Rooftops of Tehran: A Novel

Rooftops of Tehran: A Novel

by Mahbod Seraji


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451226815
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/05/2009
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 365,499
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Mahbod Seraji was born in Iran and moved to the United States in 1976 at the age of 19. He attended the University of Iowa, where he received an MA in film and broadcasting and a PhD in instructional design and technology. He works as a management consultant and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read an Excerpt

Winter of 1974
Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital, Tehran

I hear someone's voice chanting, and the repetitive verses lap like water at the edge of my consciousness.

If I had a book, I would read it.
If I had a song, I would sing it.

I look around until I see an old man standing a few meters away chanting in a steady, empty tone. The place does not look familiar to me. The blue robe that covers my body, the wheelchair I am sitting in, the sunlight creeping between the shades that warms me—all feel strange.

If I knew a dance, I would dance it.
If I knew a rhyme, I would chant it.
If I had a life, I would risk it.
If I could be free, I would chance it.

Outside in the yard, men of all shapes and ages shuffle around in blue robes. There is something peculiar about each of them. They look lost.

Suddenly a surge of emotions fills my chest and rushes into my throat. A little nurse with a kind, full face that resembles an apple runs up to me and plants her hands on my shoulders and screams, "Help me out here, help me out!" A man in a white uniform runs over and tries to hold me down.

"Stay in your chair, honey. Stay in your chair," Apple Face shouts, which means I must be moving. I focus on sitting still, and look toward the old man on the far side of the room. He is gazing at me as he frantically repeats his mantra:

If I had a horse, I would ride it.
If I had a horse, I would ride it.
If I had a horse…

I am taken to a room with a bed, and Apple Face says, "I'm going to give you a sedative to make you feel better, darling."

I feel a pinch in my arm, and suddenly my head and arms become unbearably heavy and my eyes slide shut.


Summer of 1973

My Friends, My Family, and My Alley

Sleeping on the roof in the summer is customary in Tehran. The dry heat of the day cools after midnight, and those of us who sleep on the rooftops wake with the early sun on our faces and fresh air in our lungs. My mother is strictly against it, and reminds me each evening, "Hundreds of people fall off the roofs every year." My best friend, Ahmed, and I trade hidden smiles with each warning, then climb the stairs to spend our nights under stars that seem close enough to touch. The alley below settles into a patchwork of streetlight, shadow, and sound. A car hums slowly down the deserted street, cautious not to wake anyone, as a stray dog in the distance releases a string of officious barks.

"I hear your mother calling," Ahmed mumbles in the dark. I smile, aiming a good-natured kick that he easily rolls away from.

Our house is the tallest in the neighborhood, which makes our roof an ideal spot for stargazing. In fact, naming stars for our friends and the people we love is one of our favorite pastimes.

"Does everyone have a star?" Ahmed asks.

"Only good people."

"And the better you are the bigger your star, right?"

"Bigger and brighter," I say, as I do every time he asks the same question.

"And your star guides you when you're in trouble, right?"

"Your star and the stars of the people you love."

Ahmed closes one eye and lifts his thumb to block out one of the brighter stars. "I'm tired of looking at your big fat face."

"Shut up and go to sleep then," I say, laughing, letting my gaze relax into the velvety emptiness between each pinprick of light. My eyes travel down the sky until they rest on the familiar rise and fall of the Alborz Mountains, which serpentine between the desert and the blue-green Caspian Sea. I get distracted for a moment trying to decide if the darkness is black or so deeply blue that it just appears inky in comparison.

"I wonder why people are so unabashedly afraid of the dark," I ponder, and Ahmed chuckles. I know without asking that he is amused by my eccentric vocabulary, the product of a lifetime of heavy reading. My father pulled Ahmed and me aside one day and asked me, in front of family friends and relatives, what I thought life was about. I promptly said that life was a random series of beautifully composed vignettes, loosely tied together by a string of characters and time. My father's friends actually applauded, much to my embarrassment. Ahmed leaned over and whispered that I would soon be inaugurated as the oldest seventeen-year-old in the world, especially if I kept saying things like "unabashedly" and "beautifully composed vignettes."

Ahmed and I have just finished the eleventh grade and will be entering our last year of high school in the fall. I look forward to the end of preparatory school as much as the next seventeen-year-old, but this lively anticipation is tempered by my father's plans to send me to the United States to study civil engineering. Long ago, my father worked as a ranger, protecting the nationalized forests from poachers who cut down the trees illegally for personal profit. He now works in an office, managing an entire region with an army of rangers reporting to him.

"Iran is in dire need of engineers," Dad reminds me whenever he gets the chance. "We're on the verge of transforming ourselves from a traditional agricultural country to an industrial one. A person with an engineering degree from an American university secures a great future for himself and his family, in addition to enjoying the prestige of being called 'Mr. Engineer' for the rest of his life." I love my father, and I would never disobey him, but I hate math, I hate the idea of becoming an engineer, and I would hate being called Mr. Engineer. In my dreams I major in literature and study the philosophy of the ancient Greeks, evolution, Marxism, psychoanalysis, Erfan, and Buddhism. Or, I major in film and become a writer or a director, someone who has something worthwhile to say.

For now I live with my parents in a middle-class neighborhood. We have a typical Iranian house with a modest yard, a large guest room, and a hose—a small pool in the front yard. In our neighborhood, just like any other in Tehran, tall walls separate houses that have been built connected to each other. Our home has two full levels, and my room occupies a small section of the third floor, where a huge terrace is connected to the roof by a bulky mass of steel steps. Ours is the tallest house in the neighborhood, and has a southern exposure.

"I wouldn't live in a home with a northern exposure if it were given to me for free," my mother states repeatedly. "They never get any sun. They're a breeding ground for germs." My mother never finished high school, yet she speaks about health issues with the authority of a Harvard graduate. She has a remedy for every ailment: herbal tea to cure depression, liquidated camel thorns to smash kidney stones, powdered flowers to annihilate sinus infections, dried leaves that destroy acne, and pills for growing as tall as a tree—despite the fact that she stands an impressive five feet tall in stocking feet.

The peace of each summer night fades with the noises of families starting their day, and our alley bustles with kids of all ages. Boys shout and scuffle as they chase cheap plastic soccer balls, while girls go from house to house, doing what girls do together. Women congregate in different parts of the alley, making it easy to tell who likes whom by the way they assemble. Ahmed has divided these gatherings into three groups: the east, west, and central gossip committees.

Ahmed is a tall skinny kid with dark features and a brilliant smile. His strong but slender body, bold, broad jaw, and bright hazel eyes make him the picture of health, according to my mother's expert opinion. He's well liked in the neighborhood, and funny. I tell him he could become a great comedian if he took his God-given talent more seriously.

"Yes, more seriously," he replies. "I can become the most serious clown in the country!"

I've known Ahmed since I was twelve years old, when my family first moved to the neighborhood. We met for the first time at school when three bullies were beating me up. All the other kids stood by and watched, but Ahmed rushed to my aid. The boys were tall, big, and ugly, and despite our heroic attempts we both took a beating.

"I'm Pasha," I introduced myself after the fight.

Ahmed smiled and reached over for a handshake. "What was the fight about?" he asked.

I laughed. "You didn't know? Why did you help me?"

"Three to one! I have a problem with that. Of course, I knew they'd still take us, but at least it wasn't as unfair as three guys thrashing one."

I knew right then that Ahmed was going to be my best friend forever. His gallantry and upbeat attitude won me over instantly. The experience bound us together and prompted my father, an exheavyweight boxing champion, to start teaching us how to box—much to my mother's dismay.

"You're going to make them violent," she would complain to my unsympathetic father. To make things right, every night after dinner she would hold out a glass of amber liquid that smelled like horse urine on a hot summer day. "This will reverse what your father is doing to your temper," she assured me, while forcing me to drink the nauseating brew.

I loved boxing, but my mother's remedy nearly drove me to quit.

After a few months of training, as our punches became crisp—short and quick, but heavy when they needed to be—I began to ache for a rematch with the three bullies at school. My father overheard our plans for revenge and intervened.

"Sit down, Mr. Pasha," he said one day after practice. Then he pointed to Ahmed. "Would you join us, please?"

"Of course, Mr. Shahed," Ahmed responded, and as he was sitting next to me, he whispered, "I think we're in trouble, Mr. Pasha!"

"When one learns how to box," Dad started thoughtfully, "he joins the fraternity of athletes who never raise a hand against people weaker than themselves."

My mother stopped what she had been doing and walked up to stand sternly next to my father.

"But, Dad, if we don't beat up people weaker than ourselves, who do we beat up?" I asked, stunned. "And wouldn't it be dumb to pick on people stronger than ourselves anyway?"

Dad was doing his best not to look at Mom, who was staring at him like a tiger checking out a deer right before the final, fateful dash.

"I taught you how to box so you could defend yourself," he mumbled. "I don't want you to go looking for a fight."

Ahmed and I couldn't believe what we were hearing.

"I want you to promise me that you will always respect the code of our fraternity," my father insisted.

We must have been slow to react.

"I want you to promise," he repeated, his voice rising.

And so Ahmed and I grudgingly joined the fraternity of athletes who never beat up bullies who break the faces of kids weaker than themselves. At the time, of course, we had no idea that such a fraternity never existed.

"Iraj is lucky your dad made us promise," Ahmed says later, making us both laugh.

Iraj is a small, scruffy kid with a long pointed nose whose sunburned features make him look Indian. He's smart, has the best grades in our school, and loves physics and mathematics, the two subjects I hate most.

I am convinced Iraj likes Ahmed's oldest sister, because he can't keep his eyes off her when she is in the alley. Everyone knows you don't fancy a friend's sister, as if she were a girl from another neighborhood. If I were Ahmed and caught Iraj checking out my sister, I'd kick the shit out of him. But I'm not Ahmed. "Hey," he'll shout, trying hard not to smile when he startles Iraj, "stop looking at her or I'll break my pledge to the sacred brotherhood of the boxing fraternity."

"Sacred brotherhood of the boxing fraternity?" I whisper under my breath with a smile. "Brotherhood and fraternity mean the same thing. You shouldn't use them in the same sentence."

"Oh, you shut up." Ahmed laughs.

Iraj is the chess champion of our neighborhood. He is so good that no one is willing to play against him anymore. When we play soccer in the alley, Iraj plays chess against himself.

"Who's winning?" Ahmed asks with a smirk. Iraj ignores him. "Have you ever beaten yourself?" Ahmed asks. "You could, you know—if you weren't so fucking preoccupied with my sister."

"I'm not preoccupied with your sister," Iraj mumbles, rolling his eyes.

"Right," Ahmed replies, nodding. "If you have any trouble beating yourself, let me know and I'll be happy to do it for you."

"You know," I tease, "I used to get mad at him for looking at your sister, but it might not be so bad to have a chess champion as a brother-in-law."

"Bite your tongue," Ahmed growls, "or I'll raid your mother's pantry to mix you a special brew that will grow hair on your tongue."

The threat has some weight, considering the way my mother has applied her unique brand of knowledge and listened to her gut to diagnose me as an extreme introvert.

"Do you know what happens to people who keep everything to themselves?" she asks, not waiting for my answer. "They get sick." When I object that I'm not an introvert, she reminds me of the time I was four years old and fell down the steps. My two aunts, two uncles, and grandparents were visiting us that day, and my mother estimated that watching me tumble down two flights of stairs nearly caused two heart attacks, three strokes, and a handful of small ulcers.

"You broke your shin in three places!" she chides. "The doctor said he'd seen grown men cry after a break like that, but not you. Do you know what that kind of stress does to your body?"

"No," I say.

"It causes cancer."

Then she spits three times to atone for the thought.

In order to cure my introversion, she insists I drink a dusky concoction that looks and smells like used motor oil. I complain that her remedy tastes horrible, and she tells me to be quiet and stop whining.

"I thought this potion was to bring me out of my shell," I remind her.

"Hush," she orders, "whining doesn't count. If you want to be successful in life you must force yourself to be an extrovert," she explains. "Introverts end up as lonely poets or destitute writers."

"So," Ahmed ponders one day, "the engine oil makes you an extrovert, and the horse urine helps you crawl back into your shell." He shakes his head in empathy. "You are going to be one fucked-up person by the time your mother gets done with you."

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A stirring story about the loss of innocence, Rooftops of Tehran reveals a side of Iran understood by few Westerners. An ambitious first novel-full of humor, originality, and meaning."
- John Shors, author of Beneath a Marble Sky

"Rooftops of Tehran is a richly rendered first novel about courage, sacrifice, and the bonds of friendship and love. In clear, vivid details, Mahbod Seraji opens the door to the fascinating world of Iran and provides a revealing glimpse into the life and customs of a country on the verge of a revolution. A captivating read."
-Gail Tsukiyama, Author of The Street of a Thousand Blossoms and The Samurai's Garden

"In his haunting debut novel, Mahbod Seraji brings humor and humanity to a story of secret love in the brutal last days of the Shah. Set against the background of repression that launched the Iranian revolution, Pasha's and Zari's story shows that love and hope among the young thrive even in the most oppressive of times. Seraji is a striking new talent."
- Sandra Dallas, author of Tallgrass

"Rooftops of Tehran evoked many memories, along with tears and smiles, of starry nights on rooftops, long lost loves, and intense, passionate feelings of anger at the injustices... of the Pahlavi regime."
-Nahid Mozaffari, editor of Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature

"Beyond being a bittersweet love story, Rooftops of Tehran is a story of Community. No reader will be unfamiliar to the situation of the alley--the neighborhood--where these characters are united and bound together by history, ritual, grief, respect, and by the bond of protection that arises under the brutality of an oppressive government. Rooftops of Tehran takes an uncommon and refreshing view of Iran and reveals how an American immigrant is born out of a young foreigner's desperation for self-determination and social freedom."
-Susanne Pari, author of The Fortune Catcher

"Rooftops of Tehran combines a coming of age love story with a compelling tale of struggle against dictatorship. You learn a lot about Iranian culture while coming to understand characters with universal appeal."

- Reese Erlich, author The Iran Agenda:The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis

"What a profound pleasure to discover such solid storytelling and splendid prose in a debut novel. With the voice of a poet, Seraji has told a universal tale of love, loss, and ultimately of hope. It is this hope, most of all, that will linger long after the last page is turned. Thank God for authors like Seraji, who show us that no matter how distant apart our worlds may be, in the humanness of our hearts we are all united."
-William Kent Krueger, author of Red Knife and the award-winning Cork O'Connor series

"Repression and revolution provide the background for a deeply felt love story that gives outsiders a rare look inside modern Iran. This is a gripping account of a nation's violent lurch from one kind of tyranny to another, and also a delicately insightful portrait of how ordinary people react when their worlds suddenly collapse. At a time when we urgently need to know more about Iranians, Rooftops of Tehran introduces both the complexity of their political history and the richness of their emotional lives."
-Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

"Seraji's wonderful coming-of-age story is at times funny and sweet as well as thought-provoking and heart-wrenching. A powerful tale of the universal longings of teenagers compounded by the horrors of tyranny."

"...charmingly romantic...Seraji captures the thoughts and emotions of a young boy and creates a moving portrait of the history and customs of the Persians and life in Iran."
-Publisher's Weekly

"Refreshingly filled with love rather than sex, this coming-of-age novel examines the human cost of political repression."

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Rooftops of Tehran 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
sa09 More than 1 year ago
This book was filled with the mysteries of daily life and the difficulties of the Iranian peoples. From two lovesick young teens to young men wanting love they can't share with the women they want, to the heartbreak of mysterious death and disappearing life as they know it. Would love to read another novel this author releases; very descriptive, moving and thoroughly enjoyable. A DEFINITE read for book clubs!
BookFanatic132 More than 1 year ago
The blurb pretty much sums this whole book up. We have Pasha Shahed, who is a normal teenager like most people have been. He spends his summer on the rooftop and he's enjoying life. But one thing will change his life forever: love. Not only does Pasha's love with Zari have an impact on him, it has an impact on everyone around him. Pasha grows up and matures throughout the book—he's no longer blind to the things going around him. He loves deeply and truly, and he also cares a lot for the people around him. He has moments where he doubts the things he's been taught, his religion, and many things like that. That's what made this book so realistic. This book is truly a coming-of-age novel—and a really good one at that. Zari, in my eyes, is brave as she is reckless. Her decision was an act that in order to commit it, one had to be brave. But she also had to pay for her actions, which affected other people besides her. I'm not sure if she thought that part through, but then she, in a way, opened other people's eyes to the things she say. I hold a lot of respect for Zari. This book is powerful. Just as Zari's choice opened Pasha's eyes, it opened my eyes to a lot of the problems people around the world face and though some of them aren't in the USA, we should still know about them. Rooftops of Tehran brought out dozens of emotions. While reading this book, I cried. When I finished this book, I cried. The ending left me wanting for more. I truly hope there is a sequel, but if there's not I'm content with how the book ended. It ended perfectly for a stand-alone book, but also for the book that has a sequel. Either way, this book is a great book that teaches great life lessons and is a heartwarming as well as heartbreaking story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was really fond of this book and loved how I was able to see how life was during the Shah's dictatorship. It really opened my eyes, many of my Iranian friends still feel like it's the same today. Thank you for this wonderful book and I recommend it to all that is curious about Iran.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Rooftops of Tehran is Mahbod Seraji's first novel, and he's not a very good writer. I can't imagine wanting to read another book by him. I learned a fair amount about Iranian history and the love-hate relationship the people have with the US, but I can't say I developed fond feeling for them except for the best friend Ahmed. They seem to be a people who value lies over truth, magic over reality and use romance as an opiate. I didn't for one minute buy the romance between the two characters, and since it made up for more than half of the book, I'd have to say the novel part of the novel was a failure. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone except someone wanting to learn a little bit about the Iranian culture without having to read a history book.
wagner.sarah35 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A love story set in early 1970s Iran, this novel recounts the tale of a young man as he falls in love and observes friends becoming victims of the oppressive Iranian government. The author does a good job of depicting characters with only minimal political involvement who nevertheless fall afoul of the oppressive regime and suffer the loss of loved ones. These elements make for a compelling story about coming of age and the struggles and heartbreak that sometimes accompany it. Highly recommended.
BookLizard on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A beautiful coming of age story set in Tehran during the 1970s. Pasha spends one unforgettable summer playing football (soccer) with the kids in the alley, talking politics and philosophy with his best friend Ahmed, and falling in love with his beautiful neighbor, a girl promised in marriage to Pasha's friend and mentor.
sagustocox on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Mahbod Seraji's debut novel Rooftops of Tehran is a beautifully crafted journey set in Tehran, Iran, during the tumultuous 1970s. Pasha Shahed is a teenage boy who in the summer before his last year of high school faces the reality of his homeland, the despair of irrevocable change, and his first love."'And your star guides you when you're in trouble, right?''Your star and the stars of the people you love.'Ahmed closes one eye and lifts his thumb to block out one of the brighter stars. 'I'm tired of looking at your big fat face.'" (Page 4)Pasha and his friend Ahmed spend many nights on the rooftops discussing school, love, and life, but their simple lives soon become complicated. Ahmed declares his love for Faheemeh even though she is betrothed to another, and Pasha holds his secret love for his neighbor and friend's fiancee, Zari, close to his heart. "Doctor" and Pasha have a genuine intellectual relationship, but the underlying tension stemming from Pasha's secret love for Doctor's fiancee Zari, lingers behind the surface."In order to cure my introversion, she insists I drink a dusky concoction that looks and smells like used motor oil. I complain that her remedy tastes horrible, and she tells me to be quiet and stop whining." (Page 9)"We'll have chelo Kebob--a skewer of ground beef mixed with onions and domestic Persian herbs, and a skewer of filet, served over basmati rice that has been prepared with butter, the savory Persian herb somagh, and baked tomatoes." (Page 244)Seraji paints a clear picture of Iran's people and the culture that dictates its people survive even the worst situations possible. Pasha is a strong character in spite of his doubt, but like any young person feels personally responsible for the major events in his life even if he was powerless to stop them. From the Iranian dishes to the crowded neighborhoods, readers will fall into Tehran and walk the streets with Pasha and his friends. The tyrannical government's actions and dispensation of justice are infuriating and crushing, but in the midst of these heartaches, readers will laugh as Pasha and Ahmed poke fun at one another and Pasha regains hope."'Deep in each knot of a Persian rug is a statement of the hands that patiently drove the needle and the thread,' I once heard my father say." (Page 165)Seraji deftly creates memorable characters whose lives become fraught with tension and possible death. Readers are likely to become heavily invested emotionally in Pasha's life, cheering him on, crying alongside him in his grief, and hoping that he will regain his center. Rooftops of Tehran is witty and emotionally charged; a novel that will leave readers wanting more of Pasha and his family and friends. This debut novel reads like a well-polished epic.Rooftops of Tehran has made it to my growing list of top books for 2009; I was so emotionally involved that I found myself weeping on more than one occasion.
kakadoo202 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
very courageous to take on the historic events of Iran with a story like this. Lots of political background but I woudl have loved to learn even more about it. But nice story about arrange mariages and what the youth thought about it and about their rebellion against it. Even lots of tragedy happends to the characters I am not sure if I like the happy ending style. I rather woudl have liked a more open end.
Soniamarie on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is novel about close friendships and how love can survive all things. The setting is Tehran 1973 and 1974. The story is told from the viewpoint of an 18 year old young man, Pasha. Pasha has a best friend, Ahmed and these two have an extremely close, trusting friendship. They share everything and unlike Americans, they express their feelings without fear. I was so incredibly touched by the bond between them and also by the bonds between everybody in the neighborhood. The family ties, the caring between families, and the willingness of all to share suffering was amazing and touching. This novel shows a wonderful look at another culture. Back to Pasha. While his best friend is falling for a young neighborhood girl, Faheemeh, who has very overprotective brothers, Pasha secretly desires his neighbor girl, Zari. However, Zari is engaged to Doctor, another good friend of Pasha and Ahmed. Pasha struggles with guilt over his growing desire, but begins an innocent summer romance with the girl of his dreams. Meanwhile, there is a revolution and Doctor has gotten himself involved. He brings it back to the nieghborhood, the government hot on his trail. While watching from the rooftop, Pasha accidentally betrays his revolutionary friend, leading to his arrest and eventual death. All four friends, Pasha, Ahmed, Faheemeh, and Zari must deal with death in their own ways as well as their inner turmoil with their government and country. Zari does something drastic that will have a profound effect on everybody involved or close to her. The content was not all sad, however. I laughed out loud a couple times at Pasha's and Ahmed's "antics" and jokes. Even death and the revolutionary issues don't stop the young boys' mischief. Truly, a heartwarming tale and the memory of it will stay with readers for a while.
SamSattler on LibraryThing 8 months ago
"Rooftops of Tehran" is a coming-of-age novel that begins as the story of four young people caught up in the excitement of first love. In their exhilaration, the four of them see the adult world through youth¿s fresh eyes and they can hardly wait to carve out places for themselves in that world. However, "Rooftops of Tehran," set in the Shah¿s Iran of 1973-1974, is much more than a love story; it is also a tragic tale of defiance and courage in a society in which the price of defiance is often imprisonment and execution.Best friends Pasha and Ahmed have fallen in love with Zari and Faheemeh, two young women already engaged to be married to others. Faheemeh¿s engagement is a recent one but Zari was betrothed to Doctor at birth, the result of an arrangement between two families wishing to ensure closeness for generations to come. Ahmed, bold and brash as always, refuses to be bound by tradition and challenges his rival for Faheemeh¿s affections, willing to suffer a beating at the hands of Faheemeh¿s brothers in the process. Pasha, on the other hand, has come to love and admire Doctor and he feels great guilt over his love for Doctor¿s fiancé. Try as he might, however, Pasha finds it impossible to stop thinking about Zari.Pasha, Ahmed, Zari and Faheemeh become inseparable friends during one gloriously innocent summer during which they spend long days at Zari¿s home talking about life, books, and the future. It is a time during which Ahmed wins Faheema¿s hand and Zari begins to question her feelings about Doctor and Pasha. Everything, though, comes crashing down around their heads one night when the Shah¿s not-so-secret police pay a visit to the neighborhood. Pasha, alone in his rooftop hideaway, inadvertently exposes the person the police are seeking ¿ a mistake that will have grave consequences for those closest to him.Mahbod Seraji tells his tragic love story in a way that emphasizes the universal truths shared by people everywhere. All of us possess the same basic hopes, experiences and dreams for ourselves and our families, and we have more in common than not. This is so true that, while reading "Rooftops of Tehran," it is sometimes easy to forget that the story takes place in Iran rather than in a location more familiar to the reader. When things begin to go bad, however, the reader is jolted back to a keen awareness of the dangers of everyday life under the Shah of Iran¿s brutal dictatorship.Seraji, who arrived in the U.S. when he was 19, has vividly recreated a world that no longer exists, an Iranian culture that, frankly, was probably no less tolerant than the one of today, considering the regime that replaced the Shah. It was a world in which family, morality, education, and tradition were keys to happiness ¿ much as they are today in Iran and everywhere else in the world. Mr. Seraji tells a good story, one that will gratify fans of several different genres.Rated at: 4.0
bachaney on LibraryThing 8 months ago
"Rooftops in Tehran" follows Pasha, a 17 year old boy living in Tehran through one summer that will forever change his life. Pasha lives in a middle class alleyway in Tehran, and is surrounded by friends. When he falls for Zari, the fiance of his idol, Doctor, Pasha begins to question some of the traditions of the Persian people. After Doctor is arrested and killed for subversive activities, Pasha and Zari become closer, until one fateful day when Zari makes a decision that will change their lives forever. Will Pasha recover enought to pursue his longtime dreams in America? Or will the Iranian state drag him down too? "Rooftops in Tehran" is a hearwrenching story, different from some other novels about Iranian oppression because it is set during the rein of the Shah, rather than after the Iranian revolution. The novel is vehemently anit-American at points, which is historically accurate, but still interesting and brave in a novel marketed in the US. Although overall I enjoyed the book, I did have a couple of major problems, including the ending (which I found extremely unrealistic) and the narrative voice, which was simply too choppy for me to get really comfortable with. There is a lot of time jumping in the first part of the novel which really threw me off, as well as the very stacatto voice of our first person narrator Pasha. I would recommend this book to others who are interested in Iran during the period before the revolution. The book does not shy away from some of the more brutal parts of the regime, so it really does provide an interesting look.
lilikm on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book was AMAZING!
PensiveCat on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Rooftops of Tehran was touching without being sappy. It tells of young love and friendship in a 1973-4's Iran, but is never overdramatic about it. I've rarely been so interested in reading about two teenage boys as much as I was with Pasha and Ahmed - one is well read and a little sensitive and the other is witty yet caring. I've read a few books taking place in Iran, but haven't come across such a feeling of a community as I did here. I'm hoping for a sequel.
DevourerOfBooks on LibraryThing 8 months ago
¿Rooftops of Tehran¿ tells the story of Pasha, his best friend Ahmed and the girls they love, Zari and Faheemeh navigating the tricky process of growing up in the Shah¿s Iran. For the first half or 2/3rds of the book the narration is split between a time period starting in the summer of 1973 and Pasha¿s stay in a mental hospital in 1974. He knows that something traumatic and terrible has happened, but he has no recollection of what it is. This split in action could have turned out very cheesy and sensationalistic. Instead, Seraji got me involved in his characters so that I was genuinely interested in what had happened to put Pasha in a mental hospital and had me reading every page with interest and apprehension. Although the culture in which these characters were operating is very different from my own, I found them to be very relatable and real. I also loved the peak into pre-revolutionary Iran and found the hints of the coming revolution absolutely fascinating, particularly when people speculated about who should or would lead the revolution and worried about the possible influence of mullahs. I really enjoyed ¿Rooftops of Tehran,¿ it really pulled me into Iran in the mid-1970s in an interesting way with well-developed characters and an interesting plot.
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sassypickle More than 1 year ago
Mr. Seraji tells a passionate yet sad and heartbreaking tale about teens approaching adulthood in Iran. Captivating story with a twist at the end. Hopefully there will be a sequel.
Lucia Andrade More than 1 year ago
The best book ever written, simply put.
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