I receive several opportunities a month to do book reviews. I turn most of them down in spite of the fact it means I won't get a free book. I almost decided against reviewing We Heard the Heavens Then: A Memoir of Iran but eventually agreed. After reading the first few pages I knew I had made the right decision.
We Heard The Heavens Then by Aria Minu-Sepher is the story of the last few years of Shah’s Iranian monarchy and the revolution that brought it down as seen through the eyes of a young boy who's father was a powerful general in the Shah's air force. The author has had decades in the United States to think about what happened and presents us with a measured and fair account of social-political reality that led up to the revolution.
There are several characters in this story both family members and others. Aria Minu-Sepher grew up in a privileged world. As we might say now he was part of the one percent. His mother is mentioned but it is rarely a flattering picture. She was proud of the fact she was part of the aristocracy. His father, “Baba,” plays a key part in the narrative. A very competent pilot and General who adores his son and attempts to mold his son in his own image. In a way this book is a tribute to his father. The rest of the authors extended family represent an eclectic mix of Iranian society. The household staff also plays a part but none more than the housekeeper “Bubbi.” She is a very conservative Muslim, a classic member of the Iranian 99%. She is offended by Western influence. She objects to serving wine, shrimp and ham. She objects to automobiles and thinks the F14 fighters the General commands are straight from the devil. We get the impression that she represents a lot of the 99%.
The author paints a picture of an Iran that is not just divided along 1% - 99% line but also on a secular – pious line, but there is a great deal of overlap. Much of Iran was not enjoying the miracles from the west but they didn't want to. I think that we can see some of the problems we are having in Afghanistan – a majority who simply don't want to be forced into a secular world.
Normally this subject matter would be rather dry but this book is an enjoyable and easy read because it is made up primarily of personal anecdotes. I highly recommend this book.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Cross posted at The Moderate Voice