Funny story: I got the ARC from a friend who wasn’t too interested in reading it. Saw the extremely pink cover. Read the synopsis. Discovered that it was a coming of age story about a young American-Iranian girl living in Los Angeles. Figured to myself, sure, why not? This could be worth a read.
I didn’t feel strongly about this book then. But boy, do I feel strongly about it now.
Here’s a young girl Daria, who we first meet at the birthday party of her former best friend and now tormentor Heidi, who is having the most Iranian/Persian birthday party ever while she and her current friends (The Authentics) marvel at the tackiness of it all. In contrast to her former best friend, Daria is true to herself (unlike Heidi, who got a nose job like the rest of her Iranian clique).
But like in all coming of age stories, life happens. And as a result, Daria goes on a journey of self-discovery where all her definitions about culture, love, family, friends, and life are shaken to the core. [I know – who uses shaken to the core anymore right? Well, I do. Because I’m ancient… and because it really is the most accurate description of what happens to her.]
I cared about Daria. I cared about her figuring out her next steps after the big inciting incident that comes crashing into her story like clockwork. This book made me care, and that’s not something that happens a lot for me.
Abdi Nazemian has written a gem of a book. Memorable characters, a fairly simple yet moving plot, and an elegant writing style that literally bookends the narrative… what more could you ask from a good read?
The only thing I wish I could do is get to know someone who actually is Iranian and can help me understand the many cultural nuances the author built into this story. What I love about this book is that you don’t have to be Iranian to enjoy it. That someone who is not familiar with the culture got to enjoy the story means it transcends the cultural nuances, without taking anything away from it.
I can’t comment on how this novel ultimately speaks so many things about American/Iranian culture. But I can say it’s a brilliant story filled with people you can feel for and love. It’s accessible to those who have zero idea what Iranian culture is, but it hints at a poignancy that those who are familiar with the culture may pick up on. Overall, it pulls on the heartstrings and pulls no punches. Definite top shelf material.