Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I went to Villanova University (go Wildcats!). Villanova has this great program called “One Book” that is described as “a campus-wide effort spanning the academic year that presents to the university a book worthy of close reading, discussion, course adoption, and the stimulation of dialog among all members of the campus community.” Every student at Villanova receives a copy of the selected book and different activities are planned throughout the year that revolve around it. Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji was the 2009-2010 selection.
A majority of the book takes place quite literally on the rooftops of Tehran in the year 1973. The story is told from the first person narrative of Pasha Shahed, a seventeen year-old boy going through many of the universal trials and tribulations of growing up, all while living in a more and more turbulent Iran. On the rooftop of his house, Pasha spends time talking about these trials and tribulations with his best friend, Ahmed, stargazing, sneaking cigarettes, and quietly observing his next-door neighbor and secret love, the beautiful Zari.
If you visit Mahbod Seraji’s website, and read the brief introduction about the book by the author, Seraji states “In writing Rooftops of Tehran, I wanted to acquaint readers with Iran, and bring to life a small part of the centuries-old Persian culture. At a time when the country of my birth is often portrayed in the news media as “the enemy,” I chose to tell a story about friendship and humor, love and hope, universal experiences valued by people in all times and places.” Mr. Seraji succeeds in doing just that. I found myself fascinated by the culture all the while being able to relate to the themes of friendship, love and just plain growing up.
And so, here I am three years after Rooftops of Tehran was selected to be Villanova’s One Book, pretty mad at myself that I didn’t take the time to read it those three years ago. My only excuse is that I was a senior in college and was probably more concerned about juggling my class schedule with my social life and only reading those books necessary for my English and French classes. Pretty bad excuse huh? Judging from Mr. Seraji’s write-up on his experience at Villanova (which can be read here), I messed up big time. I’m sad to say that I was not one of the many Villanova students who went to hear him speak, but it is now that I would like to take the opportunity to apologize for that and to say “Mr. Seraji, your book is beautiful and I hope you write more. But even if you don’t, the world is just a little bit better because Rooftops of Tehran is a part of it. Thank you for your book.”