Archive for the ‘Reviews and Interviews’ Category

Review of a Must-Read: “From Iran to America – Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story”

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

From Iran Cover Paperback FrontReaders hooked on romance, memoirs, and foreign culture and history will love From Iran to America – Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story, a novel which cleverly combines all three. Recounting stories from his childhood in Iran and subsequent emigration to the United States, author Reza Mashayekhi paints a picture of day-to-day life growing up within a close, supportive family and community in his homeland under the Shah. Written through the eyes of a boy and later a young man, Reza’s experiences – at times funny, at times poignant – give the reader insight into an educated individual’s life in the Middle East. Adding to this are his harrowing lessons in love at the hands of the two Iranian women who give this book its title.

Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story is a touching reminder that no matter how various ethnicities are labeled or criticized, all people have the same needs and feelings as human beings. As such, it has invaluable potential for changing superficial and often media-influenced beliefs about Middle Easterners.

Romantics will appreciate how Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story describes in ecstatic and excruciating detail, the narrator’s  journey of falling in love with two beautiful, but very different women – one wicked and deceitful, the other honest and sweet. Is love ever simple? And why do the most scathing and ill-fated affairs captivate their victims against all will and reason? These are questions that transcend time, place, and nationality!

Those who start this book will have to finish it to see how the love triangle is finally resolved for its protagonist, whom the reader has readily befriended by the end of chapter one.

From Iran to America – Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story is available in print or e-book format through Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, or through the author’s website, RezaMashayekhi.com.

Back to the Blog!

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Firstly, I must apologize to the faithful readers of my blog for not writing over the last three months. I want both of you to know, however, that I have really good excuses for neglecting my blog…it’s the truth! I’ve been busy with several projects, not the least of which has been home-schooling my daughter through eighth grade. We have twenty-four days to go before she’s done with the school year. But who’s counting, right? To parents who wish they could take a more active role in their child’s education, let me just say, seriously rethink this silly notion! It’s a minefield of control issues, power struggles, tantrums, and tears. And I’m not even talking about my daughter here…

Alongside this, I’ve been working on a couple major copyediting projects. Honestly, out of all the writing services I provide in my business, editing is my favorite. Correcting other peoples’ mistakes is right up my alley, especially when the authors are not related to me! The blessing and the curse of these kinds of projects, though, is that they have deadlines for completion, and when you’re basically looking at every word of two 90,000-word manuscripts at the same time, it’s best to focus. Hence, no blog entries…but I do miss you, my old friend and outlet for expression and creativity, sometimes even a few laughs.

One of the books I worked on, now in the process of being published, is called From Iran to America – Mahnaz and Shirin, A Love Story. It is basically a memoir, but parts of it are embellished, so it can’t be described as strictly non-fiction. The book recounts stories from an Iranian man’s childhood in his homeland, and later his permanent move to the United States. The narrative, however,  is built around the author’s relationship with two Iranian women, one beautiful, wicked, and deceitful, the other beautiful, honest, and sweet. Why is it that we always choose the bad ones first? Now there’s a question that transcends time, place, and nationality!

The author’s true accounts from growing up in Iran are not only entertaining, funny, and interesting, but they give a rare perspective on day-to-day life in that country under the Shah. As someone who knew nothing about the country of Iran, its people, or its history, I found the stories absolutely fascinating. And not only that, they made me realize once again that no matter how various ethnicities are labeled or criticized, all of us have the same needs and feelings as human beings. In other words, it made me reconsider some of my prior beliefs about Middle Easterners, all of which stemmed, of course, from how they’re depicted in the media

Adding to this is how From Iran to America weaves in the crazy roller-coaster of falling in love, providing poignant testimony that this emotion can drive us to make the most irrational and ill-advised choices of our lives. I predict that once you start reading this book, you’ll have to finish it to find out how this whole love triangle is finally resolved for the narrator, whom by then we’re rooting for just as we would a good friend.

The other manuscript I was privileged to copyedit is a science fiction/fantasy novel for young adults, the second in a planned trilogy. But get this…the author wrote the first book in the series when he was seventeen years old, and the second was completed less than a year later! How many teenagers do you know who even finish cleaning their room, much less write two entire novels?!

The book is called Water Tower, and it will be published in the next couple months. The main character, Sam, is a fifteen-year-old superhero of sorts. It’s an excellent concept…a superhero who’s also an immature, awkward, totally-likeable teenager. Sam battles evil forces threatening world domination in an earth whose population is divided among three “nations” consisting of the Surface, the Sky Nation, and the Water Nation. You can guess where Water Tower takes place, and readers should get ready for a wild ride alongside Sam as he gets beat up, nearly burnt up, and almost drowned. All this, of course, while trying to figure out what to do now that he has his first girlfriend, Rose. Is it any wonder teenagers are moody?

Since I was paid to edit Water Tower, I feel a little guilty telling you how much fun I had doing this! I foresee the author in a few years – maybe even sooner – selling movie rights and knocking out more adventure fantasy thrillers. With an imagination like his, the possibilities reach beyond the boundaries of the Sky Nation.

I plan to provide more information regarding ordering these books once they’re available in print. The freedom writers have nowadays to self-publish – as opposed to trying to find a literary agent or large publisher willing to take a chance on a new author, a rare occurrence indeed – has had a phenomenal effect on what we read nowadays. My only issue with self-published works is that many are launched without being scrutinized by a good editor. As the English language maniac that I am, it appalls me to think that the quality of writing in self-published books is frequently substandard. In my mind, this can’t be good for the overall literacy of our youth and our nation. Anyhoo… pardon my grandstanding on that a bit. The point is, have me read over your material before you publish it. And there is my ego rearing its head now, too.

It’s probably a good time to wrap up this little blogging warm-up. It just seems like forever since I’ve written from my own brain, with my own thoughts. Ah, the joy of blogging again. So until next time…and please, let me know your thoughts, too! After all, friends don’t let friends blog alone.

Book Review: THE MEANS OF REPRODUCTION

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Michelle Goldberg’s New Book Gives Insight into Worldwide Perspectives on Female Reproductive Rights

The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World

In her latest book, The Means of Reproduction, author Michelle Goldberg addresses the global battle over women’s sexual and reproductive rights, fought at different levels and in a variety of ways all over the world. Often in these struggles, the United States plays an important role. According to Ms. Goldberg, she was drawn to investigate and report on this issue, so woven into the larger fabric of gender, cultural, religious, and political power struggles, yet never comprehensively addressed in a book. She wished to impart a “very rich story” that she was surprised to learn had not been fully told. The author’s thoroughness in researching her book – involving extensive travel to Nicaragua, Poland, Kenya, India, Britain, Uganda and Ethiopia – is evident in its insightful and  fascinating perspectives on women’s rights and their interplay with such primary issues as universalism versus multiculturalism; modernism versus religious fundamentalism; and individual rights versus group norms.

Certainly, the ability to decide whether and/or when to have children has grave effects on women at every stage of their lives, further yielding broad repercussions for society as a whole. Ms. Goldberg reports that in some cultures, women are forced to leave school young and marry, consequently having far less power within their relationships, including their power to decide about becoming pregnant. Having children before their bodies are fully developed, or having them in rapid succession, increases these young women’s risk of dying in childbirth. The children left motherless in the wake of this catastrophe become much less likely to survive themselves, or attend school. Conversely, according to the author, when mothers are educated, have some level of power within their relationships, as well as access to resources for family planning, they rarely have more children than they can care for adequately. In addition, their sexual behavior tends to be more responsible in that they protect themselves from sexually-transmitted diseases. Their children are more likely to be healthy and educated like their mothers, benefitting the whole society.

Regarding the subject of abortion, Ms. Goldberg notes that prohibiting this option brings destructive results to both women and their society when abortions are obtained furtively and unsafely. Latin America demonstrates this point, having the world’s strictest anti-abortion laws in addition to its highest abortion rates.Upon visiting hospitals in cities such as Nairobi, Kampala, Managua, and Addis Ababa, the author observed that doctors in the obstetrics/gynecology wards spend most of their time treating victims of bungled abortions. Aside from the tens of thousands of females damaged physically and mentally from this experience, the effects are devastating on fragile health systems with limited resources. Further illustrative of this point is the comparison of abortion rates in Latin America to those in Western Europe, where birth control is fully accepted and widely available; and abortions are generally funded by government health insurance. Here, particularly amongst the Scandinavian countries, abortion rates are the lowest worldwide.

As citizens of Western society, living in the United States, we may feel that with all the advances made over the past century in the area of gender equality, we don’t have reason for concern as do the women in other countries such as Iran, where women have won rights only to have them subsequently usurped. However, Ms. Goldberg points to backward movement even in this country, citing recent cases of women being arrested and prosecuted for attempting to end their pregnancies.

All women can gain new insights from the book’s in-depth and thought-provoking comparison of how the common struggle over reproductive rights is being enacted across different countries, cultures, and political and religious regimes. Informed literature such as Ms. Goldberg’s book is supportive of globalization by virtue of its availability to a diverse readership. And globalization, in the author’s opinion, is key to the positive evolution of women the world over.

Ms. Goldberg recounted interviewing a women’s rights leader in Uganda, asking her how she had decided that things had to change. “Because the women are suffering!” was the leader’s answer. The author agreed, but pointed out that the women had been suffering for a long time; why were they rising up just then? The Ugandan explained that for her, it began when she was invited to speak at an international conference about HIV prevention work in her region. Meeting and talking to women from all over the world taught her that there were other, less oppressive ways to live. New information provided her the realization that she didn’t have to accept customs like widow inheritance and polygamy, traditions so ingrained they seemed impervious to change. Ms. Goldberg argues that patriarchal systems tend to foster the illusion that they represent the eternal, unchangeable laws of life. But fortunately, once women become aware of the falseness of this premise, they become much less willing to submit to it.