Saturday, May 06, 2006

That's Some Fine Writing: Nasrin Alavi

Just when I had decided to stop reading repetitive travelogues, memoirs, or even analyses, on Iran, I receive a copy of Nasrin Alavi’s We Are Iran. I finished it in just a few days, although it was 362 pages of very small print. Delightful, refreshing, and uplifting are the words that come immediately to mind, but with a little more reflection, there is more to it that that. Nasrin Alavi’s book is an archive of the reflection of hundreds of underground lives in today’s Iran. It is vivid and unadulterated. It portrays young Iranians under a massive veil, unknown and unseen. As a result, it is bold and daring. This kind of writing is the sort of writing that Margaret Atwood calls a real writing. You write with the right hand and erase it with the left, writing anonymously.

Blogging, with its short history, seems a perfect medium in Iran, and well used. Reading the book, I felt quite jealous of my compatriots living in Iran. I don’t know when was the last time I have heard from a young person here in US a complete sentence with beginning, middle and end, which makes any sense. (I quit my teaching job in college not to read their meaningless term papers.) Now here in Iran there are 64,000 bloggers to read with such alertness, openness, knowledge, and even wit.

What is even more impressive is their thorough cheerfulness. Even when the writer is angry and annoyed, even when he/she is talking of the pain of injustice, of cruelty, he/she still expresses it lovingly and compassionately, you don’t even sense bitterness. You feel you are one of them, that you are not excluded. I don’t know it is the writers’ skill or subject matter or both which cleans the pages of that bitterness and anger that we the reader in the diasporas have to bear.

Ms Alavi very masterfully has categorized the materials and selected the pieces so uniformly that one thinks they are written to order for her particular chapter of book. That indeed indicates the unity and harmony of the writer with the subject matter of the bloggers. The book is in fact a demonstration of a democratic “republic of letters” which is growing faster than anyone expected. Ms. Alavi is a pioneer writer on that front.

I do recommend this book to all who are eager to learn about Iran> today. I would recommend it to all young second generation of Iranian that have left Iran when they were very young or those who are born here with hope that their knowledge of their original country is not totally based on what they have heard second hand from another second hand and most of the time biased source. Yes there are a tremendous amount of problems back home, but there is also life, there is hope, and plenty of love.


Me said...


Anonymous said...

Dear Mina, I also reluctantly bought this book recently and feel that your description and praise is spot on. A mutual friend (Amir) sent me this link to your review after I sent an email to him recommending the book. I’m not as good a writer as you are and I wish you could post your review on Amazon. As it may perhaps make the reluctant like myself, who have had enough of the mass cliche books on Iran out there get hold of the book. I don’t know about you but I’m buying a copy for all my non-Iranian friends for Christmas. And as for the Iranians, I hope you don’t mind but I will be sending your link.

Samira Khalatbary (Bristol)

Sorry as I don’t have blog I had to choose the anonymous button

Mawali said...

Dear Mina,

I am curious to know what you think of Nasrin Alavi's work in the adult film industry. What kind of example do you think she sets for Iranian women with this work?

Anonymous said...

Dear Devils advocate.I have googled to find out what you’re talking about. But I have to tell you that the author of the wonderful book WE ARE IRAN is not the same as the porn star in question. They merely share the same name.

You can always find out more by emailing her publisher…

Anonymous said...

I’ve just looked into this further according to the websites with info about the model she is described as “a 20 year old”

While the author Nasrin Alavi is described in the English Pen website as:

“Nasrin Alavi is a British Iranian who gave up her career in the City of London to work for an NGO in Teheran. She spent her formative years in Iran. After attending university in the UK and working in the city of London and academia she returned to her birthplace working for an NGO for a number of years. Today she lives in the UK and in Teheran. This is her first book.”
I think this is a mere coincidence as NO 20 YEAR OLD could have done all that.

Evan said...

Somehow I don't think

this Nasrin Alavi
is the author of the book in question.

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