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A Mirror Garden: A Memoir

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good*

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Book Overview

Both a love story and a celebration of the warmth and elegance of Iranian culture, A Mirror Garden is a genuine fairy tale of an exuberant heroine who has never needed rescuing. "Captivating....... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Iran--A Mirror of a Life

A Mirror Garden: A Memoir dispels the media's worn-out image of Iran as only about enriched uranium. Authors Farmanfarmaian and Houshmand create an image of Iran that envelops a complex country. Telling the story of Farmanfarmaian's life, they weave together images like a distinctive Persian rug or tapestry, filled with all the bright colors and some very dark ones that exemplify Farmanfarmaian's long life. Farmanfarmaian begins by showing herself lying on blankets looking at the ceiling where "lines of gold and black traced nightingales and roses on wooden panels of cobalt blue, the color of the night sky," while she listened to her grandmother tell stories. Always aware of color and light, she leads the reader through the ups and downs of life to her emergence as an artist in a land where women were supposed to be confined to the home, cooking and cleaning for their families and raising their children. Farmanfarmaian grows up amid wealth inherited from her grandfather who traded along the Silk Road. Although she lived a privileged life, she still experienced pain and struggle with the loss of two sisters, one who died from tuberculosis and the other from appendicitis. Always relating through an artist's eye, she renders even her grief beautifully. Visiting her sister, Iran, dying with tuberculosis, Farmanfarmaian and her nephew, Bahram (her chaperone), ride their bicycles on weekends to visit Iran, "pumping uphill all the way but still pleasant through the dappled shade of the sycamores watered by rushing streams on each side of the road...Listening to the river, invisible a hundred meters below in the ravine, the rushing sound echoed in the windy rustle of leaves." Her sensuous words carry the reader along throughout the memoir. After Iran died, Farmanfarmaian's grief was boundless. "At Abdolabad that summer, I haunted the two special rocks where Iran and I had sat so often. I remembered the silky feel of her hair as I wove it in braids. I remembered the nights we had sat there, the moonlight casting shadows on the rocks and washing the plains below...I sat on the rocks and cried, my tears drying in the wind with a tiny chill almost as fast as their trails could run down my face." Schooling for girls in Iran seemed to lack seriousness as Farmanfarmaian remembers childhood pranks where she and her friends often had to stand long hours on one foot facing the wall for punishment while trying not to giggle. In spite of her privilege, Farmanfarmaian maintains a self-effacing attitude untouched by arrogance. Even though affluent, she addresses the needs of the less fortunate, readily acknowledging that "I knew I wasn't going to solve the world's problems." After graduation, she emigrated to New York with her fiancé, and her brother, Hassan. A difficult marriage did not prevent her from pursuing her artistic interests, although she soon found herself abandoned in New York with her daughter, Nima. Eventually she divorced and moved back t

Inside Iran - a personal story breaks down barriers

I chose this book because my knowledge of this part of the world is so limited. Although I consider myself to be fairly enlightened and not influenced by stereotypes, I realized about 10 pages in that I hadn't conceived of the richness of a woman's life in Iran. Monir's life is a personal, cultural, political, artistic journey in which she rejects self pity and creates and sustains beauty around her. Very inspiring.

Fantastic book!

Such a beautiful story. I could not put it down until finished. Although I've never been to Iran, I feel as though I have now. The imagery in this book is wonderful, as is the writing. Thank you Ms. Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian and Ms. Houshmand for sharing this with us.

More, please

I loved this book. I felt as though Monir was speaking to me as an old and trusted friend, revealing secrets and intrigues without hesitation. I cried, too. The author's descriptions of places and objects were exquisite; I could see the artwork in my mind before seeing photos later in the book. I particularly enjoyed reading about Monir's interactions with her countrymen, her compassion and her persistence in a culture dominated by men. This is a fascinating view of an Iranian woman which is certainly different from what most Americans would imagine, a must-read for those of us who need a more balanced outlook into the culture. It piqued my curiosity to learn more about the history and politics of the country. The photographs and drawings contribute much to the experience; I found myself looking back at the glamorous "Day and Night" several times. Coincidentally, my 16-year-old daughter was reading the graphic novels Persepolis and Persepolis 2 at the same time, and we were able to share our observations. I hope to hear much more from Ms. Houshmand.

Spirited woman, Iranian artist

This is a beautifully written biography capturing the life of an Iranian woman artist as she grows in confidence, from her childhood in Iran in the 20s, to her globe-hopping success today. The book captures the wonder of a child experiencing the colors and smells of her environment in Qazvin and picks ups pace as she moves to New York (crossing the Pacific during WWII). It describes her return to Iran and growth as an artist as she discovers, collects and preserves traditional arts, all the while evolving as an artist herself. For those familiar with "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by A Nafisi, the juxtaposition of the life of an adventurous and exceptional woman during the Shah's era is in striking contrast to that of Nafisi. Illustrations and photographs are sprinkled through the book - my favorite is of the giant nudes painted in a swimming pool. They give the reader wonderful examples of the influences on the artist and of her own art. The book fascinates as it provides a unique view into Iran before and after the revolution, from the perspective of a spirited and unorthodox woman finding her way in a unique society and emerging into her own as an artistic force.
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