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The New YorkerThe Turkish novelist and translator Güneli Gün grew up on an Aegean island once used to quarantine pilgrims returning from Mecca. In Remembering Childhood in the Middle East: Memoirs From A Century of Change, an anthology edited by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, Gün recalls her anger at her parents' refusal to love Quarantine Island. Her mother missed cosmopolitan social life; her father, a doctor, ridiculed his staff and railed about " 'the agony of the East,' by which he meant the scientific backwardness he believed Islam had 'brought upon' us."
Amid the jarring disruptions of life in Tehran during the nineteen-eighties, Marjane Satrapi could at least confide in her parents. Her comic-book memoir, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, describes her pain at seeing her country descend into fundamentalism and violence. Satrapi was patriotic; she was relieved to see her father cheer when the BBC confirmed that Iranian bombers had hit Baghdad. Later, though, the slogans scrawled on city walls "To die a martyr is to inject blood into the veins of society") made her fearful that the country's turn toward bellicosity was too extreme.
Firoozeh Dumas' family left Iran permanently in 1976, and missed the seismic shifts back home. In Funny In Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian In America, Dumas remembers how in 1977 her parents accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to welcome the Shah. Undeterred by a threatening note slipped under their hotel-room door ("Dear Brainwashed Cowards, You are nothing but puppets of the corrupt Shah . . ."), the family finally reassessed the trip after demonstrators attacked Iranians on a lawn near the White House with nail-studded sticks. Their response? To take the first flight back to California. (Kate Taylor)