In her debut novel Together Tea, Marjan Kamali shows us the complex life of an Iranian immigrant. She follows Mina, her mother Darya, and their family as they attempt to balance Iranian traditions with their new American culture. Told with delight and heart, this is the story of a tug-of-war between old and new, the universal quest for love, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter.
Before young Mina’s family moved from Iran to New York in the 1980’s, they were secure with their place in the world, surrounded by family and the Persian culture they loved. But, the downfall of the Shah and the explosion of Islamic fundamentalism brought to power a new oppressive regime that began to dictate their lives. When the war with Iraq broke out and Mina’s grandmother was killed by a bomb, the family escaped to the U.S. where the differences between their new and old world grew larger.
Now, years later, settled into their lives in Queens, Darya has discovered the perfect gift for Mina’s twenty-fifth birthday: an ideal husband. Mina, however, is fed up with her mother’s endless matchmaking and spreadsheets grading available Iranian-American bachelors: 5 points for good teeth; minus 10 for no graduate degree; plus 20 if it can be proven that they’re kind to their mothers. Having spent her childhood in Tehran and her adolescence in New York City, Mina has experienced many cultural clashes, but now the greatest battles are erupting at home. As an adult, Mina thought she would find balance and clarity; instead she is more conflicted than ever about her parents’ traditions and the challenges that come with straddling two very different cultures. Unbeknownst to Mina, her mother is also questioning herself and her culture; happily married for years, she is now being tempted by an American musician.
In an effort to rekindle their ties to Iran and to work out their differences, Mina and Darya take a journey to Tehran. Back in their hometown, the two women gradually begin to understand each other. Mina discovers a newfound respect for her mother’s traditions while Darya comes to terms with the blend of Iranian and American life that define her daughter. When Mina meets a man who never appeared on her mother’s matchmaking spreadsheets, this mother and daughter are finally forced to reconcile their conflicting views on life and marriage.
Wonderfully entertaining, Together Tea examines the deeper chords of family, love and finding the place where you truly belong.
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