"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jumping over Fire (book review)

RACHLIN, Nahid. Jumping over Fire (2006)

When Muslim extremists outlaw the Persian tradition of bonfires in celebration of Norooz (New Year), the children in Nora and Jahan’s neighborhood build their own small fires in the street, jumping and playing until police chase them back into their houses. This is just one of many gemlike memories that, strung together like a series of Persian miniatures, relate Nora’s story of her life in a world fragmented by irreconcilable forces

As children, the privileged daughter and son of an American mother and an Iranian father create a magical world of their own within a larger doll’s house, the housing compound of the Iranian-American Oil Company. As they enter adolescence, they discover that Jahan was adopted, and their love takes an erotic and ambiguously incestuous turn. When political unrest forces the family to escape to America, they must build new lives; there, and finally in Iran, the now-mostly-American Nora (who pursues a law degree to help liberate women) and the now-mostly-Persian Jahan (who is drawn back into an Islamic fundamentalism his own parents never taught) ultimately free themselves of their secret pasts and find very different paths to adulthood.

Complexities of Iranian culture, recent history, and current events create a vivid background for a moving and suspenseful story. A deeply flawed family, and the people of many nationalities who touch their lives, is seen with a clear but forgiving eye; the heavy toll of intolerance is shown with an unsparing one. A discussion guide is provided, though it seems unlikely most groups would need one to spark a lively interchange of ideas inspired by this wise and timely novel.

(review adapted from one I wrote for SLJ, recommending the book to Adults and High School readers)

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