Veil of Walls (First Printing)
Patricia Panahi, author
Anahita Sadeghi, a typical, happy-go-lucky American ten-year-old, was not too keen on traveling to the other side of the world to meet her father’s family. But her month-long vacation turns into a nightmare when her Persian relatives refuse to let her return to the States. She is forced to deal with the dizzying maze of social customs, resist her grandmother’s efforts to mold her into the proper Persian girl, dodge her aunt’s schemes of marriage, and fight to make her own life choices until she can find a way to return home. Longing for her friends and her freedom, only the enigma of her missing aunt, Scheherazade, gives Ana a glimmer of hope of one day escaping Iran for good. Will Ana’s family marry her off and forever bind her to this country, or will she break free of Iran’s walls and find her way back to America?
Panahi’s engaging debut looks at Persian traditions through a story of young love. In 1962, 10-year-old Iranian American girl Ana Sadeghi first visits Iran, the land of her father’s birth. In Tehran, she’s discomfited to be stared at by family members, who say Ana resembles her aunt Scheherazade, who left the country years before. After both of Ana’s parents die in a car accident, Ana’s relatives decide to keep her in Tehran. She remains with her surly aunt Azar as well as grandmother Madar and a cousin. The new world is difficult to understand, with customs such as arranged marriages and avoiding boys who aren’t family, but Ana holds out hope for independence and to be like Scheherazade, whom Madar disowned for leaving. While trying to find out what happened to Scheherazade, Ana makes some friends, including a neighbor named Reza. Ana revels in breaking Azar’s rules, and as Ana and Reza become teens, they fall in love, leading Ana to hope Reza will join her in leaving the country. Panah skillfully weaves the various threads together with a brisk style, drawing readers into the struggles of a smart girl determined to make her own decisions. This is worth a look. (Self-published)