2016

The Oral History Project: Interviews Abstracts

Interviews Conducted in 2016

Number of Interview: GA 8.0
Date: April 26, 2016
Name: Sandy Awad
Gender: Female
Country of Origin: Palestine
Date of Birth: August 6, 1994
Year of Immigration: 1995

Abstract: Sandy Awad was born in Palestine, yet was raised in Yakima, Washington. Yakima is an extremely small town and up until she was in high school, there were not many Arabs or Muslims around, which made it a little difficult for her family – especially for her mom when she decided to wear the hijab. That never deterred Sandy from wearing the hijab – seeing as she identifies herself first and foremost as a Muslim and then Palestinian. Being Palestinian means a great deal to Sandy. Being born there and understanding the culture, she was deeply rooted with her love for the land. Sandy moved to Milwaukee after meeting her husband, who is also Palestinian and from the same village of Deir Debwan. She is currently attending UWM and is working on her Bachelor’s in Kinesiology where she hopes to one day become either a Physical Therapist or a Physician Assistant.

Key Themes: Education, Palestine, Muslim

Number of Interview: GA 3.00
Number of Interview: GA 7.00
Date: April 20, 2016
Name: Amani Faris
Gender: Female
Country of Origin: Palestine
Date of Birth: 11/24/1993
Year of Immigration: Born in United States

Abstract: Amani Faris is a second generation Arab American. She was born and raised in Milwaukee where she attended public school her entire life. After graduating from Oak Creek High School, Amani went on to Alverno College and is currently working on her Bachelor’s in Adult Education and Community Leadership & Development. Being raised in an Arab household and looking up to her mom, Amani has always put education at the forefront of her mind, with the desire to be a strong and independent woman. Although she knows about and understands the typical stereotypes of Arab women, Amani seeks to be an exception to those stereotypes and works hard to be seen as an equal. She has a very strong hold on her Palestinian roots and attempts to embody the culture in her everyday living. Although it was a bit of an obstacle with her relatives, she is now currently engaged to a half Palestinian/half black man.

Key Themes: Feminist, independent, education, Palestinian, engaged

Number of Interview: SJ 10.00
Date: January 12, 2016
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Female
Date of Birth: 04/27/1994
Country of Origin: Palestine/America
Year of Immigration: Born in the U.S.

Abstract: Nada (name changed for confidentiality reasons) is a second generation woman currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in Theology and Sociology. Growing up, she went to an Islamic school for her kindergarten through 8th grade education and then attended a private Catholic school for her high school education. She believes that her strong Muslim identity was shaped in part by her attending an Islamic school. Since she is biracial, born to a Palestinian father and a White mother, she believes that her White features along with her being a Muslim has given her a distinctive relationship with others around her. She identifies herself with different people differently. Although she identifies herself as a Muslim, Palestinian, and American, with the order changing depending on her interactions, she feels that her Muslim identity always takes priority. Nada believes that her multiple identities allows her to have a broader perspective compared to many of her peers. She expressed much appreciation for her American heritage.

Key Themes: education, Islam, culture, biracial identity

Number of Interview: GA 6.0
Date: 1/11/2016
Name: Hanan
Gender: Female
Birthday: 6/12/1988
Country of Origin: Palestine
Year of Immigration: 1989

Abstract: Hanan was raised on the east side of Milwaukee and was the oldest child in her family. Although her mother attempted to speak only Arabic with her, once she started school Hanan refused to answer her mom in anything other than English. Living a little farther from the rest of the community, Hanan’s family did not interact much with any other Arab families. Because of this, culture was not a significant factor in their lives; whereas, religion was at the forefront of her upbringing. Hanan never really had any Arab friends until her parents transferred her to the local Islamic School halfway through her fifth grade year. Her father wanted her to finish school before getting married, and therefore, turned away any potential suitor without mentioning them to Hanan. When she was in her third year of college, her now husband came and asked for her hand in marriage. Although it took some time for her father to agree, one surprising comment her father made was “you couldn’t have found a man who was from a farther village (in Palestine) than he is?!” This comment showed that her father would have preferred a man from the same village as them. However, he quickly got over the fact that they are from different villages and gave his blessing. Hanan and her husband now live a very happy life in Milwaukee while he works as a civil engineer and she works towards her PhD.

Key themes: Muslim, Palestine, village, education

Number of Interview: GA 5.0
Date: 1/9/2016
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Female
Birthday: July 10, 1989
Country of Origin: Palestine
Year of Immigration: Born in the United States

Abstract: Rania (name changed for confidentiality) is a second generation Arab American who grew up as the oldest daughter under very strict parents, with a father known for his old-school mentality. She was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and although she attended the local Islamic school, culture took the forefront in her family home over religion. Rania’s parents expected of her not only to marry right after graduating from high school, but she was expected to marry a man who originates from the same village as her family. One of the biggest challenges Rania faced was convincing her parents to pursue further education, instead of getting married after high school. Although in the end they agreed, they still did not like the idea of her becoming a full-time working nurse. Her husband, Mustafa (name changed for confidentiality), and his family were very well known in the community. The two knew each other for quite some time and when it came to asking for her hand Rania’s father did not agree to it because Mustafa was not from their family’s village. However, Mustafa was persistent and asked for her hand in marriage several times before Rania’s father agreed. Rania believes she has paved the way for her younger siblings and their future endeavors because she was able to show her father and convince him to move beyond some ideas that stem from his traditional mentality.

Key themes: Palestine, culture, Muslim, village, marriage, parenting

Number of Interview: GA 4.0
Date: 1/6/2016
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Female
Birthday: September 17, 1988
Country of Origin: Palestine
Year of Immigration: Born in the United States

Abstract: Mariam (name changed for confidentiality) identifies herself first and foremost as a Muslim. When her father was 15 years old, he and his family fled their village in Palestine and sought refuge in Jordan where they lived out the rest of their youth. Although Mariam originates from Palestine, she identifies more as a Jordanian – especially since she has never been able to gain access into Palestine. Mariam was born and raised in a predominately Jewish neighborhood in Rochester, New York, where the Arab culture was never a large part of her life. Islam was an influence in her life, as her mothers always instilled the values of Islam and love for Allah in her children. Moving to Milwaukee when she was a teenager was a huge change for Mariam. She witnessed many Muslims all within the same area –something she did not experience in Rochester. Mariam obtained both her Bachelor’s and her Master’s degrees in Milwaukee right before marrying an Indian convert. Mariam seems to be one of the rare cases in which, as an Arab Muslim woman, she did not have any issues when marrying a convert, and someone outside of her family’s country of origin. Her parents were less worried about where he came from and more concerned with his age because he is three years younger than Mariam. However, soon after meeting him, her parents fully agreed and they now live a full and happy life together.

Key themes: Muslim, education, convert, marriage

Number of Interview: SJ 8.00
Date: January 4, 2016
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Female
Date of Birth: 04/15/1994
Country of Origin: Lebanon
Year of Immigration: 1994

Abstract: Zaina (name changed for confidentiality reasons) is a 21 year-old woman who was born in Kuwait and moved to Milwaukee shortly after her birth. She is currently attending UW-Madison and pursuing a degree in community non-profit management and sociology. Zaina identifies herself as Arab and Muslim. Her Arab culture plays a fundamental role in shaping her actions and beliefs, such as the value she places on hospitality. However, Zaina feels as if she has to change how she identifies in order to better present herself in a society she feels does not understand her religious and cultural values. She feels that Muslims continue to experience the after effects of the 9/11 attacks because the events majorly affected the American conscious. When considering a future spouse, his Muslim identity would be the most important factor in her choice. Growing up, the most significant aspect of her parent’s homeland that was very present in her life and which allowed her to remain connected to her heritage was the Arabic language, which she thanks her parents for being a fluent speaker.

Key Themes: Arab, Muslim, hijab, ambition, parents, language

Number of Interview: SJ 7.00
Date: January 3, 2016
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Female
Date of Birth: 05/02/1992
Country of Origin: Pakistan
Year of Immigration: 2005

Abstract: Anya (name changed for confidentiality reasons) is a first generation Pakistani American woman who was born in the Northern Pakistan, ethnically she identifies as Pathan. She moved to the United States with her family when she was 12 years old. Anya is currently a college student attending UW-Milwaukee majoring in public health and aspiring to attend graduate school for public health. She believes that her identity is fluid and changes with time and place, however, being Muslim is the one identity that stays constant. Her Muslim identity is a very important and fundamental part of who she is and is present in all aspects of her life. She feels that she was raised by her family’s culture influence, which has helped instill a distinct identity within her. Her family did not have the typical cultural atmosphere found in most Pakistani households, as she explained, her father was very particular on which cultural practices he exposed his children to. Anya believes that her cultural and religious identity has allowed her to appreciate the diversity around her.

Key Themes: hijab, Muslim, Pakistani, culture, American, family, identity