On a cold night in 1978, seven-year-old Shabnam Shahmohammad clung to her mother in a Tehran apartment while the sounds of gunshots rang out in the street: The Iranian Revolution was at hand. She and her family survived that night, but as the Islamic fundamentalists took the power over, she grew up watching her father take his beloved books away to burn, his friends be arrested and disappear, and women like her mother grow ever more marginalized. Confused by her father’s communist ideology, her mother’s conservative religious beliefs, and the regime’s oppressive rules, she developed a deep longing to live a different life.
Finding herself being married at nineteen, she naively dreamed to team up and discover an adventurous life. When she gave birth to a daughter whose future, she realized, mattered more to her than her own, she had to find a way to unlock her little girl’s possibilities. She longed to emigrate, but with Western countries’ embassies mostly absent from Tehran, options for escaping Iran were limited.
My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl is a tale of resilience facing oppression and dictatorship along with fighting with narrow traditional and restrictive cultural rules. This memoir is a journey of self-discovery, mother-daughter relationship obstacles, forbidden love, and the universal desire for freedom.
Leslie Hamod: "A memorable experience. I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
I the seventies, we watched the Iranian revolution, Ayatailla Komieni and the take over of the religious rules. I will not offend by misspelling names and places. I read this in six hours. It was a fascinating account of a young Iranian girl who witnessed these things first-hand. Shabnam Curtis had a difficult childhood in her home as well, her father drinking and an overly punitive mother. She writes about her experiences with great compassion and empathy.
She describes growing up in a country substantially effected by the Iraq-Iran war. The wearing of head coverings by secular and atheist became the law. . She came to wear long loose dresses.
Following her marriage, during which she has her first child, she describes in depth her emotional abuse by her then husband.
This book was a revelation. A story of a woman with two countries. A fascinating account which needs to be told, and she does it with grace and elegance. This is a MUST READ! I cannot express both the emotions during reading, and my thoughts afterwords.
"Our ice cream that night tasted of tears"
Kudos to Shabnam Curtis for an excellent book."
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
"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."