By: Lara Talib, President of OmegaNU
Every year since I’ve been at National University, I try to write a blog post about Women’s History Month and talk about my immigrant story and how I came to be the person I am, and every year I find it to get harder to condense and articulate. This time, I decided to change up how I wrote this post, and talk about my mother. The woman who literally spoke me back to life when I was born.
There are a lot of things about my mom that I know, and so much more I believe I’ll never know. My mother was born in Iraq in the 70’s, she had 9 brothers and sisters, liked to read and write, was extremely smart, and easily the favorite sibling if you asked any of her siblings. She would help cook and clean for the family and was super into continuing her education. When I was younger, the coolest thing about her was that her and her siblings were an even number and split down the middle, with five boys and five girls. When I became a teenager, the coolest thing about her was that she was a rebel librarian at her University in Iraq. Now, as an adult, I really understand that the coolest thing about her is that she escaped a war she did not believe in and remained true to herself through and through.
My dad was an optometrist, and also a rebel, so when they came for my dad to go to war, my dad said absolutely not and my parents decided to flee, knowing that my mom was pregnant with me. They walked hundreds of miles from Iraq to Iran, where I was born on the border in a small little hospital that no longer exists (it was burned down). From Iran they went to Turkey, then from Turkey, they were able to get asylum to the States. I was two by the time Asylum was granted and then we touched down in Arizona, where we stayed until I was about 5.
When we got here, my mom threw herself into re-educating herself and working odd jobs to help make ends meet. My mom would work nights while my dad stayed with me, and then vice versa. When I started school, my mom also started school. She’d always valued education, and still does to this day (she’s the one that pushed for my Master’s). She took classes to learn how to speak English because her biggest fear was that she wouldn’t be able to communicate with her child if she never learned.
When we moved to San Diego in 2002, she continued her education at the local community college, and then at SDSU where she got her Bachelor’s in Women’s Studies. This is also the time period she became pregnant and had my brother. Even while pregnant with her second kid, she continued to work odd jobs and go to school. There were times when she worked 2-3 jobs while also doing school and continuing to make time for her family. After SDSU, she found a job working for the International Rescue Committee and a job opportunity came to her, but she needed a Master’s for it. Although she didn’t get that job, it was motivation enough to get her first Master’s at Alliant University. Apparently, getting her Master’s still wasn’t enough. At this point, she was a professor at Grossmont College, teaching Arabic. A few years later, the Arabic department wanted to start integrating the program into the high schools and she became the first Arabic teacher at the high school level in San Diego. With this, came an opportunity to go back and get a second Master’s in Teaching, which she did… At National University.
This is just a brief overview of my mom’s background in two of the most important parts of her life; the escape from her homeland, and the education she values so much. My mom is still a teacher at two local high schools and is working to continue building the program. She is still her siblings’ favorite sister, she is still a reader and a writer. She is still a die-hard feminist, and she is still the best person I know.