I began to write when I was in high school, in the 1960s, in Ahvaz, an oil town in Southwest Iran. I still can vividly see the room in which I wrote. It was one of a row of bedrooms, on the second floor of our two-story house with a wrap-around balcony. I had furnished my room sparsely -- a wooden desk and chair, an iron bed covered by a quilt my grandmother made, a rust colored Persian rug on the floor. But the room had a window overlooking Pahlavi Square, full of discordant color.
Beyond the tall palm trees redolent with dates, I could see vendors with their carts, displaying all sorts of merchandise, from dried whitefish to American imported handbags to dates and coconuts. Within my view were also the bright turquoise and gold minaret of the Friday Mosque, and the canopy of the Sahra Cinema, where American movies were shown. I could hear the muezzin calling people to prayers, Allah o Akbar, as well as the soundtrack of the movies, combined with the vendors hawking their merchandise.
The juxtaposition of the mosque and the cinema captured the character of Ahvaz. Iranians, Americans employed in oil refineries and Iraqi Arab immigrants all intermingled. Their clashing beliefs and mores, their unequal levels of wealth and education, were a constant source of conflict, eventually leading to the Islamic Revolution that overthrew the shah.
My desire to write was embedded in all the tension, not just from that uneasy amalgam outside but also within my home. When I was an infant, I was adopted by my aunt and then, when I was 9, my father forcefully took me back from her to live with my birth-family.
Read the rest at latimes.com, http://tinyurl.com/oyrw2a, where this essay was posted in October 2009.
Causes Nahid Rachlin Supports
Amnesty International, Oxfam America, The Doe Foundation, Meals on Wheels, American Civil Liberies Union