Our Global Neighborhood: From Pakistan to Traverse City — one woman’s story

Feb 12, 2020

DJ, left, at her parent's home in Karachi, Pakistan in 2017.
Credit Courtesy

Durkhanai Jan (DJ) was born in Pakistan, and her family always encouraged her to follow her dreams.

 

She moved to Michigan from Pakistan in 2001 and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University. 

After marrying her husband and living in Ann Arbor for eight years, she moved to Traverse City and now works as a top tax accountant. 

 

 

“I've been lucky pretty much from the beginning. I came from a family that supported women,” she says of her upbringing in Pakistan. 

Amjad Khan (DJ's husband), left, DJ, center, on stage with Rajmohan Gandhi in 2018.
Credit Courtesy

In fact, her great grandfather — Ghaffar Khan, sometimes referred to as the “Pashtun Gandhi” — “really, really wanted the females in his family to be educated and to lead a life that they wanted to lead, ” she says. 

Durkhanai Jan and her husband, Amjad Khan.
Credit Courtesy

 

Throughout the years, she’s sifted through perceived biases about her ethnicity, but — in the end — feels very welcome in northern Michigan. 

“Both ends of the political spectrum have their way of dealing with me… people on the right talk about assimilation… people on the left tend to apologize… both have the effect of making me feel different,” she says. 

The key according to DJ? Have a sense of humor. 

DJ grew up in Karachi but her family is from a small village near Peshawar in northern Pakistan.

DJ and her husband are raising their son in Traverse City, and she’s IPR’s first guest on Our Global Neighborhood, a weekly conversation with our neighbors who came from abroad and put down roots up north.

She sat down with IPR’s Kendra Carr to talk about her life, her career and her family.

Our Global Neighborhood is an eight-week series that airs each Wednesday on Morning Edition and All Things Considered.