The Cypress Tree: A Love Letter to Iran
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Kamin Mohammadi was nine years old when her family fled Iran during the 1979 Revolution. Bewildered by the seismic changes in her homeland, she turned her back on the past and spent her teenage years trying to fit in with British attitudes to family, food and freedom. She was twenty-seven before she returned to Iran, drawn inexorably back by memories of her grandmother's house in Abadan, with its traditional inner courtyard, its noisy gatherings and its very wallssteeped in history.The Cypress Tree is Kamin's account of her journey home, to rediscover her Iranian self and to discover for the first time the story of her family: a sprawling clan that sprang from humble roots to bloom during the affluent, Biba-clad 1960s, only to be shaken by the horrors of the Iran-Iraq War and the heartbreak of exile, and toughened by the struggle for democracy that continues today.This moving and passionate memoir is a love letter both to Kamin's extraordinary family and toIran itself, an ancient country which has survived so much modern tumult but where joy and resilience will always triumph over despair.
the lives of our neighbours. Inadequacy because despite my degree in literature and burgeoning career as a journalist, I could not read or write well in Farsi, and could only speak it hesitantly and with an English accent. In my mother tongue, I was practically illiterate, an uncomfortable space for an intellectual snob to occupy. The drive back to Iran continued almost in spite of me and finally, one day I found myself fiddling again with my headscarf as my mother and I started the journey back
We may bend and bend on the wind but we will never break.’ 9 Khaleh Mina, Maman Doh I always found it difficult to explain Khaleh Yassi’s upbringing to my English friends. I could not quite make them understand how my youngest aunt had been reared by her older sister as well as her mother; to them it spoke of rejection and a transgression of the familiar lines of family. The concept of extended family, something so encompassing and supportive that it spilled over the walls of houses and
was no longer the sophisticated city of pre-revolutionary days. The grand Abadan Hotel where my parents had danced the night away was a broken-down shell of a building. The oil refinery was still at work – in 1997 it had reached the same rate of production as before the war – and the waters of the Shatt still flowed gently between the town and Iraq’s palm fields – but the main town was a dusty relic of its former self, the pavements broken and streets with their neon shop fronts a mix of new
ramrod straight and was adored by his soldiers. Reza Khan had arrived and he was determined to modernise the country, whatever the British thought. Maman-joon once told me that when she was a child and still living in Bushehr, Reza Khan had stopped at the port town on his way to Khuzestan to quash a tribal rebellion, and her father, Mirza Esmael Khan, had been a member of his welcoming party. Afterwards, her father had described the great man with such animation, exaggerating so enthusiastically
in its present and in planning its future. Some made it back, buoyed by Khatami’s victory and the promise of better times and more openness, and there was some effort to lure us back too. One day I had gone to visit to the press attaché of the Iranian Embassy in London. I was involved in writing a radio documentary that people at the BBC were interested in commissioning, but before they would take it further, they wanted to know that we would be given visas and permissions. The press attaché, a