Say My Name


Yesterday I had brunch with my mama, and I can’t remember how this conversation started, but one moment she was suddenly asking me “Do you like your name?

Without even hesitating, I responded, “Yes! Of course!

She smiled and said, “I remember poring through a list of names and Naseem just stood out to me… it felt right. I knew you’d be a Naseem.”

Of course, I couldn’t always say that I loved my name…

There is a vivid memory floating around the back of my head that I desperately wanted to change my name to Kelly in second grade.


How does an eight year old decide with such conviction at that age

“oh shit gotta change my name ASAP, brb?” 

(I remember why I wanted the name Kelly: one of my favorite waitresses at the chelokabobi in town was named Kelly, and baba and I frequented that place with all my amoo’s in tow on a weekly basis). I told my parents about this desire, and of course, they did not oblige my request.

Fast forward to the reckless and angsty age of fourteen, where identity crisis is unavoidable.  Imagine the extra heaping of namak on my puberty-ridden rage wounds of wondering “who the hell am I turning into” with a name like Naseem on top of all the ish you deal with as a teenager.

I hated my name and started asking people to call me Jennifer.


I was the only Iranian girl at school (later I would find out that there were a few more Persians floating around the school district, but how was I to know they existed out of my angry bubble?) and so this made me feel even more isolated and weird about myself.  It didn’t help my self-esteem that I also shopped exclusively at Hot Topic and also wore chained pants every day of my teenage life.

Jennifer only lasted a week before I reverted back to Naseem. My friends and teachers thought it was weird. Looking back, they were right.

Maybe you can empathize:

If you have a culturally-uncommon name in the USA, people tend to stumble over it a few times.


Phonetically speaking, I think “Naseem” is probably easier than pronouncing “Saghar” or “Farzaneh” but regardless, I am not without my fair share of name fumbles.

I’ve been called Neysan, Nissan, Nassem, Nayseem, etc…

And what I realized about my name once I got older is that it lets me engage in conversations with people. When my name is fumbled, I have no hesitation in (politely) correcting the individual and 9 times out of 10, they ask about my name, which always leads into a discussion about my family, culture, history, and politics.

These conversations are always pleasant…

I feel good knowing that in correcting someone’s pronunciation of my name, they learned something new that day.

Naseem means “morning breeze” but I always thought my mama should have picked the word for “tornado” instead.






What’s New


  1. I totally understand how it feels! My Spanish friends call me Savash! My supervisor calls me Sivash, and my Canadian and American friends even aint recall my name, so I desperately turned to Sia when introducing myself and always I tell the story of my names to the people I meet so it’s not that bad sometimes!

  2. Naseem Joon says:

    The only time I ever change my name intentionally is whenever I order Chinese food…which is a rare occurrence these days. Try spelling/saying the name Naseem (or anything else complicated) on the phone to an old, partially-deaf Chinese woman. This is the only time I adopt a more simple, Western name: Sara.

    Naseem Joon

  3. I have actually met many “Zainab’s” who for one reason or another, call themselves “Jennifer”….all of them… (??)

  4. A human being says:

    I love the name Shoshana.

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