Learning about different cultures has always been of interest to me and Nahid Rachlin's book Persian Girls has certainly fed my desire to know more about Iranian women and their roles.
Opening with a scene of her aunt Maryam in the midst of her nightly Islamic rituals, Nahid Rachlin's memoir, Persian Girls, pulled me into a story about two sisters who ended up going down completely different paths. Nahid had been a gift to her aunt Maryam from her biological mother, Mohtaram. She lived with Maryam for nine years until her father came to take her back home. Of course, both Maryam and Nahid were devastated, but that didn't make a difference. Nahid's life changed suddenly with comfort coming only from a new formed relationship with her sister, Pari.
I found myself saddened by all the oppressiveness these sisters had to endure. Pari wanted to be an actress but her father would not allow her to do so...Nahid was not allowed to read certain books or write certain things. Of course, the whole arranged marriage thing makes me shake my head in complete wonder. Not only are marriages arranged, but very young girls are taken as wives. Seriously, nine years old is just not old enough to marry! Fortunately, neither Nahid or Pari had to marry at such a young age, however, Pari was forced into an arranged marriage that eventually failed. Nahid, avoided the whole arranged marriage situation when her father allowed her to move to America to attend college.
As Nahid struggled to "find her place"in America, Pari basically disintegrated in Iran. Her marriage was horrible and much to her father's dismay, she gets a divorce and loses custody of her son even though he should have been with her. Again, another area where women are oppressed! It was depressing to see how Pari's life had spiraled downward into hopelessness. Eventually, Nahid recieved the news that Pari had died so she returned to Iran to find out what happened and why.
I walk away from this book thankful that I have been able to choose my husband, my career, my likes and dislikes...everything. I am thankful that I have not experienced such oppression as Pari did. I also walk away with a sweet image of a dear bond between sisters...no matter what the circumstances. I hope that writing about Pari has brought Mrs. Rachlin some healing...
You can also read more about the author, Nahid Rachlin at her site.