With this memoir of growing up in Iran and emigrating to the United States in the 1960s, Sadeghian tells of a life of great contradictions.
The memoir can be divided into three natural arcs comprising the author’s childhood and university training in Tehran, his experiences in Britain and the United States as an immigrant physician and a final section on his retirement interest in mountain climbing, including expeditions to Everest. Sadeghian may be an everyday citizen; however, his life is rich with drama, while his writing is accessible and straightforward. Crucially, he provides enough information for those unfamiliar with modern Iran to understand the social and political circumstances leading up to 1979’s Islamic revolution. The child of an upwardly mobile judge, he was a youthful witness to the complexities of life under the Shah, from the growth of the middle-classes to the increasing oppression and poverty among the majority of the regime’s subjects. As a favorite son, Sadeghian is aware of his relative privilege, compared to his female relatives and friends. He speaks openly of the moral restrictions and unhappy marital choices available to many women, including his sister. This first section is likely to be of greatest interest to most readers. Yet, the author’s observations on the American medical system offer insight into the growth of HMOs and increasingly impersonal medical care. In the final fragmentary sections of the memoir, Sadeghian describes the sometimes horrific results of Tibetan expeditions. It’s difficult not see his concerns with mortality as more personal than professional. At times, his prose grows meditative, musing on the irony of his circumstances; here is a man who learned to climb in the mountainous regions of his homeland, yet Sadeghian’s remembered Iran—of cosmopolitan men and women, striking disparities of wealth and religion, and a complex history—makes the Islamic revolutionary Iran of today alien to him. Instead, he divides his time between a sunny American retirement and some of the most isolated peaks in the world.
Sadeghian’s life of contrasts will interest many readers.