Synopses & Reviews
Praised 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.
"This lyrical and disturbing memoir by the author of four novels (Foreigner, etc.) tells the story of an Iranian girl growing up in a culture where, despite the Westernizing reforms of the Shah, women had little power or autonomy. As an infant in 1946, Rachlin was given to her mother's favorite sister, a widow who had been unable to conceive, and was lovingly raised among supportive widows who took refuge in religion from their frustrations as women in an oppressive society. But at the age of nine, Rachlin's father, whom she barely knew, met her at school without warning and brought her to Ahvaz to live with her birth family. Miserable in the new household, young Nahid was befriended by her American movie obsessed sister Pari. Both sisters developed artistic ambitions, but only Nahid managed to escape the typical female fate, convincing her father to send her to college in the U.S. Less lucky is Pari, whose life of arranged marriage, divorce from an abusive husband and estrangement from her son ends in depression and early death. Exuding the melancholy of an outsider, this memoir gives American readers rare insight into Iranians' ambivalence toward the United States, the desire for American freedom clashing with resentment of American hegemony." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[S]uspenseful, vivid, heartbreaking." Boston Globe
"Rachlin keeps an empathetic eye on the family she left behind, even as she creates an American life. But the soul of the book is her poignant relationship with Pari and the vastly different ways their lives play out." Charlotte Observer
A story of promises kept and promises broken, of dreams and secrets, and most importantly, of sisters, Persian Girls is a gripping memoir that can change the way anyone looks at Iran and the women who populate it.
For many years, heartache prevented Nahid Rachlin from turning her sharp novelist's eye inward: to tell the story of how her own life diverged from that of her closest confidante and beloved sister, Pari. Growing up in Iran, both refused to accept traditional Muslim mores, and dreamed of careers in literature and on the stage. Their lives changed abruptly when Pari was coerced by their father into marrying a wealthy and cruel suitor. Nahid narrowly avoided a similar fate, and instead negotiated with him to pursue her studies in America.
When Nahid received the unsettling and mysterious news that Pari had died after falling down a light of stairs, she traveled back to Iran-now under the Islamic regime-to find out what happened to her truest friend, confront her past, and evaluate what the future holds for the heartbroken in a tale of crushing sorrow, sisterhood, and ultimately, hope.
About the Author
Nahid Rachlin is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Foreigner, Married to a Stranger, and The Heart's Desire, as well as a collection of short stories, Veils. Currently a fellow at Yale, Rachlin teaches at the New School and the Unterberg Poetry Center in New York.