• ISBN13:


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  • Edition: 00
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 1999-05-17
  • Publisher: BRAZILLER

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This collection is the first published anthology of writings by Iranian immigrants and first generation Iranian Americans. Wide ranging and deeply personal, these pieces explore the Iranian community's continuing struggle to understand what it means to be Iranian in America. The selections come together to present a rich, humanizing portrait of a growing community Americans tend to view negatively. Many are intimate reflections on the pain of being alienated from the language, history, and geography of one's childhood. Others grapple with the complexities of cultural and personal identity. Iranian Americans, like any other immigrant community, must face the ongoing negotiation between past and present, their native home and their adopted home. A World Between gives voice to their unique and moving stories.


Chapter One


empty pickle jars line

the bottom of the pantry

gossiping in vinegar.

they await the alchemist's blessing

eager to join the consecrated

vessels amassed above

flush with tarragon and mint

saffron and thyme.

the cupboard is a shrine

each tea tin a reliquary

every burlap rice sack a benediction.

"try this," you murmured

and laughed as I puzzled over

the red leather bulb

a fat sunburned king

with a tiny stem crown.

it was my first pomegranate.

at ten I made chai

you let me

praised me for it

though I was always the guest

always will be.

twenty thousand

casserole afternoons

a lifetime of prayer

forever on your knees

crushing lentils into paste

drying herbs on bronze platters

pressing forehead to floor

have turned your spine into limestone

and you still start from scratch

one eye on the sun

the other on me

addasi, ash reshteh, ghormeh sabzi

I have tasted your love songs.

(*) The prayer Muslims perform five times a day.


"goldfish are cheap,

dollar a dozen.

wait'll you see the rest."

I pointed to sea horses, angel fish, porcupine puffers,

"goldfish," grandma whispered, "two of them."

the shopkeeper fetched her a pair of aces,

they danced in the bowl like ochre bullion,

flashed like canary ducats. Carassius auratus .

the kind you'd expect in a picture

by the dictionary definition.

two weeks into the new year,

her nightstand bare.

" naneh ... the goldfish?"

"they had nothing to eat," she mumbled,

frowning to keep from crying.

"no one to feed them."

(*) Nowruz , literally "new day," refers to the Iranian New Year and marks the arrival of spring. Goldfish, among other things, serve as symbols of good fortune and are traditionally found in Iranian households during New Year celebrations.

dastet dard nakoneh(*)

grandma can't thread

a needle anymore,

says, "it's better I die"

as though it will happen

soon. until then,

I'll thread her needles.

(*) A Persian expression of thanks whose rough translation is "May your hand be free of pain."

yeki bud, yeki nabud(*)

what goes without saying?

ours is a history of silence,

an assemblage of garments

strung on a clothesline of

glyph glances and idle chatter.

my tongue, built of porcelain,

dams a decade of questions,

moots that have faded

like the cerulean marks

on your fingers and forehead.

I carry your image

in the book that you gave me,

sewn from your lips.

the story begins:

one was, one wasn't.

(*) Literally, "one was, one wasn't." It is the Persian equivalent of "once upon a time."



she's there again,

pouring tea leaves

onto the dew-soaked lawn,

scattering rice scraps beneath

the weeping willow.

sparrows converge,

as always.


"during shortfalls, your

grandmother would fast for days,

place her portion on our plates.

each time she'd insist,

`I have eaten.'"


sure as the dawn,

her first words are, " ghaza khordi? "

"have you eaten?"

as I mumble, "I have,"

naneh turns toward the kitchen

and replies, "eat again love,

eat again."

Copyright The copyright to each selection is held by its author. All rights reserved.

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