A GOOD READ: Hey neighbour: Learn about Iran, its people

Iran Awakening by Shirn Ebadi - IMAGE SUBMITTED
Iran Awakening by Shirn Ebadi
— image credit: IMAGE SUBMITTED

Recently, the Iran Vital Statistics Agency announced that 400,000 Iranians are living in Canada. A large percentage of these people have settled in the Lower Mainland. Some will likely be your neighbours.

One way to learn more about your new Iranian neighbours is through your local library. We have collections of books and DVDs on Iran to help you become familiar with this fascinating culture.

Iranians are proud of their history, encompassing more than 25 centuries. In Michael Axworthy’s History of Iran: Empire of the Mind, the author guides us through the complex succession of dynasties that ruled ancient Iran. He also describes modern Iran, which has an ethnically diverse population bound by a common culture.

The 1979 revolution that ended the monarchy and established the republic is a distinct event in the consciousness of contemporary Iranians. In conversations with them, you will often hear them comparing their socio/economic situations before and after the revolution.

Eminent Persians: The Men and Women Who Made Modern Iran by Abbas Milani is a kind of “Who’s Who” of 20th century Iranians. Covering famous pre-revolution figures, “the book includes politicians, entrepreneurs, poets, artists, and thinkers who brought Iran into the modern era with brilliant success and sometimes terrible consequences.”

The media is currently talking a lot about the nuclear plans of Iran and the controversial ideas of the current president. If you want to discover some of the background information on this topic, try reading The New Iranian Leadership: Ahmadinejad, Terrorism, Nuclear Ambition and the Middle East by Yonah Alexander.

Many Iranians, especially in the younger generation, are on a quest for democracy and a more modern life. They face numerous challenges and barriers. The following two books are personal accounts of this struggle: The Tale of Two Nazanins is by Nazanin Afsharjam, former Miss World Canada and wife of Canada’s defence minister. Then they Came for Me by Maziar Bahari is a riveting memoir of the author’s brutal interrogation in Iran’s most notorious prison.

Iranian women are often in the forefront of the ongoing struggle to regain their rights. Two of the most famous of these women have written autobiographies. Iran Awakening: From Prison to Peace Prize by Shirin Ebadi describes her life and the winning of this prestigious award. In My Dream of Stars, Anousheh Ansari recounts her journey as the first female, private space explorer, a story that captured headlines.

If you are a fiction fan and believe novels open a window to the genuine soul of a people, then the following books will probably interest you.

The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi is by one of the most acclaimed living authors of Iran. This powerful novel, banned in Iran, tells the heart-wrenching story of a disillusioned people forced to live under successive oppressive regimes.

Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour is simply breathtaking. Written by one of Iran’s most controversial and acclaimed authors, it tells the very compelling stories of Iranians searching for love and creativity under the watchful eyes of the often repressive and moralistic state.

Another great source of information about Iran is its cinema: Taste of Cherry by Abbas Kiarostamiy was awarded the Palme d’Or at the 1997 Cannes film festival. It tells the story of a man who drives around Tehran searching for assistance to commit suicide. Instead, he receives a variety of helpful viewpoints on life. A Separation by Asghar Farhadi won the 2012 Academy Award for best foreign language movie. A married couple are faced with the impossible decision: to move to Canada for better health care for their child or to stay in Iran to look after a parent with Alzheimer’s disease.

Now that you have some background, how about some delicious Iranian meals? Two great guides are Pomegranates and Roses by Ariana Bundy and New Persian Cooking: A Fresh Approach to the Classic Cuisine of Iran by Jila Dana-Haeri.


A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published every Wednesday. Saied Forouzi works at Port Moody Public Library.



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