Synopses & Reviews
Isaac Amin, an Iranian Jew, is arrested and imprisoned shortly after the 1979 revolution in Iran, accused of being a Zionist Spy. Dalia Sofer's remarkably accomplished debut novel, The Septembers of Shiraz
, follows his descent from a venerated, wealthy jeweler to a helpless prisoner, and chronicles the disquieting effect of his arrest on his family. In a starred review, Library Journal
praises, "This is a story that needs to be told, as a reminder of how political and religious ideologies can destroy individuals, families, and societies," while Publishers Weekly
says, "Nicely layered, the story shimmers with past secrets and hidden motivations. Sofer's dramatization of just-post-revolutionary Iran captures its small tensions and larger brutalities, which play vividly upon a family that cannot, even if it wishes to, confirm."
Faced with his immortality, Isaac examines the choices and compromises of his life, and as he becomes increasingly despondent, he dissects his relationships with his faith and with God. Having lived a secular life, he does not understand why he must now carry the burden of a religion that has become more of a liability to him than a salvation. But the interrogations and torture sessions that wither his body also feed his resolve to survive. Meanwhile, his son, already alienated in New York, must contend with his father's imprisonment from afar, and his wife and daughter, who must reconcile the indifference of the world around them with the collapse of their own, tread through their days with bewilderment.
"I have imagined him in his prison cell, hearing gunshots and counting his hours. I often remember the disquieting effect of his sudden disappearance on our household," explains Sofer about her desire to write a story based on her father and his month-long incarceration in Tehran's Evin prison in 1980. Born in Tehran, Iran, she fled with her family in 1982, at the age of ten. She received an MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College in 2002 and has been a resident at Yaddo. She lives in New York City.
Set in the early, dark days of the Islamic revolution, Sofer's The Septembers of Shiraz vividly depicts not only the undoing of a family, but also that of an entire country.
"Sofer's family escaped from Iran in 1982 when she was 10, an experience that may explain the intense detail of this unnerving debut. On a September day in 1981, gem trader Isaac Amin is accosted by Revolutionary Guards at his Tehran office and imprisoned for no other crime than being Jewish in a country where Muslim fanaticism is growing daily. Being rich and having had slender ties to the Shah's regime magnify his peril. In anguish over what might be happening to his family, Isaac watches the brutal mutilation and executions of prisoners around him. His wife, Farnaz, struggles to keep from slipping into despair, while his young daughter, Shirin, steals files from the home of a playmate whose father is in charge of the prison that holds her father. Far away in Brooklyn, Isaac's nonreligious son, Parviz, struggles without his family's money and falls for the pious daughter of his Hasidic landlord. Nicely layered, the story shimmers with past secrets and hidden motivations. The dialogue, while stiff, allows the various characters to come through. Sofer's dramatization of just-post-revolutionary Iran captures its small tensions and larger brutalities, which play vividly upon a family that cannot, even if it wishes to, conform." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This is a story that needs to be told, as a reminder of how political and religious ideologies can destroy individuals, families, and societies
The family and political issues raised in the book are timely and ripe for discussion." Library Journal (starred review)
"In this fickle literary world, it's impossible to predict whether Sofer's novel will become a classic, but it certainly stands a chance.... The Septembers of Shiraz is miraculously light in its touch, as beautiful and delicate as a book about suffering can be." Clare Messud, The New York Times
"Sofer paints a complicated picture of postrevolutionary Iran... [A] powerful story honestly told." Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor
"Dalia Sofer's first novel is stunning beautiful, tragic, layered, and thought-provoking. I'm sure others will discuss its timeliness, but I'd point to the story's timelessness. At any point, our lives can shift. The Septembers of Shiraz illustrates the tenuous hold we have on our lives so clearly that many days later I'm still thinking about the Amin family, their choices, their regrets, and their hard-won triumph." Lisa See
"The Septembers of Shiraz is one of the most beautiful first novels I've ever come across. Dalia Sofer courageously takes on ambitious topics political upheaval in Iran, imprisonment, religion, and betrayal and handles them with the skills of a master story-teller. Sofer's writing is full of well-observed details, compassion, and most importantly, hope. It is a rare book in a rare genre: the family love story." Vendela Vida
"[Sofer]...seems wise beyond her years, and her prose, sturdy always, sometimes offers us consolation we weren't aware we needed even as we grasp it with both hands." Chicago Tribune
"One initially fears that The Septembers of Shiraz will amount to an unremitting catalog of misery, but Ms. Sofer is more subtle than that." Wall Street Journal
"Sofer herself emigrated from post-revolutionary Iran to New York, and her debut resonates with the empathy derived from that journey." Booklist
In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, rare-gem dealer Isaac Amin is arrested, wrongly accused of being a spy. Terrified by his disappear-ance, his family must reconcile a new world of cruelty and chaos with the collapse of everything they have known.
As Isaac navigates the tedium and terrors of prison, forging tenuous trusts, his wife feverishly searches for him, suspecting, all the while, that their once-trusted housekeeper has turned on them and is now acting as an informer. And as his daughter, in a childlike attempt to stop the wave of baseless arrests, engages in illicit activities, his son, sent to New York before the rise of the Ayatollahs, struggles to find happiness even as he realizes that his family may soon be forced to embark on a journey of incalculable danger.
A page-turning literary debut, The Septembers of Shiraz simmers with questions of identity, alienation, and love, not simply for a spouse or a child, but for all the intangible sights and smells of the place we call home.
About the Author
Dalia Sofer was born in Iran and fled at the age of ten to the United States with her family. She received her MFA ito the United States with her family. She received her MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College in 2002 and has been an Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College in 2002 and has been a resident at Yaddo. She lives in New York City.