Persian Girls: A Memoir

Review of Nahid Rachlin’s book from Powell’s Books:

Screenhunter_13Praised by V. S. Naipaul, Anne Tyler, and other writers, Nahid Rachlin has spent her career writing novels about hidden Iran-the combustible political passions underlying everyday life and the family dramas of ordinary Iranians. With her long-awaited memoir, Persian Girls, she turns her sharp novelist’s eye on her own remarkable life.

When Rachlin was an infant, her mother gave her to Maryam, Rachlin’s barren and widowed aunt. For the next nine years, the little girl lived a blissful Iranian childhood. Then one day, Rachlin’s father kidnapped his daughter from her schoolyard, and from the only mother she’d ever known, and returned her to her birth family-strangers to the young girl.

In a story of ambition, oppression, hope, heartache, and sisterhood, Persian Girls traces Rachlin’s coming of age in Iran under the late Shah — and her domineering father — her tangled family life, and her relationship with her older sister, and unexpected soul mate, Pari. Both girls refused to accept traditional roles prescribed for them under Muslim cultural laws. They devoured forbidden books. They had secret romances.

But then things quickly changed. Pari was forced by her parents to marry a wealthy suitor, a cruel man who kept her a prisoner in her own home. After narrowly avoiding an unhappy match herself with a man her parents chose for her, Nahid came to America, where she found literary success. Back in Iran, however, Pari’s dreams fell to pieces.

When news came to Nahid that her sister had died, she traveled back to the country where she had grown up, now under the Islamic regime the West has been keeping a wary eye on for the last few years, to say good-bye to her only friend. It is there she confronts her past, and the women of her family. A story of promises kept and promises broken, of dreams and secrets, and, most important, of sisters, Persian Girls is a gripping saga that will change the way anyone looks at Iran and the women who populate it.

More here.  Bonus video:

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Also see Rachlin’s website here for much more information, including speaking dates and locations, complete short stories, etc.