The Girl from the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan
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In her debut novel, Parnaz Foroutan weaves a powerful tale of a Persian Jewish family, inspired by her own history. Its narrator, Maboubeh, is now an old woman living in Los Angeles. She claims that “This is a loneliness named Los Angeles… It is the place that erases all memory of the past.” But she, the last living witness to life in this garden in Iran, has not forgotten.
Tending to her California plants, she pats a tree trunk and says, “This you must learn, that the word paradise is a Farsi word. It means ‘the space within enclosed walls, a cultivated place set apart from the vast wilderness.’” Her paradise was such an enclave in the city of Kermansha. Her ancestors migrated there from Tehran, their story a family legend. The city is located in the west of Iran close to the border of Iraq, on a commercial route between the two countries. Historically, the Jews were in a great minority. There were never more than a few thousand and by the end of the twentieth century only a handful remained.