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Roots in Iran: Inspiring Stories of Visionary Women is a collage of 15 biographies about courageous women and daughters of families who left Iran, their country of birth. The book offers readers a window into new worlds and a mirror to reflect upon their own experiences.


Roots in Iran is divided into two sections. The longer chapters give readers an in-depth look into the lives of five diverse, trailblazing women. Readers learn how Anousheh Ansari’s fascination with the galaxies led to her triumphs and travails as an entrepreneur, and how Jasmin Moghbeli—riveted by the achievements of Valentina Tereshkova—became a Marine helicopter pilot and eventually a U.S. astronaut. The shorter chapters introduce readers to ten more dynamic women. Readers travel with Farnaz “Spider-Woman” Esmaeilzadeh, a rock-climbing champion, to find out how she got her start, and discover how Melody Ehsani, designer extraordinaire, champions women’s rights even though she didn’t end up in law school. All of the women are transformative pioneers.


Their vision of who they wanted to be led them to their path of self-realization. Of course, they had upsets and setbacks. They had energy that waxed and waned. They were wounded and then recovered. They attempted difficult things and sometimes failed. They made practical and impractical decisions. They were confident, but not always. Yet they dared to set their sights on a place higher than they could see! They strived to be exceptional, and they succeeded.


Each of the stories is complemented by brilliant, full-color portraits created by female artists with roots in the Middle East.


Roots in Iran also offers enriching sidebars where readers get a glimpse into Iran’s culture and history as well as the intriguing and challenging vocations these women have explored. In addition, each chapter offers a discussion guide and writing prompts for educators to use with readers.

The incredible trailblazers who are featured in Roots in Iran are:


  • Anousheh Ansari: Technology Entrepreneur

  • Mina Bissell: Distinguished Senior Scientist 

  • Dorsa Derakhshani: Chess Champion 

  • Anna Eskamani: Elected to the Florida House of Representatives  

  • Jasmin Moghbeli: NASA Astronaut 

  • Kimia Alizadeh: A taekwondoka, sole female Iranian Olympic medalist

  • Shirin Ebadi: First Woman from the Muslim world to win the Nobel Peace Prize

  • Melody Ehsani: Fashion and Shoe Designer 

  • Farnaz Esmaeilzadeh: Rock-climbing Champion 

  • Golshifteh Farahani: Actress, Singer, & Musician 

  • Niaz Kasravi: Justice Advocate 

  • Katayoun Khosrowyar: Soccer Head Coach

  • Maryam Mirzakhani: Mathematician, First woman to win the Fields Medal 

  • Shirin Neshat: Artist, Photographer, & Filmmaker 

  • Marjane Satrapi: Author, Animator, & Filmmaker

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Member of Florida House of Representatives

Born to immigrant parents from Iran, Anna Eskamani was raised in Orlando, Florida. In the fifth grade, when she found out that as a result of newly passed legislation, she would have to eat lunch separately from her best friend, she petitioned her school to save lunch with her friend. In high school, when she learned in her AP History class that society wasn’t equal for everyone, she became inspired to do more to help others. During college, she began volunteering for Planned Parenthood, and she later worked for them. Although she faced many struggles growing up, including losing her mom to cancer when she was 13 years old, Anna continued to forge ahead.   In 2018, Anna became the first American with roots in Iran to be elected as a Florida legislator. She was reelected in 2020. 


Rock-Climbing Star

Farnaz Esmaeilzadeh doesn’t climb. She glides and leaps. She has grace, agility, and power. Farnaz, whose nickname is “Spider Woman,” was born in Iran and is a champion speed climber. She’s been competing since she was 13 years old, even though in the city where she was born, there were no rock-climbing gyms, no coaches, and no fellow climbers. But that didn’t get in her way. The first wall she climbed was made by her brother in her family’s backyard. Farnaz says, “The circumstances of your life don’t make your life. It’s your approach to them that makes your life.” Farnaz broke many barriers to become a rock-climbing champion. At the height of her career, she was ranked sixth in the world!

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Actress, Singer, and Musician

“I surf between different kinds of cinema: blockbusters, big budget, no budget, independent,” says Iranian-born Golshifteh Farahani. The multi-talented, internationally recognized actor has starred in both big-budget and independent films, where she has portrayed gritty Spanish, Tunisian, Lebanese, Kurdish, and American characters. As a teenager in Iran, she used to shave her head so she could pass as a boy and ride her bike and play in the streets. When she was younger, Golshifteh planned to move to Vienna to hone her musical talents, but when she won the prize for Best Actress at a film festival when she was just 14 years old, her focus shifted to film. Golshifteh knows five languages, sings, and plays the flute and harmonica too! These days, she lives in France, where she is still making movies.  

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