Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea

This beautifully-written book is a coming of age story set in post-revolutionary Iran. Saba Hafezi is obsessed with English language and American culture, a dangerous pursuit in revolutionary Iran. This interest is cemented by Saba's memories of her mother and twin sister migrating to the United States in the midst of the revolution. Saba has to deal with the emotional baggage of being the twin left behind, while trying to find her way in a confusing world with few opportunities for smart young women. Saba's own story is interwoven with the stories she tells about her mother and sister. Storytelling becomes the way that Saba works out her sadness and grief.

This book provides a fascinating look at growing up in the Iran of the 1980s. Saba lives in a rural area. Her remoteness from the capital provides her with some protection, but she longs for the cosmopolitan Tehran she remembers from pre-revolutionary days. In a broader sense, this is a book about a community coming to terms with a confusing new society. Over the course of the book the presence of the moral police becomes heavier, and the opportunities for a smart young woman like Saba diminish. The author pays significant attention to the development of Saba's relationship with her closest female friend, Ponneh. Each woman takes a very different path to dealing with the restrictions of the new Iran, and neither finds complete satisfaction.

In language and description this is a beautiful book. I was drawn in by Saba and her community. I was less interested in the stories she told about Mahtab, and occasionally found these a bit ponderous. Overall, though, a very moving book.

Diya Nayeri, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea (Riverhead, 2013) ISBN: 1594487049 

No comments: