Celebrating the Dream: The Pursuit of Liberty and Happiness in America

Ramin Naderi, Acting Senior Librarian, Venice - Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch Library,
LAPL librarians - Ramin and Toktam holding large LAPL library card
"We are grateful that our paths led to the Los Angeles Public Library because we believe that the organization is abundant with people who have opened their arms and hearts to us."

What happens to a dream deferred if you never take the first step to actually achieving it? Our journey began with a dream deeply rooted in the passionate pursuit of liberty and happiness in a new land. Toktam and I landed at the Los Angeles International Airport in May of 2015, and I remember being filled with enthusiasm and hope, but like many immigrants in a foreign land, we were also filled with many questions. The land of Chumash, Kizh, and Tongva was now ours to discover as immigrants from Iran seeking a new life in America.

Our journey began with the uncertainty of identifying our purpose here in Los Angeles—what would be our contribution? What did we have to offer this community, and how could we best manage our expectations of what we hoped to accomplish here? After staying with family upon entering America, Toktam and I settled in the city of Rancho Cucamonga in San Bernardino County. A city with a population of less than 20% of its residents born outside the United States, we began to assimilate into the small immigrant community that had one thing in common…starting over!

We made many friends in the community who shared the common traits of being hard-working members of society and not interested in entitlement or charity. Instead, they were dedicated to working towards their opportunity to achieve the “American Dream” as productive members of society.

Our life was woven out of love and resilience as we endured culture shock, racism, and the responsibility of raising a child with no support from immediate family members as we were alone to figure out our new normal. I remember having to learn how to navigate the early childhood education system and taking part in a crash course in understanding social norms from scratch, while still needing to find a job. During this period, we struggled, sacrificed, and experienced the pitfalls that life hands to you at times, but we never lost sight of our version of the American Dream.

Our pursuit of that dream began in 2018 when I joined the Los Angeles Public Library with 11 years of librarianship experience, and Toktam joined the Los Angeles Public Library in 2019, bringing her 12 years of librarianship experience. The library played a major role in our journey, on both sides of the counter as library patrons looking for guidance to help navigate the challenges that new immigrants face and as librarians helping immigrants find information needed on their journey. Every day is a different experience that I would not trade for anything in the world. It’s special to be an immigrant librarian helping those who were in our shoes just years prior.

We are grateful that our paths led to the Los Angeles Public Library because we believe that the organization is abundant with people who have opened their arms and hearts to us, making Toktam and I feel at home these past few years. To us, the library is more than just a job or a paycheck; it’s a community that we belong to and to which we owe so much. This is why I am so passionate about the service I provide to library patrons of all colors, backgrounds, and origins—it’s my way of paying back the community that has welcomed Toktam and me.

Although it might be the very nature of the library profession to provide such service, I strive to go above and beyond to provide growth opportunities to patrons embarking on a journey on a road of uncertainty.

Whether it’s new immigrants, those experiencing homelessness, or an out-of-work patron needing help to complete a job application, the confirmation that we are making a difference in the community comes when patrons show their appreciation.

The library's collective memory, like that of so many other public libraries, is a treasure chest of stories like this that truly display the value of librarians. For Toktam and me, our commitment to serving this community comes from what we have in common with our patrons, the shared experience of starting over.

We also have taken advantage of the library's New Americans Initiative. As librarians, we have had opportunities to connect with immigrant communities and share our experiences as we offer them a space and a place to connect with others and learn. As patrons ourselves, the New Americans Initiative provided us with easy, immediate access to the materials we needed to prepare for U.S. citizenship.

Toktam and I proudly took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America earlier this year and spent time reflecting on our journey, the challenges, and the pursuit of liberty and happiness as we celebrated Independence Day, our first 4th of July weekend as U.S. citizens.

Reading Recommendations

Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories
Deravian, Naz

The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You
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Everything Sad is Untrue: (A True Story)
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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
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The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books
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The Wind in My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran
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Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America
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Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison
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Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad
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Nayeri, Dina

Pomegranate Soup: A Novel
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Iranian Diaspora Identities: Stories and Songs

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Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card
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Saffron Ice Cream
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My Grandma and Me
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