In 1981, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi watches as her mother and twin sister, Mahtab, board a plane to America, leaving her in a seaside village in northern Iran. Though she is certain of what she saw, Saba's broken father and colorful slew of surrogate grandmothers claim that Mahtab is dead and that Saba should forget about her troublesome mother; nevertheless, there are others who attribute Saba's belief in her sister's survival to “twin-sense” and relish the possibility that Mahtab might still be alive. Over the next seventeen years, Saba immerses herself in illegal western books, movies, and magazines, and weaves an exquisite parallel American life for her twin sister, one that mirrors her own in bizarre and unlikely ways—and rivals the fates of Ivy-League western shahs—a life that the bookish Saba too might have lived if she'd been allowed to get on that plane.
Beginning with small tokens of adolescence and moving to larger coincidences of unrequited love, the violent consequences of forced marriage to a much older man, and motherhood, Mahtab’s hazier American story keeps pace with her sister like a shadow. Mahtab loses a lover when Saba does. Mahtab finds unexpected wealth in the same way as Saba. But whereas Saba’s story has all the grit and brutality of real life in post-revolution Iran, Mahtab’s is like an American television show as imagined under an Iranian storyteller’s blanket, always returning power and control to the heroine’s hands.
A TEASPOON OF EARTH AND SEA uses strong, colorful characters, a unique narrative voice, and rural eastern storytelling techniques with western-style prose to convey a sense of mystery and a compelling message about identity and being the mistress of one's own fate while living and battling within the fantasy of our other "selves." The bittersweet ending leaves the reader wondering if it matters at all where life takes us or why. Maybe the soul is unchanging and—as the old saying goes—life is written in the veins.
[Riverhead (World English) 2012; Edizioni Piemme (Italy) 2012; Rocco (Brazil) 2012; De Bezige Bij (Netherlands) 2012; Editions Calmann-Levy (France) 2012; Gyldendal (Norway) 2012; Damm (Sweden) 2012; Mare (Germany) 2012; Grup (Turkey) 2012; Modern Press (China) 2012; Wydawnictwo Otwarte (Poland) 2012; Thaning & Appel (Denmark)].
About the author
Dina N. Viergutz was born to a controversial family of doctors and poets in Iran in 1979 and lived and traveled there throughout the Iran-Iraq war. Having escaped the country on the day of her mother’s intended execution, Dina spent some years in Europe before moving to the United States. She speaks three languages and recently became a citizen of France (dual with U.S.), and has spent the last three years living in Paris and Amsterdam with her husband where she researched and wrote A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea. She is a graduate of Princeton and holds two masters degrees from Harvard, and she has just been accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop beginning in the fall 2011. She has done an array of work, including leading strategic projects for Saks Fifth Avenue and McKinsey in New York City. As a Zuckerman Fellow at Harvard, she has discussed public policy with world leaders, and as a Teaching Fellow and keynote speaker (also at Harvard) she gave speeches to audiences of hundreds before she turned thirty.
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