It’s been a while I have read a book with an unlikable protagonist. Does the protagonist have to be likable for the book to be strong and heartfelt? I did think so before but now I’m not sure! Persianality is raw, with some flawed characters but that makes them that much more real. Persianality though is a made up word, the Persian way of being I believe…
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
Public flirtation is a crime in Iran, with predictable consequences. Jamileh Delkash has a teen crush, and she’s only fifteen (almost fifteen). She can only dodge the Basij (Moral Police) for so long, and she’s already floundering in Islamic propriety. Her budding independence stems from visits to the Monkey Bar, where local teens gamble on monkey bicycle races. Here, she attempts to fan the flames of love with Armand Ducasse, the son of Iran’s Ambassador to France. Being good and being happy proves difficult to reconcile. The ever-watchful Basij and Armand’s call to war, triggers their flight to Paris. But so-called friends, caprice, and Afghan slavers threatens their midnight escapade.
Jamileh Delkash! I was frustrated with her throughout the book, if it’s the least I can say about her. She is far from perfect.I really wished she did the right thing, It may have fulfilled the wishes of me as a reader, but that’s not what Jamileh’s story was meant to deliver.
“Maybe you don’t feel the way I do, because I lead a one- dimensional life, with only one destination. Marriage”– Persianality, Michael Benzhabe
She feels trapped and wants to get away from Iran, she is naive and falls for the wrong guy. She isn’t always politically correct and can be pretty mean towards her friends, sisters and her father. Overall, she is what she ends up realizing she is, and I quote – ” a terrible friend, a terrible sister and a terrible daughter”. I disliked her yes but I loved this book much more than expected. She is still going to be a character that will stay with me, a reminder of what happens when you don’t look before you leap.
I am not going to spoil the book by even mentioning what happens in the end, does she make her escape or does she not is what makes this book so special. One part of me understood why she felt the way she felt especially because of the media narrative I am aware about Iran and how women are treated. Another part of me understood there are far more worse things her father is protecting her from.
PERSIAN CULTURE & IRAN.
As a person that knows so little about Iran and it’s culture, I was amazed to learn so many new things about Iran. I blame it on my ignorance, but I really wished this had like a little glossary section or footnotes that talked more about the Persian dialects that were mentioned.
For Instance – the slang Karmageddon is the one which I am slowly getting used to saying instead of Oh Shit! 😛
I so wish it explored the aspect of Persian Culture through Jamileh’s perspective more. She seemed so in touch with the western world and yet so inclined to her spiritual side as an Iranian. It felt more like an insider’s POV on Iran, and I loved discovering Persian culture and Iran through her.
Even Jamileh’s house and her descriptions about it were so profound. Her narrative of Noshahr, visiting the Caspian sea and living in a house that almost sounds like she is the trapped princess living in a castle gave me a glimpse of how she felt about Iran and her need to escape.
THE MONKEY BAR
The Monkey Bar was the most bizarre element in the book. We have monkeys as waiters, riding in bicycle races interacting with the characters sometimes just like a human would do. Monkeys also having emotions and the human side to them. To be honest I was put off with that first, but then it got me interested and googling about monkeys and I was surprised to see there are in fact monkeys that can do a lot of things that humans do. Whattt! Thanks to persianality I ended up watching a ton of monkey videos on Youtube and pretty much confused youtube’s algorithm. 😛
The monkey and the monkey bar plays such a subtle and significant role throughout the book, and I slowly came to understand Jamileh’s fascination with this place.
Overall this book made me introspect on the emotional walls I have built around me to protect myself growing up. The world could be a terrible place, and creating healthy boundaries sometimes seem essential. When you’re as young as Jamileh, you tend to rebel, chase your dreams and feel your parents are your worst enemy. But are they really? Now that I am older, I know my parent’s safety net wasn’t there to bind me from going out late at nightwith strangers I barely met twice or stop me from having a good time but keeping me safe from the evils of the world that could mean fatal or something even worse for me.
What initially felt like another YA Teenage forbidden love story ended up big a subtle message of how all that glitters isn’t gold.
Published: April 21st 2019
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Shema Publishing