The Ugly Persian House

Neda Maghbouleh
نوشته Neda Maghbouleh

You’re here! Khosh amadid. But please, please, the next time you are here, promise that you will come and stay at my home. We have so much room to spare and you would humble me with your presence. We are ready for you, always. Plaster columns and balustrades will meet you outside; a two-story foyer topped with a chandelier will wink at you from the front door. The carpet still has vacuum marks. You can smell Windex on contact.  Please don’t bring anything. Your presence is more than enough. If you lived here, like me, you would take your shoes off. But you’re visiting me, you’re my most treasured guest. So please khahesh mikonam please rahat bashid, please do not kick off your black suede stiletto heels with gold snakeskin detail in my marble foyer, because your outfit is so beautiful and I wouldn’t want to diminish from your beauty in any way.  Please make yourself comfortable. My home is yours. They have a family resemblance, don’t they? Your house and my house. All our curtains pulled back with tassels, all our decorative soaps in the washroom, our desktop computer mouse pads shaped like Persian carpets gathering dust in the garage. Your house and my house… wind-swept and scattered across the diaspora like family. If we were in Los Angeles, you might hear Amrikaiea talk badly about us. Well, not perhaps us, but about your house and my house. This sanctuary, this home in which I am serving you hot chai in an estekan from a sini, they call it a Persian Palace, like that’s a bad thing. They say it’s too big, on a lot too small, it’s too flashy, it doesn’t fit in, and it’s “ruining the neighborhood, one house at a time.” There’s even a blog, “Ugly Persian Houses,” where they post photos of houses like ours.  We made the Los Angeles Times, the NBC Nightly News, we are famously infamous. In Beverly Hills, you know, this house isn’t even allowed anymore: they’ve passed city codes, sanctioned architects, denied applications for renovation. But here we are in Toronto now and Canadaiea are more polite, or at least to our faces they are. Here, our Ugly Persian House is another McMansion, no ethnic or national provenance necessary. If you pressed a Canadian, though, earned her trust a little bit, she’d tell you about the ones in North York, or Markham, or Richmond Hill. This one is three above-ground stucco-stippled floors of money pilfered out of Iran; that one, with the splashy water feature and lions guarding the gate, is a cash down-payment from mainland China; there goes the neighborhood. Transnational capital from the palms of transnational people, making handshake deals with transnational lawyers and brokers, earning interest in the greedy and open hands of transnational banks. These things will happen. They just do. And it’s true, hagh daran, you’ll see for yourself when you come to stay with me. My home is a big house on a small lot. It has to hold a life lived in two parts. It has to be big enough to contain all of our dreams. It has to be big enough to host you when you bless us with your next visit. You’ll see for yourself that the house is big and the lot is small.

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درباره نویسنده

Neda Maghbouleh

Neda Maghbouleh

Neda Maghbouleh is in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. In July 2015, she begins an appointment as tenure-stream Assistant Professor and graduate faculty.

Her scholarly interests lie in the production of racial categories and identities with a special emphasis on Middle Easterners and other "liminal whites" in North America. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and archival research, her first book project, The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian-Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race is under advance contract with Stanford University Press. Her upcoming projects analyze the disparate racial categorization of Iranian immigrants across North America and Europe.

Dr. Maghbouleh's research has been published as peer-reviewed scholarly articles in Critical Sociology, Ethnic & Racial Studies, Journal of Intercultural Studies, and LATISS: Learning & Teaching in the Social Sciences. Her writing has also appeared in mainstream outlets like the Toronto Star and Her research and teaching projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation, UC Center for New Racial Studies, American Sociological Association, and National Women's Studies Association.

She has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband Clayton and daughter Neelu.