Unmoored by the death of her father and disenchanted by the American dream, Parnaz Foroutan leaves Los Angeles for Iran nineteen years after her family fled the religious police state brought in by the Islamic theocracy. From the moment Parnaz steps off the plane in Tehran, she contends with a world she only partially understands. Struggling with her own identity in a culture that feels both foreign and familiar, she tries to find a place for herself between the American girl she is and the woman she hopes to become. Written with the same literary grace and passion as her fiction, Home Is a Stranger is a memoir about the meaning of desire, the transcendence of boundaries, and the journey to find home.
Home is a Stranger
September 1, 2019
- In what way does Behrooz disrupt the narrative of strife between the Muslim population and the Jewish minority in Iran?
- How is Parnaz’s understanding of Iran informed as a child refugee in America? How does this perception change once she returns to Iran as an adult?
- In what way does the depiction of Iran in this story differ from the narratives of Iran you have encountered through other sources?
- In what way does the portrayal of the Afghani refugees in this story differ from the perception of the Afghani people Americans held during September 11th? How does this relate to the perception of refugees in the current global refugee crisis?
- Parnaz writes about having a transcendent spiritual experience following her father’s death and how her eyes opened to the existence of the sublime in plain view. In what way have you experienced sublimity? Does it take tragedy for our eyes to open?
- How is desire defined by the story of the Golden Fisherman? What role does forbiddance play in respect to desire? What role does the proximity of death play?
- In her journey trekking through Iran, Parnaz writes that she wants to “tear up the map [she] had been given in America, forgo the ease, the security, the stability of all that and live, instead, in the wilderness of those mountains in Northern Iran”. What in particular does Parnaz find confining about life in America, and how does she imagine living in a village in Iran would offer a solution?
- How does the story of the Zoroastrian temple of Chak Chak, where Parnaz meets the sage, defy what readers in the West understand as the spiritual boundaries between the living and the dead? How do you read this experience?
- What does Parnaz go to Iran seeking? Does she find it?
- This story is written as an homage to youth, from the point of view of an older adult woman looking back at her younger self. In what way has your own perception of self shifted through time? How do you relate to your younger self?
Courtesy of Parnaz Foroutan
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