Annapolis Capital - January 16, 2007
Woman tells of her 2 lives in Iran and America
By LESLIE HUNT, Staff Writer
Another local author has appeared on the booklist; this time, however, the book isn’t about our local wildlife or the Chesapeake Bay. It is one woman’s tale about living the American dream and about her youth as a Muslim in Iran.
The author is Davar Ardalan, producer for “Morning Edition” on National Public Radio, and she is about to begin a national book tour promoting her recently released memoir, “My Name is Iran.”
Ms. Ardalan, 42, was born in San Francisco and moved with her parents to Iran when she was an infant. She lived there until the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Dropping her first name, Iran, she moved to the Boston suburb of Brookline, Mass., where she attended high school and did some modeling.
When she turned 18, Ms. Ardalan returned to Iran. She immersed herself in the culture of the country, became a Muslim and partook of all of the customs, including an arranged marriage.
Her book was inspired by an NPR documentary and series she produced three years ago, tracing Iran’s struggle for justice, going back to the time of her great-grandfather, Ali Akbar Davar. He was the minister of justice of Iran in 1927.
“He helped modernize Iran’s judicial system ... all the reforms he brought to the judicial system were wiped out after the Islamic Revolution in 1979,” Ms. Ardalan said.
In the book she expanded her story to include three generations of women: her grandmother Helen, her mother Mary Laleh and her great-grandmother Mrs. Davar. The last chapter is about her great-grandfather.
“There is a lot of intrigue and fascination surrounding Iran. This (book) puts a person’s face to a mysterious country. My name is Iran and I am not evil,” she said.
“The nation and the people have longed for civil society for 2,500 years … the fact that governments are in conflict … doesn’t reflect a whole nation.”
She said that today many human rights activists are longing to change Iran’s laws, similar to the time of her great-grandfather. One in particular is Shirine Ebadi, a human rights lawyer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her human rights work in Iran.
Mrs. Ardalan covered the awards ceremony in Oslo, Norway, for NPR.
“She (Ms. Ebadi) is trying to bring attention to the government that the laws pertaining to women are discriminatory. It is coming full circle back to the times of my great-grandfather,” she said. “She is leading a campaign of getting signatures. It is a specific grass roots effort. It is very brave these days to be doing this in Iran.”
Ms. Ardalan started at NPR 14 years ago as a production assistant and worked her way up the ladder to be-come supervisory producer of “Morning Edition.” Her mother, Mary Laleh, an Islamic scholar and published author of two books about her parents, played a major role in the research for her book.
“My grandparents saved every note until they passed away. My mother is the keeper of the family treasures,” said Ms. Ardalan. “She kept locks of hair of all seven children.” And with the many references to Islamic history in Ms. Ardalan’s book, she thought it was “very important to have her involved. She is the family historian and archivist. I couldn’t have written the book without her support.”
Ms. Ardalan lives on the Severn River with her partner John Oliver Smith and their their blended family of eight children, ages 8 to 22. For years, she juggled working the “graveyard shift” at NPR while writing the book. She said her family was behind her all the way.
Ms. Ardalan began a two-month book tour starting in Los Angeles on Monday. From there she will visit San Francisco, New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and Albuquerque.
A member of the Greater Severna Park Chamber of Commerce, she’s added Severna Park as a stop on her book tour. Ms. Ardalan will be signing copies of her book and will make a presentation at the chamber’s “Successful Women in Business” event at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 25 at Corky’s Hard Bean Coffee Shop in Park Plaza.
The cost is $15 for chamber members and $20 for non-members. A buffet lunch is included. Call the Severna Park Chamber of Commerce 410-647-3900 for information.
- No Jumps-
Published January 16, 2007, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2007 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.