(Reviewed by Amanda Richards SEP 17, 2007)
“You are never the same … once you have seen the green of the Caspian.”
This story takes place in Iran, in the years before the Islamic revolution. Told by a young girl named Yaas (meaning “poet’s jasmine” in Farsi) we learn of the peculiar circumstances under which her parents first laid eyes on each other, and the troubled relationship that denied both mother and daughter a normal life.
The majority of the story is about Bahar (meaning “spring”) the girl’s mother, who comes from the Jewish slums. Her family is best described as dysfunctional, but probably no more so than many others in the neighborhood. Bahar’s mother is a seamstress whose wealthy customers will admit that she can’t sew, but is honest and charges low fees for her work. Her father is a cantor whose voice has only carried him as far as weddings and funerals, and her siblings include a slacker dude with aspirations to be an opera singer; a brother who converted to Islam to acquire wealth; a ghost brother who died when he was ten but hasn’t yet accepted this fact; an unmarried older sister, and another who is unhappily married with two children.
From this background, a chance meeting with Omid (meaning “hope”) eventually takes the girl out of the ghetto, but the stigma remains for life, and unfortunately she gets no support from her husband who almost immediately acquires other interests when he learns that she has a mind of own. A series of unfortunate events unfold, one disappointment being the arrival of a daughter when the experts had foretold the birth of a son. Yaas finds her young life consumed by her mother’s longing for acceptance as Bahar tries to relive her life through her daughter.The narrative is richly descriptive, with several intriguing sub-plots involving a tango dancer, a German couple with a terrible past, illicit and tragic relationships and more, but the story comes to a much too sudden stop after the long journey of hope.
- Amazon readers rating: from 3 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Caspian Rain at author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Cry of the Peacock (1991)
- Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith (1999)
- Sunday's Silence (2001)
- Caspian Rain (September 2007)
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- Official website for the Gina B. Nahai
- Booksense interview with Gina B. Nahai
- JewishFamily.com interview with Gina Nahai
- BookReporter.com review of Cry of the Peacock
- Excerpt from Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith
- LA Times review of Caspian Rain
- BookReporter.com review of Caspian Rain
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About the Author:
Gina B. Nahai was born in Iran and educated in Switzerland and the United States. Nahai holds a BA and a Master’s degree in International Relations from UCLA, and an MFA in Creative Writing from USC. She is a former consultant for the Rand Corporation, and has researched the politics of pre- and post-revolutionary Iran for the United States Department of Defense. She is a frequent lecturer on Iranian Jewish history and the topic of exile.
Cry of the Peacock, told for the first time the 3,000 year old story of Jewish people of Iran and won the Los Angeles Arts Council Award for Fiction. Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith was a finalist for the Orange Prize in England and the IMPAC award in Dublin. Her novels have been translated into sixteen languages and are taught at universities and high schools nationwide. Nahai was a contributing author to The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt, which won the 2005 Jewish Book Award. her writing has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Magazine, and the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.
Ms. Nahai currently teaching fiction writing at the University of Southern California's Master of Professional Writing program and lives with her family in Los Angeles.