Karen Stefano the Author of What A Body Remembers?
This memoir blew my mind. At times it is unspeakably sad --and yet the overall tone of the book is hopeful. That was the biggest paradox for me as a reader! I also learned so much about Iran and its history and what it meant to be a young girl and a young woman in Iranian culture. I highly recommend this book.
Midwest Book Review, D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
"My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl captures vivid impressions of the Iranian Revolution at a time when author Shabnam Shahmohammad was just seven years old, and moves from her earliest memories in the 1970s to modern times as she grows up witnessing the impact of the Islamic Revolution on her family.
As the regime becomes more repressive and challenges both her father's communist ideals and her mother's religious beliefs, Shabnam longs for a world and life not ruled by oppression, and marries at age nineteen in search of a more adventurous life.
The difference between Shabnam's choices and those of many Iranian women lies in her determination to realize her dreams against all odds: dreams that evolve into a bid for freedom under impossible circumstances. How does one dream of leaving the country when there is no means of departure? And what will happen when she is exposed to so much unfamiliar freedom in later years that she experiences a stark disconnect between her bitter childhood struggles and her much-changed world?
She reflects: "How could I not hate the male-dominant culture heavily influenced by Islamic dictatorship that had stolen those opportunities from me during the first thirty-one years of my life, filling my heart with guilt and shame? And yet, I counted days that I had no one to speak Farsi to. And yet, I cried when I heard the Iranian national anthem. And yet, I screamed happily when Iran’s soccer team made its way to the World Cup."
Many autobiographies by immigrants discuss struggles with repressive regimes, the bid for freedom made by coming to America, and cultural conflicts experienced upon arrival; but Shabnam's survey of past and present ideals and their impact on her ability to assimilate makes for an engrossing survey that goes beyond most immigrant stories.
Another difference between her story and others is her focus on not just coming of age and leaving her country, but living in it through regime changes. Her warm observations of her country, its people, and its culture offer simple reflections on daily life challenges and objectives: "I realized people in cities all over Iran longed for freedoms as simple as running a business without bribes."
The book ends with her departure from Iran: given the thought-provoking foreword about her contrasts between countries, readers may anticipate more of an emphasis on this part of her story in a second book, which will focus on her life in America as an immigrant.
My Persian Paradox is an outstanding synthesis of personal experience, social change, and political insights both in Iran and in the U.S. Its revelations about the emotional growth required to immigrate and reconcile two countries' cultures makes for an inviting, educational, and thoroughly engrossing account which is especially recommended for any library strong in immigrant experiences and the psychology of integration."
Kerri Sweetech - Indie Book Reviewers
"I finished this book by Shabnam Curtis a few days ago and am still digesting it. I haven’t read anything like that in a long time, if ever. It is quite unusual to read a ‘biography’ or ‘memoir’ about a non-famous person and have it be very interesting (sad, but true). But this was an emotional whirlwind roller-coaster that I didn’t expect at all. I was totally into the scenes and learned a lot… have a new appreciation for what it must have been like growing up where and when she, and even though its awful that her mother and father are so influenced by religion and politics like that, they don’t seem to have much choice, as well as how the other men in her life were. The journey to find herself and happiness is one that is immensely moving. There are just so many elements to this book---Solid story development, narrative and dialogue, and everything just felt “authentic” for lack of a better word. Detailed descriptions, interactions, scenes, the entire spirit of this era of the world and the events from a uniquely qualified young woman who sees firsthand many of the horrors and oppression that most of us only read about in news. There are some real dark moments in this book, but some beautiful ones as well (5 stars)"