My name is Dania Shoaib. My parents immigrated from Pakistan: my father is from Islamabad and my mother is from Lahore.
My father came to the United States in 1995. He completed medical school in Pakistan and came here as a resident. My mother joined him in 1998 after they got married. She completed her Master’s in Business Administration in Pakistan.
My father immigrated during a time where many young professionals left the subcontinent for the west. Throughout history, I think South Asians have immigrated in waves. First
came the businessmen in the 70s and 80s. They established a strong Desi presence in the United States that opened the door for professionals to migrate over in the 90s. Camaraderie and community among Desis is what allowed so many of our fathers to leave their families in their homeland to establish new ones in this foreign land, a land that would provide their children with more opportunities.
We children of the diaspora live in between worlds. At home we have our roots pulling us one way and outside we have society pulling us the other way. Yet it often feels like neither side wants you. There’s a poem by Ijeoma Umebinyuo called “Diaspora Blues” that puts a lot of the challenges of being first-generation into words.
so here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here.
never enough for both
Growing up, it was the small things that reminded me I was different from my peers. Things like “your lunch smells” or “why do you wear that thing on your head” were constant reminders that I was a misfit, like a fish out of water. At home I was the bridge to the outside world, holding my parents’ hands through every milestone. It gave me an appreciation for the richness of South Asian culture. The Muslim-American community is full of camaraderie, something I may have missed out on were it not for my immigrant-background.
I was sitting on the idea of starting an Instagram page for my art and I finally did in November of 2020. . I was scared because it was vulnerable position. Everything was about numbers, and it equates how much business you are going to get. I was surprised because it grew a lot. If you are consistent, it is a great tool. I use social media as a strength
Art is an expression of what is inside me. Inside me is my faith. I am Muslim before anything else. When I navigate Desi vs Non-Desi, I go with what my religion says about all individuals being equal. My art has a religious aspect to it and Arabic calligraphy isn’t a new thing. I use traditional styles in my art, and I add some South Asian touches. There is still an expression of that part as my identity. If I’m ever down, tired, or busy I want to sit in bed, watch tv and do art because that is my thing. The second it is done; it makes it all worth it.
To a child of Immigrants, find something to ground yourself in. For me, it’s my religious identity and my art. It’s a harsh world out there, especially when you’re stuck in the middle like in Diaspora Blues. If you can find a constant in your life and feel it at the core of your being, the child-of-an-immigrant experience becomes much more bearable.