The Cypress Tree: A Love Letter to Iran
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Kamin Mohammadi was nine years old when her family fled Iran during the 1979 Revolution. Bewildered by the seismic changes in her homeland, she turned her back on the past and spent her teenage years trying to fit in with British attitudes to family, food and freedom. She was twenty-seven before she returned to Iran, drawn inexorably back by memories of her grandmother's house in Abadan, with its traditional inner courtyard, its noisy gatherings and its very wallssteeped in history.The Cypress Tree is Kamin's account of her journey home, to rediscover her Iranian self and to discover for the first time the story of her family: a sprawling clan that sprang from humble roots to bloom during the affluent, Biba-clad 1960s, only to be shaken by the horrors of the Iran-Iraq War and the heartbreak of exile, and toughened by the struggle for democracy that continues today.This moving and passionate memoir is a love letter both to Kamin's extraordinary family and toIran itself, an ancient country which has survived so much modern tumult but where joy and resilience will always triumph over despair.
before the order had come that family names had to be registered, and Shokrollah had chosen the surname Mohammadi, the whole village had registered the same name to show him respect – feudal ways were ingrained in the people. Bagher, a bright-eyed boy with curly black hair, was born in the village of Mohammadis and he entered a world where people died in the same class in which they were born. There was no middle class and no upward mobility and Shokrollah assumed that his son would see out his
even as a small child growing up in the seventies, I was aware of certain associations around that word, SAVAK. The word stank of fear, of silence and wariness, of conversations cloaked in allegory. The poetry of the Persian language and the indirectness of the culture suited such subterfuge – after all the Iranian mind has been shaped for centuries around intrigue, mistrust and insecurity. After thousands of years of being conquered and subjugated to the whims of invaders and their own despotic
especially fond of Mahnaz, the second daughter who was a few years older than me. I loved her huge smile and generous spirit, she was funny and her grey eyes twinkled with intelligence. Our bond had only deepened one winter when, out playing in the snow-covered garden, she had slipped and fallen into the iced-over pool. I had dashed inside and fetched the adults, and they had fished out a shivering Mahnaz who from then on maintained that I had saved her life. Although I was shy when I had to put
men visited from Abadan on the weekends, exhausted and wrung out with working every day in a war zone, they found their women caught in their own private wars. The government had set up refugee reception areas in the cities and eventually all the refugees were registered and given ration books and accommodation. Yassaman and her fiancé had been officially transferred to Shiraz to work and the Company provided them both with rooms in the airline’s hotel – the Homa, the smartest in town. Mina’s
to Australia are strewn the proud, quiet Kurds that carry in them still the memory of the cool air of Sanandaj. From Abadan to Shiraz to London to California to Holland to Sydney are dispersed the garrulous, hot-blooded descendents of the house of Hayat Davoudy, hiding in their reasonable twenty-first-century breasts the same pride that made our ancestor shoot her servant over a misplaced tea spoon, all champion chatterers and masters of the belly laugh. There in her little flat in Shiraz is