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Weekly Shhhout-Out

Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Inside the Persian Character

 Persian Mirrors

 Lisa Navidi, Davis Library

As the wife of an Iranian-American, I have been keenly aware of how Iranians have been perceived by the media. All one has to do is watch the news, read newspapers and scan the internet to assume that they are a mob of American-hating crazies. But if you read some of the memoirs and watch the many films that have come out of the Iranian community and even those that have been released from Iran, it is clear that most Iranians are far from that perceived notion.

To get a grasp of the Iranian culture, the best book I’ve seen that lays it all out for the reader is Persian Mirrors: the Elusive Face of Iran by Elaine Sciolino, Paris Bureau Chief for the New York Times. Written in 2000 and updated in 2005, this award winning biography of a culture exposes the often hidden characteristics of Iranians, both in Iran and overseas.

• Their houses and gardens are faced inward for total privacy.
• Taarouf is an exaggerated form of politeness and in order to understand Iranians you have to know their rules.
• Love of Persian poetry is endemic throughout Iran.
• Women may look soft and quiet, but they are far from it.
• Iranians love Americans (maybe not the government).
• Underneath the coats and scarves, women are very, very sophisticated.
• Iranians are not Arabs.
• Iran is the Bermuda Triangle of foreign policy.

Of course she delves deeper into all these characteristics, as well as politics and history of Persia.

The Color of Love (Rangeh Eshgh) is a wonderful documentary where three couples, young and old, married and single, are interviewed about the meaning of love in modern day Iran.

And speaking of marriage, Separation (Jodái-e Náder az Simin) is an incredible Oscar-winning film about a couple who separates following a decision by the wife to take her daughter out of Iran, while the husband feels he must stay and take care of his Alzheimer afflicted father. Who is right and who is wrong?

Prison life is depicted in the heart wrenching Let Us Water the Flowers, a memoir by former political prisoner Jafar Yaghoobi, who spent 6 years in the prison system in Iran during the first years of the Iranian revolution, while his wife struggled to raise her infant daughter. He is now writing the same book in Farsi.

Anita Amirrezvani has written two books, both set in historical Iran and both with strong women as  heroines. Equal of the Sun is loosely based on Princess Pari Khan Khanoom, who in 1576, after her father, the shah, dies without naming an heir, attempts, with the help of a palace eunoch, to keep order in the kingdom. The Blood of Flowers takes place in 17th Century Isfahan as we follow the life of a young woman rug designer.

 In Rooftops of Tehran, Mahbod Seraji combines innocence and young love with the horror of the secret police in this coming of age novel set in pre-revolutionary Iran.

There are many other books about Iran in our catalog. Be sure to check them out!

POSTED AT: 2:41:00 PM |
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Last edited: 11/6/2007