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Unveiling a Past

An NPR producer makes peace with her Middle Eastern heritage.

NPR producer Davar Ardalan’s memoir, My Name is Iran, tells of growing up in America and Iran.

Born in San Francisco, Ardalan was named after her parents’ homeland—her first name is Iran; she uses Davar professionally. When she was a child, her parents moved back to Iran; their subsequent divorce and the 1979 Iranian revolution brought her back to America, this time as a teenager during the hostage crisis.

“I have a photo of me posing like Brooke Shields in my Calvin Klein jeans, looking like a typical Western teenager,” she says. Still, while she looked the part, Davar felt out of sync with American culture. At 18, hoping to find a place where she belonged, she returned to Iran.

A year later, wearing a black chador—dark veil—she was hired to read the news in English on Iranian television. The job gave her a taste of broadcast news and the realization of her limits. “I had no say over what I was being given to read,” she says.

Soon living in an arranged marriage to an Iranian man, in a country where Western freedoms were denounced, Ardalan moved with her husband and young son back to America, where she went on to study journalism.

She chronicled her journey in a three-part series on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, which became the basis for her book. The story is as much about her transformation as Iran’s as the country moved from monarchy to theocracy.

Through writing, Ardalan, now 42, began to accept who she is. She now tells people her real first name: “After all this, I am finally comfortable enough to say it.”

 

Wendi Kaufman’s work has also appeared in the Washington Post and on Happy Booker, her literary blog.

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