Ardalan, a senior producer at NPR’s Morning Edition, describes a life lived in two countries and two cultures.
This debut memoir should brim with narrative tension, but Ardalan is a plodding writer. Born in California, she grew up in Tehran. Her parents divorced, and her dad moved to Massachusetts with his new wife. Ardalan attended high school in Boston, and spent a brief spell in L.A. Then, in 1983, 18-year-old Ardalan went back to Iran and entered an arranged marriage. A return to the U.S. followed, then a divorce, a second marriage and a second divorce. Along the way, Ardalan went to college, landed a gig at NPR and raised four children. The central themes—negotiating two radically different cultures, moving from an adolescent faith to a mature engagement with religion, making it as a divorced woman in a subculture characterized by traditional gender arrangements, forging adult relationships with one’s parents—have potential. The insider’s view of religious life in revolutionary Iran is intriguing, and Ardalan’s loving descriptions of her extended family are charming. But Ardalan isn’t much of a wordsmith. Her prose is workmanlike and uninspired, riddled with clichés like, “I left Iran for America…and never looked back.” Her paeans to personal growth are downright hokey—“To give birth to myself, I had to continue in my devotion to moderation, balance, and harmony.” She glosses over fascinating questions, such as her first husband’s refusal to grant her an Iranian divorce, which means she can’t return to Iran without risking being claimed as her husband’s wife and forbidden to leave the country. And why didn’t her editor spare us Ardalan’s credulous ode, in the next-to-last-chapter, to the romantic happiness she has found with a new man?
As flat as a lavash. Stick with Marjane Satrapi and Azar Nafisi.