I was born in China
Before I was fully conscious, I was swept by my cradle to the land of kimchi, ancient palaces, and cherry blossoms.
Surrounded by Kims and Lees, my “Sajida” was a name I did not wish to associate with.
I asked Mama at the tender age of 8, “why is my hair not like theirs?” Silky, shiny, and straight? Can these burning chemicals help? Can they help me makes friends? Huh, Mama?
I still hear the stinging voices in my head.
“if only she was a little lighter”
“you would be so much prettier with straight hair”
“have you heard of this new lightening cream?’
from them and from my own people alike
I was a circus freak.
I learned their language. Now I was a circus freak who spoke their language. Never fully human.
Even when I thought I could seek asylum in the motherland, I was treated like a foreigner. She looks like us, but not quite like us.
I tried to change. Be more American. Listen more attentively at Friday chapels. Soon “Eisa” became “Jesus,” and “Mohammed” a name I had never heard. Soon, even Jesus started to become unfamiliar.
Blurry years went by where I never fully had an identity. Always trying to find someone to emulate, ingratiate myself with, and attach to.
Then one hot summer day, I found Tumblr. That summer I found Allah. I found a scarf that perfectly framed my face and donned it proudly on the first day of school. I found sisters who not only looked like me, spoke like me, and understood me, but they loved me. They supported me. They upheld me.
In the process of trying to reconcile the East, Middle, and West, I found myself. I had blossomed into a desert flower, no longer fazed by her surroundings but each day growing stronger, more sure of herself, more sure of her beauty. Because look at that little girl. Ain’t she a beauty?
I had found home in a land beyond my mother’s and through my identity I found Identity.