From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Ironic, beautifully written, brutal and ugly, Khadivi's ambitious debut novel follows a Kurdish boy who is tragically and violently conscripted into the shah's army after his own people are slaughtered in battle. Assigned the name Reza Pejman Khourdi—Reza after the first shah of Iran, Pejman meaning heartbroken and Khourdi to denote he's an ethnic Kurd—the boy suppresses all things Kurdish within him, fueled by a sense of self-preservation and self-loathing. Channeling fear and hate into brutal acts against the Kurds, Reza makes a quick climb up the military career ladder, eventually gaining an appointment to Kermanshah, a Kurdish region in the north of Iran. There, as overseer of his own people, Reza promotes Kurdish assimilation and the budding nation of Iran while mercilessly silencing voices of Kurdish independence. As he grows old with his Iranian wife, Meena, Reza's internal conflicts simmer, then boil over, with unexpected and terrible results. This difficult but powerful novel, the first of a trilogy, introduces a writer with a strong, unflinching voice and a penetrating vision. (Mar.)
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Khadivi’s disturbing debut novel opens in 1921 in Iran’s Zagros Mountains, where a young boy’s job is to warn his father and uncles if the shah’s army approaches. After an attack on the soldiers’ camp, during which the boy’s baba is pummeled to death, and all except the boy are killed, he is adopted by the soldiers as the “orphan Kurd,” a docile servant. Eight years later he has become “a plebe in the great army of the shah” and is given the name Reza Khourdi, his family history erased. At 15 his company attacks a Kurdish village. In the midst of his first kill, Reza remembers his past and realizes, “he is them.” Promoted and assigned to a village near his home, he marries a woman who lives “in opposition” to his every memory, and teaches their children to hate the Kurds. Khadivi’s writing, for which she recently won a Whiting Award, is luminous in this tragic story of an “orphan of the earth,” which is rendered in prose that is by turns graphic and poetic. --Deborah Donovan