Book Bits ; Three Books about Iran and Readers' Picks

Article excerpt

Three books about Iran

Jason Elliot opens ~~b~~Mirrors of the Unseen~~/b~~ with a marvelous description of the daily terrors of traffic in Tehran. ("Cars slew at reckless velocity between the lanes, and swerve to avoid disaster with the suddenness of dragonflies in midflight.") Elliot, author of the bestselling "An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan," spent four years traveling in Iran, and armchair travelers will enjoy moving with Elliot through both fabled cities and remote corners of Iran. Some of Elliot's forays into Iranian art and history (particularly his efforts to locate organizing principles of Iranian architecture) may fatigue the general reader, but, still, it's hard not to warm to a writer who strolls alone through the streets of a provincial Iranian city confessing, "I had Mongols on my mind."

In ~~b~~My Name is Iran~~/b~~ Iranian-American NPR producer Davar Ardalan tells the story of three generations of women in her family who for decades cycled back and forth between Iran and the United States. Ardalan, the granddaughter of an adventurous nurse from Idaho who married an Iranian, was born in the US, raised partly in Iran, and married there at 18 in an arranged union. Ardalan took up journalism and later divorced and returned to the US. While largely a tale of a personal quest for identity, this memoir also offers a window into Iranian life and culture.

Maryam Mazar thought she could leave Iran behind when she fled to England, but it took her much of a lifetime to understand how impossible that would be. ~~b~~The Saffron Kitchen~~/b~~, a fiction debut for Yasmin Crowther, is the story of Maryam and her British- born daughter Sara, both of whom struggle to come to terms with Maryam's past and her ongoing yearning for Iran. Although overly portentous at times ("Greetings, I am Maryam Mazar, and the seasons are changing"), "The Safforn Kitchen" is also a moving look at the plight of the immigrant torn between two homes. …