Review: Rooftops of Tehran

December Selection: Omaha Bookworm’s

A few of the gals in our book club read this book late summer/early fall and asked if we could discuss this novel with Mahbod Seraji.  I’m pleased to announce that we will be talking with the author on December 15.  I will include a follow up post of our discussion to share with everyone later this month.   

From the author’s website: Mahbod Seraji came to America in May of 1976, with the intent of obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering, and then returning to Iran to work in its booming construction industry.  But it wasn’t long after his arrival that upheaval and turmoil swept his country -- the Shah was overthrown in 1979, the American diplomats in Tehran were taken hostage by a group of radical university students, and Saddam Hussein’s army attacked Iran, starting a war that lasted over eight years and claimed over one million lives – and Mahbod was forced to change his plans by staying at the University of Iowa until 1989 and securing his Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees. 

Quick Take: This is a beautifully crafted story.  A coming of age story, during the instability of Iran's political climate. Filled with culture, values, and affection.  Reading reviews on BN.com, I saw a few comparisons to The Kite Runner (I can see how this comparison is made).

Click here to listen to an author interview with Carrie from Words to Mouth.  I highly recommend listening to this - it's a wonderful interview

Author Q&A:
Tell us a little about yourself: I was born in Iran.  Came to the US in 1976 before the Iranian revolution.  I received all my degrees (BS, MA, and Ph. D.) from the University of Iowa.  I always wanted to write, but never had the chance because of my corporate career.  Eventually I was laid off at a job and started to write.  I lived most of my life in the Midwest but moved to CA at the end of 99.  

Do you write daily? ....I try.  I find myself doing some sort of writing everyday - it feels inescapable... while writing Rooftops, I felt most creative during the evenings.  I would start around 7:00 PM and go to bed early in the morning. Sometimes not realizing how much time had passed.  It is amazing how you find more energy for things you love to do! 

What was it like getting your first novel published? I was going through some stressful experiences at the time with some, let’s say, not very nice people.  One evening the phone rang, but by the time I got to it, the call had gone into the voicemail.  I looked at the caller ID and recognized my wonderful agent’s phone number (Danielle Egan – Miller).  She had never called that late in the evening – so I figured something must be up.  When we got the good news, my wife started to cry - with everything that had been going on in my life, she had been praying for something positive to happen - anything to get me out of the funk  -  She had no idea that her prayers were being answered by having a lifelong dream of mine come to fruition. 

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? I know the trend is irreversible just like any other technology – for example, we can't go back to not having emails, and I remember people who thought emailing was destroying our social lives at work – Instead of walking over to talk to people, we were sending each other emails two cubes down the hallway.  But we lived through it and our social lives have enhanced because of on-line social networking, forums, blogs, etc.  Of course in Kindle’s case there are environmental advantages in going electronic and I welcome it from that perspective...  but for me there is something very special in the experience of holding a book in my hand, seeing it on my bookshelf, falling asleep with it on my chest….  I don’t think the book, as we know it, would go away in my life time, and I'm happy about that.   

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? Don’t give up whether you hit a bump when writing a story, or when attempting to publish it, don’t give up. But also listen to advice.  It takes a lot to publish a book and many people have to feel right about it.  So sometimes you need to be flexible in the way you think about your craft. 

What are you reading now? I recently finished Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and enjoyed it very much.  But right now I'm reading a non-fiction book by Stephen Kinzer called Overthrow.  I think his All the Shah's Men was fantastic. I love intelligent writers.  Next fiction on my list is Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. 

Lastly, share one or two of your all time favorite novels read, excluding classics:  Wow, excluding classics?  Angela's Ashes, The Road, Life of Pi, all of these books will be on the classic list someday, if they're not already.

Just for fun:
Favorite Season: Spring - always - this is when the days start to get longer - more light - more playing time - more life - but I wish I could forego the damn allergies 

Morning or night: Oh, night for sure 

Favorite ice cream flavor: Simple - Vanilla 

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go: I've been traveling throughout my life for work -- so I’ve been to most places already but would go back to China any day - great country, so much history and so very much left to learn.  

Type: Fiction, 368 pages, Trade paperback

Synopsis:
In this poignant, eye-opening and emotionally vivid novel, Mahbod Seraji lays bare the beauty and brutality of the centuries-old Persian culture, while reaffirming the human experiences we all share.

In a middle-class neighborhood of Iran's sprawling capital city, 17-year-old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend Ahmed, joking around one minute and asking burning questions about life the next. He also hides a secret love for his beautiful neighbor Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. But the bliss of Pasha and Zari's stolen time together is shattered when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah's secret police. The violent consequences awaken him to the reality of living under a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice...

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