In her debut collection, Divided Loyalties, acclaimed poet Nilofar Shidmehr depicts the lives of Iranian women in post-revolutionary Iran and the contemporary diaspora in Canada — the expectations imposed on them as mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives, and the struggle to shed their socially conditioned identities.
The collection ranges from Tehran in 1978, when some affluent girls play a simple Cinderella game with unexpected consequences, foreshadowing the Iranian Revolution and its violent aftermath; to 1980s Iran, as women help their husbands and brothers survive war and political upheaval throughout the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution; to the 1990s in Vancouver, where an alcoholic single-mother refugee is harassed by the men she meets through a telephone dating platform; to the present day, following Iranian-Canadians who travel back to Iran on their own personal journeys.
Shidmehr's style is at once straightforward and nuanced and the depth of her insight into familial and romantic relationships is undeniable. She has a striking clarity of vision and the poise of a poet who has been compared to Dionne Brand and Pablo Neruda. Divided Loyalties presents dynamic stories of Iranian and Iranian-Canadian lives in all their dignity, intimacy, and enduring complexity. (From House of Anansi Press)
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From the book
I arrive in Tehran two days after my brother called to inform me about my father's death. "A car hit Papa," Milaad said, his voice cracking like phone static. "It happened close to his home. He died on the spot. The driver fled the scene — we couldn't find him. There is also something else, which I'll tell you when I'll see you."
Thankfully, Milaad accompanies Maman to meet me at the airport. Maman and I had a fight on the phone six months ago and we haven't talked since. That was the night I came back from Paris, the last place I saw my father alive. Our squabble doesn't matter now. I am here to be with my mother during the forty-day mourning period. I might even stay longer — for six months, a year, or, who knows, the rest of my life — if Maman and I can get along now that the source of our separation is gone.
Nor does it matter that my mother wrongly accused me of siding with my father. In truth, Papa and I had a row at the end of our trip and he accused me of the exactly the same thing: of supporting her. This is what our parents did to me and Milaad all our lives. Each wanted us in their camp when they fought with each other. And once they made peace, they would divide their children between them. Milaad was hers and I was his.
From Divided Loyalties by Nilofar Shidmehr ©2019. Published by House of Anansi Press.