Monday Books No. 20: Persian Girls by Nahid Rachlin

Dr. Stephanie Han holding a copy of Nahid Rachlin's Persian Girls

Aloha! For Monday Books I would like to recommend the classic memoir PERSIAN GIRLS by Nahid Rachlin. This memoir is an example of how lyricism and truth deliver transcendence. This is the art of literature at its best, and in its fluidity shows us how writing easily moves across genres. While categorized as memoir, the book gives reads like a novel. This is a masterful piece of writing and I highly recommend it as a necessary read for a range of reading lists: high school through graduate school. It’s that good, relevant, and accessible.

I have assigned this book for many classes and it has resonated with all of my students because this is the story of an individual woman both belonging and at odds with her culture. She loves with compassion and forgiveness, but rises with determination to assert herself into existence. This book was written decades ago. Rachlin still receives letters from women about this book. It’s a CLASSIC. I don’t say that about many books.

Rachlin weaves story and raises questions: How do women negotiate lives in a world where men determine their destinies? (Let’s be realistic here–this is globally…we do not have gender equity). What are the compromises between sisters? How do we long for freedom and comfort? When are we free to express our hearts and humanity? Who defines the terms of motherhood? The role of the wife? The duty of a daughter?

She is one of the first women from Iran to give Western readers a picture of life in the country of her origin and her body of work underscores a 21st century global aesthetic–transnational and polycultural.

I am THRILLED that Rachlin will be visiting my Women’s Creative Writing Workshop on February 27! I am also indebted to her for making a specific difference in my own life. She was the judge for the AWP Grace Paley Prize in 2015 and Swimming in Hong Kong was the sole finalist for this prize. She saw me. Forever grateful and deeply honored.

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