Book Club Reads: Persian Girls

Well, talk about timing.

Before the crowds began gathering in Egypt, or in Bahrain, or in Libya, one member of book club suggested a memoir for our February read. Little did we know how prescient this book would be to current events that continue to unfold.

The book? Persian Girls: A Memoir by Nahid Rachlin.

In this memoir, the author recalls her growing-up in Iran. It was a unique beginning for this author, and she opens her story at the point when she was happiest in her childhood. And then plunges us into the confusion that followed as her father picked her up from school and brought her to the “real” home she was meant to grow up in. And so we learn of how Nahid had two mothers, and two families who lived very different lives.

The story takes place as the Shah’s power in Iran begins to slip and the uprising that follows puts the Ayatolla Kohmeni in power. The storytelling is true to the voice of a child who grows in awareness and understanding, making us aware alongside her memories of her youth of how much things are changing, and what sort of uncertainties compel her to take risks she might not normally take.  So, while certain moments in history aren’t fully explored, they are to the level it applies to our storyteller. That was interesting to read just for the sense of how much (or little) events observed the world over are experienced on the ground.

The risks, which perhaps ultimately save the author from a very closed-off life, come at a cost: strained relationships with her parents, losing a sister that she loved dearly, and adivided sense of identity and home.

As you might guess, the book club is made up entirely of women, which led to some interesting conversations about the quirk of birthplace and how our lives might be different if we were born in a different society than the ones in which we were raised. Would we be miserable in not living our fullest? Are we constrained in ways here that aren’t acknowledged?

Bottom line, this extraordinary tale helps a reader appreciate the determination of a human spirit to soar where it can, and find the light it needs despite many, many hurdles. None of us can honestly answer the question of what they would do to fulfill their wishes, but through her story, the author gives the example of patience, persistence, and unwavering vision even when faced with losses that could easily derail a person emotionally. Knowing she has written several books – this is perhaps her most personal – it will be interesting to find out how her style changes when the subject is perhaps a bit more removed from herself.

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