This morning I went to our local grocery store to pick up the rest of my needed items for our Friday Lunch. While waiting for my freshly made sushi rolls, I decided to treat myself to a cup of coffee. I went up to the counter and was warmly greeted by a pleasant gentleman with an accent I couldn’t place. After some niceties, I finally asked where he was from. He responded that he was Iranian but had come to the States a long time ago. Having just read Prisoner of Tehran, I actually felt somewhat competent to ask if he moved before or after the revolution and he responded that he moved to New York right after the revolution started in 1979. He then immediately said that Iran is a beautiful country and has a lot to offer as long as you could stay out of the political aspects. He told me that he had gone back several times since he left. I asked him how it was to return and his response really got me thinking. “Someone once told me that you can only love one woman. While it was good to go back, I am an American now. I left Iran behind.”
Having always been an American, his words got me thinking. Is it possible to belong to more than one country? Is it possible to love two “women”? Last night when I was reading Bringing Up Bebe, Druckerman said that American kids brought up in France usually felt American in France, and French in America. In essence, they never really felt at home; they never really belonged anywhere. Does this mean if you don’t belong to one country, you don’t belong to any? Unfortunately I don’t know the answer but it something I’d like to explore more. I welcome opinions and comments.
A few weeks ago I went to Kobey’s Swap Meet here in San Diego. (For my Southern readers, swap meet = flea market.) Kobey’s is a cultural experience in itself. Walking up and down the table-laden aisles, I heard Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin spoken by both the buyers and the sellers. That’s just proof that all nationalities like a good deal! For the most part, I go to Kobey’s to browse through junk and buy books at a $1 a piece. On my last visit, I got 6 for $5 and was thrilled. While not all of my book purchases were worthy of the $1 price tag, Prisoner of Tehran, A Memoir by Marina Nemat was worth $5 on its own.
Although born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Marina Nemat was not the typical Iranian child. Her father a dance instructor, her family of Russian decent, and herself a devout Christian, Marina’s way of life contradicted everything that was associated with the Islamic Revolution of 1979. But it was when she demands to be taught calculus, rather than Islamic political propaganda that she was marked as an enemy of the Iranian government and imprisoned at the age of 16 in Evin, an infamous political prison outside of Tehran. In Prisoner of Tehran, Nemat details her life in prison as well as her childhood leading up to that ominous day.
My interest in the experiences of Middle Eastern women has significantly increased over the past month. Between reading My Embassy Letters and watching Salaam Dunk and Beauty Academy of Kabul, I have learned pieces of the current situation in the Middle East but have lacked awareness of the historical background. Prisoner of Tehran provides significant insight into the timeline of women’s rights in Iran and helped my fill in some of my historical holes. Not only did Prison of Tehran inform me, but it was also well-written, honest, and redemptive. Nemat has excellent flow and I was able to finish the whole book in 4 days.
If you are looking for a good read that will challenge and enlighten you, I would highly recommend Prisoner of Tehran.