A personal look at one family's 'Desert Roots'

Mitra Shavarini's book focuses on her parents' migration to US and return to Iran

Mitra Shavarini is a lecturer at the Women’s and Gender Studies and Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies programs, where her research centers on women’s education in Muslim societies. She is also the author of “Educating Immigrants: Experience of Second Generation Iranians” and the coauthor, with Wendy R. Robison, of “Women and Education in Iran and Afghanistan: An Annotated Bibliography.”

But Shavarini’s new book, “Desert Roots,” is altogether more up-close and personal. In it, she tells of the pursuit of the American Dream by one immigrant family: her own.

At 5 p.m. on Friday in Laurie Theater, part of the Spingold Theater complex, she’ll deliver a talk on her reasons for writing the book, which focuses on why her parents left Iran for America, where they lived for 33 years, and why they returned when her dad reached the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease in 2005.

“It explores a very universal theme of this desire to go home,” says Shavarini. “It usually sparks a lot of emotions, and not just in the immigrant community.”

Kristen Lucken, a lecturer in International & Global Studies and Sociology, whose research focuses on the religious lives of immigrants and their children, will offer some scholarly insights about the immigration experience following Shavarini’s talk.

Leila May Pascual ’15, who was first exposed to the book in a class on immigration, will perform a song she wrote in her native Tagalog in response to the book.

“It’s an important story, especially given where we are with Iranian relations,” Lucken says. “National policy often clouds our relationship with Americans who are from different cultures.”

Finally, a professional Playback Theatre group formed by Brandeis alumni Will Chalumus ’07, Nathan Porteshawver ’09, Etta King ’10 and others will explore themes from the book using this improvisational technique based on the audience’s reaction.

“I’m so honored to do this event at Brandeis,” Shavarini says. “Here’s a topic on Iran, controversial in the real world, and eight departments are supporting it,” including Anthropology, the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, Education, Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies, Women’s Studies Research Center and the Ethics Center.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, International Affairs

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