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Against Gravity Paperback – December 27, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Iranian-born Moshiri's poignant, semiautobiographical third novel (after 2003's The Bathhouse) carefully observes the effects of loss on three people in 1980s Houston. Ric Cardinal is a devoted social worker; his former client, Madison Kirby, is a bitter former philosophy professor stricken by AIDS; Madison's neighbor, Roya, is an Iranian political refugee with a young daughter. Each protagonist narrates a story, and it is Roya's tale, which bears some resemblance to Moshiri's own, that most compels. While the other two fall prey to such utterances as Madison's upon meeting Roya for the first time ("Something stirred in my guts again and I wanted her the way I'd never wanted a female in my life") and are either sinner (Madison) or saint (Ric), Roya simmers with complexity and nuance. As Ric tries to counsel the increasingly difficult Madison and contend with his own schizophrenic teenage son, Roya recounts her days of wandering through the Middle East ("I didn't mention my dark thoughts—despair, dread of the unknown future, and the constant presence of death, real or imagined, in my dreams and wakefulness. Madness at times''). Her unlikely journey to Houston proves just as alienating, and Moshiri deftly conveys Roya's plight—and ultimately her courage—which are the novel's greatest strengths. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

The setting for the three overlapping monologues constituting Moshiri's impressive third novel is May to December, early 1990s, in Houston. Each speaker fills in his or her backstory lavishly, and a mournful little third-person epilogue peeks into the future. First up: Madison, about 40, who traded doctoral studies for drug-addicted wandering and now has AIDS. He has fixated on his new neighbor, young Iranian refugee Roya (the second monologist), believing that she must be with him as he dies. She, however, has fallen for social worker Ric (the third speaker), to whom Madison, a former client, referred her for help with her 12-year-old daughter. Ric is reciprocally smitten, and Madison becomes furious enough to kill. This may seem mere melodrama, but the principals are so fully and credibly realized that even repulsive, crazed Madison, who seems much more responsible for his tribulations than Roya and Ric do for theirs, earns grudging sympathy. Life has been cruel to all three, but it crushes only one, not, unfortunately, without damaging others. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143035681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143035688
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,010,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iranian born writer Farnoosh Moshiri has degrees from the College of Dramatic Arts of Tehran, The University of Iowa, and University of Houston. She has published plays, short stories, and translations in Iranian literary magazines before the 1979 revolution and in anthologies published outside Iran in the 1980s. In 1983, she fled her country after a massive arrest of secular intellectuals, feminists, and political activists. She lived in refugee camps of Afghanistan and India for four years before emigrating to the U.S. in 1987. Her novels and collections include At the Wall of Almighty (Interlink 1999), The Bathhouse (Black Heron Press 2001, Beacon Press, 2002); The Crazy Dervish and the Pomegranate Tree (Black Heron Press 2004), and Against Gravity (Penguin, 2006). Among other awards and fellowships, she is the recipient of Florida' Review's creative non-fiction award, Barthelme Memorial Award, Barbara Deming Award: A grant to feminist writers whose work speaks of peace and social justice; two consecutive Black Heron Awards for Social Fiction, and Valiente Award from Voices Breaking Boundaries. Her recent novel, Against Gravity, was chosen by Barnes and Noble for Discover New Writers Series and by Borders Books in January Original Voices selection. The Bathhouse, her second novel, has been translated into several European and Asian languages. She has taught literature, playwriting, and creative writing in Universities of Tehran, Kabul, Houston, and Syracuse. Currently, she lives in Houston, where she works on her new novel and teaches creative writing.

Customer Reviews

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See all 13 customer reviews
Three characters tell their stories in three chapters.
A Reader
P201 In their motherless and fatherless society, all the characters suffer the loss of loved ones.
Ezzat Goushegir
Using the backdrop of Texas, it is touching and beautifully written novel.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on January 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Moshiri's latest published novel is a tale of suffering. Three characters tell their stories in three chapters. Each one has a completely different background and experience. But now, all are somehow related to one another. The common thread between them is that all three have been suffering through their lives. But what makes the redemption of two of the characters possible, and the third one impossible, is what the necessary element in any case of redemption is: selflessness and compassion. Moshiri makes her point of contrast in her characters by the way they view themselves and the world they live in. The two American characters mirror the American society. One sees only himself. Everything in the world is valued on the basis of what benefit it has to him. It doesn't matter if he is highly educated or ignorant since he is not using his knowledge to make the world a better place by helping others. He is only thinking of himself. The other one is a selfless, compassionate man. He has seen the world and knows what his country's government has been doing and continues to do around the world: supporting exploiters, dictators and death squads. He is suffering from his experiences and also from his domestic problems. But he manages to redeem himself by acts of selflessness and compassion. The third character, a victim of everything that is wrong in this world finds redemption in her sacrifice and sufferings. All three characters try to free themselves from the gravity. But only those who are compassionate can win "Against Gravity".
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By lgtrellis on May 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Farnoosh Moshiri's latest novel is a new take on one immigrant's life in a strange new land and she ultimately gives a vivid portrayal of Everyman's journey. Using the backdrop of Texas, it is touching and beautifully written novel. Told in simple, but effecting prose, she weaves an intricate tale of three seemingly disparate people, but whose lives are connected by the tragedy that has touched each of them. She has chosen to craft the book in three sections, with each main character telling their own story. Madison is a bitter, dying man. Roya is a struggling immigrant writer and mother. Ric is a social worker, who befriends both of them and falls in love with Roya. The complication this presents for Madison's character is the main thrust of the plot, as he too desires Roya, but with Ms. Moshiri's strong voice, this feels organic to the novel and not a mere plot device.

In truth, it is each character's own story that is gripping and draws you in. You are at once pulled into the pathetic world of the dying Madison, who even if unlikable, holds your interest. The reader is then drawn into the engaging story of Roya who is forced to flee her country with her young daughter. Her story is also, in a sense, a coming-of-age story as she attempts to find herself and must do so in a foreign land. Finally, Ric has his own interesting background and demons to deal with. Thematically, his story is one of death; and that is what truly meshes their stories together, but ultimately it is a story of hope and transcending tragedy.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lev Gorens on March 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
hello ms. moshiri,

i have just read the last line of "against gravity" and want to thank you from the depths of my soul for not giving up writing when the publishers said "no." thank you for giving the gift of your light. your book moves me so very much.

i went to college in suny oneonta and in 1993, the last year of college, my best friend and i were on a road trip somewhere near albany and we got into a car accident. my friend was killed instantly. i spent some time in a wheelchair. i am well now.

i relate so deeply to this story of loss and longing, of struggle and determination, and of triumph. i am very much drawn to your voice and vision of the immigrant experience in america. the intense dichotomy that is america. the world of haves and have-nots colliding over and over again until a faint light illuminates the bitter-sweet truth of human existence.

you are a very visual and minimalist writer. thank you for being a part of the human race.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ezzat Goushegir on February 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Ezzat Goushegir, Playwright, Teaching at DePaul University

Gracefully honest and skillfully written, Against Gravity by Farnoosh Moshiri centers on the lives of three main characters - Madison, Roya, and Ric - who are seeking to find hope and meaning in life.

With a plethora of rich experiences, the core of the novel dialectically revolves around the opposing forces of love and loss, life and death, and floating and gravity. The synthesis is the text, whose words permeate the very marrow of the reader's bones.

Moshiri's characters in Against Gravity, like her other novels, are concerned with the permanent feeling of imprisonment in a world wherein the horror of living constantly haunts them.

"We are all refugees in a way. Many of us, many Americans, live worse than refugees." P152

Like Moshiri herself, - whose craft of thinking and writing is digging and exploring the deepest part of human existence -, her fictional characters have also the immediate, urgent need to struggle against sinking, to free themselves from the complexity of conditions, and mystification of reasons.

Altering the cast of characters, the lives of the main characters interweave together in the most diverse ways, in both content and style.

In each sequence of historical moments, they face many "what if" questions, which lead them toward this conclusion: no matter if it is right or wrong, it is a relative matter.

Moshiri touches upon the fundamental social problems of today's civilization: loneliness, distrust, disattachment, displacement, isolation, alienation, lack of balance, lack of human touch, lack of tenderness and love.

"We lie down together in our suspended cage, straining to hear that lonely Child.
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