What an incredible story I get to share with you today! I almost let The House on Sun Street slip through the cracks in my inbox, but grabbed it when a reminder came through and I’m SO glad! I hope my review can do this one justice.
A young girl grows up in a family uprooted by the terror of an Islamic Revolution, where her culture, her gender, and her education are in peril.
For the curious and imaginative Moji, there is no better place to grow up than the lush garden of her grandparents in Tehran. However, as she sits with her sister underneath the grapevines, listening to their grandfather recount the enchanting stories of One Thousand and One Nights, revolution is brewing in her homeland. Soon, the last monarch of Iran will leave the country, and her home and her family will never be the same.
From Moji’s house on Sun Street, readers experience the 1979 Iranian revolution through the eyes of a young girl and her family members during a time of concussive political and social change. Moji must endure the harrowing first days of the violent revolution, a fraught passage to the US where there is only hostility from her classmates during the Iranian hostage crisis, her father’s detainment by the Islamic Revolutionary Army, and finally, the massive change in the status of women in post-revolution Iran. Along with these seismic shifts, for Moji, there are also the universal perils of love, sexuality, and adolescence. However, since Moji’s school is centered on political indoctrination, even a young girl’s innocent crush can mean catastrophe. Is Moji able to pull through? Will her family come to her rescue? And just like Scheherazade, will the power of stories help her prevail?
I am pretty well blown away by this story. Moji is such an inquisitive, inspiring character, and I was so much in awe of her ability ask questions of the world and experience everything (including the major oppression of women and girls in her country) through wide open eyes. You watch her go through and process her traumas as an adolescent with this child-like grace, all with the backdrop of the importance of stories, culture, family, and love.
There’s a lot to unpack about The House on Sun Street, but I never felt overwhelmed by it all as I was reading the book. It’s just one of those that you get done reading and you think “wow, where and how do I begin telling people about this incredible story?”
The author certainly puts Moji in some really tough spots (like being one of the only Iranian children in a school in the U.S. during the Iranian hostage crisis), but does a spectacular job of balancing those tough spots with giving Moji these spaces amid family and literature where she feels loved, safe, and at home: especially when she’s in the house on Sun Street.
I really can’t sing the praises of this book enough. It captivated me, it made me think about the importance of family and cultural belonging, it schooled me some on a place and time in history I’m not super familiar with, and it was all so eloquent.
Of course, I have to also mention the first love/infatuation, but I don’t want to spoil the story so I won’t say a ton. Just after everything she’s been through and is currently experiencing with the tumultuousness of the country, Moji is so vulnerable and just falls SO hard. I bet a lot of adults can think of a similar time when there was that first kind of awakening/wanting of another person, although I hope most of us didn’t get hit quite so hard with it.
In conclusion, do yourself (and Mojgan Ghazirad) a favor and purchase this book from your local bookstore, then read it and come talk about it with me here because I really want to know what you think.
Also in conclusion, I have to share this quote from the author via an interview with Bookish Brews:
“I believe the most important takeaway of the book is the strength and beauty of resistance young girls and women have shown against the Islamic authoritarian regime in Iran.”
⬆️ Spot on.
Also, please note that this novel incorporates the author’s own story of growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and during the years of war between Iran and Iraq following that.