Bangladeshi student Aria Hoque won best essay writing in New York Times

BanglaPress Desk
August 29, 2022
Aria Hoque

Staff Reporter: Aria Hoque is an 11th grader at Hazen High School in Renton, Washington. Bangladeshi-born Arya Haque’s essay ‘Masalas and Mediocre Racism’ has made it to the top round of The New York Times 2021 Student Narrative Contest. Out of a total of 200 finalists, she emerged as one of the winners. Invited to submit powerful stories from students across two continents, Aria Hoque submitted this essay on special moments or the foundation of their lives.
Aria was one of 20 Hazen students in teacher Melissa Shaman’s language arts class who submitted writing as part of this year’s competition. A total of over 11,000 students from the United States and the United Kingdom submitted their essays
Aria Haque of Bangladeshi origin living in United States lives in Renton City, Washington state. First daughter of Saimul Haque and Atia Hoque, senior expats of Seattle.

Here is an article by Aria Hoque published inThe New York Times 2021:

‘Masalas and Mediocre Racism’
— Aria Hoque

They made fun of the way I smelled, not aware those were the aromatic spices and masalas of the amazing food we ate, the tears that stung my mother’s eyes while cooking my favorite, only for me to refuse eating it because i didn’t want my American schoolmates say hurtful words again. They made fun of my broken English, unaware how frustrating and difficult it was taking ELL at the very beginning of our youth in a world we barely knew anything about. They mocked my accent, not understanding the years of history behind that voice given to me by my father when he first came to this country by himself. Being the youngest out of ten and losing his father at a young age, having a chance to come to America was the last of his thoughts.
They made fun of my features: my thick eyebrows, full lips, my big nose, and tan skin not aware of the pure beauty it holds straight from the motherland. But that was the issue… I didn’t want to be from the motherland I wanted to be from here. I wanted their pale skin, thin eyebrows, proportionate lips, and button nose.
So I sat there; tweezer in hand plucking away my identity one by one wishing the girl in the mirror would just pull me in. “Ami khali shundor hoyte chai” I just want to be beautiful. Like those girls on the GAP posters but I couldn’t be a GAP girl. I was a ROSS and Walmart girl. They didn’t see me anything past that.

Aria Hoque with her parents and family

I was the comic relief, the pushover Indian girl who they begged to speak in a mocking accent and dance Bollywood to entertain them. Heck I’m not even Indian but it’s better than having to explain where Bangladesh is for them just to say “oooh so you’re basically Indian.” The exhaustion of being a jester to them, talking in an “Indian accent” over and over again mocking south asians at working at gas stations, taxis, and telemarketing companies knowing how hard they work just to feed their families. It felt sick to me using my fathers voice just for a chance to finally feel accepted. The voice he would use to talk to me until I fell asleep, the voice he would use to ensure a future for me and my siblings, the voice he would use to greet everyone with a smile on his face even after a tiring 18 hour shift.
It was a new low when I found myself imitating my own mother’s broken English even though that’s not how I spoke. I became just like them…that’s all I ever wanted right? So why did it feel so wrong? I truly didn’t want to be like them.
I want to be like my father, the man who built everything we have today from nothing but dirt cheap pay and infinite hours of labor, the man who made sure to safely come home to his 4 beautiful tan skinned, thick eyebrowed, big nosed, full lipped Bengali children. I want to be like my mother, the woman who gave up and left her whole life to come to a country where she didn’t know a single soul to support her husband’s american dream, the woman who studied endlessly to pass the US citizenship test for the sake of her children, the woman who is a loving mother because she didn’t care if she didn’t have GAP children. She wanted ROSS and Walmart kids. Besides, GAP is pretty overrated if you ask me.