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A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea: A Novel (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Dina Nayeri

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1453182,607 (3.68)20
Member:Litfan
Title:A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea: A Novel
Authors:Dina Nayeri
Info:Riverhead Hardcover (2013), Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Iran, Middle East, ER, ARC

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A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri (2013)

Recently added byXirxe, knsievert, private library, dreamydress48, bookhouseshell, palmyralibrary, ASmithey, kairih
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English (31)  Swedish (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Saba, ein elfjähriges Mädchen, hat auf einen Schlag ihre Zwillingsschwester Mahtab und ihre Mutter verloren - beide verschwunden. Obwohl man ihr immer wieder versichert, dass sie tot seien, ist Saba auch in den kommenden Jahren fest davon überzeugt, dass den Beiden die Flucht in die USA gelungen ist und sie dort das Leben führen, das Saba sich schon immer wünscht. Der christlichen Minderheit angehörend führen sie und ihr Vater ein zurückgezogenes Leben auf dem Land in einem kleinen Dorf, und trotz ihrer vermögenden Familie ist Saba auf's Engste mit den Menschen dort verbunden. Gemeinsam mit ihren beiden Freunden Reza, in den sie schon immer verliebt war, und der schönen Ponneh, ihrer besten Freundin und fast wie eine Schwester, wächst sie heran und erzählt ihnen immer wieder Geschichten aus dem Leben von Mahtab - ein Leben, wie Saba es gerne selbst führen würde. Wie besessen lernt sie (nicht nur) Englisch, liest nicht erlaubte Bücher aus den USA, hört und sieht verbotene Filme und Musik. Doch sie befindet sich im Iran nach der Revolution - und den Realitäten dieser Gesellschaft kann auch Saba nicht entfliehen.
Welch ein unglaublich schönes und reiches Land - reich an Geschichten, gutem Essen, Musik, Witz, Poesie und jahrtausende alter Kultur. Wenn, ja, wenn es die Mullahs nicht gäbe mit all ihren Gefolgsleuten, die den Bewohnern und bevorzugt den Bewohnerinnen im Namen Allahs das Leben schwer, wenn nicht sogar unerträglich machen. Dina Nayeri, selbst dort geboren und zehn Jahre gelebt, schildert das alltägliche Grauen, dass trotz aller Rückzugsversuche der Menschen in Geschichten und die kleinen Freuden des Lebens immer wieder mit purer Willkür und brachialer Gewalt über sie hereinbricht. Wie die VertreterInnen des iranischen Gottesstaates die kleinsten scheinbaren Vergehen mit gnadenloser Härte bestrafen. Und dennoch - die Menschen dort behalten ihre Lebensfreude bei.
Trotz des in großen Teilen bedrückenden Themas ist das Buch ungemein poetisch und macht deutlich, wie wichtig gerade in solchen Zeiten Freundschaft ist, aber auch das Erzählen von Ereignissen, (egal ob wahr oder falsch) und der Glaube daran. Und es zeigt, wie reich der Iran ungeachtet der lähmenden Verhältnisse nicht nur an Geschichten ist - welch ein wundervolles Land könnte es sein!
PS: Vielleicht könnte man in der nächsten Auflage ein Glossar mit all den herrlichen Ausdrücken anfügen? Das wäre eine wirkliche Bereicherung! ( )
  Xirxe | Dec 2, 2014 |
At the beginning of 'A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea,' the storyteller Khanom Basir shares two matching rhymes about yogurt and yogurt soda that are used at the end of the story to reveal whether a story is truth or fiction. (Maast is the word for yogurt, doogh is yogurt soda.)

If a story was fiction, the poem starts out with yogurt.

Up we went and there was maast,
Down we came and there was doogh.
And our story was doroogh (lie!).
If a story was true, the poem starts out with yogurt soda.

Up we went and there was doogh,
Down we came and there was maast.
And our story was raast (truth!).
And so, at the end of the story, you wait for the first line of the rhyme. Was the story yogurt or yogurt soda?

Saba has a murky memory of the day, but one she firmly believes happened--seeing her mother and twin sister, Mahtab, get onto a plane and leave Iran for America. But those around her, in her rural community in northern Iran, believe that Mahtab is dead. As Saba grows up with her friends Reza and Ponneh, three surrogate mothers, and a distant father, she tells stories of how she imagines her twin's life in America. She imagines her twin facing life confidently and bravely, facing challenges that are very different but at the same time very similar to Saba's difficult life in Iran. Are these stories yogurt or yogurt soda? Are Mahtab and her mother alive and well in America?

'A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea' was a bit slow-moving, but ultimately a lovely book. There were several especially touching relationships--the semi-dysfunctional and close friendship among Saba, Ponneh, and Reza; the father-daughter relationship between Saba and Agha Hafezi; and the marriage and deep love between the elderly Agha and Khanoom Mansoori. 4.5 stars.

Review can also be found at Owl You Need is a Good Read. ( )
  knsievert | Nov 25, 2014 |
At the beginning of 'A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea,' the storyteller Khanom Basir shares two matching rhymes about yogurt and yogurt soda that are used at the end of the story to reveal whether a story is truth or fiction. (Maast is the word for yogurt, doogh is yogurt soda.)

If a story was fiction, the poem starts out with yogurt.

Up we went and there was maast,
Down we came and there was doogh.
And our story was doroogh (lie!).
If a story was true, the poem starts out with yogurt soda.

Up we went and there was doogh,
Down we came and there was maast.
And our story was raast (truth!).
And so, at the end of the story, you wait for the first line of the rhyme. Was the story yogurt or yogurt soda?

Saba has a murky memory of the day, but one she firmly believes happened--seeing her mother and twin sister, Mahtab, get onto a plane and leave Iran for America. But those around her, in her rural community in northern Iran, believe that Mahtab is dead. As Saba grows up with her friends Reza and Ponneh, three surrogate mothers, and a distant father, she tells stories of how she imagines her twin's life in America. She imagines her twin facing life confidently and bravely, facing challenges that are very different but at the same time very similar to Saba's difficult life in Iran. Are these stories yogurt or yogurt soda? Are Mahtab and her mother alive and well in America?

'A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea' was a bit slow-moving, but ultimately a lovely book. There were several especially touching relationships--the semi-dysfunctional and close friendship among Saba, Ponneh, and Reza; the father-daughter relationship between Saba and Agha Hafezi; and the marriage and deep love between the elderly Agha and Khanoom Mansoori. 4.5 stars.

Review can also be found at Owl You Need is a Good Read. ( )
  knsievert | Nov 25, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Childhood memories are cherished things, brought forward in our lives as we grow up, and which slowly become dreamlike with distortions, filters, and embellishments. So it is with Saba Hafezi's memories of her twin sister, Mahtab. Inseparable, the girls grow up in the warmth of a village in Iran, where they are the cherished and pampered children of a well-educated Christian couple. Surrounded by secrets, of their faith, their education, and their mother's activities, they nonetheless feel grounded and secure.

And then Mahtab and their mother are gone.

Saba remembers the day they left to go to America. The ride to the airport, the mystery of where they were going and why, the color of her mother's scarf as she and Mahtab disappear in the crowd. Saba had been sick and not allowed to see Mahtab, a painful first that left Saba hollow. But they would be together soon, and on their way to America, the dream land the twins idolized as though it were a movie star or rock singer. But in a confusing twist of fate, Saba sees her mother and Mahtab leave without her. Crushed, Saba returns home with her father. From that day on Saba lives two lives: one, constricted by tradition and religion, in her rural hometown and the other in a fantasy America where her twin lives an extravagant and unfettered dream.

Saba grows up motherless and yet surrounded by mothers. Khanom Basir, the Evil One, wants the best for Saba, as long as that doesn't include marriage to her beloved son, Reza. Khanom Mansoori, the Ancient One, is nearly ninety and treats Saba as though she were the daughter she never had. Khanom Omidi, the Sweet One, squirrels away money made from her yogurt sales and always has a treat for the lonely girl. These three old woman, try to fill the void, but never really understand the well-educated and headstrong Saba. Their voices and memories add additional layers to the story of her life.

As Saba navigates the shoals of adolescence, first love, arranged marriage, and adulthood, snippets of meaning float to the surface which suggest that Saba's memories might hide a darker truth. The boundaries between memory, truth, and story are fluid and one's life is composed of bits of each. Just as Saba must choose how she tells her life story, so must the reader choose what to believe.

In an author's note, Dina Nayeri describes her own life story as the inverse of Saba's. Dina was raised in exile in America and dreams of what her life might have been like had her family remained in Iran after the revolution. She writes that this book is her own "Mahtab dream".

Although a first novel and in need of some tightening, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is intriguing and complex with some beautifully written passages. I look forward to seeing how the author's style evolves in future novels. ( )
2 vote labfs39 | Aug 30, 2013 |
A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a poignant tale of twin sisters growing up in Iran. Saba and Mahtab were mirror images of each other until the day Saba’s mother left and Saba saw Mahtab being dragged away. Forced to be alone for the first time, Saba finds friendship with two local village children, Ponneh and Reza. As the children grow up in a changing 1980s Iran where American books, magazines and video tapes are prized, they are forced to confront harsh realities of the new regime. Some events will be life changing, but throughout Saba clings to the memory that Mahtab and her mother are safely in America.

I enjoy books set in a different culture to my own and this tale is no exception. Reading this book helped me to understand more about what some of my friends and colleagues went through when they left Iran in the early 1990s. A lot of the everyday rules and rituals were foreign to me – such as the banning of alcohol and not being able to wear the shoes you want outside. Saba’s frequent mistakes and flaunting of the rules had much more severe consequences that I could envisage.

The predominant question as Saba and her friends are growing up is, ‘where is Mahtab?’ People try to tell her that Mahtab’s gone, but Saba won’t listen and her father won’t reveal the truth. The constant questioning got a little annoying for me as I could tell that I wasn’t going to find out any time soon. As the children grew older, the questioning lessened and Saba, Ponneh and Reza began to become tangled up in a whole new set of problems. I did like Saba’s tellings of Mahtab’s life in America (heavily influenced by movies and television, such as Growing Pains and Love Story) and looked forward to reading new ‘episodes’.

Storytelling is a major part of the plot, as is working out what is truth and what is fiction. Saba struggles to work out the many uncertainties in her life and why they have happened. It’s only as she faces the truth that she starts to heal. Separate chapters by Reza’s mother gives some clue that Saba isn’t always telling the truth. These chapters also help to shape the setting, which is beautifully described by Nayeri. The setting of rural Iran where somebody is always watching and no-one is safe is beautiful but unsettling.

This is a quietly emotional book that packed a punch at its conclusion – I was hoping I was mistaken in the fate of some of the characters. The contrasts Saba makes between herself and Mahtab are quite sad, highlighted in the different opportunities available to women in Iran and America.

Thank you to The Reading Room and Allen and Unwin for the ARC of this book.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Jun 30, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dina Nayeriprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dewey, AmandaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stålmarck, YlvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Philip and for Baba Hajji, whom I once longed to see together in the same room.
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This is the sum of all that Saba Hafezi remembers from the day her mother and twin sister flew away forever, maybe to America, maybe to somewhere even farther out of reach.
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Book description
Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect illegal Life magazines, television shows, and rock music. So when her mother and sister disappear, leaving Saba and her father alone in Iran, Saba is certain that they have moved to America without her. But her parents have taught her that “all fate is written in the blood,” and that twins will live the same life, even if separated by land and sea. As she grows up in the warmth and community of her local village, falls in and out of love, and struggles with the limited possibilities in post-revolutionary Iran, Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold. Somewhere, it must be that her sister is living the Western version of this life. And where Saba’s world has all the grit and brutality of real life under the new Islamic regime, her sister’s experience gives her a freedom and control that Saba can only dream of.

Filled with a colorful cast of characters and presented in a bewitching voice that mingles the rhythms of Eastern storytelling with modern Western prose, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a tale about memory and the importance of controlling one’s own fate.
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Fascinated with America, young Saba Hafezi of 1980s Iran becomes convinced that her suddenly missing mother and twin sister have departed for America without her, a situation that compels her to envision her twin's Western life throughout subsequent years.… (more)

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