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.
unfailingly styled, an instant icon in her later years to the gay boys she worked with in London. I am unlike her in style, having always been altogether too sloppy and tomboyish to achieve true elegance, but nonetheless my mother remains the model of feminine self-possession that I aspire to grow into. Sedi’s transformation from the skinny teenager with the prominent nose to the self-possessed lady came when she started work. My mother loved her job and she took her role seriously. Had she been
born to a less traditional father, she might have fulfilled her dreams of university and an illustrious career, but as it was she cherished the brief moment she had as a working woman in Abadan. After graduating from the Technical Institute, she started working at the Company as a secretary and her efficiency soon saw her promoted to work for one of the directors. She told me she had been so excited to start work, she had even had her eyebrows shaped before her first day. In those days, tradition
are tough, somehow finding a way around the obstacles, infiltrating the dominant culture of the invader, transforming it to glory. In the first thousand years of our life as a country, Iranians learnt best of all how to survive. Our elaborate manners are designed to protect our private selves and this trait, born of so many invasions, has made Iranians adaptable above all else. Wherever we are scattered in the world, we integrate. It passed below us, mountains and valleys, deserts and seas all
written, it seemed to me, with the stories of my ancestors, the whole country crisscrossed with our adventures, losses, passions and laughter. Up in the north-west province of Azerbaijan began my mother’s strand of my family’s story. Ali was from a family who for generations farmed land outside Baku in the Azerbaijan region that historically belonged to Iran but, like a hyperactive pawn, changed hands between Russia and Iran repeatedly through the nineteenth century. Ali, after an argument with
Kurdistan, to have dispatched up to sixty Kurds a day. Men like Khalkhali, whose loyalty was with Islam rather than with Iran, were now in charge. They wanted to tear down Persepolis and denounced Cyrus the Great as a homosexual; Khalkhali even went so far as to go to Persepolis and, in a fiery speech, try to rally people into destroying the ancient ruins themselves. But the Shirazis in the crowd, sentimental to the last and protective of their region’s great history and artefacts, managed to