Wednesday 15 May 2013

Books I Love: Iraniana Biographies/Memoirs

I have many Iraniana books in my collection, some of them biographies/memoirs of Iranians now living in countries other than their own. The 1979 Iranian Revolution seemed to be the catalyst for so many of these Iranian memoirs, mostly written and published outside Iran. Most are not written in Farsi (the Iranian/Persian language) but in English, and some in French.

Some Iraniana - Ex Libris CNB

Out of Iran; one woman's escape from the Ayatollahs (1987) is by Sousan Azadi (with Angela Ferrante). The author Azadi, born of the deposed Shah's westernised elites, tells her story of persecution after the Revolution and her hazardous escape from jail and country.

Sattareh Farman Farmaian wrote Daughter of Persia; a woman's journey from her father's harem through the Islamic Revolution (1992) with Dona Munker. Born into the lavish household of a Prince of the Qajar dynasty,the author gives us a vivid account of her life from the end of the Qajars, through the Pahlavi years and the beginning of the Revolution. 

Unveiled; love and death among the Ayatollahs (1995) is by Cherry Mosteshar, who was mainly educated in Britain, but on her return to her homeland, found it 'wasting in the potential of both country and people'.

English translations of the French "Persepolis"

Persepolis 1 & 2 (2000 & 2001) by Marjane Satrapi are autobiographical graphic novels in French that have been translated into several languages including English. A 2007 French animated film has been made based on Satrapi's memoirs. Satrapi gives a 'no holds barred' graphic account of her childhood in the Islamic Republic and leaving to live overseas, and then a return to the homeland as an adult that also did not work out for her.

I especially love books about books. Reading Lolita in Tehran; a memoir in books (2003) was written by Azar Nafisi about the secret 'book club' sessions she conducted in her home for a few of her students. The book became a best seller and she inevitably followed it up with another memoir, this time about her childhood and family secrets, entitled Things I've been silent about; memories (2008). Nafisi was a university lecturer in Iran before she left her home country to work and settle in the US.

Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, wrote (with Azadeh Moaveni), Iran awakening; from prison to peace prize: one woman's struggle at the crossroads of history (2006). Ebadi proves to be a very strong woman in a turbulent country. The book reveals her public career and her private life.

Azadeh Moaveni also wrote Lipstick Jihad: a memoir of growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran (2005), and Honeymoon in Tehran; two years of love and danger in Iran (2009). Moaveni is a Time Magazine Middle East correspondent/journalist and her first book is about the dilemma faced by most Iranians living abroad, about searching for a sense of belonging in both the homeland and the adopted country. The second was an assignment that led her back to Iran where she fell in love and married. But in the end she had to concede that her family's future lies outside the homeland.

My name is Iran, a memoir (2007), is by Davar Ardalan, about her 'remarkable life between the worlds of Iran and America'.

A Mirror Garden; a memoir (2007) by Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian & Zara Houshmand is an account of Farmanfarmaian's childhood in Iran, her art studies in the US, and her disastrous first marriage. She returned to her country following a second marriage to an Iranian of royal descent. In the decades before the rise of fundamentalism, she led a very charmed life playing hostess and art connoisseur. But she left to finally settle in New York.

There are other Iraniana biographies/memoirs I have not read (last count of titles available was about 60!) but will do so if  and when I can get my hands on them. Having lived in Iran just after the 1979 Revolution, I read these memoirs with a sense of deja vu.

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