Friday Finds: November 7, 2008

I’m happy to see Friday rolling around this week!  That nasty conjunctivitis/virus that has been working its way through my house the past two weeks finally hit me :(    Four family members down, two to go … although I’m hoping my husband and LW12 will be spared!  I wasn’t able to get out for the dinner/discussion of The Scarlet Letter with my TriCon book group last night, but I’m really happy I re-read this classic (which I wouldn’t have done if it weren’t the book group pick).  I think we’re reading The Book Thief next month, which has been on my radar for a while.  Here are my Friday Finds for the week:

Safe Suicidewas sent to me by the author, DeWitt Henry.  DeWitt saw my review of Revolutionary Road and offered me his collection of linked biographical essays, which include stories of his friendship with Richard Yates:

Against a background of suburban Philadelphia in the 1950s, and the family secret of his father’s alcoholism, Henry comes of age as the youngest of four children.  He rejects his father’s course in managing the family chocolate factory for a third generation, and goes on to college, then to graduate school in the 1960s, becoming a writer and teacher.  When Henry marries, and becomes a father himself, he is impacted by the social revolutions of the 1970s, and struggles to avoid his father’s flaws.  He leads a literary life in Boston, founds the literary magazine PLOUGHSHARES, teaches writing and literature, and befriends novelist Richard Yates.  During 1980s, Henry suffers the deaths of his parents, infertility, rejections of his work, and setbacks in his teaching career.  In the 1990s, while his daughter and adopted son are swept up into trials of adolescence and young adulthood, and as his wife grieves the deaths of friends and family, Henry confronts a spiritual abyss similar to his father’s, and learns to surrender to life, to love, to aging and mortality. 

I got a nice surprise – I won a copy of Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran (Azadeh Moaveni) from a drawing at the Random House Reader’s Circle website.  I opened up the book to see a note from the editor, none other than David Ebershoff, author of The 19th Wife!  (my review is here). That reminded me that I have interview questions to submit to David; I’ll get that done today.  In the meantime, more about Honeymoon in Tehran, which will be published in February:


Both a love story and a reporter’s first draft of history, Honeymoon in Tehran is a stirring, trenchant, and deeply personal chronicle of two years in the maelstrom of Iranian life.

In 2005, Azadeh Moaveni, longtime Middle East correspondent for Time magazine, returns to Iran to cover the rise of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As she documents the firebrand leader’s troublesome entry onto the world stage, Moaveni richly portrays a society too often caricatured as the heartland of militant Islam. Living and working in Tehran, she finds a nation that openly yearns for freedom and contact with the West, but whose economic grievances and nationalist spirit find a temporary outlet in Ahmadinejad’s strident pronouncements. Mingling with underground musicians, race car drivers, young radicals, and scholars, she explores the cultural identity crisis and class frustration that pits Iran’s next generation against the Islamic system.

And then the unexpected happens: Azadeh falls in love with a young Iranian man and decides to get married and start a family in Tehran. Suddenly, she finds herself navigating an altogether different side of Iranian life. Preparing to be wed by a mullah, she sits in on a government marriage prep class where young couples are instructed to enjoy sex. She visits Tehran’s bridal bazaar and finds that the Iranian wedding has become an outrageously lavish–though often still gender-segregated–production. When she becomes pregnant, she must prepare to give birth in an Iranian hospital, at the same time observing her friends’ struggles with their young children, who must learn to say one thing at home and another at school.

Despite her busy schedule as a wife and mother, Azadeh continues to report for Time on Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West and Iranians’ dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad’s heavy-handed rule. But as women are arrested on the street for “immodest dress” and the authorities unleash a campaign of intimidation against journalists, the country’s dark side reemerges. This fundamentalist turn, along with the chilling presence of “Mr. X,” the government agent assigned to mind her every step, forces Azadeh to make the hard decision that her family’s future lies outside Iran.

Powerful and poignant, fascinating and humorous Honeymoon in Tehran is the harrowing story of a young woman’s tenuous life in a country she thought she could change.

And for a work of fiction, I have Who By Fire, the debut novel by Diana Spechler.  I discovered Diana’s book on Book Club Girl, where she’ll be part of the Authors on Air interview series on November 20.  Diana wrote a fun post about Book Club Expo here.  I’m looking forward to reading Who By Fire:

Bits and Ash were children when the kidnapping of their younger sister, Alena—an incident for which Ash blames himself—caused an irreparable family rift. Thirteen years later, Ash is living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel, cutting himself off from his mother, Ellie, and his wild-child sister, Bits. But soon he may have to face them again; Alena’s remains have finally been uncovered. Now Bits is traveling across the world in a bold and desperate attempt to bring her brother home and salvage what’s left of their family.

Sharp and captivating, Who by Fire deftly explores what happens when people try to rescue one another.

A great week, right?  Autobiographical essays, memoir and fiction … everything from soup to nuts!

What books have found their way into your home and into your heart this week?

7 comments to Friday Finds: November 7, 2008

  • Hope everyone’s feeling better soon! I also hope you enjoy all the books. I received Who By Fire as well. Looking forward to your review and the Book Club Girl discussion!

  • Anna – I actually didn’t request it thru BCG this time, because calling in a 7 is just too tough for me (the dinner hour, with 4 hungry/cranky kidss!). I’ll try to email BCG with a question or two ahead of time. Diana and I had corresponded; she’s writing a Spotlight on Bookstores piece for next week.

    gautami – I like to see what everyone has brought onto their wish list in the past week. (loved your BTT post this week!)

  • Who By the Fire sounds great…this one is going on my TBR list…thanks!

  • Ooh, these all sounds like great reads! I profiled a book by DeWitt Henry on one of my earlier Friday Finds posts (though I don’t have a copy of the book). Looking forward to your reviews!

  • That is really cool – I didn’t know David Ebershoff works for Random House. How in the world did he find the time to write The 19th Wife?

  • Jill – I’ll read *Who By Fire* in time for the interview on BCG (I’ll have to “chat”, it’s too loud around my house at that time of night)

    avis – I’ll look thru your Friday Finds to read what you had to say. DeWitt Henry teaches at Emerson College here in Boston.

    Kathy – and his other two published novels?!? His cv lists “editor-at-large at Random House”. Check out the “collaborative interview” I just posted.

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