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Posts Tagged ‘American immigrant stories’

Even After All This Time: A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran

Posted by nliakos on April 4, 2016

by Afschineh Latifi (ReganBooks 2005; ISBN 0-06-074533-9)

Afschineh Latifi’s story is both tragic and inspiring. Born into a well-to-do family in Teheran, whose father served in the last Shah’s army, she was ten years old when the Ayatollah Khomeini took over the Iranian government. Her father was suddenly an “enemy of God.” He was arrested, imprisoned, and finally executed. This fact transformed Latifi’s life in many ways. First of all, she adored her father, who was generous and loving with his wife and children. When she was finally able to visit his grave ten years later, she was completely undone by the emotion that it elicited. She was so devastated by his death and by his absence as she was growing up that she was unable to commit herself in marriage to a man whom she loved.

In addition, his death at the hands of the state changed the whole family’s position in their society. Eventually, they were forced to leave Iran, but this was done in stages. First, Afschineh and her older sister Afsaneh were sent to school in Austria and from there went on to the U.S., where they lived with their mother’s brother and were granted refugee status. Their mother and two younger brothers followed about eight years later. Forced to depend on themselves, living in an overcrowded home with relatives who did not really want them to be there, the sisters were forced to grow up quickly. The book describes their schooling, their social isolation, and their eventual independence from their uncle’s family when 18-year-old Afsaneh was granted guardianship of 16-year-old Afschineh. Somehow, they not only survived but flourished in their new country. All four children eventually graduated from college and graduate school and became professionals. What an inspiring story of survival and success!

It’s also very interesting to read what it was like to live through Iran’s revolution in 1979 and the repression that followed it. Like a work of fiction, the book permits us to experience the transformation of this westernized nation into a fundamentalist Islamic state. Though the Latifis are Muslims, the fundamentalist takeover was as shocking to them as it would be to a non-Muslim–incomprehensible, in fact. The father’s stubborn refusal to believe that he would be found guilty of anything led directly to his arrest and execution; they could have left the country, but did not until it was too late.

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