Monday, May 5, 2014

A Beginner's Guide to Acting English by Shappi Khorsandi

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Publication date: 2009
Publisher: Ebury Press
Pages: 309
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 16+

When Shaparak's family first moves to England from Iran, they are only going to be there for a couple of years. But while they are there, there is a revolution, replacing the Shah with the Ayatollah--what, at first, seemed a good change. But with this change comes extreme laws and another revolution. Shappi's father, a satirist, is wanted by the Ayatollah and so the Khorsandis become refugees.

This is an interesting memoir, told from the view of a child between the ages of 3 and 13 in the late 1970s and 80s. The innocence and naivety that Khorsandi uses to tell the story of her father and the unrest in Iran is a great story telling technique.

However. The narrative was hard to get into. Part of this might be the expectations I had going into it, and part could have been that Iran and Farsi are something that I know next to nothing about, so I had no frame of reference. I found myself wishing that there was a glossary of Farsi terms in the back, because Khorsandi would use words and phrases without really explaining what they meant--leaving me to figure it out, which pushed me out of the narrative.

In spite of this, I've been telling people about the story and what I've learned. As I said, I knew very little about Iran and the revolution, the Iran-Iraqi war, or the Ayotallah regime (which came across so much like the Nazi regime in WWII that it was frightening), so I found the subject matter and Khorsandi's first hand experience as a child really fascinating. I think those with an interest and better understanding of the Middle East and its history will find the book a better read than I did.

*I do not receive any compensation from Amazon.

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