How has your experience growing up as an Iranian boy in Kentucky contributed to your unique views on life?
I think more than anything else (and I think this is common among many immigrants), it gave me the perspective of an outsider -- of someone who had to work to fit in, to be accepted. Immigrants were rare in Appalachia when we moved there in the 60's. People didn't know how to categorize us. It was still a time of racial tension, and here was this brown family -- neither black nor white, with strange accents, strange foods, strange religion, strange names, strange strange strange. I carried that sense or having to work to just fit in around with me through my 20's. But once I left the United States, I lost that sense of being an outsider. I think the ethnic diversity of Saipan, where there is no clear majority, is unifying. People are used to people of various colors, with funny names. Here, I'm no more a stranger than anyone else, and ultimately, I imagine many parts of the world will be like Saipan -- a true mix of cultures and peoples. Growing up in rural Kentucky also gave me a sense of appreciation for small towns and tight communities, which is one of the reasons Saipan resonates with me.