I was born just as the Rose Hotel opened. The two of us share a common—and poignant—history. My first five years, filled with love and security, were colored by the hotel’s opulence: feasts, crystal chandeliers, Persian rugs. But then came monumental loss: the great hotel that sheltered my family; a transformed homeland; and most shattering, the life of my beloved brother.
Early memories are always powerful, and although mine will continue to stay with me, they no longer have that electrifying charge they once did. In recent years, we have finally begun to heal—but, like most families, our story is constantly being revised. We remain vulnerable; often, one person feels distant from or angry at someone else. But the years have taught me that whatever discord arises will end in feasts featuring Baba’s beloved pomegranate kernels.
Maman and Baba are older now. Although they physically seem smaller, their spirits still loom large—even as the caregiving is gradually being reversed. Hadi is in a serious relationship; Zain, clean and sober for many years now, is raising his two young children with his wife. Iman is divorcing; sadly, his more traditional Iranian marriage proved no stronger than that of his siblings. In the end, neither his goodness nor aptitude for self-sacrifice could shelter him from heartbreak. Maybe the four of us are products of our time—or, perhaps, we are especially vulnerable because of the loss we experienced.
My family showed tremendous courage and trust by sharing their darkest moments with me as I wrote this book. In reading our story, perhaps you may find that you recognize in us characters from your own life. It is my hope that you have come to see my family as I do: imperfect, brave, resilient, and beautiful.
In the time since we left Iran, our homeland has become alien to us; historically, it was a tolerant and predominantly peaceful nation. In the last 35 years, Iran has weathered the hostage crisis in November 1979, the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iran-Iraq war, and the Green Movement. As I write, I am hopeful about the possibility of a reconnection with the wider world. But the true spirit of Iran has, in a sense, been lost since the revolution—lost but not forgotten, like my brother Abdollah.
Since writing this book, I have moved to New York City, where I am in a private practice as a family and couples psychologist specializing in trauma. My work has taught me how crucial autobiographical storytelling can be to healing, and it has inspired me to branch out. My first effort, Glass Houses—an interactive hybrid of theater and therapy—helps audiences to transcend the barriers of experience, identity, and culture to foster growth and connection.
Starting a new life in a city I love has given me new hope and joy. The past is still powerful, but I have emerged from its shadows. I was once a little girl who played hide-and-seek in a great hotel. Now, I no longer hide.