In the Time of Our History Summary and Reviews

In the Time of Our History

by Susanne Pari

In the Time of Our History by Susanne Pari X
In the Time of Our History by Susanne Pari
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About this book

Book Summary

The prodigal daughter of Iranian immigrants returns to her family home for her sister's One Year – the Persian tradition of marking the first anniversary of someone's death – in an intimate story of identity and duty set in late-1990s San Francisco and New Jersey.

Inspired by her own family's experiences after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Susanne Pari explores the entangled lives of an Iranian American family grappling with generational culture lashes, the roles of women, and the conflicting desire to carve our own path in the world – even as we long for the place we once called home.

Twelve months after her younger sister Anahita's death, Mitra Jahani reluctantly returns to her parents' home in suburban New Jersey to observe the Iranian custom of "The One Year." It's one of many Persian traditions from which Mitra has spent her adult life liberating herself. Her sister, as dutiful and sweet as Mitra was rebellious, is always in her heart, and so is the guilt that Mitra can neither reveal nor assuage. She doesn't need to gather with gossipy relatives over fragrant saffron rice pudding to remember and grieve for Ana. She is especially not eager to share space with the father who banished her when she refused a traditional path as an obedient wife.

Caught in the middle is their mother, Shireen, torn between her fierce love for her surviving daughter and her loyalty to her husband. Yet his callousness even amid shattering loss has compelled her to rethink her own decades of submission. And when Mitra is suddenly forced to confront hard truths about her sister's life, and the secrets each of them hid to protect others, mother and daughter reach a new understanding—and forge an unexpected path forward.

Alive with the tensions, sacrifices, and joys that thrum within the heart of every family, In the Time of Our History is also laced with the richness of ancient and modern Persian culture and politics, in a tale that is both timeless and profoundly relevant.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A poignant examination of what it means to be in exile, either from the country of one's birth, or of one's own heart." – Jennifer Dayton, Fairfield Public Library (Fairfield, CT)

"This jewel of a novel is a universal tale that naturally leads to self-reflection and conversations about the changing relationship between mothers and daughters, and the choices we make, good and bad, early in life and late, which determine our identity." – Amy Tan, New York Times bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club

"There is so much wisdom and love in this irresistible and assured novel. Susanne Pari understands the complex and flawed thing that is family and carves right into the center of the human heart." – Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistress of Paris

"Beautifully written… I'm still thinking about the women who inhabited these pages, the choices they made, and the love between them." – Lisa See, New York Times bestselling author of The Island of Sea Women

"In the Time of Our History provides a kaleidoscopic look at what it means to be an Iranian-American, what it means to be an American—what it means to be human. Susanne Pari has written a wonderful story that is both unique and universal, a must-read tile in the new mosaic of American novels." – Rabih Alameddine, National Book Award and the National Book Critics' Circle Award finalist for An Unnecessary Woman

"For years, I've been waiting to read a novel that captures Iranian Americans in all their complexity. Susanne Pari's In the Time of Our History is that masterful gem. More than that, it is a beautifully refined tale of the conflicts, secrets, tragedies, and revelations that many immigrants and their American-born children must live through in order to preserve the fragile fabric of family in the diaspora." – Anita Amirrezvani, author of The Blood of Flowers and Equal of the Sun

"A bold Iranian-American woman fights the patriarchy in a most unusual way in this beautifully written novel about family conflict and healing." – Joan Steinau Lester, author of Loving Before Loving: A Marriage in Black and White

"Pari gives us a poignant experience of the isolation and loss of self that is often created by cultural, physical, and familial exile and displacement. More than a lesson in Iranian culture and history, Pari is exploring the timeless theme of familial obligations and shows how pushing against long-held beliefs and expectations often leads to unexpected revelations and hidden truths you failed to see were right in front of you." – Cori Cusker, Bright Side Bookshop (Flagstaff, AZ)

"In a work both timely and culturally relevant, this story of an Iranian American family struggling with grief will captivate readers with its nuanced characters and strong exploration of family dynamics… the roles of women in a changing society, and characters strain to find balance between a modern world and the traditional Moslem religion that is steeped in patriarchy." – Douglas Beatty, Baltimore County Public Library (Baltimore, MD)

"In The Time of Our History is so many things – beautifully written, filled with captivating characters and a really unique look at Iranian immigrants in the U.S. during the late 1990's. You will fall in love with the Jahani family (well, most of them) and not be ready to let them go at the end of the book." – Carrie Deming, The Dog Eared Book (Palmyra, NY)

"An enthralling, polyphonic novel of the Iranian diaspora. In the aftermath of tragedy, as secrets unfold, the Jahanis struggle and strive. By turns witty and poignant, this novel lingers in your thoughts long after the last page." – Vanessa Hua, bestselling author of A River of Stars

This information about In the Time of Our History was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Betty T. (Warner Robins, GA)

Well-written Family Saga
Beautifully written and thought-provoking.

I always find myself drawn to stories from the Middle East. Having had friends displaced during the Iranian Revolution, I found this story especially interesting. This story centers on the Iranian-born Jahani family and their extended family who fled Iran for America after the fall of the Shah in 1979. The setting for the Jahani family is San Francisco and New Jersey in the late 1990s.

It took a while for me to really get into this story, but once I reached that point, I became totally immersed in this family saga with its generational culture clashes and their conflict that centered on long-held secrets.

Through her masterful writing, Pari brought these characters to life. The father was stiff and domineering; Shireen, the mother, caught between her love for her children and the demands of her husband; sweet Ana who did what was expected by her father; and the rebellious Mitra ("a girl who wanted to be as free as a boy in choosing her future"). The emotions flowed from the pages into my heart, especially the shame, the pain, the frustrations, and the anger.

I liked how the family worked to find a blend between their new American home and their rich Persian culture, something all immigrant families encounter. This entire story is, in fact, based on the Iranian custom of "The One Year" which is the observance of the one-year anniversary of a death.

Arden A. (Longboat Key, FL)

Cultural Pitfalls
This was an excellent book depicting the trials and tribulations of an Irani family that immigrated to the United states, California and New Jersey, in the late 1990s. The cultural differences that occur in one family when the parents are from one country with strict traditions, and the children are born, or mostly raised, in this country, where those traditions are not appreciated or understood, present many possible areas of conflict and misunderstanding and stubbornness that lead to so much unnecessary family turmoil and heartbreak. Susanne Pari's novel describes these conflicts in a smooth flowing story delving deep into the minds of each of the characters, Mother, Father, Daughters, nephews, nannies from the old country. This is a beautifully told story and one I highly recommend.

Patricia S. (Lake Wylie, SC)

In the Time of Our History
Susanne Pari successfully captures the dynamics of relationships in an immigrant family facing generational cultural clashes, traumatic experiences, long-held secrets, and differing personalities. The characters are well-crafted and relatable, although not always likable - but that is to be expected in a realistic portrayal of family interactions. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will definitely recommend it to others when it is released.

Mary L. (Greeley, CO)

Amazing and complex characters
I am eager for this novel to be available so I can tell all the readers I know not to miss reading it. The depth of the characters made me want them to walk off the page so we could sit down, share tea and have deep conversations. Susanne Pari's novel opens both new and, at the same time, recognizable cultural and emotional worlds in this story of first and second generations as they navigate family, tradition, political upheaval, self-awareness and tragedy.

Diane J. (Grove City, PA)

Set in a Specific Time - Yet Timeless Family Story
Susanne Pari crafted a beautiful immigrant family story that drew me in and kept me captivated. I felt I was witnessing an unraveling of an artful web of multiple viewpoints and history. The story effortlessly describes each character's contribution or thread in that web. I felt emotionally invested in each angle of the various dynamics and family relationships, such as the push and pull of the bond between sisters, the strong love between mother and daughter, and the love-hate struggle of a patriarchal father-daughter duo. I also felt that the pacing of the story was on target, giving just enough time and detail to easily gain perspective and enough momentum to keep the reader compelled and engaged.

Rebecca H. (Bolton, CT)

In the Time of Our History by Susanne Pari
A beautifully written, character-driven gem of a novel, this is one of those stories that makes you sad when you reach the last page because you just aren't ready to let the characters go yet.
The displacement and the sense of not belonging anywhere common to immigrants are explored here, but the main focus is on the multi-generational family relationships within a large Iranian immigrant family. Cultural clashes and misunderstandings among immigrant parents and children raised in America, cousins, aunts, and uncles make up the meat of this novel. The oppression of women and of minorities in two countries, Iran and the United States of America, is also explored throughout the narrative. The relationships, particularly among the female characters, are depicted with tenderness and unflinching honesty. The action shifts in time from the 1970's to the present, now focusing on one set of characters and relationships, and then another. The characters are fully-fleshed and real, and the repercussions of certain decisions and attitudes sound down the generations.
I highly recommend this novel to lovers of historical fiction and multicultural literature.

...26 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Susanne Pari

Susanne Pari is an Iranian American novelist, journalist, essayist, and book reviewer. Born in New Jersey to an Iranian father and an American mother, she grew up both in the United States and Iran until the 1979 Islamic Revolution forced her family into permanent exile. She is the author of two novels – In the Time of Our History and The Fortune Catcher – and her non-fiction writing has appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, National Public Radio, and Medium. A former Program Director for Book Expo, she is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, the Author's Guild, the San Francisco Writers' Grotto, and the Castro Writers' Cooperative, she serves on the board of the Lakota Children's Enrichment Writing Project and is an alumna of the Hedgebrook Writing Residency. She writes occasionally for the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies blog and divides her time between Northern California and New York. Please visit her online at SusannePari.com.

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