Robert D. Sturr
Nahid Rachlin was born in Abadan, Iran. Her mother had previously given birth seven times (with five surviving children), and so she readily agreed to allow her childless sister to have her new baby. Thus, from six months to nine years old, Rachlin lived with her aunt in Teheran in the ancient and decayed neighborhood of Ghanat Abad. This enclave of traditionalism is typically the location of Rachlin's stories set in Iran.
Rachlin has described her aunt as a “staunchly religious Muslim” who was nevertheless “lenient with me” (“A Bitter Homecoming” 76). Her more secular father, a lawyer, feared that Rachlin would, according to custom, be married while still a child. Accordingly, he kidnapped her when she was nine and took her to the family's home in the southwestern city of Ahvaz. This move was deeply traumatic because Rachlin had viewed her aunt as a mother and was made to feel unwelcome by her biological mother and siblings (with the exception of one sister). The sense of disruption and alienation stemming from this period appears repeatedly in Rachlin's fiction. She particularly dramatizes the struggles of women who must contend against callous and even abusive fathers and husbands who have ultimate control over their lives.
Rachlin found inspiration in American movies during her teenage years. As she has described it, the roles for women in these films led her “to realize that there were other possibilities in life besides getting married…having children, and settling for passive domesticity.” To escape that fate, she excelled academically and in 1964 was allowed to attend Lindenwood College in Missouri. However, its curricular emphasis on domesticity and enforcement of Christian worship was frustrating, and Rachlin has written that its