“Thanks. I’m so excited to be able to talk to an American. It’s been a while.”
“My bio says you have an unusual kind of problem. Something we don’t often see in fiction these days. I’ll let you tell our listeners all about it.”
“I was ten years old and living in Massachusetts like any American kid. But then one day my parents decided to up and visit my father’s country, Iran. I knew nothing about my father’s country and culture and it was, to say the least, quite a shock. But when I suddenly was forced to stay there with my relatives, the real problems began.”
“That’s doesn’t sound so horrible. I mean, you have family around you. That has to be kind of cool.”
“True, I had my father’s family around me, but they were complete strangers to me, and everything was so different, so alien. Their food, their language, they way they behaved with one another. I couldn’t relate to any of it. It would have been fine visiting for a while, or a month as originally planned, but living there with them was a whole different matter.”
“Wait a minute. You went for a visit, but you’ve been there for how many years? Did your parents move there or something?”
“We originally went there to visit my father’s family and for my father to take care of family business. But two weeks in, my parents were killed in a car accident. I was devastated, my only saving grace being my American grandparents, whom I knew all my life and loved dearly, were coming to take me home.
“But my Iranian grandmother had other ideas and she used Iranian laws to keep me there. According to Iran, if your father is Iranian, you are Iranian. It’s by blood, not by birth. So they claimed I was Iranian and they had the right, by law, to keep in Iran and raise me. My grandparents went to the American Embassy to complain, but they said it was true, and there was nothing they could do – even though I held an American passport. And so I was stuck in Iran, an alien culture and people who called themselves my family, but were in fact strangers I had just met and had no emotional connection with.”
“What efforts have your grandparents taken to get you back?”
“After having no luck at the American Embassy, they returned home and started procedures to officially adopt me and somehow get me out of Iran. When I was 13, my grandmother returned and tried to trick them into bringing me to the states for a visit, but it didn’t work. As long as I was still physically in Iran, there was not much she could do. And it was really tough for an American teenager since I had to go to a all-girl’s school, could not hang out with friends or do any teenage stuff, and there was always the possibility of their arranging a marriage for me when I came of age. Things looked pretty bleak.”
“That’s terrible. Do you have a plan to get home on your own somehow?”
“I have an Iranian aunt, Auntie Scheherazade, who left Iran when she was young and never returned. I’m discovering bits and pieces of her story and that is giving me hope.”
“I’m so sorry. This should have been a fun cultural visit with family, and it’s turned into a nightmare for you. Any last comments for our listeners?”
“I am growing and learning about my father’s country and culture, but I secretly plan to just wait until I grow up. While in Iran, others seem to make decisions for women regardless of their age, I am going to fight this. My life is my own and they will not control me.”
“There you have it. I feel so bad for Anahita. You can read all about her struggles in the book Veil of Walls by Patricia Panahi. I’ll include all the details on the website.
“Don’t forget to support this awesome author, and your favorite robot girl, by using those sharing links on the website. I’m sure Patricia would do it for you when your character appears on the next Lisa Burton Radio.”
Anahita Sadeghi, a typical, happy-go-lucky American ten-year-old, was not too keen on traveling to the other side of the world to meet her father’s family. But her month-long vacation turns into a nightmare when her Persian relatives refuse to let her return to the States. She is forced to deal with the dizzying maze of social customs, resist her grandmother’s efforts to mold her into the proper Persian girl, dodge her aunt’s schemes of marriage, and fight to make her own life choices until she can find a way to return home. Longing for her friends and her freedom, only the enigma of her missing aunt, Scheherazade, gives Ana a glimmer of hope of one day escaping Iran for good. Will Ana’s family marry her off and forever bind her to this country, or will she break free of Iran’s walls and find her way back to America?
Born in Massachusetts from a New Jersey mother and Iranian father, Patricia Panahi moved to Iran at the age of nine. She later returned to the States and completed her graduate work at San Diego State University. Panahi has taught English in Iran, California, and Hawaii, owned and operated The Light Spot Bookstore and Coffee House in San Diego, and directed English language programs for international students for the University of Hawaii. Panahi retired from UH Hilo in 2016 and is now focused on her writing career.