In keeping with my recent trend of reading borrowed books I’d previously ignored I took another stab at Aria Minu-Sepehr’s 2012 We Heard the Heavens Then: A Memoir of Iran. I’ve been wanting to read it because I love Iranian memoirs and because its author lives in my former hometown of Portland, Oregon. After slow start I finished it a few days ago. While it won’t go down as one of my favorite Iranian memoirs it’s still a pretty good read.
With his father a respected air force general Minu-Sepehr grew up in a household catered by servants and witnessed an endless parade of lower echelon soldiers ready to serve his father’s every whim. Revered as the general’s son he was treated with a degree of deference usually reserved towards minor royalty. Fortunately, for those around him this privileged status, even combined with his father’s doting on him didn’t turn the young Minu-Sepehr into a spoiled brat.
Ensconced on an air force base hundreds of miles from the capital Tehran and safe within his family’s protective cocoon turmoil, trouble is brewing fueled by years of governmental misrule, political oppression and religious strife. Once unleashed, these forces would eventually lead to the chaotic overthrow of the Iranian monarchy, and its eventual replacement by a ruthless theocracy. Minu-Sepehr’s account of the Iranian Revolution unfolds gradually, as its seen through the eyes of a child and filtered through the protective lenses of his parents and members of his household. Writing as an adult decades later, his recollection of events resembles a slowly at first, then all at once Hemingwayesque approach told with a nuanced voice that comes with age.
We Heard the Heavens Then reminded me how much I enjoy memoirs by Iranians, as well as other writers from the Middle East. I’m hoping in 2023 I’ll be reading more of these and when I do, you’ll see them featured on this blog.