"An ambitious novel of an Iranian woman's personal and professional struggles during a time of war and unrest...Powell does a good job of capturing the intense emotions of a very dramatic time...a captivating plot with a well-developed protagonist."
"I thoroughly enjoyed reading Roxana's Revolution, a gripping story of individuals caught in events both inexplicable and out of control. We see the characters pulled between desire for something better for their beloved homeland and the growing knowledge that even worse is waiting for them, their friends, and their families. Eventually reality overwhelms, as it always does, even the most fervent hopes.
When the media frenzy over the hostage crisis of 1979 worsens and anti-Iranian sentiment surges all over the United States, Roxana, a Wall Street attorney has no choice but to return to Iran. During a stop in Paris, she meets Steve Radcliff, an American reporter with a tenacious attraction to her. Back in Tehran, where circumstances are nothing less than volatile, Roxana learns that revolutions while exciting and historic on pages of a book are painful to endure. As one crisis after other spins out of control, the government imposes wearing of a mandatory veil. This harsh revolutionary rule and Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran diminish Roxana's hope to have a normal life. She rejects Steve's marriage proposal and refuses to leave Iran with him. But a near- death experience and loss of her freedom in a border- sealed Iran propel her to enter a marriage doomed from its inception.
In this novel, an Iranian woman's life comes full circle as she takes a journey through Europe, and back to the United States. A dire situation takes Roxana back to Paris where a life-altering surprise is waiting for her.
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Read an Excerpt
By Farin Powell
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Farin Powell
All rights reserved.
November 1979—New York City
On Monday, November 18, 1979, Roxana read the deportation notice once more. She took a deep breath to digest what she had read. The letter had the official seal of the Immigration Office; it was real. For a moment she felt she had been pushed off a cliff and was tumbling down with no one around to help her. What was she supposed to do? She had heard about immigration jails and forced deportation. Fighting tears, she wondered about her future. Her American dream had just been shattered, like a house of cards blown away in the wind.
* * *
Sunday, November 4, 1979. Roxana finished the final draft of her pleadings in an antitrust law case that her law firm was handling in Geneva. She felt tired. She put her legal pad down and took a ten-minute break. She fixed herself a cup of coffee and returned to her Queen Ann desk chair. Huddled over the steaming cup, she pressed her spine into the quilted leather of her chair and let out a deep breath. She looked out the window, taking in the beauty of the sunset reflected in the Hudson. A white charter boat drifted out of sight behind the Merrill Lynch building, which obstructed the left angle of her view.
Occasionally, Roxana sat there and wondered what it would be like to work for a big company like Merrill Lynch but knew she had a long way to go before such a job could be within her reach. She needed a few years of corporate law experience.
She finished her coffee and realized that she should be grateful for the job she had—especially as she'd been so close to giving up on the idea of a job in New York City before Rubin & Stein—a small Wall Street law firm—hired her. If she'd heard, "You have a doctoral degree; you should be teaching law," one more time during those lean months, she thought she'd scream.
Yet the partners at Rubin & Stein seemed more than impressed by her expertise in international law, her awards, and the long list of law review publications—the exact things that had worked against her in previous interviews.
Luckily for her, Rubin & Stein's clients transacted their business in Europe, mostly in Switzerland. Her knowledge of several foreign languages and her ability to write pleadings for European courts landed her the job after only a thirty-minute interview.
After reviewing her brief for a last time, she piled the legal pads—with instructions—on the secretary's desk. Rubin and Stein were both in Geneva waiting to receive the materials.
She was too tired to take the subway home. She called the firm's limousine company and ordered a car—a reward her bosses allowed anytime she worked late or during the weekends.
The limousine driver dropped her in front of her apartment building on East Seventy-Ninth Street. She remembered she had nothing to prepare for dinner, so she walked into the small convenience store near the building and bought a TV dinner, a can of Pepsi, and one vanilla ice cream cone.
Back in her apartment, she ate her dinner by the light of a small lamp on the table next to the sofa and listened to her answering machine. After the first lengthy message, something about a New York Bar Association event, her friend Lili Cohan's panicked voice crackled across the line.
"Roxana, I don't have your new office number. I've been trying to reach you all afternoon. Some students have taken hostages at the American Embassy in Tehran. Please call me."
Roxana's fork fell to the floor. She put her unfinished TV dinner on the table, turned the TV on, and switched from channel to channel, watching the story unfold.
She couldn't believe what she was seeing. She turned the TV off, stared at her melting ice cream, and muttered, "Oh my God."
As it was 3:00 a.m. where Lili was in London, Roxana didn't call her, assuming she'd be asleep. Instead, she called her younger brother and sister, both of whom lived in New Hampshire.
Her first call was to Bahram, who didn't have much to say about the matter. He was busy at work and was preoccupied with a project he had to finish.
So she called her sister, Neghar, to find out her take on the situation.
Neghar had more time to chat with her sister and talk about the hostage crisis. After they hung up the phone, Roxana checked her call list. Nina had called too. She marveled that Lili and Nina, whom she'd known since childhood—and who, along with Roxana, had been dubbed "The Three Musketeers"—still kept in such close contact. She felt grateful every day to have them in her life, though circumstances kept them apart geographically.
When Roxana dialed Nina's number, she got her answering machine.
Probably at the hospital, she thought.
Although she was shocked about the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran, Roxana slipped under the covers that night, confident that the American hostages would be released within the next few days.
* * *
Amrika Held Hostage: Iran Crisis was the title of a TV news program Roxana hated to watch. Every day, she promised herself that she would not watch the program anymore, but every night she found herself glued to the TV set, watching Ted Koppel's powerful coverage of the crisis.
A few days after the US Embassy's seizure in Tehran, President Carter boycotted the importation of Iranian oil. Then, on November 13 and 14, 1979, he ordered the freezing of about $12 billion of Iranian assets in the United States. The next order was the deportation of Iranian students whose visas had expired or who were not enrolled in school. At the time, Iran had over fifty-one thousand students in the United States, more than any foreign country except Japan.
Roxana and other Iranians felt floored, as though everything they'd known and counted on had disappeared in a puff of smoke. In the seventies, they were used to first-class treatment in the United States, mostly due to the celebrity status of the Shah of Iran and his relations with Israel and the States. The February 11, 1979, revolution did not cause any anti-Iranian sentiments in the United States. But after the hostage taking on November 4, 1979, Iranians turned into savage, hostage-taking barbarians in the eyes of many Americans. At least that's how it felt to Roxana, as she continued to conduct the normal business of her life.
She began to feel as though she and all Iranians had been blamed for the hostage taking. Friends came to her with stories of attacks on Iranian students and businesses. Anti-Iranian bumper stickers and T-shirts cropped up everywhere. Some compared the treatment of the Iranians to that of the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. It felt as though she moved through her life under the constant angry eye of her community, and she wasn't sure she had the strength to shrug that feeling off for long.
She reluctantly watched every TV news channel, read each newspaper article about Iran, and kept praying the crisis would be over soon. She was surprised when certain political pundits ignored the reasons behind the Iranian Revolution and only analyzed its impact on the Soviet-US relationship. She felt the urge to question the pundits. What about the impact of the revolution on the Iranian people?
Her question didn't echo anywhere.
* * *
One evening, Roxana went to the law library at NYU to do some research. By the time she finished, it was after 11:00 p.m. She found Washington Square Park completely empty. She took a deep breath, surprised at the feelings of apprehension that rose in her. To her, the sight was surreal. The park and the surrounding streets were always crowded. What had happened to the Russian and Ukrainian chess players? They were like permanent fixtures in the park.
As she began walking toward the First Avenue bus stop, she became aware of a black limousine, with dark tinted windows, gliding quietly behind her. She pulled her jacket more tightly around her body and started walking fast.
The limousine continued to trail her slowly, keeping pace. A sudden fear crawled under her skin. Her heart pounded violently in her throat. She looked around desperately, hoping to spot someone else on the street, but saw no one. Choked with fright, she hastened across the street, but before she reached the curb, two men wearing black suits, like gangsters from the '40s, jumped out of the car and grabbed her.
Her scream died in her throat as one of the men shoved a rough piece of cloth into her mouth. The other one pulled a hood over her head, covering her face. Everything went dark. Her only thought was, Oh God, let me live. A pair of hands shoved her into the limousine, and then one of the men lifted the hood and pressed a strip of tape over her mouth.
The limousine took off with a screech and sped through the streets of Manhattan. Roxana's hands were tied behind her back, and fear and desperation created a violent hammering in her chest that she felt sure would kill her any second. Who were those people? What did they want? She tried to grab onto any bit of logic she could muster, but her world and her thoughts were too dark. Let me live, she thought again, and that one thought filled every part of her being.
After a long drive, the limousine stopped. Roxana's body trembled. The men grabbed her and lifted her out of the vehicle, and someone fastened a heavy bag around her neck. The next thing she felt was a strong push, her body falling through the air, and then the chill of water rushing around her. The sound of the splash echoed in her head.
Then she was drowning.
Roxana bolted out of bed, her trembling body soaked with sweat. Her heart beat so loudly that her ears pulsated to its rhythm. She stumbled from her bed and ran toward the kitchen. Her shaky hands reached for a towel lying on the counter, and she dabbed the sweat from her forehead and neck. She poured herself a glass of cold water and downed it in one gulp. Setting the glass down on the counter, she leaned back against the adjacent wall and slid down to the floor. She held her head in both hands. It was only a dream, only a dream.
She didn't have any appetite for breakfast, so she took a shower and left for work. Upon her return, she found a letter from Immigration and Naturalization Services in her mailbox.
"What now?" she asked, tearing it open.
The note ordered her to contact the agency for a deportation hearing. It acknowledged that her student visa was valid until June 1980. However, since she had already received her degree, she could no longer be categorized a student. The notice didn't mention the pending application for permanent residency that Rubin & Stein had filed on her behalf.
She sat down and took her head with both hands, trying to squeeze the shocking news out of her brain. She felt numb, her body weak as it had been in her dream. Why was she being punished for the actions of some students thousands of miles away?
She decided to see an immigration attorney before the partners returned from Switzerland. She knew all too well about the horrors of the deportation cases.
A day later, she found herself in the office of Brett Klein, an immigration attorney.
Mr. Klein, a man in his fifties with impeccable posture, reviewed all of Roxana's immigration documents. "I know a wonderful immigration judge in New York City. He may not get your case, but I am going to talk to him about you."
"Mr. Klein, I don't want to go through deportation procedure; can we expedite the process of getting my green card?"
"Not with this hostage hysteria going on."
"Please do whatever you can to stop this deportation."
"Let me see what I can do. In the meantime, be patient; this crisis won't be resolved soon."
* * *
Roxana anxiously followed the news about the lawsuit that a group of Iranian students had filed in the District Court of Washington, DC. They had challenged the legality of President Carter's order. The court ruled that it was unconstitutional to single out Iranian students and not other foreign students. But the attorney general appealed the decision.
The Court of Appeals agreed with the government that the actions of the hostage-takers had posed "an extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," as declared in President Carter's orders.
Roxana, tired of the media frenzy, accepted an invitation for a night out with her friend Judith. Although a busy literary agent, Judith—an attractive brunette—usually dressed up like a New York model. She was also the only friend who managed to coax Roxana out of a funk or away from her obligations.
"You have to give yourself a break. Have a little fun," Judith said.
She picked out a nice Italian restaurant on the West Side, telling Roxana it was impossible to be in a bad mood there. The restaurant was crowded, but a table waited for them when they arrived. As soon as they sat down, Roxana heard a heated debate among three men at the adjacent table.
"Carter should send the marines and set the Iranian oil wells on fire," one man said.
"No. We should close the Persian Gulf to stop the flow of their oil. That would really choke them up."
But the third man, who appeared to be the youngest of the group, shook his head and said, "That will jeopardize the lives of the hostages. Carter should ask the Israeli commandos to rescue them."
Roxana did not need to hear any more to know where this was headed. She had published a law review article about Entebbe, where Israeli commandos raided Uganda and rescued over a hundred Israeli hostages. She shuddered at the thought of such a bloodbath. She wondered how the three men would react had they known that she was Iranian.
When the waiter came to take their order, Judith stood and said, "Sorry, we have to go. It's too noisy here."
They left the restaurant and searched for another.
"You see, there's no escape," Roxana said. "The TV coverage, the newspapers, people riding the subway. Everywhere I go people are talking about the hostages. All of a sudden Iranians are barbaric. Iranians living in the States had nothing to do with the hostage taking."
"How did Rubin & Stein react to the news?"
"Since their return from Geneva, they've tried to expedite my green-card process, but the government has suspended all applications for Iranians. You know, it blows my mind when I really think about it. There were hundreds of thousands of Americans in Iran before the revolution, and no one ever displayed any hostility toward them. We had many Americans in my neighborhood in the '60s. The number increased ten times more in the '70s."
"Well, that was during the shah."
"It had nothing to do with him. I'm talking about the people, the culture. We're the most hospitable nation in the world."
"Don't worry; the crisis will be over soon."
"It's getting worse. Sometimes, when I'm walking, I'm afraid that someone will point to me and say, 'Arrest her; she's an Iranian.'"
"It's not that bad."
"Yes, it is, trust me. I can't get the images of the protestors on TV, and their signs, which read, 'Deport all Iranians,' or, 'Iranians, get the hell out of the US,' out of my mind."
"Why don't you come and spend the weekend in our place in South Hampton? It's cold, but it's more relaxing than the city."
Roxana had shied away from all of Judith's previous invitations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve parties. "I can't promise, but I'll try."
She hugged Judith, thanked her for the dinner, and headed home. It was raining, so she ran to the subway entrance.
When she transferred to the Lexington Avenue train, she noticed a charming man standing a few feet away. He was watching her while pretending to read the New York Times.
The ride was short. It was still pouring outside when she exited the subway.
She had walked less than a few feet when she heard a voice behind her.
"Miss, would you like to share my umbrella?"
She turned around and met the man from the train face-to-face. She wondered whether the man was an Immigration or FBI agent following her. She looked at him again. His heavy attaché suggested to her he could be an attorney or an accountant. After a brief hesitation, she decided to take shelter from the storm. She ducked her head underneath the stream of water pouring from the umbrella's edges and pulled her body under the large umbrella as much as she could. It felt good in that moment to be protected from the rain.
"Thanks. Where are you heading?" she asked.
"Can you believe a tropical rain in January?"
"It's rather unusual."
"I'm a patent lawyer; I work on Lexington Avenue. Do you work in midtown?"
"No, I work on Wall Street."
When the two arrived at Second Avenue, she turned to the man to thank him. He spoke before she could.
Excerpted from Roxana's Revolution by Farin Powell. Copyright © 2013 by Farin Powell. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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