We were very close growing up. We had a love-hate relationship like a lot of sisters do. We would fight and 10 minutes later were best friends. We are a lot closer now because our lives have taken similar paths–we have the same careers (law professors) and kids that are similar ages. She’s my best friend. I run every big decision (and most small decisions) by her.
Mehrsa, what is one of your favorite childhood memories together?
We had a pretty crazy childhood–war in Iran, the revolution, my mom was a political prisoner for many years, my dad was a surgeon working a lot, and then we immigrated to America when I was 8 and she was 6. And then we learned English together and tried to survive elementary and middle school. We didn’t really have a typical childhood (riding bikes, playing outside, etc), but we were always playing something or other. For example, when we were immigrating to America, we were stuck in a German airport for a day or two and Shima and I went around the airport finding luggage carts and sticking them into the receptacle and getting change. We were so excited–it felt like a game. We got all these coins and bought cool toys in the gift shop and that’s probably one of my favorite memories of the whole immigration ordeal.
Shima, what did you and Mehrsa fight about growing up?
Clothes mostly. Clothes were a scarce commodity growing up and my mom was a firm believer in sharing clothes and in homemade clothes (mostly because we didn’t have a lot of money until my dad established his medical practice in the U.S.). We would fight over who would get to wear the new outfit and who would have to wear the Persian homemade special. (Liz: my mom’s DIY stuff was NOTHING like the amazing stuff you make, seriously, I would have killed for any of your cute kids clothes back then)
She got away with everything I wanted to get away with. My parents were really strict and didn’t like us to go to parties or school dances. I would always ask on a Tuesday if I could go to a party on a Friday. And somehow my mom would understand that it was a big deal to me and would say I couldn’t go. Somehow Mehrsa would wander in to the kitchen at 7pm on a Friday and would ask to go out and would always be allowed. I should have learned a thing or two back then. Hopefully my kids have inherited my inability to get away with anything as they approach the teen years.
How did your family’s experiences affect your relationship as sisters?
Mehrsa: Shima is the only person in the universe who understand what my life was like. We slept with gas masks together, went to prison with my mom, learned English together (the only two words we knew when we came to America were yes and no and we would pretend to have long conversations just saying yes and no), we moved around all over the country in very uncertain and difficult circumstances, we learned how to be American together (mostly by watching a LOT of TV), we learned how to ask our parents permission to do stuff, we both suffered some serious culture shock at our mostly white college and now we basically have the same career. We even got married the same exact summer 14 years ago. I mean seriously. How can we not be close?
Shima:We came to a new country (at age 7 and 9) speaking not a word of English (literally we knew how to say “yes” and “no” when we moved to the U.S. and would confuse the two often) and had to rely on each other more than anyone else. Growing up and assimilating was something Mehrsa and I did together and it really bonded us. I remember Mehrsa sitting down giving me lessons on how to be cool and fit in. I learned a lot from my savvy older sister.
Shima and Mehrsa, you are both laywers, do you feel like this has affected your relationship as sisters? And if so, in what way?
Mehrsa: We talk about work all the time. We went to different law schools, but we both worked at big NYC law firms and then we both taught at the same school and now we teach at different schools, but basically have the same job. So we can talk about stuff that happens at work without explaining the background or politics or anything. We can talk about students and faculty meetings and other academics and just understand where the other is coming from. We also get mistaken for each other all the time. I often get credit for articles she has written and vice versa. I usually just say thank you.
Shima: Law school was an amazing experience. I am so grateful I had the experience and that Mehrsa decided to go to law school too. We both practiced in different capacities for a few years and now teach law. It is great to be in the same field and understand what each other is going through in publishing and teaching and trying to make an impact in our fields (I do criminal law and she does banking law). We generally see the world in the same way and maybe part of it is our legal education.
Mehrsa: I just lucked into this job. I never really thought it was a possibility for me. I didn’t know anyone that was a law professor. I really like to teach and I love to read and to write so I feel really grateful to have the job. Once I was in law school, the law professor that I admired most was Bryan Stevenson who is a death penalty attorney as well as a professor and has given his life to serve the less fortunate. While I have not done that, I continue to be inspired by those who do and try to emulate their work in much smaller ways in what I do.
Shima: I became a law professor because I wanted to make a difference. My parents sacrificed so much for us to live in America, and my mother was a political activist, that I felt an obligation to do my best to help improve the criminal justice system in America. I have always loved teaching and writing as well.
She just doesn’t give a crap. Seriously. She doesn’t care what people think about her. In high school, she would go into a thrift store and just put together the most random outfits. Even now, she just can’t be bothered to worry about what anyone thinks about her. I respect that a lot.
Shima, what’s a quality or skill Mehrsa has that you really admire?
Mehrsa is great to talk to. She is so insightful, real, and interesting. I love talking to her about anything and everything. And everyone else does too.
Mehrsa, what is your favorite piece of clothing that Shima owns that you might steal if you get the chance?
We have pretty different taste in clothes (and I buy a whole lot more than she does). In high school, we both walked in to gap and there was this awesome dress that came in light blue and brown. She got to the blue one first and I really wanted the blue, but we couldn’t have the same color so I was stuck with the brown. I still mourn that blue dress. I coveted it every time she wore it and kept trying to convince her to trade, which she wouldn’t.
Shima, what is your favorite piece of clothing that Mehrsa owns that you might steal if you get the chance?
Mehrsa has the best wardrobe. But I think I would take her jewelry collection first. She has the best necklace collection I’ve ever seen.
Tell us one way that you two are a lot a like and one thing that is totally different about you two?
Mehrsa: Alike–we both work really hard and are quick to make fun of ourselves and eachother. We don’t take anything too seriously. Differences: she likes desserts, I never eat them. I’m all about consistency and predictability and she’s about adventure and trying new things. I love to stay home and read and she loves to go out and meet new people. She reads the Atlantic and I read the New Yorker.
Shima: We are both really goal driven. Mehrsa is more of a homebody. She’s happy in her Lululemon “homeclothes” watching a good show. Her ideal age is 40–and has been claiming she’s 40–even though she’s only 37. A scavenger hunt or card game or boating are her worst nightmares. Those some of my favorite things.