Tehran to Birmingham, South by Southwest

A mixed love story

Terry Barr
Human Parts

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Photo by Mojtaba Mohtashami on Unsplash

When I’m a little boy home with the flu, my mother treats me with Campbell’s chicken noodle soup; sometimes it’s chicken with rice.

In Birmingham, 1963, when I’m seven years old, a bomb goes off in a downtown Baptist church, killing four. No one I know says much at all, but in the aftermath, most still use the word “nigger.”

In that same year, I discover that my father is a Jew. I am told by a family friend. My parents reluctantly confirm.

In 1971, an African-American family enters “our” Methodist church. They sit through the service in the front row. After they leave, members of the congregation threaten the pastor, this time, with just his job.

In the Middle East scheme of things, my father tells me that we are pro-Israel, pro-Iran, and anti-Iraq, because Iraq is a puppet of the Russians.

In 1975, while at college, I meet a student from Iran. He wears white, has a beard, and friends tell me that this exchange student feels that our restrooms aren’t clean and thus refuses to sit on a toilet seat.

In 1979, I move to Knoxville, TN, as a master’s student in English at the University of Tennessee.

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Terry Barr
Human Parts

I write about music, culture, equality, and my Alabama past in The Riff, The Memoirist, Prism and Pen, Counter Arts, and am an editor for Plethora of Pop.