Maryam, Mina and Mahsa / مریم مینا مهسا

 Left to right Mahsa, Maryam and Mina

*Women Life Freedom poster created by Taravat Talepasand

I met Mahsa, Mina and Maryam at Mahsa’s home on February, 4th 2023, where we enjoyed a delicious homemade chai made by Mahsa. That Sunday also happened to be the day Shervin Hajipour received the Grammy merit award for the song “Baraye” - the best song for social change.

Grammy merit award:

Shervin Hajipour, Baraye:

Maryam: “We decided to move to US in 1989. My older son was 14 at that time. There was the war between Iran and Iraq, and we didn’t want him to be taken to war because they were taking all the 14 year old boys to fight.”

Family photo from around 1988

Maryam: “For me right now, home means here in US, where the kids and grandkids are. I would like to visit Iran to see my relatives, but that is not safe now. I feel the most at home when I am cooking and having people over.”

Mahsa: “For me is the same, cooking and having people over means home, my mother passed that on to me. The byproduct of cooking is what’s important. Food brings people together. I think that’s the sense of home, to just have people and connections to help with the feeling of loneliness when you first migrate to a new country."

Mina: “I don’t think I’ll ever feel completely at home in the US. I would feel at home in Iran, but not the Iran we see today. I would say I feel most at home when I am around our family and our culture, as we can feel and be ourselves when we’re around those from a similar culture.”


“Honestly, it was very hard to move from Iran to US, but I am a strong woman. In our country, my husband was working a lot, and I was raising the kids alone mostly. 

After we moved to US, I started to look for a job. I started working in a daycare, but now I have my own Preschool. In the beginning, I was often working from early morning until very late at night. I felt they were taking advantage of me, having me work so late. 

I was also taking classes at PSU to improve my English and I got my license to become accredited by the National Association of Family Childcare. That was big for me.”

Left to right Mahsa and Mina 

Mina: “I remember in the beginning, when I was young in school here, kids would make fun of us for not knowing English. And that in turn motivated me to learn English quickly. For example, I would take index cards from our ESL classes home and put one on the wrapper of the chicken in the fridge and one outside the fridge, to help me know that chicken is different than kitchen, as they sound so similar.

I remember my mom having difficulties with the language and I was so determined to learn English to help her with any applications or needs to help our family transition with the move. I imagine it was hard for her to have a job, to learn a new language, and to take care of us. But she did it all and always with so much grace and no complaining."

Mahsa: “I think to me, the biggest impact was when people were mean to us. It’s all the trauma that we felt. Feeling alienated was the biggest thing that happened in my life that made me a better person.”

Maryam with one of her granddaughters

“I am who I am because of my Bibi – my Mom. She was a very strong, wise woman. She never went to high school, but she was the one that sent my brother to the United States for a better life when he was 16. 

Sometimes, I’m told “oh you have to love yourself first”, but you know, I always put other people first, and then myself. All I want in my life is the best for my kids. This was always my goal to have the best life for them. And now, I want to raise my grandkids.”

My sister and I are workaholics and it’s not easy to tell us “you have to retire”. I can’t retire. I feel the most alive when I am helping others."


“We would like the people in our community to talk more about what is happening in Iran, to hear us and acknowledge the situation, to spread the news, to learn more about Iran in the media. 

Women without hijab can’t go to public institutions. The government is putting pressure on the people. They closed a hospital because of the hijab and they tortured the doctors. We need freedom for the people, so they could talk freely and not be controlled.

My dream is to have a free Iran. The day after I see that, I’ll get a plane ticket and go there. “


“The new generation is truly changing how women are treated, but my mom’s generation in Iran was not as vocal and risky, from what I recall.

There is so much change happening in Iran. There are more and more women showing up without a hijab. In the colleges, they broke down metal barriers between men and women, so they can dine together. There has been enough institutional change that we may not to go back to how things were before, but changing the government, that is really hard.

When the Iran protest started, I was struggling at first in how I show up at work as nobody was really talking about the Iran Protest and the injustices. This makes me think of the change curve…Emotions can range from anger, to resentment, then to acceptance and change…and it looks different for everyone.

For me, I felt a need to stand up for the Iranians at our company, which was originally about 20 of us, and after seeking out to see if there were more of us working at the company, we were closer to 50 or 60 of us. I started talking to people at work who were amazing partners to bring to life education on Iran and people were receptive and showed empathy. This was all while I was grieving quietly inside so in a way it was therapeutic to share the story and hopes for a better future with strangers. 

My personal goal is to be at a different place by the time I’m 50. It’s not that I don’t want to work, as it’s important for me, but perhaps something different that is closer to bringing more diversity and inclusion into corporations, as many have limited middle eastern woman representation, and especially in leadership roles. I have been working since I was 11 and life is too short. I want to spend my 50’s to 80’s to do more hobbies on the side. I like photography, going to National Parks, traveling, hiking. Ideal retirement is to be an activities director at a cool resort—perhaps at the grand Tetons.”


"My grandmother had her first baby when she was 11 and had a total of 12 kids, and she would still go and volunteer in an orphanage. 

I think that the transgenerational trauma, the part that my mom is carrying, is the lack of self-love. As my grandma was always taking care of other people, that was passed to my mom and then to us. I have to constantly fight the urge to put others before myself. I am trying to break that cycle so my daughters don’t carry the same traumas I do." 


"I think the core issue is that we are abusing religion, here in the US as well. A lot of oppression we face is because somebody, under the name of religion, said this is the way it should be, and you have to abide by these rules. That takes years of undoing, not to mention the catastrophic impact of false truths along the way."


“I like sharing our stories, our culture, and our food. Everything I am doing in my work is really about sharing rituals and traditions from one of the oldest civilizations in the world so we can all feel more rooted. I like to share who we are. And I think when we share, people are more likely to share who they are.  

My business dream is so different from my personal dream. My business dream I am doing it with The Moody Persian and I am very proud of it. We recently launched Mahsa Chai (formally known as Moody Chai), something I began sharing with loved ones and now here we are, sharing it with people all over the US. This chai represents breaking traditions that no longer serve us but maintaining the rituals that sustain us. Iranians drink black tea all day long. This is how we welcome people in our home and even share a cup with our enemies. But I couldn’t do black tea anymore, it was horrible for my anxiety. So I broke up with that part of the tradition and made a blend that honored my needs by adding adaptogens and using a decaffeinated tea instead as the base of my blend. I’ve always been an entrepreneur, it is in my blood. My grandmother and mother passed on their grit and perseverance, along with my father's people skills. 

My personal goal is to be more emotionally content and to break some of those transgenerational barriers. I organized a big women’s retreat last year that was always been a dream of mine, it was incredible. But this year, I need my own internal retreat and address. The women’s retreat was amazing, but it left me depleted again. It was really hard to say no to doing it again this year, but saying yes to me is essential. 

“Breaking bread while breaking norms” is my motto. With The Moody Persian, when I started it in 2020, I was just teaching people online cooking classes, but now I go into companies and help them have hard conversations. I do a big spread for them, and then we have to ask questions. Some people have these ideas about who an Iranian person is, but the moment they see this food and they meet me and they hear the stories, their stereotypes begin to shift. And that’s what I mean when we gather around and start to share food. Sharing the things that we all have in common, that’s when we begin to break down barriers and connect as humans. That’s the point of all of it. I learned it from my mom. I just think we should eat together, be curious, and get to know each other.“

Moody Persian: