Forever Under Construction

Let Me, Tell You …

Posted in Books, Iran, Literature, Poetry, USA by homeyra on February 19, 2007

Where I Have Been


edited by Persis Karim
The University of Arkansas Press

The first anthology of writing by women of the Iranian diaspora, featuring over 50 contributors.

In Emerging voices from “Enemy” Nations, Statesman, Brad Buchholz writes:

“Assembled by California poet and former Austinite Persis M. Karim, “Let Me Tell You” features a Who’s Who of prominent Iranian-American writers (Tara Bahrampour, Gelareh Asayesh [and here], Roya Hakakian). Yet the beauty of the book is in the breadth of its writing, not the luminosity of any individual voice.

I’d never heard of Sholeh Wolpe or the late Susan Atefat-Peckham before this book; now I want to read everything they’ve ever written. Their poems are daring and wise, full of love, breathtakingly tender and honest. Do they write with a woman’s sensitivity? Absolutely. Do I feel as though I’m reading “women’s literature”? Absolutely not. It’s deeper than that — both arresting and sublime in a way that transcends gender.

My preconceptions about Iran — about women and the veil, and how being “covered” relates to both body and culture — were blown out of the water by this anthology. Many of the essays run with the idea that American culture is far more repressed when it comes to matters of the body than the Iranian culture. They suggest there’s more touching, more openness among Iranian women.

Sharon L. Parker, in “Departures and Arrivals,” writes that her mother’s depression was a taboo subject in the American suburb where she lived for a time. But in Iran, the entire neighborhood was intensely and compassionately involved, grieving in communal empathy whenever her mother’s sorrows became particularly incapaci- tating.

“There is a tremendous sort of communal energy (in Iran). The whole business of the body and sexuality is completely misunderstood here (in the United States),” says Houshmand, the child of an American mother and an Iranian father who grew up in Iran in the 1970s. “We just assume because there is a covering and because there is some kind of conservative religious thing, that it fits with Western Victorian values. And it’s very, very different.”

Tara Bahrampour, writing about leaving Iran for a new life in the United States, writes this: “Once in America, I forgot the pleasure of casually entwined fingers, or arms linked together in friendship. I strictly followed the rules of American adolescence and made it clear to my family that kissing me was no longer acceptable. Physicality became confined to romance, and it was many years before I began to remember the comfort that comes with owning, and being owned by, a huge affectionate clan.”

What could be more universal than this longing for connection? It’s the foundation of the writing, the inspiration of these books, the best hope for our future.”

Speaking of “Let me tell you” and the “Literature from the Axis of Evil“, Brad Buchholz writes: “… they tell stories. They take us behind the veil, onto loading docks, through mine fields, by way of fiction, memoir and poetry. They reflect the better nature of humankind, as well as the fallibility and ignorance that is common to us all. They consider difference, and distance — even if it’s in the form of a poem, in which a palm tree and a star talk with one another in the spirit of adoration and longing.

Star said to Palm: How far

would I fall to your knots

and root? Palm said: Thousands

will kneel before you.

Star: I am

just white dust behind rippling


Palm: See how

my green blades wear you …….


5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Bijan said, on February 20, 2007 at 1:53 am

    I’m jumping in “like a laborer”, with my shoes off, as usual. The one thing I was reminded of was the touching and affection. After being here a few years, I used to jump when another guy wanted to kiss me or hold my hand in public. I’m more confident know, so I jump less, much less. Now, I just do avoid it as a matter of hygiene or being a germ phobic.

  2. Bijan said, on February 20, 2007 at 2:38 am

    Btw, “The barefoot laborer,” I’m going to officially coin and reserve that phrase for myself from now on. You have no idea what a candid freedom and a sensation like an epiphany it grants me. I’m stripped off all my inhibitions and feel as if I can freely express my casual, but limited, opinions as if I belong here and get a way with it.

  3. homeyra said, on February 20, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Salam! barefoot laborer 🙂
    Glad to see you in a good mood!
    It is interesting that you have a connexion with this book. I guess I didn’t expect an Iranian man to be the first to write here. But after all all this is a shared memory. Thank you!
    I find this few lines about the star and the palm absolutely beautiful. I read it over and over again. It has the musical aspect of Persian poetry.

  4. nana said, on February 23, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    please help me!
    for escaping from Iran I need to write sop about
    Anthropology,Iranian women in diaspora.
    woh can help me?

  5. homeyra said, on February 23, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Hi nana
    you have plenty of material online, just click on the links above. You can find many things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: