Introducing our Featured Writer of the Month: Sepideah Mohsenian!
A fearless, educated, and devoted jack-of-all-trades, Sepideah Mohsenian is a writer, programmer, doula and more on top of being a resilient Muslim woman. Mohsenian advocates for the intersectional identities present within the Muslim community, and showcases her advocacy not only through her writing, but through her activism and programming.
Muslim Girl: Give a quick bio of yourself!
I’m unapologetically Muslim, Iranian, and American. I’m a woman of color, a new mother of a Sushi baby (Sunni + Shia), and proud wife; a sister, aunt, and daughter. I’m a trained and practiced pre-natal doula, a fiercely critical peace-builder, adventurer, and a writer, I suppose. I received dual-degrees in International Peace and Conflict Resolution and Religious Studies from American University in Washington D.C., along with an M.S.W. in International Social Welfare from Columbia University.
I had just turned 12 on September 11, 2001. It took about a week for a classmate to call me a terrorist for the first time, in front of my 7th grade English teacher.
I’ve lived, loved, and traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, and currently reside in the beautiful beach town of Santa Barbara while my husband completes his Ph.D. at UC Santa Barbara. I develop and coordinate a wide array of anti-oppressive programming at the MultiCultural Center on campus, where I half-jokingly call myself a social-justice curator and try to participate in creating a climate that is safer and more loving to individualized stigmatized by white supremacy and U.S. Imperialism.
Where are you from? What was it like?
Born in Tehrangeles, Kaliphornia — I was raised in a historically agricultural community up the coast from Los Angeles, Oxnard. While I wasn’t surrounded by many Iranians, or SWANA folks in general, I was surrounded by a lot of brown love in Oxnard — about three-quarter of the community was Latinx, many undocumented folx, migrant farmworkers, and there is a strong Phillipinx community there too. It’s a special place that houses a lot of resiliency, but also is rather conservative with a few local Navy ports (Hueneme and Mugu) and active (white power) hate groups too.
What’s on your mind right now?
Contributing to the creation of future that is more loving to folx than the one we currently live in. I’m also stoked about an upcoming hike I have to Santa Cruz Island, which is part of the Channel Islands National Park chain off the coast of Southern California. We’re taking our nine-month old, so there’s a lot that can go wrong…
What was it like growing up?
I attended a series of different of private-Christian schools until college. My parents thought that private was “better,” and in our area many, if not all private schools were Christian-affiliated — which was also appealing to them because, if anything, I would have the presence of God with me throughout the day in a more elevated way. I get it. I wasn’t mad. I had just turned 12 on September 11, 2001.
It took about a week for a classmate to call me a terrorist for the first time, in front of my 7th grade English teacher. It went unchecked in that situation and countless other times in front of my peers, friends, and administration — in front of people who really had the power to stop it — or at least check it. Entering college was a radical period of re-education and re-identification, a period of time where I realized I no longer needed to be apologetic of who I was. The rest is history.
What drew you to Muslim Girl?
Muslim Girl stood out to me as a safe-space where Muslimah of varying backgrounds could unite in radically-inclusive sisterhood. It was hard to stay away.
What do you like to write about?
I find that I tend to write on the margins of marginalized communities. It’s kind of just an honest analysis of my limited time as I try to balance being a new mother, regular contributor to MG, work 40+ hours per week at the University, and try to show up as well as I can for my partner, family, students, and friends.
Entering college was a radical period of re-education and re-identification, a period of time where I realized I no longer needed to be apologetic of who I was. The rest is history.
I want to make sure that MG is speaking up about QTPOC, of survivors of varying forms of violence, of horizontal oppression in our own communities — racism, sexism, or otherwise. If I have a night where I can sit and write, then I’ll always prioritize these stories because these are stories that need to be centralized as we work towards a better tomorrow. (But then there is also this bad and boujie side of me that openly indulges when fashion listicles or cute gift guides that I also love).
How do you feel about the current socio-economic climate?
TEAR IT DOWN.
What motivates you?
Contributing to the creation of future that is more loving to folx than the one we currently live in. I delivered my first child the day after the elections — we’ve nicknamed them the “anti-Trump” — if their future is not some serious motivation, I don’t know what is.
How do you take care of yourself while balancing everything you do?
I have been very intentional about weaving my commitment to social justice throughout my spiritual, personal, academic and professional lives — which, in a way, makes balancing things easier. Other than that — a lot of hiking, beach-time, gardening, cooking, eating, and laughing. This might sound crazy, but since I’ve welcomed my first child, life has gotten a lot easier — meaning that it’s easier for me to prioritize the people, things and activities in my life that really matter.
What advice would you give to writers?
The content of your writing is so much more important than your prose — don’t sweat it. Speak for yourself before a middle-aged mediocre white-man does it for you, and casts Taylor Swift to play you in the biopic of your life. As Maya Angelou says, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
What inspires you to take initiative?
I’m a huge complainer. I talk a lot of shit. I’m a Leo. With those badges comes the inherent responsibility of putting words into action, right???
What are you hoping for within the rest of 2017?
An end of the Trump presidency — be it through impeachment or resignation.
God bless Sunni and Shia scholars for preserving Islamic tradition. Sunni scholars have preserved Hadith quotes and Shia scholars have preserved quotes of Prophetic family. Both should unite against Yazid secularism and Antichrist atheism.
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