Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sons of the Great Satan

Most folks look back on their high school days with fond memories: the hijinks that they sailed through unscathed (for the most part), and the feeling of that first puppy love.  They remember that tough teacher who, at the time, was evil, but with the rose-colored glasses of time and distance, they ended up loving the most because, while she was stern, she was effective.  They remember the championship season, when the team went all the way.  The parties, the sleepovers, the deep conversations.

TCKs remember the same things, but our experiences have a little of the exotic injected into them.  We went to places like Hong Kong and Taipei to play sports, rather than the next town down the road.  Field trips involved airplane trips into the deep interior of the tropic wilderness.  We lived under Martial Law.  Some of us lived in the midst of a revolution.

Tehran, Iran, during the late 1970s, is a time that we all remember through the newspaper stories of the dethroning of the Shah and the rise to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini.  I can still see the grainy pictures from the television coverage of massive crowds of protesters, Uncle Sam burning in effigy, and the angry anti-American slogans painted on walls and sheets.  I still get a cold chill in my heart when I think of the American hostages held captive (for 444 days!) at the Embassy in Tehran.  I recently went to see Ben Affleck’s movie  “Argo” (and which I talked about a little while ago) and it was too real, too raw, too close to home. 

The summer before I went to college in Texas, I lived in London with a British family, babysitting their children and taking a class at a nearby college.  My class only had three students enrolled.  One of the students, according to our professor, was a prince from the royal family of Bahrain.  She told me, one day when he was absent, that assassins sometimes will act when their target is in school, blowing up the entire classroom.  Comforting.  He used to blow by me in his souped-up Camaro Iroc-Z, while I stood, in the rain, at the bus stop.  When I was in college in Texas, I actually went on a date with a man who was a nephew of the Shah’s wife, Empress Farah Diba Pahlavi.  He was tall, dark and handsome, and drove a really nice car. One time I landed in Dubai on the way home from Asia.  Such is my total experience with the Middle East. 

“Sons of the Great Satan”, written by Anthony H. Roberts, is a fictionalized account of Anthony’s experience as an American teenager in Tehran during the days leading up to the revolution.  Each chapter is titled after a rock/disco/funk song of the times, Dream Weaver, Toys in the Attic, Hot Blooded, Jive Talkin’; songs that are emblematic of the teenagers of the day, across the board.  There’s lots of cussing and “boy” teasing amongst the young protagonist, Joey Andrews, and his buddies.  They smoke a lot of hash and spend carefree times camping up in the mountains outside of the city, unaware of the brewing turmoil nearby.  Joey befriends an Iranian teenager who lives next door, and who attends his school.  Lots of plot twists and characters are intertwined throughout the narrative, which jumps from Joey’s point of view to his parents’, to an anti-Shah terrorist-in-training and a shady cab driver, to an elderly couple trying to escape the country, and to his Iranian friend’s father, who plays a part in the book’s climactic end.  While the ping-ponging chapters may leave the reader a little confused about what is going on, they all come together in one final crescendo. 

Joey and his friends skirt the law with their drug use; most of us would be horrified to walk that thin line, especially in Iran, the land of beheadings and stonings.  (Teenagers in the Philippines did the same thing; maybe, like us, they thought they were immune from being caught.)  Roberts gets inside the mind of an Iranian patriot, one who despises the Shah and whose mission is to do his small part in overthrowing the regime.  A supporter of the shah, an elderly Iranian professor, sees the country he loves falling into the hands of the religious fanatics, and knows that he and his beloved wife have to escape.  Their perilous journey through the snowy mountains reminds me a little of the book “Not Without My Daughter” by Betty Mahmoody.  

This story could only have been told by someone who lived it. “Sons of the Great Satan” is a gripping narrative of the last days of Iran under the Shah, through the eyes of a Third Culture Kid.  Roberts found himself yanked out of the high school that he loved, as the Shah’s regime fell around him.  Most of us TCKs can relate, many of us having been yanked out of our schools, but rarely under circumstances quite as dire.  There was no time to say good-bye to friends, and there was fear about his Iranian friend left behind.  Anthony and his buddies were cast to into the wind, landing scattered about the world, like most of us TCKs at the end of high school.  Roberts’ book is a testimony to all of our journeys and an example of our witness of global events of extraordinary significance.  

Anthony Roberts


Joey Andrews said...

Merci for taking the time to read and review my novel, Liz. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's interesting how universal the TCK experience is regardless of where you lived.

R. Williams said...

Where's the "like a lot" button?

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