My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl
On a cold night in 1978, seven-year-old Shabnam Shahmohammad clung to her mother in a Tehran apartment while the sounds of gunshots rang out in the street: The Iranian Revolution was at hand. She and her family survived that night, but as the Islamic fundamentalists took the power over, she grew up watching her father take his beloved books away to burn, his friends be arrested and disappear, and women like her mother grow ever more marginalized. Confused by her father's communist ideology, her mother's conservative religious beliefs, and the regime's oppressive rules, she developed a deep longing to live a different life.
Finding herself being married at nineteen, she naively dreamed to team up and discover an adventurous life. When she gave birth to a daughter whose future, she realized, mattered more to her than her own, she had to find a way to unlock her little girl's possibilities. She longed to emigrate, but with Western countries' embassies mostly absent from Tehran, options for escaping Iran were limited.
My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl is a tale of resilience facing oppression and dictatorship along with fighting with narrow traditional and restrictive cultural rules. This memoir is a journey of self-discovery, mother-daughter relationship obstacles, forbidden love, and the universal desire for freedom.
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About the Author
Karen Stefano, The aauthor of What A Body Remembers
This memoir blew my mind. At times it is unspeakably sad --and yet the overall tone of the book is hopeful. That was the biggest paradox for me as a reader! I also learned so much about Iran and its history and what it meant to be a young girl and a young woman in Iranian culture. I highly recommend this book.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
"The difference between Shabnam's choices and those of many Iranian women lies in her determination to realize her dreams against all odds: dreams that evolve into a bid for freedom under impossible circumstances. How does one dream of leaving the country when there is no means of departure? And what will happen when she is exposed to so much unfamiliar freedom in later years that she experiences a stark disconnect between her bitter childhood struggles and her much-changed world?
She reflects: "How could I not hate the male-dominant culture heavily influenced by Islamic dictatorship that had stolen those opportunities from me during the first thirty-one years of my life, filling my heart with guilt and shame? And yet, I counted days that I had no one to speak Farsi to. And yet, I cried when I heard the Iranian national anthem. And yet, I screamed happily when Iran's soccer team made its way to the World Cup."
Many autobiographies by immigrants discuss struggles with repressive regimes, the bid for freedom made by coming to America, and cultural conflicts experienced upon arrival; but Shabnam's survey of past and present ideals and their impact on her ability to assimilate makes for an engrossing survey that goes beyond most immigrant stories.
Another difference between her story and others is her focus on not just coming of age and leaving her country, but living in it through regime changes. Her warm observations of her country, its people, and its culture offer simple reflections on daily life challenges and objectives: "I realized people in cities all over Iran longed for freedoms as simple as running a business without bribes."