

۲۰۲۰年۰۸月۱۲日 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2020 / 08 / 12

Note: In my day to day i’ve been using farsi numbering systems and japanese date markers. It connects me to languages I never fully learnt, languages that are mine but at the same time aren’t. It seems arbitrary at times and it’s something that only I can read for the most part (lol who reads japanese and farsi anyway??) but it makes my chest feel warm to know I remember something as small as numbers. Because if I’m being honest, I’m terrified of losing the smallest amount of my history that I’ve gained to the fallibility of memories. 

sefr ichi nii san chaar panj shish shichi ate kyu da . . . . . . . . 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 

alternating between farsi, japanese, and english

電話   ばんごう  は  何  です  か . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . what is your phone number? 

۲۰۲۰年۰۵月۲۹日 1 時 ۵1 分 AM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2020 / 05 / 29 1:51 AM

ハーフですか。 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Are you half?

ちょっと。。。母はハーフですから . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Um… my mom is half so 

私は二十五パーセントです。 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I’m 25%.

۲۰۲۰年۰۲月۱۴日 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2020 / 02 / 14

Note: ハーフ read “haafu” is a Japanese specific mixed race term used to describe the child of a Japanese national and a non Japanese. I personally define myself as haafu because in the States the lines between mixed race terminology is blurrier and there’s less need to specify how Japanese you are. But in Japan your degree of distance from the nation holds value. This can be seen in terms like isei, niisei, sansei, yonsei, which translates roughly to first, second, third, fourth generation Japanese expat versus the general term nikkei. So while I’m haafu in the states, I found that while in Japan it somewhat confused people / gave the wrong impression. Was I haafu? Was I not? No one had an answer for me. And sometimes i regret my over explanations about it. Haafus in Japan right now are tokenized as having the beauty of the west with the sensibility of the Japanese. It was strange to be glorified for searching for my Japaneseness while also being separated from it because I was seen as palatably exotic. 

۲۰۲۰年۰۹月۲۰日 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2020 / 09 / 20

あいうえお . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . AIUEO the first letters in 

the Japanese alphabet 

baachan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . grandma

日本語をべんきょうしています。 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I’m studying Japanese.

Inshallah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . as Allah wills 

まめまき . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mamemaki, a holiday to 

ward off demons by

throwing roasted soy beans

the night before Setsubun

/ Lunar New Year 

شترمرغ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Shotormorgh means ostrich; 

shotor means camel and

morgh means bird.

The ostrich cannot carry water

like the camel nor can it fly

like the bird. It is neither

and yet is both and its place

is unknown to it. 

۲۰۲۰年۰۶月??日 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2020 / 06 / ??

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