Seventeen-year-old Pasha is just like any other kid living in Tehran in the 1970’s – he loves soccer, hanging out with his friends, and thinking about girls. Pasha and his best friend Ahmed spend their evenings sitting on Pasha’s roof, dreaming about going to America after high school, about the women they want to marry, and about what their future lives will entail. Unfortunately for Pasha, he falls in love with his neighbor, Zari, who is engaged to a man Pasha deeply respects, the neighborhood radical, whom everyone calls Doctor. Pasha’s childhood comes to an abrupt end when Doctor is abducted and killed by SAVAK, the “secret” police. The ramifications of Doctor’s death on Pasha, Zari, and the rest of their family and friends are devastating.
I have been interested in reading Rooftops of Tehran for a while now because I have a personal connection to the story: my uncle was born and raised in Iran, and he was about Pasha’s age in the ’70’s, which is right about the time he left to go to school in the United States. Although I don’t think he grew up in Tehran, I wanted to read this novel to get a feel for the culture and environment that my uncle was raised in.
And I thought Rooftops of Tehran was really a lovely book. Seraji’s writing definitely stood out for me – the prose was simple and direct, but extremely effective. I truly felt like I was reading the thoughts of a seventeen-year-old kid who unfortunately did a huge amount of growing up in a very short time. The novel deals with some really tough subject matter, yet I never felt overwhelmed or too depressed by the events of the book – Seraji just made me feel at home in Pasha’s world. I was sad, of course, by what I read, but it was an okay kind of sad, not a super depressing can’t-stop-crying kind of sad. It just felt like the sad reality of what Pasha was going through.
While this book is about tragedy, it is also a love story, it’s about overcoming adversity, it’s about standing up for what you believe in no matter the costs, and it is about the importance of family and close friends in even the darkest of times. The book is laugh-out-loud funny on one page, and then will bring a tear to your eye the next. It is a book about shared human experience, even for those of us who grew up in a completely different culture from Pasha.
If you can’t tell already, I seriously enjoyed Rooftops of Tehran. I’m actually sort of kicking myself for waiting so long to read it. I can’t pick a specific audience to recommend this book to – I think it’s a fantastic read for just about anybody.