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"Bklyner" featured alumna Shaheen Pasha in "Shaheen Pasha on American Dream, Mental Illness, and Telling Stories"


"Bklyner" featured alumna Shaheen Pasha in "Shaheen Pasha on American Dream, Mental Illness, and Telling Stories"

At five years old, many kids grab a hairbrush, use it as a microphone, and sing in front of the mirror. When Shaheen Pasha was five, she grabbed a hairbrush, used it as a microphone, stood in front of the mirror, and reported from Moscow. She didn’t even know where Moscow was.

Pasha, a journalist, and a professor, currently lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Before that, she lived in Dubai. She’s lived in Cairo, in New Jersey, and in Pakistan. But she was born and raised in Brooklyn. She still calls herself a Brooklynite.

We first learned of Pasha through her incredibly powerful writing about the time a woman saved her family from homelessness in Borough Park and finally coming out about her late father’s mental illness – a bit of a taboo in many immigrant communities. She is working on a memoir about the immigrant life in Brooklyn in the 1980s.

This daughter, wife, and mother to three children, was born in Flushing, Queens to parents who’d immigrated from Karachi, Pakistan. She lived in Borough Park until she was 11, and then moved to East New York. She attended P.S.131, Brooklyn Technical High School, and her alma mater is Pace University. Her hangout spots?

“I was from a Pakistani family so my hangout spot was my home,” she laughed. In all seriousness though, her family would go to Kings Plaza Mall and Jacob Riis Park.

“For Decades, Shame Kept My Dad’s Schizophrenia Secret from our Pakistani Immigrant Community,” is a compelling story addressing the lack of discussion on mental illness in the Pakistani community, and also the hardest story she has ever written, she says.

Pasha’s father died seven years ago. He had schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. For a long time, it was something her family never spoke about. “What would people think? What are they going to say? They’re not going to like us,” was what her mother said after reading her story.

Read the full article.