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Reviews of In the Time of Our History by Susanne Pari

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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    Jan 2023, 384 pages

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Book Summary

Inspired by her own family's experiences following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Susanne Pari explores the entangled lives within an Iranian American family grappling with generational culture clashes, the roles imposed on women, and a tragic accident that forces them to reconcile their guilt or forfeit their already tenuous bonds.

Set between San Francisco and New Jersey in the late-1990's, In the Time of Our History is a story about the universal longing to create a home in this world – and what happens when we let go of how we've always been told it should look.

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." Ana is always in Mitra's heart, though they chose very different paths. While Ana, sweet and dutiful, bowed to their domineering father's demands and married, Mitra rebelled, and was banished.

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.

PROLOGUE

As a matter of coincidence, the American Embassy hostages were released on the same day that Mitra Jahani had her tubes tied. January 20, 1981. She saw the men on a wall-mounted television screen when she woke up from the surgery. The volume was low, but she heard their hoots and hollers, saw one punch the air in triumph, another one kiss the tarmac at the bottom of the mobile stairs. Fifty-two of them, long-haired and bearded, looking fairly decent for having spent more than a year in the clutches of a group of young Iranian militants. Either I'm still zoned out and dreaming, Mitra thought, or I'm hallucinating.

Mitra closed her eyes, counted to five, opened them tentatively, and kept her gaze away from the television screen. Here was the top of her hand, covered in a mess of clear tape, sprouting a needle and IV tubing that snaked beyond her peripheral vision. Here was her body covered in a flimsy white hospital blanket, her big feet down there like two molehills. Her ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Mitra and Anahita are first generation Americans, while the rest of the Jahanis are immigrants. What are some of the ways the sisters are different from the others, and do you think the presence of the extended family in their lives influenced their personalities and choices?
  2. In the Time of Our History tells the story of a secular and educated immigrant family, most of whose members have resettled in the United States because of a Revolution that gave rise to a brutal regime in Iran. Can you imagine yourself in a similar situation? How do you think you would cope with exile and migration to a foreign country? Many of the Jahanis cling to old traditions in order to retain a sense of belonging. Which beliefs and norms would you try to ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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 (Diane J). 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 (Mary L). 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 (Rebecca H)...continued

Full Review (753 words)

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

Booklist
[An] immersive tale of a first-generation immigrant determined to blaze her own path.

Foreword Reviews
A sprawling story of loss and healing in the immigrant experiences of an Iranian American family… This vibrant story is told in intricate, heartfelt detail."

Publishers Weekly
This expertly paced story easily navigates the cultural differences between newer Americans and older immigrants and provides a frank look at fraught family dynamics. For fans of sweeping family sagas, this is like catnip.

Cori Cusker, Bright Side Bookshop (Flagstaff, AZ)
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.

Author Blurb Amy Tan, New York Times bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club
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.

Author Blurb Anita Amirrezvani, author of The Blood of Flowers and Equal of the Sun
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.

Author Blurb Carrie Deming, The Dog Eared Book (Palmyra, NY)
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.

Author Blurb Douglas Beatty, Baltimore County Public Library (Baltimore, MD)
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.

Author Blurb Jennifer Dayton, Fairfield Public Library (Fairfield, CT)
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.

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

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

Author Blurb Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistress of Paris
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.

Author Blurb Rabih Alameddine, National Book Award and the National Book Critics' Circle Award finalist for An Unnecessary Woman
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.

Author Blurb Vanessa Hua, bestselling author of A River of Stars
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.

Reader Reviews

Anthony Conty

A Culturally Significant Page-Turner
“In the Time of Our History” by Susanne Pari shows what happened when two Iranian-American sisters followed entirely different paths. Literature does not always allow those from Iran their humanity. When one woman suffers an untimely death, her ...   Read More
Molly Agrimson

In the Time of Our History
Susanne Pari paints a poignant, yet resilient, picture of the Jahani family in this novel. Her writing is comprehensive and beautiful, and evokes a tangible understanding of Iranian American life. I had not previously heard of the author before, but ...   Read More
Windell H. (Rock Hill, SC)

In the time of our history
A well written story of a family challenges on many fronts. It shows us how difficult it is keep the past and present in sync. With the cultural differences life has a way of showing up no matter where you are. This story shows us that families are ...   Read More
Mitzi K. (Cumming, GA)

Beautiful and Powerful Prose
In the Time of Our History by Susanne Pari is the story of the Jahani family adapting to life in the United States after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Shireen is the dutiful, obedient wife dominated by her overbearing husband. Mitra is a rebellious ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Iranian Americans

Iranian stores on Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles Susanne Pari's In the Time of Our History focuses on an Iranian American immigrant family between New Jersey and San Francisco in the 1990s. The novel is inspired by the author's own family's experiences following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. While people of Iranian descent have lived in the United States since at least the 1930s, immigration from Iran to America surged after the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi during the revolution, as a strict Islamic regime took over. More people left the country for the US to flee the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, and the Iranian American population has continued to grow steadily since.

The majority of Iranian Americans today live in Southern California, primarily the Los Angeles area — ...

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