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A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea

Dina Nayeri    
Format: Paperback - C format
Pages: 432

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A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea


The heart-warming and uplifting novel about an Iranian girl who, separated from her mother and twin sister during the turmoil following the Iranian Revolution, invents a rich, imaginative world in which they live on. A book about identity - about finding your own and creating what you think you're missing.


Growing up in a small fishing village in 1980s Iran, 11-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are fascinated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect contraband copies of Life magazine and Bob Dylan cassettes. So when Saba finds herself abandoned, alone with her father in Iran, she is certain that her mother and twin have moved to America without her.

All her life, Saba has been taught that 'fate is written in the blood,' which convinces her that twins will live the same life, even if separated by land and sea. As she grows up in the warmth and community of her local village, falls in and out of love, and struggles with the limited possibilities available to her as a woman in Iran, Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold. She imagines a simultaneous, parallel life -- a Western version, for her sister, filled with a freedom and control that Saba can only dream of.

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is told in a bewitching voice that mingles the rhythms of Eastern storytelling with straightforward Western prose, to tell a wholly original story about the importance of controlling your own fate.

'Charming and engrossing, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a vivid and evocative story about the places we love, the places we long for--and the places we can only imagine.' -Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles

'A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is pure magic: lyrical, captivating, funny and heartbreaking. Entering the world of the intriguing Saba Hafezi and her friends in a seaside village in northern Iran, I lost my heart. Powerful storytelling kept me riveted from the first page, but this is also a keenly intelligent investigation into the nature of narrative, the kaleidoscope of stories, dreams, and memories that define us, and how we create our own pasts and futures.' - Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation

Dina Nayeri was born in Iran during the revolution and emigrated to Oklahoma at the age of ten. She has a BA from Princeton and an MBA and Master of Education from Harvard. She is currently a Truman Capote Fellow and Teaching Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

ISBN: 9781743314579
Australian Pub.: January 2013
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Subject: Literary fiction
Edition Number:

Reader reviews

'This novel provides an intruiging glimpse of life in post-revolutionary Iran in the life of a young girl who experiences traumatic events which influence her life, and ultimately the choices she makes. It contains a number passages which are bound to be eye-openers for those with little knowledge of the real difficulties faced by individuals in some fundamentalist Islamic societies. It also educates on the beautiful and charming rituals of Iranian culture. The universal experiences of love, rejection, friendship and grief however, are familiar to us all; and the excellent storytelling of Dina Nayeri makes reading this book a highly memorable experience where the characters linger on, long after the last word has been read.' - K. Warner, NSW

'A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea offers glimpses into Iranian domestic culture and the changes wrought upon it by the revolution of 1979, interspersed with snippets of Western culture as received (and revered) by Saba Hafezi. Saba's adolescent years incorporate issues of identity, maturation, friendship, romance and family, just as anyone's might; her means of confronting the loss of her twin sister and mother, the demands her own society makes upon her and her friends, and her dream of a freer life in America, however, generate a unique blending of Iranian storytelling traditions and American television plots, wherein "problems are solved in small bite-sized increments" (98). Thus Saba weaves entertaining stories within her story, incorporating Iranian cultural emblems with motifs of American life and fancifully imagining how her inaccessible twin, Mahtab, is dealing with the challenges of making a life for herself in America. Mahtab's imagined adventures can be seen as Saba tackling her own worries at a psychological remove, while the constant references to Mahtab create a mystery (what happened to Mahtab?) which is just one of the threads making Saba's story compelling.

'In terms of topicality the novel offers rich contributions to discussions of feminism, masculinity, tradition, religion and politics - and the intersections of these. For instance, while feminist issues in a society wherein women are denied many fundamental freedoms are vividly and sometimes brutally illustrated, the diminishment of men in such circumstances is also brought to light. The novel's progression from showing a child making sense of a confusing world to a young woman negotiating the threats of a dangerous one uses storytelling traditions in such a way as to give a light touch to what could otherwise seem relentlessly heavy material.' - J. Martin, NSW

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