Evocative Words: Memoirs of Second Generation Iranian Americans

The memoir has been used by a first and second generation of Iranian American women writers to tell the story of their lives. If we consider a standard definition of a memoir as a personal reminiscence of an individual, a re—telling of significant events or persons in the author’s life, and how the author experienced these events and people, we should be alerted to the fact that a memoir falls within the category of literature, and not of historiography.

Although the memoir contains facts, it is not a factual account. It is a personal account of facts. A memoir (knowingly or unknowingly, deliberately or not) is a record of feelings. A first generation of Iranian women memoirists was not shy about using the form of the memoir to express feelings of love for home and homeland. But the situation of a second generation of Iranian memoirists, most of whom left Iran in dramatic circumstances and often, although not always with traumatized parents is very different from the first generation. In reading memoirs by second generation Iranian American women, we may be able to mine the tales of family relationships for what the authors feel about their lives, both in the past (in Iran) and in the present (in America). Often an author’s re-telling of her relationship with a father or a mother allows us to catch emotions which the author keeps hidden for one reason or another: of sadness, longing, anger, disappointment and love. This presentation will discuss the works of Tara Bahrampour, Nahid Rachlin and Firoozeh Dumas within the framework outlined above.