Anne Mehdevi

Parveen, Anne MehdeviAnne Mehdevi

You will have to search to find this book, but it’s worth your time. The year is 1921, and sixteen-year-old Parveen travels alone from Chicago to Persia to visit the father she does not remember; her parents divorced when she was only three.

The trip is a huge adventure. Her father’s home, Ali-Abad, is set among gardens and streams; the sound of running water is everywhere; days are “filled with sweetness.” Nearly all of Persian life entrances Parveen: languid hours spent gossiping and eating dates; early morning horseback rides shared with a neighbor; a climate that invites napping and dreaming. She delights in wearing Persian dress and soon gets accustomed to having a servant brush her hair and pour rose water over her hands.

Then Parveen learns that the letters she has been writing to her mother since her arrival have never been mailed, with distressing consequences. Hoping to make amends, her father invites her to judge cases in the local court where he presides. “You have been brought up in America, where decency and justice are the rule . . . I want you to look at my cases with your modern eyes.” But justice proves to be a slippery concept.

Much worse, the treatment of women in Persia utterly appalls Parveen. Her stepmother gives birth to a child in a closed, airless room that nearly suffocates her, and the reaction to its gender (only a girl) is an insult. Parveen becomes convinced that if she stays, her father will sell her in marriage and she will be trapped forever under Persian law. With breathtaking bravado, she plots an escape on foot, across open country, in the company of only a blind village woman.

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