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The Fortune Catcher
The Fortune Catcher
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Susanne gives an overview of the book:

The Fortune Catcher is a family saga set against the Iranian Revolution, a story of epic love and a young woman’s political coming of age. Layla Bahari, half American, half Iranian, of Jewish and Muslim descent, returns to her father’s native country in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution, to marry her childhood sweetheart. Now seen as a Westernized enemy, she is imprisoned, tortured, and betrayed. Through her, we enter the country that became the modern world’s first theocracy. There we meet a grandmother who believes in the spiritual rightness of the revolution, an Israeli agent who plays a ruthless and dangerous double game, a sensitive cousin destroyed by her inability to take sides, and a privileged young husband sent as punishment to the Iran-Iraq war. With sustained political, cultural, and psychological insight, the author brings us face to face with...
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The Fortune Catcher is a family saga set against the Iranian Revolution, a story of epic love and a young woman’s political coming of age. Layla Bahari, half American, half Iranian, of Jewish and Muslim descent, returns to her father’s native country in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution, to marry her childhood sweetheart. Now seen as a Westernized enemy, she is imprisoned, tortured, and betrayed. Through her, we enter the country that became the modern world’s first theocracy. There we meet a grandmother who believes in the spiritual rightness of the revolution, an Israeli agent who plays a ruthless and dangerous double game, a sensitive cousin destroyed by her inability to take sides, and a privileged young husband sent as punishment to the Iran-Iraq war. With sustained political, cultural, and psychological insight, the author brings us face to face with the fanatical righteousness that tears families apart, destroys women’s freedoms, subjects love to the laws of tyranny, and tests a young woman’s sense of identity.

 

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Chapter Four
April, 1979, Ordibehesht, The Month Resembling Heaven, 1358

There is a story about my life that I have not told anyone. When I was a young woman in the years between the Great World Wars, I went one day with my mother to the hammam. This was before everyone thought to build baths in their own homes. Pity. The hammam was a wonderful place. I can still smell the sandalwood oil and feel the warm steam settling on my skin.
I learned many things in the hammam by listening to the women talk. Even as a little girl, I listened. The other children played splashing and hiding games or they pestered the washing-women, who finally opened their longhs to frighten them with the sight of their dense, black pubic hair, telling them this was a hungry monster.
But I listened to the khanooms, the ladies. I learned how husbands can be cruel, but tamed, how servants must be disciplined and never trusted, how to handle the complexities of matchmaking. I knew that when I grew to be tall and married, I could be a great khanoom, a great lady, because this was what I was in my del, in my heart.
It was my mother who taught me to value myself this way, who told me that Allah had given me a wise soul, had written an important destiny on my forehead. And it was she who held me up during the hardships of my marriage and my early widowhood.
I loved my mother more than anything on that day in the hammam while she braided my hair and whispered small kisses along the top of my head. Though I was twenty-five years old (a khanoom by then for certain), in my sweet mother's presence, I was content to feel like a pampered child.

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Note from the author coming soon...

About Susanne

Susanne Pari is an Iranian-American journalist and author of The Fortune Catcher, a novel that explores multicultural identity and religious fundamentalism during the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution; it has been translated into six languages. Her non-fiction pieces have...

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Member Reviews

jana-mcburney-lin's picture
Dec.27.2008
What happens when life as you've come to know becomes illegal, immoral, a reason for your death? This is the dilemma facing the main character, a...

Author's Publishing Notes

Author’s Note to the New Edition<br /><br /> Since the September 11th terrorist attacks on America, I’ve felt an old and familiar sense of trepidation about what’s going to happen in the world. Twenty-two years ago, Islamic extremism fell upon my family and friends and turned our world upside down in much the same way it has done today. I wrote <em>The Fortune Catcher</em> in a seven-year frenzy of hope that I could come to an understanding of how the Iranian Revolution was commandeered by brutal fundamentalists, how I could explain to others that its reverberations were still with us, and how I could come to terms with my irrevocably changed life. Over the years, I’ve given interviews and talks to truly curious and interested readers who have thanked me for opening their minds to the complexities of a far away theocracy that would probably never really touch them personally. I thank them for that. And it is with great sorrow that I watch my fellow Americans grapple with the fear and anger and grief that so many thought would never come to pass here. <br /> I was twenty-one and living in New York when the revolution in Iran happened, twenty-two when Khomeini created an Islamic state and the American embassy hostages were taken. The timbre of American outrage was harsh and ignorant in those years; people have changed so much since then. Of course, I didn’t experience the hate and intolerance toward Iranians as intensely as others; after all, I’m half American and I have the good fortune of having light eyes and a New York accent. It is with pride and hope now that I listen to Americans try so vigorously to overcome their visceral reactions and to seek out a comprehension of the situation that goes beyond the simple black and white.<br /> I was raised a Moslem. I spent my childhood between Tehran and New York. My father came to the U.S. from Iran in 1950. My mother is an American of both Jewish and Christian parents. When she married my father in 1956, she converted to Islam in a an off-handed way to please my father’s parents. My mother understood the virtue of forming one’s own personal religious doctrine long before any of us considered it. <br /> My paternal grandparents were devout Moslems. My grandfather had studied to become a mullah, and my grandmother never left the house, never listened to music, never drank alcohol, never saw a playing card, never danced. And I accepted that. My life was very different from theirs. Many people don’t remember or don’t know that before 1980, Iranian women did not have to wear the veil, nor were Iranians banned from consuming alcohol, gambling, or mixing with the opposite sex. I wore a chador twice in my life: once when I was eight years old playing dress-up, and again when I visited a holy shrine in the city of Mashhad when I was eighteen. This last experience haunted me for years. Donning the chador in public made me feel suddenly like a ghost, a subliminal shadow, stripped of identity. Despite this, inside that shrine with its marble floors and mosaic domes, mirrored walls and grilled silver sarcophagus, the other women pilgrims spotted me immediately for an upper-class skeptic and I was taunted, shoved, pushed, and spat at. I attributed their hostility to envy and ignorance, and I matched it with my own (though I kept it to myself). I wasn’t afraid. And it wasn’t until maybe ten years later, after the revolution, that I realized I should have been afraid and I should have thought more about it because eventually it would affect my life. In my own sheltered and ignorant fashion, I allowed myself the illusion of separation and safety.<br /> <em>The Fortune Catcher </em>is a book of fiction, an historical novel. Why? The writer in me finds truth and insight in fiction. I wanted to explore how events were shaped by people and how people were shaped by events. My characters do that for me. All historical events in this novel were researched and are authentic to the years directly following the Revolution; from the stoning deaths of women convicted of adultery to the heart-wrenching conditions at the Iran-Iraq war front; from the descriptions of aristocratic life before the revolution to the secret sale of arms to Iran by Israel. I spent years poring over books and articles, video tapes and reports from Amnesty International, and – most of all – listening to the stories of those who escaped. My own experiences with mystics and fortune-tellers, traditional women and liberated women, biculturalism and feminism, the religious and non-religious were, of course, my foundation. <br /> While a central theme of T<em>he Fortune Catcher</em> is fanaticism in many of its forms – religious, political, cultural, and emotional – it is, above all, a love story. And like many love stories that take place during difficult political times, it is about personal and cultural identity, about the freedom to make personal choices and to hope for independence. When extremism surrounds us, we often look for moderate ground, at least in our inner lives. The more deeply we look, the more complex everything seems. There are no simple answers to the questions we ask ourselves today: why the hatred? why the ignorance? why the suffering? But seeking answers is the prevalent human condition, perhaps even a human obligation. That those answers – or what so many people call “solutions” – may not be concrete nor readily attainable is merely the nature of our evolutionary process. It took millions of years for our ancestors to rise from the seas and walk on land, just as it took centuries for us to create the doctrines of religion that plague us today; so it may take us some time to realize peace and an end to suffering in the world. Our duty is to begin the journey and to continue on it patiently and with gusto, as if moving toward our goal is the goal itself.<br /> <em>The Fortune Catcher</em> is part of my journey. I hope it can be a small part of yours as well. <br /><br />Susanne Pari<br />October 19, 2001