Even After All This Time: A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran

Overview

At the age of ten, a young Iranian girl witnesses the horror of her father's execution and escapes the revolution with her sister.

Growing up in Tehran in the 1970s, Afschineh Latifi and her sister and two brothers enjoyed a life of luxury and privilege. Their father, a self?made man, had worked his way up from nothing to become a colonel in the Shah's army, and their mother, a woman of equally modest roots, had made a career for herself as a respected schoolteacher. But in ...

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Overview

At the age of ten, a young Iranian girl witnesses the horror of her father's execution and escapes the revolution with her sister.

Growing up in Tehran in the 1970s, Afschineh Latifi and her sister and two brothers enjoyed a life of luxury and privilege. Their father, a self–made man, had worked his way up from nothing to become a colonel in the Shah's army, and their mother, a woman of equally modest roots, had made a career for herself as a respected schoolteacher. But in February, 1979, Colonel Latifi was arrested by members of the newly installed Khomeini regime, and publicly pilloried as an "Enemy of God." Some months later, after having been shunted from one prison cell to another, and without benefit of a legitimate trial, Colonel Latifi was summarily executed.

Fearing for the safety of her children, Mrs. Latifi made a wrenching decision: to send her daughters, ages ten and eleven, to the west, splitting up the family until they could safely reunite. Out on their own, Afschineh and her sister, Afsaneh, were forced to become strong young women before they'd even had a childhood.

Even After All This Time is a story of hope and heartache, a story of a family torn apart for six harrowing years, and finally coming together to rebuild in America. In the richly evocative tradition of the bestselling Reading Lolita in Tehran, this is a story of a family that had the courage to dream impossible dreams and to make them come true against impossible odds.

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Editorial Reviews

Daily News
“Inspring.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Well-written.”
Booklist
“[A] compelling testament to the dauntless nature of the human spirit.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Well-written.”
Booklist
“[A] compelling testament to the dauntless nature of the human spirit.”
Daily News
“Inspring.”
Publishers Weekly
"Be like a nail!" Latifi's mother would scold when the author cried. These words are a testament to the grit Latifi displays throughout this wonderful memoir. The author was 10 and her sister 11 in May 1979, when their father, a military officer under the Shah, was executed by Khomeini's soldiers. Only 34, their mother was left to raise four young children (she also had two sons) in a newly fundamentalist society hostile to women. At first, the girls "loved putting on the chadors. It felt like Halloween." But when a villager started bidding on marrying Latifi's then 13-year-old sister, their mother knew they had to leave. Yet visas were routinely denied, passports arbitrarily confiscated. Still, Mrs. Latifi managed to take her daughters to Austria, where they attended a convent school (the boys remained in Tehran). The year in Austria was disastrous; the girls unwittingly spent the family's savings trying to overcome their loneliness. America was the next solution; there, the girls lived with relatives in Virginia and learned to take care of each other. Things turned out all right-the family was finally reunited, the children all chose good careers. Unlike many Iranian memoirs, most of this one takes place outside the country. Still, it's a remarkable, resonating tale. Photos. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This engaging work is part cultural history, part political history, and part memoir. Latifi, a New York City attorney, examines her charmed life before the Iranian revolution in 1979 and the devastating consequences that followed her father's execution in May of that year. Latifi's mother decided to send her two oldest children (ten- and 12-year-old daughters) to Austria and then America. While staying with indifferent relatives in America, the Latifi girls encountered further isolation in the community because of their heritage. It was six years before their mother and two brothers were able to join them; during that time, both sisters went on to successful college and post-college careers. Latifi poignantly recounts coming of age without her mother, honestly relating both the good and the bad, the comical and the dramatic. An homage to the love between her parents and the sacrifices of her mother, this work should be in any public or academic library that contains Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran or Roya Hakakian's Journey from the Land of No. A hard-to-put-down book.-Maria C. Bagshaw, Lake Erie Coll. Lib., Painesville, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A depiction of life after the Iranian Revolution will invite inevitable-and unfavorable-comparison with Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran. The Revolution tore apart the Latifi clan, as first-time author Latifi recounts in this family saga. Her father is arrested on trumped-up murder charges, tried before a puppet court, and executed. Latifi's courageous and cunning mother sends her two daughters-ten and eleven-to Austria for schooling and for safety, and they eventually settle in the US. The author learns English from television, studies hard, and becomes an attorney. After years apart, Mother and all the Latifi siblings are reunited in America, and the tale concludes with our heroine's first, emotionally grueling trip back to Iran. Despite the thrilling backdrop, though-the tumultuous Iranian politics, international education, high-pitched emotions-the story is colorless and plodding. Experiences that might have been entrancing in the hands of another writer tend to the prosaic: "Day-to-day life in Iran was becoming impossible"; "Before long, I began to feel more optimistic about the future"; "I was . . . devastated by the break-up." Occasionally, Latifi leavens such generalities with concrete, specific details-her first use of Nair, her discovery of library cards and of Jane Austen, her first visit to an American courtroom, the ugly plaid that seems ubiquitous in Virginia. For the most part, though, she breaks the cardinal show/don't-tell rule, the result being an ultimately tedious read. In her summer law clerkship in Charleston, West Virginia, for example, Latifi felt so out of place that she quit, leaving in early July-and what a wonderful chapter this could have made, full ofsights, sounds, and misunderstandings. But Latifi summarizes the entire affair with "I was hopelessly lonely in Charleston, and I found the place depressingly provincial." Her tumultuous childhood is of interest, but it doesn't make an on-again/off-again romance with a good-looking man (who remains two-dimensional) worth spending time with. Photographs sprinkled throughout are the most riveting part of a flat memoir.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060745349
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 969,533
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Afschineh Latifi was born in Tehran in 1969. She is an attorney and lives in New York City. This is her first book.

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First Chapter

Even After All This Time
A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran

Chapter One

The Arrest

On February 13, 1979, my father, Colonel Mohammad Bagher Latifi, was detained at his barracks in the Farah Abad section of Tehran. A group of enlisted men stepped into his office, relieved him of his weapon, and informed him that he was under arrest. Less than an hour later, three men arrived at the barracks, escorted my father into the back of an open jeep, and drove away.

As the jeep approached the main gate, on its way out of the facility, my father asked if he could leave his house keys behind for my mother. The jeep stopped in front of the kiosk, and my father turned to the guard. "Please," he said, pressing the keys and his checkbook into the man's hands, "give these to my wife when she comes to fetch me."

The guard took the items, and the jeep pulled away.

When my mother arrived that afternoon, the guard told her that her husband had been taken away. She wanted to know who had taken him and why, but the guard shrugged and pursed his lips. He did not know, he said apologetically. He knew nothing. But he had two items for Khanoom Sarhang, Mrs. Colonel. He turned and retrieved the keys and the checkbook and put them into my mother's shaking hands, and she thanked him and drove home to tend to her four children.

At dinner that night, my older sister, Afsaneh, asked about my father, and we were told that Baba Joon was away on military business. This was not unusual, so we sat down to eat, oblivious, and we went to bed that night, still oblivious.

The next day, my mother drove from one Tehran jail to the next, looking for my father, and everywhere she went she was met with insults and abuse. "Look at you, you filthy slut! Have you no self- respect? Can't you dress like a decent woman?"

My mother had never worn a chador in her life -- she was a thoroughly westernized Iranian: her head exposed, a hint of make up on her eyes and lips, even a full- time job -- but with the Shah recently deposed and Ayatollah Khomeini newly in power, the country was in upheaval.

"Please," she begged. "His name is Latifi, Sarhang Latifi. If you would just let me know he's here, it would mean the world to me."

"You are wasting your time," she was told. "We've probably executed him already."

The next day, she tried again, crisscrossing the city, driving from one prison to the next, but there was no sign of him, only more insults and abuse. And when we returned home after school, she was still out in the streets, searching, and her sister, Mali, was waiting for us by the front door.

"Where's Mommie Joon?" I asked.

"She's running errands," Khaleh Mali said. "She'll be back later."

I turned to look at Afsaneh. We both knew something was very wrong.

That night, we confronted our mother, asking her to tell us the truth. Afsaneh was eleven years old; I had just celebrated my tenth birthday.

"Baba has been arrested," she told us. "But it's okay; it's nothing to worry about, just a little misunderstanding. Still, you mustn't tell the boys. They are too young. They might get upset."

I had never seen my mother cry, and she didn't cry then, either. But she came close.

"So where is he?" I asked.

"I don't know," she said. "They're holding him somewhere. I'm still looking."

Afsaneh fell apart -- she was very close to Baba -- but I tried to be strong.

"Maybe I can help you find him," I said. "I'll go with you tomorrow, and we'll look together."

My mother's eyes grew moist, but still she didn't cry. "I don't want you girls to worry," she said, her voice harsher than usual to mask the pain. "Everything is going to be fine."

The next day, when I got out of school, my mother was waiting for me on the sidewalk. She had decided to take me up on my offer, hoping the authorities might take pity on a child. I felt like crying -- I often cried over little things, like being late for school or misplacing one of my dolls -- but I didn't cry this time. I knew my mother needed me, and I was determined to make myself useful.

For the next two days, we drove from prison to prison, searching for my father.

"Look," she would tell the guards, pointing at me. "He has children. There are three others at home. We are just normal people, like you." But they showed no mercy.


When we arrived home that night, my aunt suggested that we broaden our search. She had heard from friends that many of the more important prisoners were being kept in government buildings, and that some of the religious schools had been transformed into holding facilities.

The next day, after class, my mother was again waiting for me in the street, and we tried anew. We visited half a dozen government buildings and another half- dozen schools with no luck. However, at our last stop, one of the guards took pity on us. He told us to try Madrese Alavi, one of the city's better known religious schools. "Many of the key people are there," he said.

I was exhausted and hungry, my feet hurt, and I didn't want to go. I was unable to get my young mind around the gravity of the situation, but my mother insisted. "This is the last place," she said. "I promise. Then I will get you a new Barbie."

That was different! A Barbie doll! I would do it for a new Barbie!

We drove to Madrese Alavi, and my mother left me in the car, near the entrance. The school had been turned into some sort of provisional headquarters, and members of the new regime were everywhere. I could see my mother at the front entrance, talking to two guards.

"Five days already?" they said, laughing. "It would be a miracle if he was still alive."

Even After All This Time
A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran
. Copyright © by Afschineh Latifi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

About the book

At the age of thirty-four, my mother became a widow with four children -- and an enemy of the state ...

Chronicling an Iranian family's shifting fortunes across twenty-five years and countless thousands of miles, Afschineh Latifi's arresting debut memoir depicts a soulful and harrowing quest for stability -- for a home in a world shattered by tragedy and injustice.

This is a story about the resilience of family, the endurance of memory, and the ever-shifting contours of cultural identity.

Even After All This Time is also the stirring product of an intensely personal and therapeutic project -- a daughter's desire to document and pay tribute to her mother's great strength and perseverance. In short, this is a love story.

Growing up in Tehran in the 1970s, Afschineh Latifi and her three siblings enjoyed a life of luxury and privilege. Their beloved father, whom they called Baba Joon, was a self-made man, an engineer who worked his way up from nothing to the rank of colonel in the Shah's army.

But at the beginning of 1979, the ten-year-old Afschineh witnessed an abrupt shift in her family's fortunes. The Shah was overthrown, and forces supporting the Islamic fundamentalist leader Ayatollah Khomeini seized control of Iran. Colonel Latifi was arrested and pilloried as one of Iran's Ghasemel Jabarin ("Enemies of God"). On May 23, 1979, after three months of imprisonment, he was summarily executed.

Determined to protect her children and ensure their education, Colonel Latifi's widow made an excruciating decision: to send her two daughters to a Catholic boarding school in Austria while she and her two young sons stayed behind in Tehran.

Here, Even After All This Time takes mesmerizing flight, as the Latifi sisters' wrenching journey of dislocation and alienation begins in earnest. It is a journey that finds the girls uprooted from Vienna and transported to the United States in the space of a single year.

For Afschineh and Afsaneh, not yet teenagers, the sanctuary of childhood is already a distant memory, but their ordeal has hardly begun. By the time the girls are reunited for good with their mother and brothers, more than six years will have passed.

"Meekh basheen," their mother repeatedly exhorts the girls. "Be like nails. You are the daughters of a soldier."

With this book, Afschineh Latifi proves herself a nimble and captivating wordsmith, possessed of an engagingly conversational voice and a remarkable generosity of spirit. Even After All This Time is a work of striking timeliness, one that moves to a truly global rhythm even as it explores themes that are, in the final equation, quintessentially American. In relating the particulars and intimacies of her family's singular journey, Latifi makes a vital contribution to a much larger, ongoing narrative -- the universal story of human migration and human identity.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

  1. What were your understandings of Iranian history and culture before reading Latifi's book? What surprised you most as you read? In what specific ways have Latifi's images and depictions come to enrich, challenge, or even contradict altogether your previous notions?

  2. When Baba Joon died, a whole country, a whole world disappeared with him. Explore the large-scale shifts in Middle Eastern history that attended the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. Discuss the way Latifi weaves references to a range of headline-making global events -- from the hostage crisis and on through Iran-Contra -- into the fabric of her personal recollections.

  3. Consider Latifi's striking child's-eye descriptions of the radical transformation of Iranian society in the wake of the Shah's flight. In particular, revisit the author's reflections and recollections in Chapter 4, "Revolution."

  4. What are your own memories of 1979, the year of the Islamic Revolution? Looking back after reading Latifi's book, what is your sense of the Western media's perspective on the riots, the Ayatollah's overthrow of the Shah, and the hostage crisis?

  5. Contrast Latifi's candid characterization of her girlhood self [Chapter 3, "Tehran," provides some illuminating (and comic) moments] with the woman we witness taking shape across the remainder of the memoir. How and from whom might Afschineh have learned to be so headstrong and resilient?

  6. Chart the course of Afsaneh's transformation from girl to woman. In particular, what role does she come to inhabit during the Latifis' years in America? How does Afsaneh's assumption of certain familial roles color her relationship with her mother and her younger siblings?

  7. In a deceptively casual recollection, Latifi recalls the times when she and Afsaneh would delightedly put on chadors and go to the mosque. For the girls, it was an act that amounted to little more than playing dress-up. "It felt like Halloween." Discuss the larger issues regarding gender and cultural repression this moment speaks to. What does Latifi learn from her mother about the balance between the sexes?

  8. What particular roles do race and class play in the lives of the Latifi sisters during their public high-school years in Norfolk, Virginia? Desribe Latifi's portrait of America, particularly in Chapter 9.

  9. Discuss the wide spectrum of pop-cultural signifiers Latifi employs to render her portrait of 1980s America, from "The Brady Bunch" and "Knots Landing" to Merry-Go-Round and McDonald's.

  10. "There was no room for emotion," Latifi's mother says about the decisions she was forced to make for her family. "I had to be a purely rational person. I really had no choice in the matter." Discuss Latifi's portrait of her mother, and the nature of Fatemeh's actions and choices over the course of this book.

  11. In what ways does Even After All This Time depart from the narrative arc of the traditional autobiography? Compare Latifi's work with memoirs and histories you've read recently.

  12. In conjunction with the previous question, consider Latifi's memoir alongside Christopher de Bellaigue's In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs (HarperCollins, 2005) and other recent nonfiction works about Iran. How do the authors' various portraits of and reactions to modern Iran complement and/or inform each other?

  13. Reread the verse fragment Latifi has chosen as her epigraph -- and from which she has taken the title of her book -- and explore the ways Hafiz's metaphor for unconditional love reflects the themes and central concerns of this memoir.

  14. Discuss Latifi's writing voice and the deliberate, linear structure of her narrative. What is the interplay between the two? What words would you use to describe and characterize her style?

  15. Consider the bittersweet tone -- the mixture of death and hope, tragedy and redemption, regret and contentment, emptiness and fulfillment—underlying "The Journey Back" and "Home," the last two chapters in Latifi's novel. What were your immediate reactions and emotions as you read these final pages?

About the author

Born in Tehran in 1969, Afschineh Latifi is an attorney in New York City. Even After All This Time is her first book.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

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    My Review

    I read this book and it was amazing. Its a really good read and very interesting and insightful. Very well written. It was a book that I could not put down once I started. Really, Really good

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2005

    Heartfelt story

    I loved this book! A wonderful story about determination and a mom's love that won't let her family give up.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2005

    a deeply moving memoir

    This is the first book I have ever read in one day. I just couldn't put it down. I wanted nothing more than to read every bit of this beautiful story. Latifi's prose is steady and even, tinged with humor and humanity. Her voice comes through clearly with each page. It's like you become a part of her family--crying, cheering, and laughing with them at each stage.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2005

    A MUST-READ ! An Inspirational, Funny, Sad, Historic, Riveting novel that demonstrates the great power of perseverance.

    This book touched me on many levels. Once I began reading it I could not put it down. The numerous pictures of the author¿s family and friends makes the book really come to life. The true saga of a young father's execution by barbarians was not only sad but shocking. It is hard to believe that such an atrocity could be committed against a human (a father of four,) a mere 25 years ago. (And to think that these crimes still occur on a daily basis in the world even today...) The story continues telling the tales of two naive little girls who were thrust into the world to fend for themselves without the guidance of a mother or father for many of their formative years. Not only did I cry while reading the book, but I also found myself laughing aloud frequently. The author's frankness in sharing the experiences and inner thoughts of a child growing into her own were honest and pure. Like the true wife and daughters of a soldier, Afschineh, her sister, Afsaneh, and their mother, Fatemeh, did what was demanded of them to provide for their family through very challenging times. They should be very proud of overcoming such obstacles to achieve greatness in their lives both professionally and emotionally. This book is inspirational and is a reminder that we should celebrate our own lives, no matter what difficulties we have encountered. We all have the opportunity to turn adversity into a growing experience if we so choose. Thank you Afschineh Latifi for sharing your life story with me. This is a book I could recommend to anyone, including my 4 children. Ms. Latifi is a terrific role model who demonstrates that strong morals beliefs, high personal goals and family values are extremely empowering. A great success story. Welcome to America! We need more citizens like you. :)

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