(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“Darya loved to calculate the statistic of available Persian bachelors, factoring in their attributes, family histories, education, the probability for divorce. She had her very own system of assigning numbers to certain qualities… Darya was so proud of her knowledge of Excel,”
Darya loved mathematics, but gave that up when she started a family after an arranged marriage. Now her kids were grown and she felt that it was her duty to find a husband for her daughter Mina, who was in graduate school.
After fleeing Iran after the revolution and living in New York with her family, she never felt at home in the U.S., and knew she would go back to Iran someday. She didn’t understand how her husband, Parviz , felt so comfortable here.
Mina, on the other hand, assimilated well but felt she was also living a dual existence. She was American-there was no way she would settle for an arranged marriage- but still Iranian. Suddenly she got the urge to go back to Iran to visit. That would answer some questions about her mother as well as herself. So to the dismay of her father, she went back and her mother decided to come along. We, along with Mina, learn what has changed, what hasn’t, and how people live with the fundamentalist government.
Together Tea is an engaging novel about a mother and daughter, as well as about immigrants who give up everything for freedom. I especially enjoyed the exploration of Persian culture and life in Iran today.
Mina didn’t want to disappoint her family by leaving an MBA program and becoming an artist. Though, the novel is written in the third person, we see much of the story through Mina’s artistic eyes- visually, with vivid color and detail. However it doesn’t slow down the plot. In fact it adds to it, as well as the large does of dry humor.
The story flashes back to the 1978 revolution and the war with Iraq. Though I am a granddaughter of immigrants who fled an oppressive country, I often forget what they went through. Even though they had nothing when they left and nothing when they arrived, they-especially my grandmother- never fully assimilated. I could never understand why they couldn’t give up their culture and just embrace what it was to be American. In fact I couldn’t relate to them at all. Though Darya’s story is quite different, it made me think back to my family and reminded me of the “dual-existence” that most immigrants must feel.
Author Marjan Kamali realized there were no novels about Iranian Americans and wanted to change that- but I feel that she has given us so much more.