Tamer is Arab-American
Growing up in a mostly white town, Tamer, 15, has never really looked or dressed like the kids around him. But music and poetry keeps him connected.
By Tamer Hosein, as told to Kim Tranell
“I moved to Burke, Virginia, with my family in third grade. We came from just a few towns over, but for some reason—probably because I was the new kid—that’s when I first remember feeling like I didn’t fit in. I was born in the U.S., but I don’t necessarily look or sound like it. My dad came here from Palestine in the 1980s, and then my mom came from Jordan. Their English wasn’t very good when I was growing up, so mine wasn’t either, and people would always correct me. I knew they knew what I meant—but they corrected me anyway. It always made me feel embarrassed and annoyed.
Everyone always thinks their parents don’t understand them, but when your parents are from a different culture, it can be an even bigger struggle. For one, my mom would always shop for me, and because she didn’t grow up here, she has a different sense of style. She never understood how important it is to dress to fit in. I didn’t even own a pair of jeans until eighth grade! My closet was full of baggy clothes and oversized sweats. Kids would stare at me in the cafeteria, so much so that I would even try to find ways to skip lunch. Plus, other kids could do things that my parents wouldn’t allow me to do, like stay up late with friends or have sleepovers. My mom would always say, ‘If you have your own home, sleep in it’ or ‘You see your friends all day at school, so come home.’ In my culture, family is really important, and I love spending time with mine. But when you say you can’t hang out after school and your little brother is your best friend, that can definitely be hard for other kids to understand.
Then, one day in sixth grade, I was feeling really down, and I decided to write a poem about it. The words came out really easily. I’ve been writing poetry ever since! No matter what, putting words on paper always helps me feel less alone. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like there’s someone there with me, looking over my shoulder and reading my thoughts. Now I dream about becoming a well-known author, writing books and song lyrics for musical artists. And I believe I can do it. I can make up rhymes really fast, and I’ve even won a couple of poetry contests for my work. And while writing has definitely helped me deal with feeling ‘different,’ growing up a little different has only made me a better writer and a stronger person overall. I’ve already had to deal with many stereotypes and judgments in my life, so I’m not afraid to express myself or put my thoughts out there for people to see. I can honestly say that I approach every person and every opportunity with an open mind, and I know to look beneath the surface to see both sides of a story. That helps me capture all the world has to offer.”