Abdoh, Salar. The Poet Game (Picador, 2000).
In the wake of the first World Trade Center bombing, New York City is the center of an intricate web of betrayals and double-crosses in the shadowy world of Muslim radicals. Sami Amir arrives in Brooklyn via Iran, and into a world of militants, arms suppliers, and spies. He is a counter-intelligence agent from a branch of the Iranian Ministry of Security. The son of an American mother, he has always stood apart from his fellow men. Now, because of his background, he is sent to New York to investigate rumored terrorist plots that are to culminate with further violence around Christmas and New Year's, two weeks away.
Abdolah, Kader. My Father's Notebook: A Novel of Iran (HarperCollins, 2007).
When he was a boy, Aga Akbar, the deaf-mute illegitimate son of a Persian nobleman, traveled with his uncle to a cave on nearby Saffron Mountain. Once there, he was to copy a three-thousand-year-old cuneiform inscription—an order of the first king of Persia—as a means of freeing himself from his emotional confinement. For the remainder of his life, Aga Akbar used these cuneiform characters to fill a notebook with writings only he could understand. Years later, his son, Ishmael—a political dissident in exile—is attempting to translate the notebook . . . and in the process tells his father's story, his own, and the story of twentieth-century Iran.
A stunning and ambitious novel by a singular literary talent, My Father's Notebook is at once a masterful chronicle of a culture's troubled voyage into modernity and the poignant, timeless tale of a son's enduring love.
Ahmadzadeh, Habib. Chess with the Doomsday Machine (Mazdah Publishers, 2007).
Chess with the Doomsday Machine (Shatranj ba Mashin-e Qiamat) is a novel by Habib Ahmadzadeh (b. 1964) about the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). It is set in Ahmadzadeh’s native Abadan, a city located on an island near the Persian Gulf. Because of its importance to the Iranian petroleum industry, Abadan was the target of heavy bombardments during the early stages of the conflict. Using an advanced radar system developed in Europe, Iraqi forces were able to hone in on Iranian artillery emplacements almost as soon as they fired. It is the task of the narrator, a young Basiji (volunteer paramilitary) spotter, to locate the radar so it can be destroyed. The novel paints a striking tableau of a city under siege, not only inhabited—as one would expect—by a variety of soldiers, but also by two Armenian priests, a retired oil refinery engineer, and a prostitute and her young daughter. Chess with the Doomsday Machine avoids the kind formulaic patriotism and hagiography found in much of “Holy Defense” (defa’-e moqaddas: an official Iranian term for the conflict) fiction in two ways. First, it indulges a type of black humor used in such war satires as Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 and, second—and more profoundly—it examines how wartime conditions throw the ephemeral nature of human existence into high relief. As the novel progresses, the narrator’s journey evolves from a simple search-and-destroy mission into a quest for meaning among the surreal sights of the besieged city: an improvised “shark aquarium”; a ravaged farmer’s market; rows of bombed-out homes; an ice cream freezer that doubles as a morgue; and an incomplete seven-story building that miraculously survives the Iraqi shelling to become the stage for the novel’s chief theme.
Amirrezvani, Anita. The Blood of Flowers (Little Brown and Company, 2007).
In 17th-century Persia, a 14-year-old woman believes she will be married within the year. But when her beloved father dies, she and her mother find themselves alone and without a dowry. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to sell the brilliant turquoise rug the young woman has woven to pay for their journey to Isfahan, where they will work as servants for her uncle, a rich rug designer in the court of the legendary Shah Abbas the Great. Despite her lowly station, the young woman blossoms as a brilliant designer of carpets, a rarity in a craft dominated by men. But while her talent flourishes, her prospects for a happy marriage grow dim. Forced into a secret marriage to a wealthy man, the young woman finds herself faced with a daunting decision: forsake her own dignity, or risk everything she has in an effort to create a new life.
Baharloo, Morteza. Quince Seed Potion (Bridge Works, 2004).
The unswerving loyalty of an indentured servant sold to a family of khans in 1928 is the prism through which Morteza Baharloo explores the 20th-century history of Iran in The Quince Seed Potion. Sarveali knows no other life than the one he leads as the personal slave of Teimour Khan, a spoiled, handsome young aristocrat. Neither marriage nor opium addiction can distract Sarveali from his duties; it's only death and the Iranian revolution that separate him from the family he reveres at the end of this vivid, uneven first novel. (Publisher’s Weekly)
Crowther, Yasmin. The Saffron Kitchen (Penguin, 2007).
In a powerful debut novel that moves between the crowded streets of London and the desolate mountains of Iran, Yasmin Crowther paints a stirring portrait of a family shaken by events from decades ago and worlds away. On a rainy day in London the dark secrets and troubled past of Maryam Mazar surface violently, with tragic consequences for her daughter, Sara, and her newly orphaned nephew. Maryam leaves her English husband and family and returns to the remote Iranian village where her story began. In a quest to piece their life back together, Sara follows her mother and finally learns the terrible price Maryam once had to pay for her freedom, and of the love she left behind. Set against the breathtaking beauty of two very different places, this stunning family drama transcends culture and is, at its core, a rich and haunting narrative about mothers and daughters.
Danishvar, Simin. A Persian Requiem (George Braziler, 1992).
A Persian Requiem is a powerful and evocative novel. Set in the southern Persian town of Shiraz in the last years of World War II, when the British army occupied the south of Persia, the novel chronicles the life of Zari, a traditional, anxious and superstitious woman whose husband, Yusef, is an idealistic feudal landlord. The occupying army upsets the balance of traditional life and throws the local people into conflict. Yusef is anxious to protect those who depend upon him and will stop at nothing to do so. His brother, on the other hand, thinks nothing of exploiting his kinsmen to further his own political ambitions. Thus a web of political intrigue and hostilities is created, which slowly destroys families. In the background, tribal leaders are in open rebellion against the government, and a picture of a society torn apart by unrest emerges. In the midst of this turbulence, normal life carries on in the beautiful courtyard of Zari's house, in the rituals she imposes upon herself and in her attempt to keep the family safe from external events. But the corruption engendered by occupation is pervasive - some try to profit as much as possible from it, others look towards communism for hope, while yet others resort to opium. Finally even Zari's attempts to maintain normal family life are shattered as disaster strikes. An immensely moving story, A Persian Requiem is also a powerful indictment of the corrupting effects of colonialism. A Persian Requiem, published in 1969 in Iran, was the first novel written by an Iranian woman and, sixteen reprints and half a million copies later, it remains the most widely read Persian novel. In Iran it helped shape the ideas and attitudes of a generation in its revelation of the factors that contributed to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Daneshvar, Simin. Savushun: A Novel About Modern Iran (Mage Publishers, 1991).
Savushun chronicles the life of a Persian family during the Allied occupation of Iran during World War II. It is set in Shiraz, a town which evokes images of Persepolis and pre-Islamic monuments, the great poets, the shrines, Sufis, and nomadic tribes within a historical web of the interests, privilege and influence of foreign powers; corruption, incompetence and arrogance of persons in authority; the paternalistic landowner-peasant relationship; tribalism; and the fear of famine. The story is seen through the eyes of Zari, a young wife and mother, who copes with her idealistic and uncompromising husband while struggling with her desire for traditional family life and her need for individual identity.
Daneshvar's style is both sensitive and imaginative, while following cultural themes and metaphors. Within basic Iranian paradigms, the characters play out the roles inherent in their personalities. While Savushun is a unique piece of literature that transcends the boundaries of the historical community in which it was written, it is also the best single work for understanding modern Iran. Although written prior to the Islamic Revolution, it brilliantly portrays the social and historical forces that gave pre-revolutionary Iran its characteristic hopelessness and emerging desperation so inadequately understood by outsiders.
Dowlatabadi, Mahmoud. Missing Soluch (Melville House, 2007).
"Within modern Persian literature, an outstanding master achievement."-Der Spiegel
This starkly beautiful novel examines the trials of an impoverished woman and her children living in a remote village in Iran after the unexplained disappearance of her husband, Soluch. Lyrical yet unsparing, the novel examines her life as she contends with the political corruption, authoritarianism, and poverty of the village. It follows her vacillation between love and anger at Soluch's absence, as she tries to raise her children without their father. The novel critically evokes the unfulfilled aspirations of modern Iran--portraying a society caught between a past and a future that seems equally weighed down by injustice.
Firouz, Anahita. In the Walled Gardens (Back Bay Books, 2003).
Set in a world on the brink of destruction--Iran before the revolution--this haunting and passionate novel tells the story of a doomed love affair. Mahastee grew up in the privileged inner circles of Tehran's aristocracy. Reza, whose father once worked for Mahastee's family, has become a revolutionary leading clandestine meetings in the city's shadowy underworld. When they come together for the first time in 20 years, their volatile love assumes new and threatening implications as the political situation in Tehran becomes increasingly explosive.
Golshiri, Hushang. The Prince (Random House UK, 2007).
Mid-1920s Iran: As he lies dying of tuberculosis in a crumbling house in a provincial town, the last survivor of a deposed dynasty drifts in and out of reality, reliving episodes of his forebears’ exulted and often brutal past. Golshiri’s acclaimed novel is one of the first contemporary depictions of the demise of the Iranian aristocracy.
Hedayat, Sadegh. The Blind Owl (Grove Press, 1994).
Considered one of the most important works of modern Iranian literature, The Blind Owl is a haunting tale of loss and spiritual degradation. Replete with potent symbolism and terrifying surrealistic imagery, Sadegh Hedayat's masterpice details a young man's despair after losing a mysterious lover. As the narrator gradually drifts into madness, the reader becomes caught in the sandstorm of Hedayat's bleak vision of the human condition.
Khakpour, Porochista. Sons and Other Flammable Objects (Grove Press, 2007).
A wry and haunting first novel from a fresh Iranian-American writer, Sons and Other Flammable Objects is a sweeping, lyrical tale of suffering, redemption, and the role of memory and inheritance in making peace with our worlds. Growing up, Xerxes Adam is painfully aware that he is different—with an understanding of his Iranian heritage that vacillates from typical teenage embarrassment to something so tragic it can barely be spoken. His father, Darius, dwells obsessively on his sense of exile, and fantasizes about a nonexistent daughter he can relate to better than his living son; Xerxes’s mother changes her name and tries to make friends; but neither of them offers their son anything he can actually use to make sense of the terrifying, violent last moments in a homeland he barely remembers. As he grows into manhood and moves to New York, his major goal in life is to completely separate from his parents, but when he meets a beautiful half-Iranian girl on the roof of his building after New York’s own terrifying and violent catastrophe strikes, it seems Iran will not let Xerxes go.
Mandanipour, Shahriar. Censoring an Iranian Love Story (Knopf, 2009).
From one of Iran’s most acclaimed and controversial contemporary writers, his first novel to appear in English—a dazzlingly inventive work of fiction that opens a revelatory window onto what it’s like to live, to love, and to be an artist in today’s Iran.
The novel entwines two equally powerful narratives. A writer named Shahriar—the author’s fictional alter ego—has struggled for years against the all-powerful censor at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Now, on the threshold of fifty, tired of writing dark and bitter stories, he has come to realize that the “world around us has enough death and destruction and sorrow.” He sets out instead to write a bewitching love story, one set in present-day Iran. It may be his greatest challenge yet.
Beautiful black-haired Sara and fiercely proud Dara fall in love in the dusty stacks of the library, where they pass secret messages to each other encoded in the pages of their favorite books. But Iran’s Campaign Against Social Corruption forbids their being alone together. Defying the state and their disapproving parents, they meet in secret amid the bustling streets, Internet cafés, and lush private gardens of Tehran.
Yet writing freely of Sara and Dara’s encounters, their desires, would put Shahriar in as much peril as his lovers. Thus we read not just the scenes Shahriar has written but also the sentences and words he’s crossed out or merely imagined, knowing they can never be published.
Laced with surprising humor and irony, at once provocative and deeply moving, Censoring an Iranian Love Story takes us unforgettably to theheart of one of the world’s most alluring yet least understood cultures. It is an ingenious, wholly original novel—a literary tour de force that is a triumph of art and spirit.
Mehran, Marsha. Rose Water and Soda Bread (Random House, 2008).
More than a year has passed since Marjan, Bahar, and Layla, the beautiful Iranian Aminpour sisters, sought refuge in the quaint Irish town of Ballinacroagh. Opening the beguiling Babylon Café, they charmed the locals with their warm hearts and delectable Persian cuisine, bringing a saffron-scented spice to the once-sleepy village.
But when a young woman with a dark secret literally washes up on Clew Bay Beach, the sisters’ world is once again turned upside down. With pale skin and webbed hands, the girl is otherworldly, but her wounds tell a more earthly (and graver) story–one that sends the strict Catholic town into an uproar. The Aminpours rally around the newcomer, but each sister must also contend with her own transformation–Marjan tests her feelings for love with a dashing writer, Bahar takes on a new spiritual commitment with the help of Father Mahoney, and Layla matures into a young woman when she and her boyfriend, Malachy, step up their hot and heavy relationship.
Filled with mouthwatering recipes and enchanting details of life in Ireland, Rosewater and Soda Bread is infused with a lyrical warmth that radiates from the Aminpour family and their big-hearted Italian landlady, Estelle, to the whole of Ballinacroagh–and the world beyond.
Mehran, Marsha. Pomegrante Soup (Random House, 2005).
Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small, sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland looks like a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of “crazed sheep and dizzying roads,” they might finally find a home.
From the kitchen of an old pastry shop on Main Mall, the sisters set about creating a Persian oasis. Soon sensuous wafts of cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron float through the streets–an exotic aroma that announces the opening of the Babylon Café, and a shock to a town that generally subsists on boiled cabbage and Guinness served at the local tavern. And it is an affront to the senses of Ballinacroagh’s uncrowned king, Thomas McGuire. After trying to buy the old pastry shop for years and failing, Thomas is enraged to find it occupied–and by foreigners, no less.
But the mysterious, spicy fragrances work their magic on the townsfolk, and soon, business is booming. Marjan is thrilled with the demand for her red lentil soup, abgusht stew, and rosewater baklava–and with the transformation in her sisters. Young Layla finds first love, and even tense, haunted Bahar seems to be less nervous.
And in the stand-up-comedian-turned-priest Father Fergal Mahoney, the gentle, lonely widow Estelle Delmonico, and the headstrong hairdresser Fiona Athey, the sisters find a merry band of supporters against the close-minded opposition of less welcoming villagers stuck in their ways. But the idyll is soon broken when the past rushes back to threaten the Amnipours once more, and the lives they left behind in revolution-era Iran bleed into the present.
Infused with the textures and scents, trials and triumph,s of two distinct cultures, Pomegranate Soup is an infectious novel of magical realism. This richly detailed story, highlighted with delicious recipes, is a delectable journey into the heart of Persian cooking and Irish living.
Moayyad, Heshmat. Stories from Iran: A Chicago Anthology 1921-1991 (Mage Publisher, 1992).
This collection of thirty-five Persian short stories by twenty-six of Iran's best known contemporary writers gives voice to the concerns, strivings, and visions of their generation. In styles ranging from the dark to the humorous, from the elegant to the poetic, these stories depict aspects of both traditional and modern life in Iran with its many religious, political, cultural and class tensions. The expanding role of women in Iranian society is attested to both by the large number of women writers included in the volume, and by the central role played by women in many of the stories. Written during the last 75 years and arranged in chronological order, these stories span a period in Iranian history from the Constitutional Revolution (1906-11) through the long reign of the Pahlavis (1925-79), the upheavals of the 1950s, the 1979 Islamic Revolution, to the present. Stories From Iran was selected, edited, and translated by scholars of Persian Literature at the University of Chicago. Accompanied by a complete glossary, author biographies and photos, it will give the reader an unmatched insight into Iranian life--an insight that only true works of art can provide.
Moshiri, Farnoosh. Against Gravity (Penguin Group, 2005).
Set in Houston in the mid-1980s, Against Gravity is a harrowing story of three lives colliding- Madison Kirby, an angry, dying intellectual; Ric Cardinal, a social worker dedicated to helping others but tormented by the son he cannot save; and Roya, a struggling Iranian immigrant who has traveled for years through the war-torn Middle East to arrive in Texas to eke out the most tenuous life for herself and her daughter. They each tell of their own lives, yet as their stories intertwine a portrait of shared struggle and loss emerges. A devastating and beautiful novel!
Mozaffari, Nahid. Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature (Arcade Publishing 2006).
A rich and varied collection of short stories, extracts from novels, and poetry that showcases the latest developments in Iranian literature, from which we have been virtually cut off since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Nahid Mozaffari earned her Ph.D. in history and Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University. She has taught Middle Eastern history at the New School in New York and at Cabot University in Rome. She lives in New York City.
Mullins, Meg. The Rug Merchant (Penguin, 2007).
At the heart of Meg Mullins's debut novel is one of the most touchingly believable characters in recent fiction, a gentle soul in the body of an Iranian exile in New York. Ushman Khan sells exquisite hand-woven rugs to a wealthy clientele that he treats with perfect rectitude. He is lonely, and his loneliness becomes unbearable when he learns that his wife in Iran is leaving him. But when a young woman named Stella comes into his store, what ensues is a love story that is all the more moving because its protagonists understand tragedy. The Rug Merchant will sweep readers away with its inspiring, character-rich tale about shaking free from disappointment and finding connection and acceptance in whatever form they appear.
Nahai, Gina. Caspian Rain (MacAdam/Cage, reprint 2008).
In the decade before the Islamic Revolution, Iran is a country on the brink of explosion. Twelve-year-old Yaas is born into an already divided family: her father is the son of wealthy Iranian Jews who are integrated into the country’s upper-class, mostly Muslim elite; her mother was raised in the slums of South Tehran, one street away from the old Jewish ghetto.
Yaas spends her childhood navigating the many layers of Iranian society. Her task, already difficult because of the disparity in her parents’ worldview, becomes all the more critical when her father falls in love with a beautiful woman from a noble Muslim family. As her parents’ marriage begins to crumble and the country moves ever closer to revolution, Yaas is plagued by a terrifying genetic illness that is slowly robbing her of her hearing. Facing the prospect of complete deafness, she learns that her father is about to abandon her and her mother to immigrate to America with his mistress. She must now undertake a last-ditch effort to save both herself and her family.
Nahai, Gina. Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith (Washington Square Press, 2000).
Iranian author Nahai's (Cry of the Peacock) richly embroidered, mythopoeic new novel is a tale worthy of Scheherazade. Miriam the Moon weaves for her niece Lili the spellbinding story of how Lili's mother, Roxanna the Angel, in the grip of a destiny she could not control, abandoned her five-year-old daughter without explanation and vanished into the Iranian night; she remained missing for the next 13 years. ("Free will and conscious decisions are mere inventions of minds too feeble to accept the reality of our absurd existence," Miriam tells Lily.) Beginning with Roxanna's birth in 1938 in the Jewish ghetto of Tehran, the narrative moves assuredly through her family's history and into her legend. At the time of her disappearance, in 1971, the point of view shifts from third to first person, the voice of Lili, the abandoned child. Six-year-old Lili is put on an airplane and sent off to a dreary Catholic boarding school in Pasadena, where she meets her guardian angel, a childhood friend of Roxanna's named Mercedez the Movie Star. Meanwhile, in Iran, the Shah's corrupt regime is overthrown by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and in the wave of Jewish persecution that follows, Miriam the Moon and her family flee to L.A. Eventually, Roxanna is spied in Turkey, and an affecting reunion with Lili ensues, although the ending, meant to be symbolic, does not quite ring true. The story moves along briskly, yet with a surreal edge, filled with characters who have such names as Alexandra the Cat and Jacob the Jello. The larger-than-life personalities of Roxanna and her family shine convincingly in the sections devoted to Iran, markedly less so when transplanted to L.A. Lili's struggle to know who she is, while fluidly rendered, lacks the resonance of Roxanna's, whose tale is marvelously compelling.
Nahai, Gina. Cry of the Peacock (Washington Square Press, 2000).
Peacock the Jew is nine years old and living in the Esfahan ghetto when she marries Solomon the Man. She is the descendant of a three-thousand-year-old tribe of Jews -- the oldest community in diaspora, a people largely unknown to the outside world. He is a singer in the royal court, a wealthy man known for his good looks and his charm. A decade later, she will become the first woman in her ghetto ever to have left her husband.
Against the backdrop of two hundred years of history, Cry of the Peacock traces the story of a Jewish woman caught in the turmoil of twentieth-century Iran. Told in a series of wondrous linked tales that weave a rich and epic tapestry, it is a magical journey inside the Iranian nation and its people. For the first time in any Western language this story of Iranian Jews offers an insider's glimpse into one of the most critical parts of the world today.
Noori, Naveed. Dakhmeh (Toby Press, 2003).
"Arash, an idealistic young man driven by nostalgia and romantic notions of the country he left as a child, returns to Iran to start a new life." As he explores the streets of Tehran, he finds a society plagued by contradictions and confronts a disgruntled and cynical populace for whom the promises of the Revolution never materialized. Then, a seemingly benign gesture of defiance draws the attention of the authorities.
Pezeshkzad, Iraj. My Uncle Napoleon (Modern Library, 2006).
Set in a garden in Tehran in the early 1940s, where three families live under the tyranny of a paranoid patriarch, My Uncle Napoleon is a rich, comic and brilliantly on-target send-up of Iranian society. The novel is, at its core, a love story. But the young narrator's delicate and pure love for his cousin Layli is constantly jeopardized by an unforgettable cast of family members and the hilarious mayhem of their intrigues and machinations. It is also a social satire, a lampooning of the widespread Iranian belief that foreigners (particularly the British) are responsible for events that occur in Iran. But most of all it is a very enjoyable, often side-splitting read that you wish did not have to end. First published in Iran in the early 1970s, the novel became an all-time best-seller. In 1976 it was turned into a television series and immediately captured the imagination of the whole nation - its story became a cultural reference point and its characters national icon! Dick Davis' superb English translation has not only captured the uproarious humor of the original but has also caught the delicate, underlying vibrancy of the Persian.
Pezeshkzad, Iraj. Asemun Rismun (Ibex Publishers, 1997).
A work of satire by the author of Uncle Napoleon. Author has said that this is his own favorite work.
Power, Nani. The Sea of Tears (Counterpoint, 2009).
“This is all about love,” begins The Sea of Tears, a story that is infused with the sensuality and smarts that have established Nani Power as one of our most compelling writers. This otherworldly novel delves into the tangled relationships and hidden world of people brought together—and torn apart—under extraordinary circumstances: Jedra has fled his native Iraq and is working in the boiler room at the Royale Hotel, where he pines for Phyllis, the front-desk clerk who mysteriously remembers heaven. Khouri, an Iranian engineer, attends a business conference at the Royale, where he meets Patricia, a single mother and hotel maid, and finds himself wanting in ways he never has before. And in the penthouse apartment, young loner Daniel cannot escape his memories of Brazil, and only makes contact with the outside world through room service delivery. That is, until the hotel chef, Leslie Downing, comes knocking on his door. Harking back to The Arabian Nights and the poetry of Rumi, but with a decidedly modern eye toward the clashing and mingling of cultures, the result is a mesmerizing invitation to take seriously the desires of one’s heart.
Rachlin, Nahid. Jumping Over the Fire (City Lights, 2006).
An Iranian family embroiled in Islamic revolution, the hostage crisis, incest, and exile in America Forced to flee the country with their parents as Khomeini rises to power, Nora and Jahan Ellahi rise to the challenge of anti-Iranian hostility in America. Breaking free from their intense attachment to each other, they explore new relationships to forge independent lives. The romantic artist Jahan ultimately returns to join the army to fight Iraq, while ambitious Nora finds a life of greater opportunity and personal freedom in the U.S.
Rachlin, Nahid. Married to a Stranger (City Lights, 2001).
When Minou Hakini marries a man of her own choosing-an intellectual and a radical-and moves to Abadan, a thriving oil town near the Iraqi border, she imagines her life will be adventurous and liberating. Before long, however, she becomes aware of her husband's suspicious liaisons and dangerous activities. Her struggle to forge her own identity as a woman in contemporary Iran is charged with passion, anger, and finally a need to escape.
Nahid Rachlin is an Iranian who lives in New York and teaches at Barnard College. She is the author of Foreigner and The Heart's Desire, both novels, and Veils, a collection of short stories.
Seraji, Mahbod. Rooftops of Tehran (Penguin, 2009).
In a middle-class neighborhood of Iran’s sprawling capital city, 17-year old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend Ahmed, joking around one minute and asking burning questions about life the next. He also hides a secret love for his beautiful neighbor Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. But the bliss of Pasha and Zari’s stolen time together is shattered when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah’s secret police. The violent consequences awaken him to the reality of living under a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice…
In this poignant, funny, eye-opening and emotionally vivid novel, Mahbod Seraji lays bare the beauty and brutality of the centuries-old Persian culture, while reaffirming the human experiences we all share.
Sofer, Dalia. Septembers of Shiraz (HarperCollins, 2007).
In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, rare-gem dealer Isaac Amin is arrested, wrongly accused of being a spy. Terrified by his disappearance, his family must reconcile a new world of cruelty and chaos with the collapse of everything they have known. As Isaac navigates the tedium and terrors of prison, forging tenuous trusts, his wife feverishly searches for him, suspecting, all the while, that their once-trusted housekeeper has turned on them and is now acting as an informer. And as his daughter, in a childlike attempt to stop the wave of baseless arrests, engages in illicit activities, his son, sent to New York before the rise of the Ayatollahs, struggles to find happiness even as he realizes that his family may soon be forced to embark on a journey of incalculable danger.
A page-turning literary debut, The Septembers of Shiraz simmers with questions of identity, alienation, and love, not simply for a spouse or a child, but for all the intangible sights and smells of the place we call home. Dalia Sofer was born in Iran and fled at the age of ten to the United States with her family. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and has been a resident at Yaddo. A graduate of the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, she lives in New York City.
Taraghi, Goli. A Mansion in the Sky and Other Short Stories (University of Texas Press, 2003).
Writing before and since the Iranian Revolution, Goli Taraghi publishes both in Iran and abroad. In this collection of stories, she poignantly describes her childhood in Tehran and portrays the experience of exile with her family. She was one of the first Iranian women to receive critical recognition as well as popularity for her short stories and novels. Although Taraghi avoids sensational experimentation, her narratives sparkle with a freshness of style and sensitivity. Whether she writes of a child tip-toeing through a room of delicate Persian furnishings or of a grandmother remembering those treasured lost objects, the room becomes alive for the reader. Taraghi rejects a political stance in her writings, but, at the same time, she comments with understated humor and wisdom on the social and cultural value system of her characters. After Taraghi left the patriarchal society of post-revolutionary Iran, she proceeded to make her work more autobiographical. Several of the stories in this collection deal with the acculturation process of moving after experiencing the heartbreak of uprooting and displacement. As a whole, these recent stories demonstrate a trend in which Taraghi views her creative self unflinchingly as feminine. Her work becomes richer and more complex as a result of this transformation. Translator Faridoun Farrokh gives the stories context and critical insight in an excellent introduction. He presents an easy-reading translation without losing the delightful Persian flavor of Taraghi's words.
Vafi, Fariba. My Bird (Syracuse University Press, 2009).
In this powerful story of life, love, and the demands of marriage and motherhood, Fariba Vafi gives readers a portrait of one woman's struggle to adapt to the complexity of life in modern Iran. The narrator, a housewife and young mother living in a low-income neighborhood in Tehran, dwells upon her husband Amir's desire to immigrate to Canada. His peripatetic lifestyle underscores her own sense of inertia. When he finally slips away, the young woman is forced to raise the children alone and care for her ailing mother.
Vafi's brilliant minimalist style showcases the narrator's reticence and passivity. Brief chapters and spare prose provide the ideal architecture for the character's densely packed unexpressed emotions to unfold on the page. Haunted by the childhood memory of her father's death in the basement of her house while her mother ignored his entreaties for help, the narrator believes she relinquished her responsibility and failed to challenge her mother. As a single parent and head of household, she must confront her paralyzing guilt and establish her independence.
Vafi's characters are emblematic of many women in Iran, caught between tradition and modernity. Demystifying contemporary Iran by taking readers beyond the stereotypes and into the lives of individuals, Vafi is one of the most important voices in Iranian literature. My Bird heralds her eagerly anticipated introduction to an English-speaking audience.