What can I say about this magnificent memoir? Donia Bijan's Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in An American Kitchen brings together family and cultural history and food in a beautifully written homage to her parents, but particularly her mother. Bijan, who graduated from the Cordon Bleu, and owned her own restaurant in San Francisco, said she is telling the story as she remembers it, "through the prism of food." Yes, the food is the theme that runs through the entire book, and there are thirty recipes, but it's her mother's spirit and heart that carry the reader through this book.
The book opens with Bijan packing up her mother's kitchen after her death. Her mother was a strong, spirited woman who grew up in Iran and was educated in England. She arrived in England at eighteen, knowing only two words in English. But, she returned to Tehran as a registered nurse and midwife. It was there she met her husband, an obstetrician who built Bijan Hospital in 1960. They ran the hospital together, lived on the property, and raised three daughters. Bijan celebrates the beauty of that life, and the luxury and freedom the family enjoyed under the forward-looking Shah. Her mother had strong political views and "Took on any establishment that did not give women a voice, and that was essentially every institution. In the early '70s, she won a seat in parliament, and fought to build schools, roads and clinics for her constituents."
In the summer of 1978, when Donia was fifteen, the family was on vacation in Majorca when the demonstrations against the monarchy began. They were told not to come home because they would have been executed. Donia's older sisters were already in college in the United States. Donia followed, to go to high school there, and a year later her parents moved to Fresno, California, where they had family and friends. It was a move that destroyed Donia's father, but further empowered her mother, who quickly adapted to life in the United States, including learning to cook Thanksgiving dinners and apple pies.
Donia Bijan tells this story using food an an ongoing theme. She was raised in a culture where food was cherished. Her father always selected local food when they traveled, and her mother celebrated all occasions and friendships with food. It was natural for her to want to cook, but even that was a move her father objected to, while her mother encouraged her in her dreams.
This is Donia Bijan's memoir, the story of her childhood in Iran, her life in the United States, and her culinary training in France. It's the story of an Iranian American learning to blend three cultures into her food and her life. But, it's also a tribute to her courageous mother, a woman who discovered her own independence in England, fiercely fought for other women in Iran, and arrived in America with little money, but her own passion for life. It's the story of a woman who fought for her children to live their dreams, even when it meant opposing her own husband.
Bijan's descriptions of food and family are beautiful, laced with passion and love. Donia Bijan's Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in An American Kitchen is the story of two women who shared a love of food, courage when it came to their dreams, and a love of family. Family, dreams, strong women, wonderful food. It's a memoir to be savored.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
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1, 2, 3 ... By the Sea: A Counting Book
Book: 1, 2, 3 ... By the Sea: A Counting Book Author: Dianne Moritz Illustrator: Hazel Mitchell Pages: 36 Age Range: 3-6 1, 2, 3 ... By the Sea is a nice lit...
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.