Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji
Published: May 5, 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
In this poignant, eye-opening and emotionally vivid novel, Mahbod Seraji lays bare the beauty and brutality of the centuries-old Persian culture, while reaffirming the human experiences we all share. In a middle-class neighborhood of Iran’s sprawling capital city, 17-year-old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend Ahmed, joking around one minute and asking burning questions about life the next. He also hides a secret love for his beautiful neighbor Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. But the bliss of Pasha and Zari’s stolen time together is shattered when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah’s secret police. The violent consequences awaken him to the reality of living under a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice.
Rooftops of Tehran was unlike any contemporary I’ve read. I think I have expressed my dislike more than once for the genre but if I see a synopsis that intrigues me I will give it a shot. I am so pleased that I got this book. It was a beautifully written coming of age novel set in Iran during the 1970s. Mahbod Seraji tells the story of 17-year-old Pasha and his friends during the years of 1973-1974. The author tells of the beauty and brutality infused in the centuries-old Persian culture.
“People do amazing things for love. Books are full of wonderful stories about this kind of stuff, and stories aren’t just fantasies, you know. They’re so much a part of people who write them that they practically teach their readers invaluable lessons about life.”
I really loved these characters they expressed their emotions beautifully and everything they had to go through was heartbreaking. This story should be read by everyone and it was really important. I loved that this was written by someone of the culture so it was incredibly authentic and rich with Persian pride.
1) The Historical Aspect & Rich Culture
One of my favorite things in school was history class. It was always fun and exciting learning about new cultures & how others lived. I always made sure to keep an open mind because I know people in other countries & cultures live differently. That is exactly how I went into this book. The media and American politics give you this pre conceived notion on how people from places like Iran, Iraq, Saudi, etc live. I never let myself believe those things. I want my facts from direct sources and people who live in these countries. I love how Rooftops of Tehran is from someone who lived in Iran. This story was rich with Persian customs and I loved seeing how they perceived us here in America. The love hate relationship they had was 100% justifiable and it pains me that this country funds so many dictators like the Shah. There was so much detail about how things worked in Iran during this time and it really broke my heart but I also loved the faith these people had. There are such vast differences between things like how they mourn deaths, how marriage is done, etc but I loved reading about all of it. The author did a fantastic job of bringing me history in a wonderfully crafted way.
“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.”
2) The Romance & Friendship (Especially between male characters)
“Because I would rather be with you in hell than without you in heaven.”
The romance & friendship was a major part of this story but before anyone writes this off as some simple cliche romance let me stop you there. The love stories in this novel are truly inspiring and groundbreaking. These characters had to grow up faster than they expected with everything that happened. Pasha and Zari’s romance was odd defying and epic. It broke my heart into a million tiny pieces and then glued it all back. The author had me on my toes with them and they had two major OMG moments. Ahmed and Faheemeh were a secondary relationship shown through the eyes of Pasha. They were just as amazing though. I loved how Ahmed went against their culture and her family to show the world how much he loved her. It was incredibly brave. But my favorite thing about this novel was the male friendships. Just like the story says males in America don’t express their love and care for one another like these men did. I find that masculinity in America is weak and showing you actually care for your friend is considered weak or silly as it is gay. Which as we all know is stupid because unless you’re harboring lovey dovey feelings for your best friends then I assure you you’re not gay. I truly loved how the author showed these friendships and let them hug one another, miss each other, cry with each other, etc. It was so beautiful and touching.
“Ahmed is the pillar I lean one.”
3) The Characters
Pasha, Ahmed, Zari, Faheemeh, Iraj, Doctor, and all the other characters were amazing. The four friends and their concept with the stars were so beautiful. These characters were brave, loving, wise, comical at times, and you really felt everything they went through. I felt really connected with them, not in a cultural sense because I don’t know how that situation feels but, in an emotional sense. I have felt a lot of those different things that they went through but in my own type of situations. I also related to Pasha’s love for books. ♥♥♥♥♥
“I know your star, but which one’s mine?” she asks, letting her weight sink into me for just a moment. “The biggest, brightest one.” “That’s you,” she corrects. “That’s us,” I whisper. “We share the same star.”
1) The Pace of the Story
This was pretty much the only reason it wasn’t a five star. It did take quite a bit for the big climax to happen and for the second big WOAH moment to happen. There was a lot of filler plot stuff that didn’t do much to the overall story. It wasn’t bad but it made for a slow beginning of just reading about these teens having a cute fun summer. Then the real earth shattering moment happens and the story picks up the pace and it was just one heart breaking shock after the next.
I encourage everyone who loves reading diverse books to pick up this story. It truly is unforgettable and will always stay in the back of my mind. Are you into historical fiction? If yes, what are some of your favorites?