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A World Between: Poems, Short Stories and Essays by Iranian-Americans, an Anthology written by Persis M. Karim

 

A World Between: Poems, Short Stories and Essays by Iranian-Americans, an Anthology written by Persis M. Karim

Overview:

This collection is the first published anthology of writings by Iranian immigrants and first generation Iranian Americans.

This collection is the first published anthology of writings by Iranian immigrants and first generation Iranian Americans. Wide ranging and deeply personal, these pieces explore the Iranian community's continuing struggle to understand what it means to be Iranian in America. The selections come together to present a rich, humanizing portrait of a growing community Americans tend to view negatively. Many are intimate reflections on the pain of being alienated from the language, history, and geography of one's childhood. Others grapple with the complexities of cultural and personal identity. Iranian Americans, like any other immigrant community, must face the ongoing negotiation between past and present, their native home and their adopted home. A World Between gives voice to their unique and moving stories.

Synopsis:

This collection is the first published anthology of writings by Iranian immigrants and first generation Iranian Americans.

Library Journal

While many themes in this collection echo typical immigrant experiences, most of the contributions offer unusual glimpses into a lesser-known and often stereotyped ethnic group. The majority of the more than one million Iranian Americans left their homeland after the 1979 events that brought down the Shah and ushered in a new fundamentalist order. This anthology includes stories, essays, and poems by more than 30 first- and second-generation Iranian Americans, set against the backdrop of the Islamic revolution in Iran and refugee life in America. Charming and deeply personal, the writings often reflect on the pain of alienation and cultural struggle. The diversity of the contributors is noteworthy, ranging from 14-year-old Sharif, whose poem "My Father's Shoes" describes the pain of exile, to Persian poet and New York University professor Mohammad Khorrami. This first-ever collection of writings in English by Iranian American literary talents is highly recommended for most libraries.--Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Excerpt:




Chapter One


namaz(*)

empty pickle jars line
the bottom of the pantry
gossiping in vinegar.
they await the alchemist's blessing
eager to join the consecrated
vessels amassed above
flush with tarragon and mint
saffron and thyme.
the cupboard is a shrine
each tea tin a reliquary
every burlap rice sack a benediction.


"try this," you murmured
and laughed as I puzzled over
the red leather bulb
a fat sunburned king
with a tiny stem crown.
it was my first pomegranate.
at ten I made chai
you let me
praised me for it
though I was always the guest
always will be.


twenty thousand
casserole afternoons
a lifetime of prayer
forever on your knees
crushing lentils into paste
drying herbs on bronze platters
pressing forehead to floor
have turned your spine into limestone
and you still start from scratch
one eye on the sun
the other on me
addasi, ash reshteh, ghormeh sabzi
I have tasted your love songs.


(*) The prayer Muslims perform five times a day.


nowruz(*)


"goldfish are cheap,
dollar a dozen.
wait'll you see the rest."
I pointed to sea horses, angel fish, porcupine puffers,
"goldfish," grandma whispered, "two of them."


the shopkeeper fetched her a pair of aces,
they danced in the bowl like ochre bullion,
flashed like canaryducats. Carassius auratus.
the kind you'd expect in a picture
by the dictionary definition.


two weeks into the new year,
her nightstand bare.
"naneh ... the goldfish?"
"they had nothing to eat," she mumbled,
frowning to keep from crying.
"no one to feed them."


(*) Nowruz, literally "new day," refers to the Iranian New Year and marks the arrival of spring. Goldfish, among other things, serve as symbols of good fortune and are traditionally found in Iranian households during New Year celebrations.


    dastet dard nakoneh(*)


grandma can't thread
a needle anymore,
says, "it's better I die"
as though it will happen
soon. until then,
I'll thread her needles.


(*) A Persian expression of thanks whose rough translation is "May your hand be free of pain."


yeki bud, yeki nabud(*)


what goes without saying?
ours is a history of silence,
an assemblage of garments
strung on a clothesline of
glyph glances and idle chatter.


my tongue, built of porcelain,
dams a decade of questions,
moots that have faded
like the cerulean marks
on your fingers and forehead.


I carry your image
in the book that you gave me,
sewn from your lips.
the story begins:
one was, one wasn't.


(*) Literally, "one was, one wasn't." It is the Persian equivalent of "once upon a time."


ta'rof(*)


            I.


she's there again,
pouring tea leaves
onto the dew-soaked lawn,
scattering rice scraps beneath
the weeping willow.
sparrows converge,
as always.


            II.


"during shortfalls, your
grandmother would fast for days,
place her portion on our plates.
each time she'd insist,
`I have eaten.'"


            III.


sure as the dawn,
her first words are, "ghaza khordi?"
"have you eaten?"
as I mumble, "I have,"
naneh turns toward the kitchen
and replies, "eat again love,
eat again."

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Title: A World Between: Poems, Short Stories and Essays by Iranian-Americans, an Anthology

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