Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Free Press Book Tours: We Heard the Heavens Then by Aria Minu-Sepehr

Title: We Heard the Heavens Then
Author: Aria Minu-Sepehr
Publisher: Free Press
Publish Date: April 10, 2012 (Today!)
Source: I received a copy from the publisher. This did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You like memoirs.
  • You like history.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "ARIA MINU-SEPEHR was raised in a sheltered world of extraordinary privilege as the son of a major general in the Shah’s Imperial Iranian Air Force. It seemed his father could do anything—lead the Golden Crowns in death-defying aerobatic maneuvers; command an air force unit using top American technology; commission a lake to be built on a desert military base, for waterskiing. When Aria was eight, “Baba” built him a dune buggy so he could explore the desert; by ten, the boy handled the controls of a Beechcraft Bonanza while his father napped in the copilot’s seat. Aria moved easily between the two distinct worlds that existed under his family’s roof—a division that mirrored the nation’s own deep and brooding divide. He was as comfortable at the lavish cocktail parties his parents threw for Iran’s elite as he was running amok in the kitchen where his beloved nanny grumbled about the whiskey drinking, French ham, and miniskirts. The 1970s were the end result of half a century of Westernization in Iran, and Aria’s father was the man of the hour. But when the Shah was overthrown and the Ayatollah rose to power in 1979, Aria’s idyllic life skidded to a halt. Days spent practicing calligraphy in his father’s embrace, lovingly torturing his nanny, and watching Sesame Street after school were suddenly infused with fears that the militia would invade his home, that he himself could be kidnapped, or that he would have to fire a gun to save Baba’s life. As the surreal began to invade the mundane, with family friends disappearing every day and resources growing scarce, Aria found himself torn between being the man of the house and being a much needed source of comic relief. His antics shone a bright light for his family, showing them how to escape, if only momentarily, the grief and horror that a vengeful revolution brought into their lives. We Heard the Heavens Then is a deeply moving story told from two vantage points: a boy growing up faster than any child should, observing and recoiling in the moment, and the adult who is dedicated to a measured assessment of the events that shaped him. In this tightly focused memoir, Aria Minu- Sepehr takes us back through his explosive youth, into the heart of the revolution when a boy’s hero, held up as the nation’s pride, became a hunted man.

My Two Cents:

I really like memoirs. I especially like memoirs when they're about places and times that I don't know much about. We're about 30 years past the Iranian Revolution and there are still new perspectives and information that are coming out about that time period from a broad variety of sources. Aria Minu-Sepehr was just about 10 years old when the revolution took place. Even at that young age, he was well aware that his life was going to change. His family was very well off under the Shah and his dad was a military hero. Both of these things made his family a target for the new regime. In typical child fashion, Aria doesn't realize what he has and takes all of the things and opportunities that his family can provide for him for granted. He's definitely a little spoiled in the beginning of the book but the things that he goes through and the experiences that he looks back on him definitely change him.

I think that this is the first book about the Iranian Revolution that I've read that was told through the point of view of a person who was a child at the time looking back over the events that happened in 1979. Even though children aren't always fully aware of what's going on at the time, they are still more perceptive a lot of times than we really give them credit for.

This book is definitely a good one for those that are looking for a different take on an event whose affects the world is still dealing with today. At it's core, it is really a human story about how a family finds that the country where they have lived for just about forever can no longer be a safe home. It's heart breaking and funny at some points and show just how resilient we humans really can be.

Bottom line: History and memoir lovers will enjoy this one.



  1. I have never read a book about this subject. It sounds like it is a good memoir, thanks for the great review!

    1. It was definitely a good one. I thought it was a really interesting perspective. I think many of the things that I've read about Iranian Revolution were from the point of view of people that were adults at the time!

  2. The other week I watched a fantastic film (based on a book I'm yet to read), Women without Men (2009) directed by Shirin Neshat (who is just a brilliant artist) which is set in Iran in 1953, and from what I understand is a sort of backdrop to the revolution. I've been recommending that film to everyone I talk to since, and I'm now more interested in Iran's history. So, I'll be adding this to my tbr list. And that title is just perfection.

    1. Ooo, that sounds really good. I wonder if I can get the movie or book here in the States...


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