Monday, March 10, 2008

Her Name Is Iran

From an American perspective, Iran is a far-off desert land filled with oil fields and industry. Iran’s rich history dates back thousands of years nearly to the beginning of civilization. Yet, we know so little about Iranian lifestyles, cultures and religions. To many, their people and their lives are a mystery to us. Interested in learning more about the country once known as Persia? Let me suggest an excellent place to start.

Born in the United States to Iranian parents, Davar Ardalan is the perfect tour guide to this part of the world. Her fascinating biography, ‘My Name is Iran’ has both literal and figurative meaning. Her proper first name actually is ‘Iran.’ What a fine ambassador she would make for either country.

Davar’s book chronicles her quest seeking a true and self-satisfying identity. Her complicated and tumultuous life has seen her morph between a modern American woman and a subservient Iranian willingly locked into an arranged marriage. Her book follows her long search for a place to comfortably rest her soul. Although the perspective is from a personal point of view, Davan’s biography also serves as an authoritarian primer about life in Iran.

She has adopted many, many places as her home. A very complicated and diverse life she has led. Davan comes from an enormous family that was very influential in the establishment of modern society in Iran. Several family members of her generation migrated to The United States in search of a richer life. All have experimented with lifestyles both traditional and modern. Some chose one; others chose both. Davan could not decide.

As you read, you will understand how her deep heritage in the Middle East has altered the direction of her life. She seems nearly taunted by both sides of her fence. During most of her young adult years, Davan could not resolve where to go or how to ultimately live. You feel her struggle. Her understanding of both her cultures is so full. If she could only embrace one to call her own!

'My Name Is Iran' is filled with many studious footnotes further explaining the history and the stories behind the many people mentioned in her tales. The book is a masterwork. Not only is Davan a great student of her family's legacy and homeland, she shows sensitivity to her readers with in-depth explanations providing all the background you may need to understand her life in whole. Her tireless work has created a gem which may open her ancestral world to an audience otherwise blind to all of Iran's cultural wealth. It is an unusual and interesting read.

This is not a dry and dusty history book. The tone is personal and passionate. Much is to be read about Davan's personal life: her two marriages (one to a second cousin,) her children, the beloved members of her family and all the things that bubble and cook in her pot of life. What a cast of characters are to be found in all her relatives! Follow her life as she matures from a young girl to a woman immersed in American culture. Later, she returns with conviction to a harshly structured lifestyle. In the end, she becomes a producer and correspondent for National Public Radio working with renowned journalists like Jacki Lyden and Daniel Zwerdling. Quite an amazing life!

Invest some time and read this book. You will begin to understand the spirit within the souls of Davan’s people. She'll take you to the site of Solomon's Mosque, the Alborz Mountains and the lands once ruled by Cyrus the Great. Learn about her father's renowned architectural blending of styles both old and new. Feel the excitement in a place half way around the world. Will she ever find balance between the two distinct cultures of America and Iran? Davan offers much to discover. Her pages combine into a journey you won’t forget. For an introductory taste of her work, please visit Salam!


Anonymous said...

See "PERSEPHOLIS". Also a great story.

Davar Ardalan said...

Karl, Thank you so much for your wonderful review of my book. I have just taken on more responsibility at NPR and not able to update my site as much as I would like but I will try my best. Many thanks Karl. Best, Davar