Skip to main content

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji


Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji (NAL Trade, 2009) isn't marketed as a young adult novel, but many teen readers will find it appealing.

It is the early 1970s and the people of Iran are bewildered and pained by political injustice. In Tehran, seventeen-year-old Pasha is in love with the girl next door. Zari is beautiful, intelligent, older - and engaged to Pasha's mentor and friend, Ramin. Ramin, who is better known as Doctor, is a university student activist who hates the Shah and his government. Pasha's best friend Ahmed is in love too, with Faheemeh, a girl being forced to marry a man she does not love.

The chapters in Rooftops of Tehran alternate between the summer Pasha falls in love with Zari and his time in a psychiatric hospital almost a year later. The novel has a leisurely pace and the reasons behind Pasha's confinement are slowly revealed. Readers are taken through the development of Pasha, Doctor, Zari, Ahmed, and Faheemeh's relationships as friends, neighbors, and lovers, as well as through their shocking and heartbreaking encounters with the SAVAK, the Shah's secret police.

Debut author Mahbod Seraji takes extra special care to introduce and explain Persian culture, politics, and history. Readers will be fascinated by the differences between their culture and Persian culture and will marvel at the similarities. Though descriptions of time and place are overwrought, the neighborhood setting of the novel is still beautifully established through the relationships and activities of people. There is a strong and warm sense of community throughout the entire novel from all of the characters' respect for elders, family ties, friendships, concern for one another, and hospitality.

This window to Iran, establishment of setting, and sense of community make Rooftops of Tehran interesting and enjoyable. But what makes it truly worth reading is the coming of age of Pasha and Ahmed. They experience their first major personal crises and their first brutal encounters with life. The portrayal of their gradual transformation from boys to men is effective and moving.

Rooftops of Tehran makes Iran feel like your home and Pasha, Doctor, Zari, Ahmed, and Faheemeh feel like your close neighbors. Putting away this novel once the story is over will feel like having to leave home. You will not want to leave.


[My copy of Rooftops of Tehran was provided by the publisher.]

Comments

  1. Hey Tarie ... your beautiful blog is on my list!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I want to read this book so badly, it sounds wonderful and I love the topic, 1970s Iran, so few YA books about that out there so this one caught my eye. Thanks for this review and I'm glad to have found your other blog Tarie :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think you will like Rooftops of Tehran, Ari. :) It's the perfect introduction to Persian culture!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Author Interview: Jack Cheng

I still haven't gotten over See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng(Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017). So after I reviewed the book here and cooked up some classroom and book club activities for it, I just had to grill Jack about his influences and creative process. Read our interview below! 


Hi, Jack! What motivates and inspires you to write for young readers?

Getting to meet kids (both in school and through my books) who are at a time in their life when they're really starting to form their values. It's a time when they're really starting to ask the big questions about life and the people around them—the same big questions that we keep asking, I think, even when we grow into adults.
I was excited when I saw that the main character of See You in the Cosmos, Alex Petroski, was Filipino American. Is there a particular reason you made Alex Filipino American?
To be honest, I thought about making Alex Chinese American but I felt like it would've been a different novel. I wou…

Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino (I Am A Good Filipino) by Noel Cabangon and Jomike Tejido

This one is a real crowd pleaser: Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino, Lampara Books' 2012 picture book adaptation of Noel Cabangon's song, with Cabangon's original Filipino lyrics, functional English translations by Becky Bravo, and illustrations by Jomike Tejido!

Cabangon's inspiring lyrics remind children of the ways they can be good Filipinos, such as doing their best in school and obeying their parents. There are plenty of reminders for adults too, such as following traffic rules and not selling their votes during elections. Tejido's illustrations are warm and wholesome, acrylic paintings on hand-woven mats that depict different ways to be good citizens.   


You just can't go wrong with Ako'y Isang Mabuting Pilipino! Children and adults will understand and appreciate the lyrics and paintings. The chords of the song are provided, so music lovers can play and sing along. There are notes and guide questions for educators. There is even a treat for book…

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017)

"My name is Alex Petroski and my house is in Rockview, Colorado, United States of America, planet Earth. I am eleven years and eight months old . . ."
Filipino American Alex Petroski LOVES astronomy. His hero is Carl Sagan, the astronomer who sent a "Golden Record" out into space. In 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. In case the spacecraft ever made contact with extraterrestrial life forms, or future humans, each had on board a "Golden Record," a copper phonograph LP featuring a collection of sounds and images meant to portray the life and culture on planet Earth. The recorded sounds included things like wind, thunder, bird songs, greetings in 55 languages, and the brainwaves of a woman in love. (You can actually listen to the audio of the Golden Record here.)
Alex has built his very own rocket, Voyager 3, and plans to launch it into space at SHARF (Southwest High-Altitude…