No Country For Teenage Brides: A Young Immigrant Balances Cultures

May 11, 2018

There's a large Turkish refugee community in Dayton, some were exiled from Russia several years ago. For today's Dayton Youth Radio producer, balancing the old traditions with the new is doable. Until one family, a big one, showed up for tea.

My name is Miriam. I am 17 years old. I go to Stivers School for the Arts. I was born in Russia, raised in the US. Many immigrant families know how difficult it is to grow up in America.

I had a tough time learning English because I spoke Turkish fluently. When I have to translate for a family member or even my parents, some words just don't translate right and my mom always gets made at me and says, "you're the one who goes to school and yet you can't even translate.”

One of the things I dislike about my culture is young marriage. My great grandma got married when she was only thirteen years old. In my culture and many other cultures, the family of the guy comes to the girl's house to see how respectful the girl is and what her attitude and personality is like. But when many in my family come to have dinner and tea, my aunt always start off a conversation about me getting married and how my time has come because I'm graduating.

She would start off by asking me when I'm getting married in a joking way, but then she would have a serious conversation with my mom. Now my parents are different, and they're all about me going to college and getting my education before I get married, but some Turkish families aren't.

When I was 15, one day we had guest over. I had never met them before, and the whole family came. There was a mom with two kids, a son that was couple years older than me and a daughter that was about my age. There was also the grandma of the family; she was the elder.

I couldn't be rude to them, because we have to show respect to older people in general. We all ate and had conversations and when the evening was over, the grandma asked me to help her put her shoes on. She was pretty old and had on a floral dree; she also had on a headscarf. She gave a hug and whispered in my ear that they were going come back to ask for hand in marriage from my family.

At first, I was shocked and a little scared. I'm only 15, I thought to myself, but my dad was right behind us and heard the whole thing. My mom had no idea until I told her, and my dad thought it was just funny.

There is a big Turkish community in Dayton, and I feel like a lot of the young girls there have been through something similar. I think it pressures girls into getting married early because they think that if they don't, then they'll never get the chance to.

I'm not going to get married young; I'm going to graduate soon and go to college. I feel that we should be able to live our lives and get our education and then decide when we're ready to take that big step into marriage. I want to let those girls know there's an opportunity to live your life the way you want to; girls shouldn't be forced to marry no matter where they live. 

Miriam Mushtalova at Stivers School for the Arts. Special thanks Leslie Rogers and Eva Maksutis of the Creative Writing Magnet. Learn more at the school's website: http://www.stivers.org/ Support for Dayton Youth Radio comes from the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.