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In the last few months I have read two books about Iran and the impact of the 1979 revolution.
Together Tea is a fantastic book in so many ways. It is the beautiful story of a mother and daughter. It shares the immigrant's view of America and the grandeur of the home country. It is the story of growing up and growing old and although I have never been outside the United States, it somehow is my story too.
Marjan Kamali's work of historical fiction begins in America in 1996 when 25 year old Mina is pursuing Business School at Columbia. Her mother, Darya is intent on finding her a Persian husband. Mina's family came to America in the early1980s from Iran. The revolution made her parents seek freedom for their family in the US. I was born just a couple years before the Mina. So I lived as a twenty something during the 1990s. But now I am forty something, or approximately the age of the mother, Darya. And so each page I read as a young woman Mina, and now as a mother, like Darya with two daughters of my own.
I totally identified with Mina's youth and dreams for her life. I understood how her mother could make her crazy, but then in the very next chapter, I felt myself as Darya wanting so much for my daughters and going to any length to help them achieve, or receive what I think they should be/have.
Throughout the entire book is the memory of Darya's mother Mamani. Mamani was killed by a bomb in Iran in 1979 when she was probably in her 60s. I too lost my mother in her 60s and her hopes and dreams, her labors and sacrifices have greatly formed all the that I am. Just as Darya and Mina both consistently felt the loss of their mother and grandmother, I too have missed my own mother and never stop thinking of her.
It was eye opening to learn more about Iran, a country I only know as a land of terrorists and Saddam Hussein. The book is perfect for an arm-chair traveler to take in Tehran, the parks, the street vendors, the Persepolis, the food and so much of the history and beauty of a far away country. I really learned how much their people have suffered and saw the hope that lives in every heart of man.
I particularly enjoyed Together Tea since I had recently read Persepolis. I got interested in Persepolis, when my son brought it home as his high school assignment. Persepolis also is about a girl just a little younger than me. As in Together Tea, Persepolis is the autobiographical work of Marjean Satrapi who was also born in Iran. She did not get to leave Iran with her family as Mina did. In Persepolis, Marji's parents sent her away alone to boarding school shortly after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. Persepolis is a graphic novel (comic book style) and the images really made the story come alive.
Both of these books tell of coming of age in the midst of war and revolution. Marji, unfortunately fell into many of the pitfalls of youth away from her parents. My heart broke for her as she learned so many growing up lessons the hard way.
Most interesting to me was how the characters in both books live in a world without faith. Mamani was a devout Muslim, who prayed regularly, but Darya and Mina never practiced their faith. Marji has a section about praying to God in Persepolis but he is as grandfather in the sky, who can't or won't impact her life.