"Persian Girls, reads like a novel -- suspenseful, vivid, heartbreaking. In "Persian Girls, Rachlin chronicles her choices and those made by her sisters, her mother and her aunts, throwing the door to her family's home wide open. Readers who follow her through will be wiser, and moved."
NPR: THE WORLD
Slected by Christopher Merrill, the Director of Iowa International Writing Program as one of the best four books of the year. "If you want to know what it was like to grow up in Iran this is the book to read. Rachlin, the author of five previous works of fiction, including the much acclaimed Foreigner, begins her story at the age of nine, when she was taken away from the only mother she had ever known—her aunt, as it happens—and returned to a family in which the prospects of her becoming a writer were, at best, dim. But her portrait of the artist in an Islamic country on the verge of dramatic change is filled with light."
"This lyrical and disturbing memoir by the author of four novels (Foreigner , etc.) tells the story of an Iranian girl growing up in a culture where, despite the Westernizing reforms of the Shah, women had little power or autonomy... Exuding the melancholy of an outsider, this memoir gives American readers rare insight into Iranians' ambivalence toward the United States, the desire for American freedom clashing with resentment of American hegemony."
"Nahid Rachlin grew up in Iran in the days of the shah, and the details of her difficult life in this sorrowful memoir reflect the recent history of that conflicted country. The author recalls an idyllic early childhood, growing up with a widowed, childless aunt who considered herself Nahid's real mother. (In a story that could have come out of the Old Testament, Nahid's birth mother, who had four..."
The Charlotte Observer:
"Iran again looms large on the world stage. Rhetoric conjures fear of radical Islam and flashbacks to the Ayatollah Khomeini-- images that obscure Iran's rich cultural history as Persia and ignore ordinary people torn between old and new, secular and sacred. In her bittersweet memoir, Persian Girls, Iranian American novelist Nahid Rachlin fills in the blanks."
Jonathan Friedlander, UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies:
“Rachlin’s most powerful work to date. A riveting memoir of separation and reunion and the diasporic life and times of this prolific and beloved Iranian-American author.”
Matt Beynon Rees, author of The Collaborator of Bethlehem and contributing editor, Time:
“Through the touching, tragic story of two sisters, Persian Girls unfolds the entire drama of modern Iran. It’s a beautiful, harrowing memoir of the cruelty of men toward women, and it paints the exotic scents and traditions of Tehran with the delicacy of a great novel. If you want to understand Iran, read Nahid Rachlin.”
Abbas Milani, Director, Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies, Stanford University:
“In elegant, beguiling, supple prose, Nahid Rachlin has chronicled the traumas and triumphs of a Persian girl, fashioning for herself a persona that is at once global and quintessentially Persian.”
Salar Abdoh, author of Opium and The Poet Game:
“In Persian Girls, Nahid Rachlin tells her own story with sincerity—speaking for countless lives in many lands where survival is as exceptional as being buried under the dead weight of tradition is not.”
Dona Munker, coauthor of Daughter of Persia:
“Riveting and beautifully observed, Persian Girls recounts Nahid Rachlin’s family epic with the same quietly mesmerizing power that makes her novels and short stories linger in the mind years after we’ve read the last page.”
Patty Dann, author of Mermaids and The Baby Boat:
“Rachlin’s remarkable memoir sheds light on an intimate world that is at the center of the world’s stage. With a deft hand, she writes of a life so honestly that it is has all the facets of a great novel.”
“Rachlin shows us not only the tranquil inner ourtyards with sweets and gossip exchanged by the fishpond, the flower bedecked bridal chamber, but also the political, social and religious factions contending for primacy in the streets outside...”
—The New York Times Book Review
Praised by V.S. Naipaul, Anne Tyler, Tama Janowitz, and other writers, Nahid Rachlin has spent her career writing novels about hidden Iran—the combustible political passions underlying everyday life and the family dramas of ordinary Iranians. With her long-awaited memoir, Persian Girls, she turns her sharp novelist’s eye on her own remarkable life.
Given to her childless and widowed aunt by her mother when she was an infant, Rachlin lived a blissful Iranian childhood with her mother’s sister, Maryam. One day, when Nahid was nine years old, her father kidnapped her from her schoolyard, and the only mother she’d ever known, and returned her to her birth family—strangers to the young girl.
In a story of heartache, ambition, oppression, hope, and sisterhood, Persian Girls traces Rachlin’s childhood and coming of age in Iran under the late Shah—and her domineering father—her tangled family life, and her relationship with her older sister, and unexpected soulmate, Pari. Both girls refused to accept the prescribed traditional-Muslim roles for them and dreamed of careers in literature and the theatre (both considered unthinkable for respectable girls in Iran); they devoured forbidden books and had secret romances.
But then things quickly changed. Pari was forced by her parents to marry a wealthy suitor, a cruel man who kept her a prisoner in her own home. Maryam, heartbroken and alone, lived a solitary life in her old Tehran neighborhood, dreaming of the day when she would be reunited with Nahid.Manijeh, Nahid’s middle sister, hoped for nothing more than to become a good traditional-Muslim wife and mysterious Mohtaram, Nahid’s birth mother, helped her husband to arrange her daughters’ marriages.
Eventually, Nahid narrowly avoided become a young bride to a man of her parents’ choosing and came to America. As Nahid found literary success in the United States, Pari’s dreams fell to pieces. Her ambitions quashed by her husband, Pari’s hopes dissipated. When news came to Nahid in the middle of the night that her sister had died after falling down a flight of stairs, her world was turned upside down. She traveled back to the country where she had grown up, now under the Islamic regime rather than the Shah, to say goodbye to her only friend. It is there she confronts her past, and the women of her family.
This moving and beautifully written memoir offers the reader a rare glimpse into the secret lives of Iranian women. A story of promises kept and promises broken, of dreams and heartache and, most important, of sisters, Persian Girls is a gripping saga that will change the way anyone looks at Iran and the women who populate it.
then who are we if the object of our desire is
forbidden? What becomes of us if we are born in one world yet long for another? These are just two of the
complex and difficult questions Nahid Rachlin explores
and ultimately illuminates in this brave, engrossing,
and timely novel. I recommend it highly!"--Andre (Dubus III),author of House of Sand and Fog, and In the Bedroom
“This poignant, beautifully told story of an Iranian-American family is both a great read and a fine introduction to a land and a culture about which it is imperative we Americans inform ourselves as much and as quickly as possible.”— Sigrid Nunez, author of The Last of Her Kind and For Rouenna.
“In this new novel, Nahid Rachlin's powers as a writer and storyteller blaze at their fullest, like the Norooz (New Year's) bonfires that the title alludes to. In an era when fear of Middle Eastern terrorism holds the West in thrall . . . it is refreshing to encounter a genuine and truly multicultural voice, able to speak both from within Persian culture and the American society in which Rachlin now lives and writes. Jumping Over Fire presents the sort of nuanced voice that must be heard if Iranians and Americans are ever to understand one another.” — Carolyne Wright, author of Seasons of Mangoes and Brainfire (Blue Lynx Prize, American Book Award)