Exploring the roots of her father’s deep silences and explosive temper, her mother’s flamboyance and flights from home, and her own sense of indebtedness to her Iranian-born brothers, Amini uncovers the story of her parents’ early years in Mashhad, Iran’s holiest Muslim city; the little-known history and historic persecution of underground Jews in this ancestral homeland; the incident that steeled her mother’s resolve to leave; and her parents’ arduous journey to the U.S., where they faced a new threat to their traditions: the threat of freedom. Determined to protect his daughter from corruption, Amini’s father prohibits talk, books, education, and pushes an early Persian marriage instead. Can she resist? Should she? Focused intently on what she stands to gain, Amini comes to see what she also stands to lose: a family and community bound together by food, celebrations, sibling escapades, and unexpected acts of devotion by parents to whom she feels invisible.
In this poignant, funny, entertaining, and uplifting memoir, Amini documents with keen eye, quick wit, and warm heart how family members build, buoy, wound, and save one another across generations; how lives are shaped by the demands and burdens of loyalty and legacy; and how she rose to the challenge of deciding what to keep and what to discard.
Esther’s mother, age 14, and her father, age 34, as newlyweds in Mashhad, Iran