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Persian Girls: A Memoir Paperback – December 27, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This lyrical and disturbing memoir by the author of four novels (Foreigner, etc.) tells the story of an Iranian girl growing up in a culture where, despite the Westernizing reforms of the Shah, women had little power or autonomy. As an infant in 1946, Rachlin was given to her mother's favorite sister, a widow who had been unable to conceive, and was lovingly raised among supportive widows who took refuge in religion from their frustrations as women in an oppressive society. But at the age of nine, Rachlin's father, whom she barely knew, met her at school without warning and brought her to Ahvaz to live with her birth family. Miserable in the new household, young Nahid was befriended by her American movie–obsessed sister Pari. Both sisters developed artistic ambitions, but only Nahid managed to escape the typical female fate, convincing her father to send her to college in the U.S. Less lucky is Pari, whose life of arranged marriage, divorce from an abusive husband and estrangement from her son ends in depression and early death. Exuding the melancholy of an outsider, this memoir gives American readers rare insight into Iranians' ambivalence toward the United States, the desire for American freedom clashing with resentment of American hegemony. (Oct. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Nahid's life plays out against a backdrop of tragedy. She has escaped to America, but she's lost so much of what she loved...the author doesn't comment directly on the meaning of these events. She just tells the tales of individuals crushed. This is just a story of how it was, during a certain period of time, for one upper-middle-class family in Iran, destroyed from within and without by forces it couldn't begin to reckon with. -- Carolyn See, The Washington Post --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 293 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee (December 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585426237
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585426232
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #524,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Well, Mrs. Rachlin has gained another fan.

I was just mesmerized with the weave of her writings, in "Persian Girls". A fascinating depiction of the life, culture and traditions in Iran as she experienced them, and how they related to and affected her family and friends.

I reccomend this book as a good read.

Thank you Nahid Rachlin...
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Format: Hardcover
After chancing upon a diminuative author reading a startlingly gutsy memoir to a bookstore audience, I ordered and read for myself the courageous adventures of Ms. Rachlin. The author's uncompromising rebelliousness coupled with her intense love for a sister and an aunt fuels the book. Bejeweled with many Iranian cultural details, (foods, fabrics, flowers, fountains, families, etc.), lovingly and simply described and set at the menacing center of turbulent historical and individual events, Nahid Rachlin has forged a spare, luminous memoir of human sorrows and victories. I think other readers will wish, as I did, that the book was longer.
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Format: Hardcover
I just finished Persian Girls. Once I was into it I couldn't stop reading. I cried all alone in my chair reading Bijan's beautiful, heartbreaking letter that Pari never got. My own words seem lost now, still in the thrall of this tale as I am --so writing a review is hard. What a wonderful person Bijan is or was! I can't stand the thought that he may no longer be alive. Its amazing what this author has accomplished with the story she tells of Iranian women in a single family. The story is so big and so timely and so tragic --an individual tragedy of the first order with world history in the background. Its an incredible book and everybody should be buying it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a "must read." I have never read a more touching non-fiction book. The writing is superb and it is from the heart. I was not able to put the book down and anyone vaguely interested in the subject matter will come to the same conclusion.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For me, the most interesting thing about Rachlin's very interesting memoir was the incredible strength she showed in forging a life for herself that was so different from the culture she was born into in Iran and for which she had very little or no family support. It is a very personal tale of courage. Rachlin was given to an aunt to raise shortly after her birth and then wrenchingly, for both Rachlin and her aunt, taken away from her when she was about 8. I suspect it was this horrible experience that later gave Rachlin the courage to leave her family to attend college on a scholarship in the United States and to live an independent, solitary and self-sufficient existence in the United States for awhile before she met her husband.

If I am at all disappointed with this book it is because of the emphasis Rachlin places on arranged marriages as the cause of unhappiness in women in the culture she was born into. Rachlin's sister was in an abusive arranged marriage as were other women in her family. I know some couples who are in very happy arranged marriages and I know a lot of women who are very unhappy in marriages of their own making. The divorce rate in the United States certainly attests to that.

No, I would not have liked my life and/or marriage determined for me. And I value the ability to chart my own course. But Rachlin goes too far I believe when she seemingly equates arranged marriages with unhappiness and abuse.

But overwhelmingly, this is a very interesting, and although somewhat sad, nonetheless a charming book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to know what it's like to be a woman in Iran and yet are not looking for simplistic and schmaltzy versions such that is dished by the Hollywood from time to time, then look no further than Mrs. Rachlin's superb account of her coming-of-age in this eye-openning memoir. Mrs. Rachlin's honest and passionate book describes in measured details her disillusionment with the political order as she is exposed to male brutality in both her immediate environs and in the larger society. I loved the fact that she doesn't overwhelm you with irrelevant nuances and sticks to the story, her story, which is spellbinding and reads like a novel. Thank you Mrs. Rachlin.
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By Margaret S. on September 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best memoirs I have had the pleasure of reading. It reads like a novel and thankfully does not contain the pages or in some cases chapters of over analysis of decisions made or the cards life has dealt that is very common in other memoirs. It was a great introduction into Iranian culture and the author has a very definite gift of describing her surroundings without an excess of words.
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Format: Paperback
Nahid Rachlin writes with impressive fluidity, making this memoir read more like a novel. Good flow. It moves fast, and yet is a complete story. She tells of being given to her Aunt Maryam to raise, because Maryam was unable to have children. So Maryam was her "mother." But then her father abducted her when she was nine years old and he decided it was time for her to live with her birth family in another city. She was miserable there, but her sweet older sister Pari gave her the love she needed and made things bearable.

The book tells pretty much her whole life story of repression and censorship and fear in Iran. She was able to convince her father to let her come to America for college, so she didn't have to go into a forced marriage. Almost all of her loved ones were still in Iran, and suffered the horrors of Khomeini (almost exactly like the Taliban) and the devastation of the Iran-Iraq War.

I give this book a strong 3.5 stars. I couldn't quite go up to 4 stars only because she seems so emotionally detached from the events of her own life. It's almost as if she watched it happen from a distance rather than experiencing it. I kept wondering if perhaps the early trauma in her life taught her to protect herself by not feeling too deeply. Or maybe she feels it and can't translate that feeling into her writing. Well worth reading, nonetheless.
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