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Rooftops of Tehran

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From "a striking new talent"(Sandra Dallas, author of Tallgrass) comes an unforgettable debut novel of young love and coming of age in an Iran headed toward revolution.

In this poignant, eye-opening and emotionally vivid novel, Mahbod Seraji lays bare the beauty and brutality of the centuries-old Persian culture, while reaffirming the human experiences we all share.

In a middle-class neighborhood of Iran's sprawling capital city, 17-year-old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend Ahmed, joking around one minute and asking burning questions about life the next. He also hides a secret love for his beautiful neighbor Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. But the bliss of Pasha and Zari's stolen time together is shattered when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah's secret police. The violent consequences awaken him to the reality of living under a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice...

348 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 2009

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About the author

ROOFTOPS OF TEHRAN is a richly rendered first novel about courage, sacrifice, and the bonds of friendship and love. In clear, vivid details, Mahbod Seraji opens the door to the fascinating world of Iran and provides a revealing glimpse into the life and customs of a country on the verge of a revolution.

"...charmingly romantic. Seraji captures the thoughts and emotions of a young boy and creates a moving portrait of the history and customs of the Persians and life in Iran."
--Publishers Weekly, March 2009

"Seraji’s wonderful coming-of-age story is at times funny and sweet as well as thought-provoking and heart-wrenching."
--Booklist April 2009

"Refreshingly filled with love rather than sex, this coming-of-age novel examines the human cost of political repression."
--Kirkus May 2009

“Repression and revolution provide the background for a deeply felt love story that gives outsiders a rare look inside modern Iran. This is a gripping account of a nation's violent lurch from one kind of tyranny to another, and also a delicately insightful portrait of how ordinary people react when their worlds suddenly collapse. At a time when we urgently need to know more about Iranians, Rooftops of Tehran introduces both the complexity of their political history and the richness of their emotional lives.”
--Stephen Kinzer, author of "All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror"

A captivating read."
-- Gail Tsukiyama, The Samurai's Garden

“A stirring story about the loss of innocence, Rooftops of Tehran reveals a side of Iran understood by few Westerners. An ambitious first novel—full of humor, originality, and meaning. ”
-- John Shors, Beneath a Marble Sky

“Rooftops of Tehran evoked many memories, along with tears and smiles of starry nights on rooftops, long-lost loves, and intense, passionate feelings of anger at the injustices and the absurd excesses of the Pahlavi regime.”
-- Nahid Mozaffari, Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature

“In his haunting debut novel, Mahbod Seraji brings humor and humanity to a story of secret love in the brutal last days of the Shah. Set against the background of repression that launched the Iranian revolution, Pasha’s and Zari’s story shows that love and hope among the young thrive even in the most oppressive of times. Seraji is a striking new talent.”
-- Sandra Dallas, Tallgrass

“Rooftops of Tehran combines a coming of age love story with a compelling tale of struggle against dictatorship. You learn a lot about Iranian culture while coming to understand characters with universal appeal. This would make a great movie. Unfortunately, Iranian directors wouldn't be allowed to film it and American directors would move the story to New Jersey.
-- Reese Erlich, The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis

"What a profound pleasure to discover such solid storytelling and splendid prose in a debut novel. With the voice of a poet, Seraji has told a universal tale of love, loss, and ultimately of hope. It is this hope, most of all, that will linger long after the last page is turned. Thank God for authors like Seraji, who show us that no matter how distant apart our worlds may be, in the humanness of our hearts we are all united."
-– William Kent Krueger, Red Knife and the award-winning Cork O’Connor series

“Beyond being a bittersweet love story, Rooftops of Tehran is a story of community. No reader will be unfamiliar to the situation of the alley -- the neighborhood -- where these characters are united and bound together by history, ritual, grief, respect, and by the bond of protection that arises under the brutality of an oppressive government. Rooftops of Tehran takes an uncommon and refreshing view of Iran in modern American fiction…and also reveals how an American immigrant is born out of a young foreigner's desperation for self-de

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Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
838 reviews3,754 followers
February 15, 2021

~ Full review ~ (EDIT : Translated Books List's link)

3.5 stars . When I first realized that Rooftops of Tehran was very much a romance and not the political novel I thought it would be, I was surprised - but curious.

The truth is, I've never read a romance novel set in Iran. Ever. More than that, as a French woman, the only things I do know about Iran - and it's not much - are painted in a negative light. And I'm gonna say it :


Thinking in the lines of Bad Countries™ versus Good Countries™ is fucking dangerous - because tell me now, if we judge a country - its PEOPLE - on behalf of its leaders' faults, first we're flirting with Manicheism like real morons and secondly... well I guess we're fucking hypocrites?

So, tell me, why does a romance novel - even flawed - is important? Well, Mahbod Seraji's words in his author note say it better than I ever would :
"At a time when the country of my birth is often portrayed in the news media as "the enemy," I chose to tell a story about friendship and humor, love and hope, universal experiences valued by people in all times and places. I wanted to show a side of Iran that's usually hidden from view - its warm, funny, generous people."

A day like today, I really think we should sit one second and think about that - even when talking about a far from perfect novel. Because this book? No matter how annoyed I could be at some point, how some details - and more important parts - could have been handled better in my opinion, this novel reinforced this sentiment : guys, I'm sorry if it's not obvious to you and I don't want to offense anyone, but I am SICK of the way the whole book community is US/UK/AUS centered, including when it comes to diversity (don't get me wrong though, reading about and from minorities living in the US is much NEEDED and important and I am willing to read more and more diverse books, we can - need to - do BOTH).

Because, guys! There is a WHOLE WORLD OUT THERE. There are THOUSANDS of writers who don't write in English, because some people, even writers, *GASP* don't speak English. MIND. BLOWN. And they are very rarely translated because.... well I guess because it doesn't interest Americans enough? I don't know? I kinda think now would be the time to open up and start looking elsewhere, don't you?

I've been thinking more and more about this lately... and I'm building up a blog right now. I can't dive into the details yet, just know that I'll focus on translated books from all over the world. By the way, if you have recommendations for me, please use the comment section! I'll welcome them :) (I created a list so feel free to add books there : https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1...)

As I said earlier, Rooftops of Tehran is very much a romance.... yet firmly anchored in the real world, that is to say, 1970s Iran. I found fascinating to follow the characters' struggle because it gave me an insight that otherwise I would not have gotten. When dealing with a different country, especially in the Middle-East/West Asia, we Western countries often focus on their leaders, while here on the contrary the story primarily brought the random citizens' life to light. This way, we the readers are able to see how the politics influence every part of the everyday of the inhabitants. I loved that because it felt way more real.

A warning though : as I said, it takes place in 1970s Iran. Parts of the narrative brought up by some characters - and if not condoned by the mc, not strongly rejected either - would make me reluctant to recommend it to members or the LGBTQIA community, because if sadly realistic at this period of time, they could still be triggering.

All in all, I was satisfied by the way political matters were tackled, even if I wish some issues wouldn't have been so IN YOUR FACE. Yet even if the way the US was put on a bit of a pedestal annoyed me at some point, I very much appreciated that their role in helping the Shah keep the power was mentioned.

More than anything else in our world, we need nuances. I know that 2016 taught us that the loudest people would win the day, but we need to resist the urge to express our feelings in snap judgments.

As much as I enjoyed following these characters, I can't deny that they sometimes lacked complexity, especially the secondary characters. Indeed if Pasha and Ahmed's friendship was everything (friendship GOAL here), the dynamics between the other characters were too superficial for me to get fully involved. Zari especially made it hard for me to understand her : her decisions - especially near the end - seemed too sudden and all over the place, and I had a hard time suspending my disbelief. She didn't quite make sense to me? In the same way, the romance was cute but I never really felt 100% involved in it.

As for the writing, some of the dialogues seemed like more lectures than anything else, and I can't deny that it felt like infodump-ish Iran 101 too. Good thing I had never taken that curse, I suppose, but someone educated on Iran's history might have found it rather tiring. Yet Rooftops of Tehran was very compelling : albeit simple, and not out-of-world amazing, the writing made the novel extremely readable.

Am I more lenient because of the settings? Maybe I am. Is it really a big deal if I am? I don't think so? Look, I read so many uninspired romance novels taking place in the US, I sure enjoyed this one more.

Let's see what you think, shall we?

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,161 reviews509 followers
January 15, 2017
I acquired this book a long time ago and it got lost somewhere in my stacks of books. I was elated when I found it this morning, after trying to find it for many months, and decided to spend the entire Sunday in bed, reading a tale I marked boldly MUST READ on my TBR list in my diary in 2012.

Colorful, descriptive, detailed, compassionate, entertaining, rich in color and culture, is how I would love to summarize this fictional biography which is mainly based on the author's memories of his life in Iran, prior to living in America.

He uses a fictional protagonist, Pasha Shahed who regarded life "as a random series of beautifully composed vignettes, loosely tied together by a string of characters and time" to act as himself in the narrative.

Pasha had five friends: Ahmed, Faheemah, Iraj, Zari and Doctor(Ramin Sobhi, a political science major and political activist on the SAVAK hunt list).

The young people discovered the value and truth behind, humor, love, hope and friendship in a tumultuous time in their history, while the reader accompanies them down the alleys of the neighborhood, spend nights with them on the roof, peek with them into the neighborhood windows, and fall in love with the girl next door. Warm, funny, generous people open up a culture that is normally hidden from the world.

The story opens in 1974 with an old man standing somewhere in the buildings of the Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital in Tehran, lost and disconnected from reality, chanting in an empty tone:
If I had a book, I would read it.
If I had a song, I would sing it.
If I knew a dance, I would dance it.
If I knew a rhyme, I would chant it.
If I had a life, I would risk it.
If I could be free, I would chance it.
If I had a horse, I would ride it.
If I had a horse, I would ride it.
If I had a horse ...
Seventeen-year-old Pasha Shahed finds himself(temporarily) in a wheelchair nearby with no memory of how he landed there. Slowly his memory returns through painful dreams ...

A fictional tragic, but beautiful love story plays itself out amidst the revolt around the ousting of the Shah, in the 1970s in which a community have to deal with the secret police, and the devastation and torture resulting from the tyrannical ruler at the time.

Most of the story plays out on the rooftops of Tehran and explains the title. It was so beautifully done that I felt like a family member running around with the young teenager in the alleys, playing chess or soccer on the street, challenging the rigid religious teachers, cry, laugh and love with a community who took care of each other.

Four of the friends become involved in a tragic incident during a birthday celebration of the Shah of Iran, which will change their destinies forever.

There's humor, tears, miracles and misery, and Ahmed's grandmother who was roaming the alleys looking for her husband who passed away a few years earlier. And Iraj who prefers to play chess against himself and then cannot decided who wins ...

I have such a great admiration for Iran and its people. Old Persia with its ancient civilization and intriguing history have an ongoing story to tell to the world, and I appreciate the authors who are trying to introduce the real multicultural Iran to the world. Mahbod Seraji did a splendid job in Rooftops of Iran

Last year we met an Iranian student doing research on leopards for his doctorate degree. He stayed with us for a few months, since my husband has been sponsoring leopard research for many many years. I was so surprised to learn that Iran has national parks, unbelievable wild life and one of the biggest leopard species in the world! By the time I met Benjamin, I already got to know more about this amazing, diverse country through the books I mentioned below. The beautiful warmhearted people inspired me to read more Iranian authors who might enrich my knowledge of a country I would love to visit one day.

It is with this background that I wanted to read Rooftops of Iran - a heartfelt biographical fictional story with a strong autobiographical element. As such it is an excellent read since, IMHO, it does not really fall into the 'real' novel classification (such as The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan story), although there is a little bit of suspense, lots of drama, and a well developed mystery to the tale with several colorful characters to fill up the heartbreaking, as well as heartwarming moments in the book.

After closing the book, I wanted to read more about the author and discovered a audio version of the book on Youtube, a movie trailer and interesting interviews with the author.

I'm pasting the links below.

Movie trailer


A Goodreads interview:


Two other memoirs which introduced me to this amazing country were:

1) The Cypress Tree: A Love Letter to Iran by Kamin Mohammadi


2) A Beginner's Guide to Acting English by Shappi Khorsandi

A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE for historical fiction, as well as fictional biography readers who loves to explore the different cultures of the world.

I loved it!
Profile Image for Tamera Davis.
4 reviews2 followers
January 22, 2009
A friend in the media sent me an advance reader copy of this book. It swept me away. I'm still struggling to find my way back into my real world - yes, it's one of those books: the story stays with you, the characters don't fade; a beautiful touching story in the voice of a 17-year old, written like a pro, not a word out of place, not a thought out of character. So visually intense - I felt like I was watching a movie and not reading a book. Powerful, magnificently powerful.
I was blown away by the intensity of the narrator's casual but sophisticated voice, his willingness to expose his vulnerabilities - reminding me of my first love (no I haven't forgotten you, if you happen to be reading) reminding me of the moment I lost my voice, my wits, and yes, my heart, too.
I didn't want the story to end - another 500 to 1000 pages would have sufficed! Have no doubt, Mr. Seraji, that soon everyone will be talking about ROOFTOPS OF TEHRAN.
just one question and you can send me the answer in a private email: Did all this really happen?
Profile Image for Mansuriah Hassan.
73 reviews62 followers
October 13, 2016
This is such a lovely, lovely book. I fell in love with the story and the characters. It was far beyond what I could have imagined on any coming of age story to be. It had me on the edge of my chair alternately sobbing and then cheering for the characters. I have to call them characters to remind myself that this book is fiction.

The story begins in Iran in 1973 when the Shah is in power and his subjects are tightly overseen by his secret police. Life continues as in many countries as long as their political beliefs are in line with that of the Shah or if they differ, they must be extremely well hidden from all.

Seventeen year old Pasha Shahed is in his last year of high school and when he graduates, his father will send him to the United States to study engineering. He spends most of his free time with his friend Ahmed. Together, the boys spend hours atop Pasha's roof, which is common practise in Tehran. They talk of all those things that interest teenage boys: school, teachers, their families, futures and perhaps, most important of all, girls. Ahmed loves Faheemeh, a girl from a few streets away, while Pasha is in love with Zari, the girl next door who is engaged to another of his friend's.

I love to read and learning about cultures that is different from mine. This was my first exposure to Iran outside of news reports. It was refreshing to learn of it's people and their daily life. They have many of the same concerns such as housing, food, education, but they must also contend with a government whose foremost concern is their leader. Any one who disagrees with the leader could be subject to dire consequences. This is something that Pasha must be ever conscious of.

The author, Mahbod Seraji, breathed so much life into these characters that I guess that they will not be forgotten. The young love of Pasha and Zari had me goes head over heels. I felt compassion for Grandma and was awed that the entire neighbourhood looked after her. I could clearly picture the homes, alleyways, streets and rooftops. At times I laughed out loud, and at the book's climax it had me crying :P

When you read it, you will find yourself wanting to go slowly, not wanting it to end :)
Profile Image for Derek Emerson.
383 reviews20 followers
January 2, 2010
Rooftops of Tehran offers us an important glimpse into Iran which most of us are not aware of in any real sense. Even now we are reading about the protests and killings happening because of many people's dissatisfaction with the ruling party. Rooftops also takes place during a time of frustration with the government, but this time it is with the Shah (which the U.S. put in power) and the outcome not seen in the book is the eventual overthrow of the government.

Here the time is 1973-74 and we follow the life of four high school students, two boys and two girls, working on the transition to adulthood. Yes, a coming of age story, but with the secret police taking people without reason and erasing their existence, the decisions are a bit more important.

The best part of this book for many non-Iranian readers will be the glimpse into the everyday world of Iran. Many of us think of the Iranian woman in a burka as the common standard. But here the burka is worn only by one extremely religious relative, the Masked Angel, in another city. Arranged marriages do exist, but the main one in this novel is broken in the face of true love (Ahmed and Faheemeh) and the love of Zari and Pasha (the two main characters) is welcomed by both sets of parents.

The drama moves forward when Zari's "arranged boyfriend," Doctor, disappears after working as an activist against the government. SAVAK is the name of the secret police force which becomes a character in itself, always watching and controlling people even when they are not sure of when and how. We watch as Zari and the others deal with Doctor's disappearance, while Pasha deals with guilt of loving Zari despite her engagement and also because he is unintentionally responsible for SAVAK catching Doctor.

SPOILER ALERT: Usually I avoid spoilers, but since my biggest frustration with the story comes in the plot direction, allow me to spoil! Doctor is killed in prison and the families are told to not mourn him. Zari is, of course, distraught over his death. However, it is clear throughout the book that she does not love him (she likes him) and that she loves Pasha. So it is surprising and hard to believe when she sets herself on fire on the 40th day of his death (a special time of mourning) while running into the Shah's birthday parade. Not only does she do this surprising act (she is hardly a radical), but she brings Pasha and their friends along to watch -- much to their horror. Pasha ends up in a mental institution (which we knew he would end up in since some chapters take place there, although until this incident we never know why he is there). Zari dies in her protest and Pasha returns home to find that the Masked Angel has moved into Zari's home (they are neighbors) to care for her parents. It takes one meeting with the Masked Angel and her whisper of a voice to figure out that Zari is alive and living in disguise. Why? Well, reasons are given, but none are easy to buy. SAVAK knows she is alive, so why hide it from anyone else? It takes Pasha a while to come to this realization and we wait not so patiently for this to develop. When it does she sends him off to the U.S. to study so he can return to her.

This twist in the plot is unnecessary and way too "cute" to read without frustration. But the anti-climax of the revelation and the reunion of the "lovers" is also not worth the wait. This book makes a good story for the sappy romantics of the world, but they can find better stories than this to entertain them. I could be accused of a romantic leaning (I do love Jane Austen!), but this is too thick for me.

What the book did encourage me to do is learn more about this country I still remember best for holding U.S. embassy employees hostage. I'm getting a non-fiction book on modern-day Iran so I can learn more of its recent history and current state. If Seraji's intent was to interest us in Iran, he is successful. It his intent was to write a great story, maybe the sequel will be better
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,888 reviews218 followers
December 24, 2021
Set in 1973-1974 Iran, seventeen-year-old protagonist Pasha and his friend, Ahmed, spend time on the rooftop of his home, stargazing and talking about life. He falls in love with the girl next door but cannot act on his feelings because she is engaged to one of his (older) good friends. The story takes place during the last Shah’s regime, and abuses of power are a focal point for the storyline. The two young men, though not politically active yet, are influenced by the human rights violations they witness.

It is elegantly written, and the narrative arc is robust. The characters are well developed, and it is easy to care about what happens to them. The story is told in flashbacks and flash-forwards, converging as the book nears its climax. It is filled with references to Persian culture. Although there is definitely a good bit of disturbing content, there are also happy moments and a bit of comic relief through Ahmed’s antics. Coming of age stories are hit or miss with me, and I am happy to say, this is one is a hit. It is complex enough to maintain the reader’s interest and the love story never falls into saccharine territory.
Profile Image for Regina Lindsey.
441 reviews20 followers
January 17, 2016
Every once in a while you stumble upon a book that, after reading it, you want to stop everyone on the street, hand them a copy, and insist they run home and read. Rooftops of Tehran is just that sort of book for me.

In many ways the themes are universal. It is a coming of age tale in which two life- long friends experience their first loves and shed the naivete that we all eventually must let go of when we realize life is not fair and is often cruel. But, set in Iran during the tumultuous 70’s, the reader gets a glimpse into the history of Iran as well as its rich culture. In doing so, Seraji does his country a great service by bringing to light some of the lesser known aspects of the time. I’m always surprised to learn how many people are unaware of the U.S. role in the 1953 coup d'état. Further, so much of the writing regarding the 70’s focuses on the struggle between the Shah’s followers and the rising Islamic fundamentalists. Seraji demonstrates the danger those associated with Marxism faced. He brilliantly weaves the country’s history into the story by illustrating its impact on the psyche of the nation. “I wonder how we can explain this national impulse to cheat. Maybe it’s more a matter of sharing than cheating. I’ve heard that people in the West compete at everything, and that you’re either a loser or a winner. In my country, we don’t have that same competitive spirit. Centuries of misery under the dominance of the Moguls, Arabs, and internal despotic rulers have conditioned us to stick together and help each other through unpleasant situations.” Finally, he does the best job I’ve seen of illustrating the dynamics of US-Iranian relations at this time. I’ve read about the misconceptions that Iranians held during the era about Americans in many of the non-fiction books. Here, Seraji, illustrates them in ways that are quite humorous and brings clarity to a complicated subject.

The book is incredibly well written. For me, character development is critical to make my favorites list. Here, the characters are so well drawn that you can’t help but experience every emotion alongside the residents of the alley, and, boy, is it an emotional rollercoaster. I laughed at the antics of Ahmed. I cheered on the boys as they routinely stepped into aid each other. I set aside the book twice to cry my eyes out. And, I was often angry, wishing Pasha would forget his promise to the brotherhood of the boxing fraternity and knock someone’s lights out. The alternating periods during the first part of the book creates an incredible tension in the book as the reader quickly falls in love with the characters but understands early on that something devastating has occurred.

The only negative comment I can make is that the ending didn’t work for me. It simply wasn’t plausible. Because of that I should probably give it 4 stars, but I love the book so much I just can’t.

I will never look at a red rose again without thinking of this book.
Profile Image for Afsaneh Hojabri.
Author 1 book14 followers
June 30, 2012
I read Rooftops of Tehran in two consecutive nights, as I could not put it down once I started the book.

I was originally drawn to this book because although we have a wealth of novel/memoir written by Iranian women, I personally knew of none written by an Iranian man. I was curious to find out what a male perspective reflected in such format would contain, and I was not disappointed! Indeed, this is the first credit I would give the author.

I enjoyed the ease Seraji writes with; the vivid pictures of the ordinary life he depicts; and the richness of his characters. Ahmad is a central attraction among these characters and a hilariously funny and likable kid. Finally, I find a reflection on the seemingly long-gone reign of the Shah and his atrocities to be extremely timely at this turbulent time when the Iranian people seem to be back on the stage fighting for democracy. Iranians, especially the young generation, have suffered in hands of the Islamic regime so much that they tend to forget how oppressive the previous regime was, and even glorify that period “in comparison” with the IRI. It is very useful to be reminded how deep the flaws of the previous regime ran into the society.

I sincerely hope I read more books by Mahbod Seraji.
Profile Image for Mariam.
69 reviews24 followers
March 8, 2014
To be honest, i picked up this book after reading Mornings in Jenin with the soul intention of trying to repair my damaged heart with the words of a different novel. To my dismay, my heartache only increased. The characters came to life in my mind and i fell in love with Ahmad's character. The message this book sends about standing for justice makes you think about how majority of the world stands by and watches in silence as the oppressors reign over the weak. Readers will learn that a life without freedom is no life at all, it is like living in a comma with a machine attached to you. (the machine being the oppressors who won't let you be). You are technically alive thanks to this machine....but are you living? READ THE BOOK.
5 reviews2 followers
February 1, 2009
Rooftops speaks to the universality of the human condition- that knows no color, creed, sect or country. It is a story of hope,despite the abysmal darkness of a great loss. The voice evolves throughout the story, as does the young hero. Its piercing reality, relentless humor and often heartbreaking anguish turns the pages, and all along we hope we hope that love fills the void left by the loss--and we as readers are whole again.
A touching tale that must be told
Profile Image for Deb.
Author 2 books22 followers
July 27, 2014
Moving. Touching. Bittersweet. A story that attests to the unbreakable spirit.

I truly and thoroughly enjoyed every inch of this book. I commend the writer, Mahbod Seraji who himself talks in the Readers Guide (yes, it was that good I read into the readers guide) about the struggle to learn English when he came to America from Iran, for the beauty and brilliantly colorful way he weaves his words and presents to us this work of literary art. This is the story of Pasha Shahed, his undying love for Zari, his martyred mentor Doctor, his humorous best friend Ahmed and his fiancé Faheemah who all allow us a glimpse into their world seen from high atop the Rooftops of Tehran . This is a story that winds itself inside your heart and finds a place to live there never to be forgotten. Touching, wrapping around, embracing you within the very world of these characters until you read the last page and you find yourself wanting more. A need spreads and grows. I want to know that they all are alright. I need to know that they've lived out their lives surviving hopefully better than what they all experienced over the short period that this book chronicled. This is not an autobiography, so says the author but the spirit of these characters is so masterfully harnessed and embodied within his words you know in some way, some how, elements of these people did, do, must have walked the earth. 

I've learned so much more than I knew about this country and this culture than I did before I read this book. Iran. As an American, I think I'm supposed to feel some type of way toward this country and it's people. As a person, a human being created by God I think, a country consists of a mass of people and how can I feel any type of way about a group of individuals I don't even know. Who don't know me. I don't know their individual stories and they don't know mine. I can't blind hate, it's not in me. Government stuff.. Well, I'm not very political and I leave that respectfully to those who know more. Me, I love to learn about cultures and people that I don't know about, because underneath all the blurred lines...we are all humans who live, love hard, experience hardship and tragedy, admire beauty, wish for peace and equality, to give our children the entire contents of our hearts and to die in peace. People at the crux of it all, are people. We may differ in shape, size, color or speech, even belief but at the center, in the pit and depth of a human, we're more the same than all the differences the small minded can list. That is what you will take away from this book. That you felt and deeply. Why? Because change the name, the place, circumstance, change it all.. What still stands, feelings. Emotions. This is the relation point. The connection. Any good book has it and this book has "that"

No doubt about it, this is one of those perfection 7 stars (GR5) books for me. I would have quoted more but just enjoying the story too much to stop and keep doing that when my available reading moments were precious to me. It's a great story, I want to recommend it to all but I don't think it's for all. It's full of love, it's full of heartache, it's tragic but it's also full of humor, culture and living. I love a book that draws me in emotional. If you're open to that, pick it up. If not, respectfully leave it on the shelf. I hate hearing books I love get ripped to shreds. I don't know yet if this author has more books but I will check them out. 

Not sure what will be my next read but the bar is definitely set high now.
Profile Image for Jalilah.
374 reviews91 followers
November 19, 2019
What a beautiful, tender, tragic, comic, sweet and spellbinding book this is!
Had someone described the circumstances of the "love story" beforehand, I might not have wanted to read it. Generally I can't stand love triangles, but the one in this coming of age novel is not a typical one nor is the love story stereotypical.
In the author's own words this is a story about "friendship and humor, love and hope, universal experiences valued by people in all times and places".
If you don't know about Iran and its history, you will learn a lot. If you are already with Iran and its history you will appreciate it a lot more after reading this.
This is probably one of my favourite reads this year. It along with Burnt Shadows definitely moved me the most, although Rooftops of Tehran, like many novels where the lead character is a teen, has lighter moments balancing out the heavier parts and thus made it overall a more enjoyable read.
Yes, I recommend this book to everyone!
Profile Image for Sandra.
14 reviews29 followers
August 14, 2019
S nekim knjigama putujemo kroz vrijeme, otkrivamo daleka mjesta i zaronimo u strane kulture. Krovovi Teherana je prvo djelo perzijske literature koje sam pročitala i ostao je jedan od mojih najdražih romana. Ova nam priča otkriva ljepotu perzijske kulture, otvara nam vrata nekog drugačijeg svijeta od našega. Smještena je u Iranu u vrijeme političke diktature, represije i cenzure koju je provodio šah i iranski režim u 1970-ima. Ovo je priča o hrabrosti, žrtvi, ljubavi i prijateljstvu u zemlji koja se nalazi pred revolucijom. Mahbod Seraji piše nevjerojatno atmosferično i slikovito i tako vodi čitatelja kroz teheranske četvrti, upoznaje nas sa iranskim narodom, njihovim običajima i nemiru i strahu koji je vladao tada. Osjećate kao da ste dio toga vremena i prostora.

“Vrijeme je možda najvrijednija stvar koju svaki čovjek posjeduje, ali to je vrlo teško shvatiti kada prolazi sporo. Mnogo ga je lakše smatrati dragocjenim kada leti i brzo izmiče.“
Profile Image for Sally.
76 reviews34 followers
August 12, 2009
This is a beautiful novel, with sensitively drawn characters in a volatile and violent period of Iran, from 1973 to 1974 during the reign of the Shah of Iran. At the heart of this novel is a love story, but there's much more. The sustaining nature of intimate friendships and family relationships, and the sacrifices that the characters make for each other are poetically and movingly portrayed. At a time when U.S. foreign policy with Iran weighs heavily, this novel provides a personal and valuable insight into Iranian culture and history.

We had the pleasure of hosting the author at the Hayward Public Library on Sept. 28, 2009, and I selected it for the December meeting of the Mostly Literary Fiction Book Group.
Profile Image for Maja.
15 reviews
September 24, 2011
Just two quick remarks. First - had a problem which I always have with books translated into Croatian in the constant never ending present tense > it just bugs me. I sounds text bookish and cold and I just don't like it and think it's wrong. Second - main character's best friend Ahmed is one of the coolest book characters I can remember, one of those you get a crush on. So, watch out. :) To wrap it up - a really really good book, warm, funny and one of those that makes you understand the Arab culture a little more. So Ahmed doesn't always have to be the terrorist, he can be a crush! :)
Profile Image for Tony T.
3 reviews3 followers
March 29, 2014
This book acquaints you with the characters in a way that makes it impossible to set the book down, and the characters will stay with you long after you have finished the book. The symbolism in the book is subtle and might be lost to the casual reader. Some have called the book a love story, it's far more than that. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for April.
79 reviews3 followers
August 1, 2011
I don't think I've ever openly cried for any characters from a book the way I did with this one. "Rooftops of Tehran" is a poignant book that absorbed me completely. I actually had to put it down for a bit as things became very intense when Zari's actions turn the tide in such a shocking way. I love Ahmed's character and that he is Pasha's best friend. I adore Pasha's emotions and thoughts on Zari. Even Pasha's father and his stories and the quirks of his mother endeared to me. I longed to be a part of the dialogue that took place on the rooftops every night. I laughed when they laughed, cried at their losses, fumed at the injustices of their society--this was just an incredible read.

Some beautiful, quotable moments for me include:

"Faheemah is watching us, knowing full well that a seventeen-year-old boy has taken his first step toward becoming a man, and in the process has made her feel more like a woman than all the aunts, uncles, and formalities of the night before. If she must marry a man her parents have chosen for her, at least she knows that she is loved by someone with enough courage to defy tradition."

"I wish I had the courage to tell them about myself and Zari, but love is a private matter, and the vault of the heart is not to be opened lightly, nor the treasure of love exposed. I always wondered why, despite our passionate spirit as a nation whose poetry is filled with declarations of love, our reality is one of guarded emotions when it comes to members of the opposite sex."

"That's the way of the Persians--we are masters in the art of implication, sometimes at the cost of the point getting lost on an unsophisticated listener. Facts seldom matter. The meaning and the message are always woven into the fabric of our discourse. 'Deep in each knot of a Persian rug is a statement of the hands that patiently drove the needle and the thread,' I once heard my father say."

"'I'd rather be in hell with you than without you in heaven....'"
Profile Image for Mitzi Grimaldo.
61 reviews8 followers
January 22, 2016
No tenía expectativa alguna de esté libro, simplemente lo compré porque la sinopsis se veía comprometedora.

¡Fue un libro extraordinario! Desde el principio me encantó, la nota que había del autor a sus lectores, acerca de que si necesitábamos hablar del libro con él le mandáramos un correo, no sé por qué pero me pareció un gran detalle. Claro que no le mandaría nada porque soy mala expresándome por escrito, como ya se habrán dado cuenta.

Entrando a la parte de la trama del libro, está Pasha que vive en Irán, se podría decir que ha tenido una vida tranquila. Tiene un mejor amigo llamado Ahmed (¡quedé fascinada con su amistad! Para mí ha sido una de las mejores amistades que he visto a través de los libros). Juega con los niños de su barrio, ambos se enamoran, pasan por cosas que cualquiera a sus 17 años pasa… claro, hay algo que le da un giro por completo a la historia.

La verdad es que al principio me gustó bastante, sentía que estaba viendo todo por una casa que pertenecía al mismo barrio en el que Pasha y Ahmed vivían. Y luego me gustó aún más cuando resulta que Pasha está narrando algunas partes desde un psiquiátrico (esto no es ningún spoiler, promesa) ¡sólo aumentó mi euforia por leerlo!

Por supuesto no sólo son Pasha y Ahmed, hay mucho más personajes importantes como Zari y Faheemed (perdón pero no recuerdo cómo se escribe) que forman una hermosa amistad o quizá (¡quizá!) algo más.

Lo que hace a esté libro especial es que no solamente se centra en la historia de las reuniones entre estos jóvenes sino que ve también el problema social que había en esos años en Irán, lo que era la SAVAK, la represión que el sah ejercía sobre ellos, los libros que tenían prohibido leer ¡un montón de problemas bastante interesantes!

Pero, sí, tristemente hay un PERO, el autor abusó tanto del tema que me llegó a hartar, no digo que esté mal, es interesante conocer costumbres, pensamientos y otras cosas de un país que sabemos tiene problemas pero no le tomamos la atención suficiente. En cierto momento, estoy segura, el autor se ponía en el papel de Pasha ¡él era Pasha! Comenzaba a despotricar acerca de E.U., realmente no me molesta que despotrique acerca de ellos, me da igual, simplemente es que siempre que hablaba de eso ¡era lo mismo! Igual que cuando hablaba de la SAVAK, igual que cuando cualquier personaje se quejaba del sah. Siempre lo mismo.

Y aunque haya sido repetitivo en ese aspecto, me seguía teniendo pegada a la historia, porque es una historia de amistad, de valores y ¿por qué no? De amor (aunque creo que esto fue lo que lo jodió un poco). Me hizo llorar, me hizo reír pero sobre todo me hizo pensar en la situación que hay en varios países para decir: estamos jodidos. Porque sé que no es la situación de un sólo país, sino de varios y aunque la historia se haya desarrollado hace 30 años, todo sigue igual.
Profile Image for Michaiah.
46 reviews
July 31, 2010
I'm not sure why this book has received so many good reviews. The first part of the book held my interest fairly well, but about halfway through I just couldn't wait to get done, and actually skimmed much of the last 75 or so pages. It was ok I guess, but there was far too little about Iran and the historical situation at the time, and far too much irrelevant narration. For example, at one point, the narrator spends several pages describing how his aunt and uncle don't get along (but really do) when that has absolutely nothing to do with anything in the story at all. Seriously, nothing. I think it was supposed to be humorous, but it was actually just stupid. The story was extremely predictable, and yet I was left very confused about why certain things happened the way they did. For example, why did the secret police let Zari live, but insist that she and her family go into exile and represent to the rest of the world that she died when she set herself on fire?? That seemed totally unrealistic to me. The writing was not anything special, and I actually found it pretty awkward through most of the book. It was also just a little too cutesy and sappy for me, but I guess I should've expected that with main characters who are 17 years old.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
966 reviews100 followers
March 19, 2014
This poignant coming of age story transports the reader to Iran in the 1970’s during the reign of Shah Pahlavi. Seventeen year old Pasha and his best friend Ahmed spend much of their time up on Pasha’s rooftop terrace talking about life, girls, and the many colorful characters who live in their neighborhood. Pasha secretly hides his growing love for his next door neighbor, a beautiful girl named Zari who is betrothed to another young man. The boys’ idyllic summer is suddenly changed when Zari’s fiancé is arrested by the SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police. Author Mahbod Seraji vividly presents a story of love, loyalty, friendship, courage, sacrifice, and ultimately hope set against the backdrop of fear and oppression on the eve of the Iranian revolution. With heartbreak and humor Seraji provides the reader with an insider’s view of the Persian culture as seen through the eyes of its unforgettable characters.
Profile Image for hal .
771 reviews108 followers
January 25, 2018
Read for English 10

Here's the thing: I fucking hated this thing, but I don't have much to say about it. And that's precisely why I didn't like it at all- it is so unremarkable and boring. It's not worth reading and it's not even worth the energy it takes to rant about it.

All I will say is that I could not stand this book. It was so boring, and the only reason I finished it was because I was required to for school. Fuck this fucking book, I'm never reading it again. And I do not recommend it at all.
Profile Image for Harmonyofbooks.
500 reviews188 followers
October 29, 2017
"Senin yıldızını biliyorum, ama benimki hangisi?"
"En büyüğü, en parlığı."
"O sensin," diye düzeltiyor beni.
"O biziz," diyorum fısıltıyla. "İkimiz aynı yıldızı paylaşıyoruz."
Çok sevgili bir arkadaşımın yorumundan sonra okumak için sabırsızlandığım ve tam benim de çok beğeneceğimi düşündüğüm bir kitaptı. Sayfalarını çevirmeye başladığımda da kısa sürede hemencecik bitirebildim. Her ne kadar İran sinemasını ilgiyle takip ederek izliyor olsam da bu tarz Fars kültüründen izler taşıyan ve İran'da konu edinen bir kitabı ilk okuyuşumdu. Kitaba on yedi yaşındaki Paşa'nın 1973 senesinin yazında Ahmet'le olan dostluğunu okumakla başlıyoruz. Fakat aslında Paşa'nın içindeki en büyük sıkıntı başka bir adamın beşik kertmesi olan komşularının kızına aşık olmasıdır. Çok geçmeden kitapta iki farklı zaman dilimini okumaya başlıyoruz ve 1973 yazına anlam verip hikayenin gidişatını keyifle okurken, diğer zaman diliminde Paşa'nın hastanede yaşadıklarını anlatan bölümler karışık paragraflar halini alıyor ve böylece bir yandan da onu bu hastaneye getiren olayın arka yüzünü merak etmeye başlıyoruz. Neredeyse imkansız bir aşk hikayesini okurken bir yandan da Paşa'nın Ahmet'le dostluğuna ve okulda yaşadıklarına değiniliyor. Kitap ilerledikçe o aşk hikayesinin hüzünlü kısmı beni de çok etkiledi ve ortalarında çok kötü bir olay patlak verdiğinde gerçekleşen zalimliğin karşısında insanın dili tutuluyor. Beni nerede ağlatacağını çok merak ediyordum ki çok geçmeden kitabın en duygusal beklenmedik bölümünü de okuyoruz ve tahmin ettiğim gibi ağlamak yerine gözlerimi doldurmakla yetindi. Aslında kitaptaki aşk hikayesini çok sevdiğim ve duygulandığım halde gerçekleşen bu olay beni ağlatmadı, belki de bunun benim okurkenki ruh halime de bağlayabilirim. Sonlarına doğru beni yine bir güzel şaşırttı ve beğenimi büyük ölçüde kazandı. Fakat genel olarak baktığımda kitap bakımından içimde bir şeyler eksikmiş gibi geliyor. Her ne kadar övgüyle bahsedebilsem de mükemmel derecede öve öve bitiremeyeceğim bir kitap değildi. Bunun nedeni muhtemelen Tahran'ın Damları'ndan önce benzeri bir Müslüman kültürünü konu edinen daha çok beğendiğim bir dram kitabı okumuş olmamdı. Lafın kısası okumanızı elbette öneririm ve dahi benim de çok beğendiğim harika bir kitaptı ama beni daha çok etkileyenleri okuduğumu da cümleme sıkıştırmalıyım. Keyifli okumalar dilerim..
Profile Image for Michael.
1,215 reviews111 followers
August 3, 2014
Seventeen year old Pasha spends most of his summer on the rooftop with his best friend Ahmed. Together they jokily bond over infatuation and girls, trusting that they will remain inseparable for life. While they perception of America is affluent & imagery, they much rather reside in their hometown of Iran. Sharing things in common are one of the few reasons why they are so close, not to mention the fact that they often banter about girls. In particular, Ahmed is in a solid relationship with a girl that he deeply has affection for. On the other hand, Pasha is in love with a much older girl, Zari who is already committed to a man that goes by Doctor. Torn between a guy that has different taste with culture and values, she wonders if his bias judgments is going to come between their marriage. Engaged to him was never her intention or at least she feels that she can so much better. Lurking in the shadow is Pasha who secretly wants her to cute ties with Doctor and consider his offer of romance.

Pasha hates that his mother describes him as shy & introverted. Determined to make it work with Pasha, he does not see himself changing his personality to be accepted in the crowd. As long as Pasha accepts him as he is, he is not going to conform to the expectations of his parents. Ahmed tries unsuccessfully to pair Pasha and Zari together much to Pasha dismay. However he appreciates that his best friend wants him to be happy, even if he thinks that his chances with a much older woman are slim. Little does he know, Pasha desires him as much as he does her but risking her relationship with Doctor is something that she fears the most.

Ahmed and Pasha relationship continues to grow in this fascinating love story about how love does not know what time and distance is. Enlightening, heartbreaking, pivotal and an amazing lyrical debut by a talented writer.

I love how this story was written, it started off slow but quickly progressed into an amazing story. Pasha reminded me a lot like myself, as far as his attributes being introverted and shy. Additionally I loved the bond he shared with his best friend Ahmed, their bromance was rare in a novel but they were written with so much depth.

Looking forward to reading more novels by Seraji, it was a beautiful love story!
Profile Image for Linda Wright.
Author 4 books3 followers
December 4, 2010
What a wonderful insight into the life and culture of Iran under the Shah. As Americans this is a part of world that is a mystery to us. And guess what? We are a mystery to them too.

This story is narrated by a teenage Pasha, struggling to find himself as a man during the early 1970's in Tehran. He is coming of age, learning how to shave, playing soccer in the alley and falling in love all under the stars on the roof of his family's home. When he unwittingly leads the secret police toward his friend and mentor, Doctor, Pasha's life is shattered.

Rooftops of Tehran is beautifully written and emotionally charged. I loved the comparisons of the middle eastern and western cultures. I was heartbroken by the oppressive political environment Pasha and his family were forced to live under. All in all this novel is a well rounded and interesting story about a time and place I find fascinating and mysterious. I rate Rooftops of Tehran a 4 out of 5. Well worth the time to expand your heart and open your mind.
Profile Image for Emily.
178 reviews11 followers
May 11, 2017
Rooftops of Tehran is so many things: semi-autobiographical, a beautifully done coming of age story, a portrait of a specific time and place (Tehran 1973-74). It's peopled with wonderful characters, the kind who stay with you after you've finished the book, who pop into your head for a visit like old friends. It's also one of the best portraits of teenage life I've ever read. The way Seraji evokes Tehran and the Persian culture, the smells and tastes, sights and sounds is so powerful that I felt like I was there. I could hear it, see it, taste it, smell it. Perhaps my favorite thing about the book is that it was at once so familiar and yet so foreign, in a way that felt totally organic. From the first page, you identify with the narrator Pasha. The novel pulls you in and doesn't let you go until the very last page. Highly recommended.
1 review
May 2, 2009
I loved and enjoyed reading this book tremendously. It will make you laugh and at the same time it will break your heart. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who appreciates captivating literature. I hope that Mahbod will continue Pasha's story in a future novel and I know that you will too after reading this book.
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