I recently read and reviewed Kamin’s latest book, Bella Figura, which is the story of her recent lifestyle change and move to Florence. By the end of this most captivating book I had to read the book, The Cypress Tree, that Kamin Mohammadi wrote when she moved to Florence.
The Cypress Tree is Kamin’s story of her home, Iran, where she was born and lived with her parents and sister until she was 9 years old. In this book she travels back to Iran to rediscover her Iranian self and to seek out and recount the story of her family. Her family was large and came from different sects and backgrounds and had lived through all the different, often extreme, eras of Iran’s history.
My knowledge of Iran’s history is very limited and I was keen to learn and understand more, particularly at this moment in time when Iran’s influence on world peace is so relevant.
The Cypress Tree is a heartbreaking story of the destruction of this beautiful country, Iran, and its warm, courteous and hospitable people. Kamin’s description of her home country through the lives of her mother, Sedi, her grandmother, Fatemeh Bibi, and her Kurdish father, Bagher, are captivating and enlightening and they instantly transport you, the reader, to this beguiling country.
The way Kamin writes is truly exceptional as she brings such detail to life which makes you feel you are there, sat at Sedi’s dining table, smelling and tasting the delicious array of food – “the choice and variety of dishes on her table, the steaming khoreshts, mountains of saffron-stained rice, the ‘belly-full’ stuffed fishes, yoghurts sprinkled with crushed dried rose petals and mint with a myriad of pickles and salads.”
However this warm world that Kamin spent her first nine years was shaken by the horrors of the Iran-Irag War and her immediate family then had to learn to live with the heartbreak of exile and to be separated from the rest of their relations. This life change toughened them and in the case of Kamin’s father, broke him, whilst the struggle for democracy continues today in their beloved Iran.
Kamin describes her grandmother, Fatemeh Bibi, “(she) was then a small white-skinned creature with a barrel-like figure and legs that were beginning to bow out at the knees. Maman-joon may have been small but there was a charisma and joie de vivre to her that belied her size.” We instantly know her and can feel the love between her and her granddaughter, the author, as it spills off the pages of this book. Maman-joon’s final passing is one of the most moving and yet peaceful passings of a person that lived a life well, was loved and loved back and
To read this book is to understand the love that Kamin has for her country of birth, Iran, to feel the terror of those that still live their under its religious, secular dictatorship. However it is also to understand some of its behaviours and religious customs in their correct context and not as negatively as is so often depicted in our western world.
This moving and passionate memoir is a love letter both to Kamin’s extraordinary family and to Iran itself, an ancient country which has survived so much modern tumult but where joy and resilience will always triumph over despair.
To buy this book, The Cypress Tree, from Amazon click HERE.