Why this Persian New Year is different

Updated 2:08 PM ET, Mon March 20, 2017

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Story highlights

  • Porochista Khakpour: In my youth I believed Nowruz might have the power to eclipse the other darknesses of my homeland that played nonstop on television and in the news
  • March 2017 is the first March of my life that I've had to be reminded of Persian New Year, she writes

Porochista Khakpour is the author of the novels "Sons and Other Flammable Objects" and "The Last Illusion" and the forthcoming memoir, "Sick." She has taught creative writing and literature at universities including Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Wesleyan University, and Bard College, where she is currently a visiting writer in residence. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.

(CNN)March 2017 is the first March of my life that I've had to be reminded of Persian New Year.

It happened at my local dog park in Harlem, on an unseasonably hot day, as my standard poodle buddied up to an old Siberian husky. The owner and I broke into the usual dog-talk. Dog names first, then ours. I said my name slowly, though it came out softer than I hoped, and I searched the woman's eyes -- something I have caught myself doing again recently, decades since my early days of refugee anxiety, when I'd first come to America with my family on political asylum from Iran.
Porochista Khakpour
She didn't blink. Instead, she said, "Beautiful name, what is it?" I'd heard that sentence my whole life, so I blurted it out with rehearsed confidence: "Iranian."
Between us, a mess of ellipses, the sound of basketballs on courts, some distant siren, a tangle of dog barks. Then another classic: "What does it mean?" And my usual: "It's an ancient Zoroastrian name, an unusual one for Iranians."
I thought to explain that I'm of Muslim background, but instead I just hoped for the awkward parting of people whose only connection is canines. She looked deep in thought and I thought maybe she felt sorry for me -- Iranian in a time of Trump's Muslim Ban, after all -- but maybe she felt her own discomfort.
She cut into my ruminations with a question I didn't expect: "Isn't your New Year coming soon?"