Monday, December 31, 2007
First, I just have to say…this book has the most gorgeous cover. I love the cover art, and the shade of purple that is used for both the background and the back cover. However, I didn’t buy this one for its cover. I bought it because it made so many people’s list of favorites. And I’m glad I did (buy it). This was a great book to end the year with.
Persian Girls is a work of non-fiction, although it reads more like a novel. It is the story of Nahid and Pari, their childhood and the different paths their lives take. Nahid was born in the 1950’s into a wealthy Iranian family. Her mother gave her to her childless sister Maryam to raise, a practice that was not uncommon. Nahid lived with her aunt, who she considered her mother, until she was 9. At that time, her father reclaimed her, a decision that brought much grief to all of the women. With the exception of her beloved older sister Pari, Nahid never did feel like part of the family she was forced to live with.
Nahid and Pari both loved America. Nahid dreamt of following her older brothers footsteps and going to college in America; Pari wanted to be an actress. Unfortunately, their parents were still traditional enough to want arranged marriages for both girls. Pari was maneuvered into marriage to a man she does not love, while Nahid eventually convinced her father to let her go to America.
As Nahid finished college and established a life for herself in America, Pari remained in Iran, becoming increasingly unhappy with her confining life. After many years, she died after falling down a flight of stairs. Nahid traveled back to Iran seeking answers about her sister’s death, but was only left with more questions. Eventually, she decided to confront her past and the result is this book, which explores her own childhood and journey to America, contrasting it with the unhappy life her sister was forced to live in Iran.
One thing that really struck me about Nahid’s tale was how she always bitterly regrets her father kidnapping her away from Maryam and forcing her into a family where she feels like an unwanted outsider. However, the friendship she forges with Pari opens her eyes to America. And her father is the one who allows her to leave and go to college in America. So even though her father causes the greatest unhappiness in her life, he is also the one who sets in motion the path to her present life. She alludes to this at the end of the book, and the irony stuck with me.
This is also a fantastic book for learning a little about the politics of modern Iran. The author intersperses her story with some history lessons. As I mentioned before, this reads like fiction, so both the story and the history are easy to read; I never felt like I was reading a dry history text. Thank goodness, because I’ve been there done that and it’s not happening again.