Books About Iran

Septembers of Shiraz

Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer, tells of an arrest, a wife and daughter’s reaction, and a son living over seas adjusting to different cultures. Although the book is a novel, one notes that in the author’s short bio that she left Iran with her family at the age of ten. The daughter of the main character in the book is age nine. So one can assume that the novel is inspired by her own family’s experiences. The main character, Isaac, is incarcerated in 1981, questioned and tortured. His crime? He is unsure, but he guesses it is that he is a Jew, and he lived well under the Shah. This is the first novel of Dalia Sofer; she has a keen way with words, and I look forward to future novels.

While Isaac struggles in jail, his son Parviz is living in Brooklyn and attending architecture school in Manhattan. His landlord is a kind Lubavitch Jew who lets him stay on despite the fact that his family in Iran is no longer sending money for the rent. Here is one of their conversations:

“My father, too, had been in jail before I was born.”
“Yes,? Where?”
“Leningrad. 1924. He was in the Spalerno prison.” […]
“What was he charged with, your father?”
“Charged with? My dear Parviz, he was charged with being a Jew. He was charged with not relinquishing his religion when Lenin’s state demanded it.”
“But it’s different with my father. He is not a practicing man. He is not like your father.”
“Yes, yes, it’s different,” Zalman nods. “But in the end, it’s the same.”

Here are a few other books about Iran that I have enjoyed:

  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (a graphic novel)
  • Journey from the Land of No, Roya Hakakian
  • A History of Iran, Michael Axworthy

A little background on my own connection to the Iranian Revolution: in 1979, four students entered my eleventh grade class who had left Iran with their families. At least one other joined my brother’s twelfth grade class. Years later, I had a favorite co-worker when I worked at MIT who had also left Iran at that time. She knew one of my classmates from high school, despite the fact that her family is Muslim, and my classmate is Jewish. In Highland Park one of our adult friends grew up in Iran. He and his brothers left Iran before the revolution to get educated, but his younger sister lived through the revolution.

Have you ever met anyone who lived through the Iranian revolution? Or left right before? Have you read any books other than those listed about Iran?

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14 thoughts on “Books About Iran

      • I actually had more to say about the landlord’s quote. My mother used to talk about life in pre-Holocaust Europe. The Jews who were assimilated (like many in my mother’s family) were very clear distinguish themselves from their more religious brethren. “We are not like them,” they would say. Tragically, Hitler did not distinguish. He took both the assimilated and the “bearded” Jews just the same to the ovens.

        Might as well be the Jew you want to be …

  • One more book for the must-read list! Thanks for the review.
    I really enjoyed Journey from the Land of No and Persepolis. Funny Robin should mention Reading Lolita in Tehran as it was another done I wanted to add to the books I’d like to read.

  • This is an excellent review. I read this book a while ago, and thoroughly liked the perspective it was written from.

    I also like the block quote of yours, as for me, it is true…be who you want to be, no matter, in the end it makes no difference.

    • Interesting, Mrs. S. I’m surprised that others didn’t write of the impact of Iranians around that time on communities or in one’s life in general.

  • I was involved as a tutor for adults in an adult literacy program, for those who were learning to read English. It was rewarding. One of my students last year was from Iran. She was eager to learn, very committed to it, and had goals, such as being able to read bed time stories to any future children she had, getting a driver’s license, becoming naturalized, etc.

  • How about the novel Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith, by Gina Nahai (she also wrote Cry of the Peacock and Caspian Rain, which I didn’t read). She is another novelist writing from personal experience of living as a Jew in Iran.

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