- Yasmine Mahdavi, Author -
Yasmine Mahdavi is the author of Roots in Iran: Inspiring Stories of Visionary Women and the founder of Roots in the Middle East, an online platform that archives and celebrates the experiences and achievements of women from the Middle East.
Yasmine was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. The Iranian Revolution and the subsequent war with Iraq changed her life, as it did the lives of tens of millions of others, including many of the heroines in her book. Her recollection of the revolution is hazy. Adults whispered about a “coup d’état” whenever vague murmurs of another ousted government official were heard. Her memories of life during the war are more vivid. The windows of her apartment were taped and covered by newspapers to protect her from the flying shrapnel and broken glass that resulted from the bomb raids. Because of the raids, she often completed her homework by candlelight.
When she was 12, she moved to the U.S. with her family. Although she was fluent in English, in Southern California she stood out in a sea of blonde classmates. Yasmine came from a land of rationed food; her classmates had glossy grocery stores with enough food to feed hundreds for days. Yasmine had watched grainy black-and-white Indian movies with dreadful themes; her classmates enjoyed light and airy sit-coms. On her best days, she wore Sears-bought clothes; her classmates paraded pricey Guess jeans and pink Reebok high-tops.
Yasmine was keenly aware of being different, yet determined to reconcile how she related to her new adopted country and in turn how it related to her. But navigating this divide was tricky. In the 1980s, there were no public figures in the U.S. who looked like Yasmine, no books about children like her, and barely anyone with similar experiences. Decades after her arrival to the U.S., Iran and its people still remain shrouded in mystery.
Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison once said, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” Yasmine, taking up this challenge, wrote Roots in Iran for her 13-year-old self as she was coming of age in the U.S., and for her children. She hopes that by sharing stories of phenomenal women with roots in Iran and the greater Middle East, you will revel, as she does, in the magnificently complex world we live in and the humanity we share.