The Age of Orphans A Novel


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Bloomsbury USA


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1608190420

9781608190423

304 Pages

$14.00

Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy
Winner of the Whiting Writers' Award

Before following his father into battle, he had been like any other Kurdish boy: in love with his Maman, fascinated by birds and the rugged Zagros Mountains, dutiful to his stern and powerful Baba. But after he is orphaned in a massacre by the armies of Iran’s new shah, he is taken in by the very army that has killed his parents, renamed Reza Khourdi, and indoctrinated into the modern, seductive ways of the newly minted nation, careful to hide his Kurdish origins with every step.  The Age of Orphans follows Reza through his meteoric rise in rank, his marriage to a proud Tehrani woman, and his eventual deployment, as a colonel, back to the Zagros Mountains and the ever-defiant Kurds. Here Reza is responsible for policing, and sometimes killing, his own people, and his carefully crafted persona begins to crack.

Told with an evocative richness of language that recalls Michael Ondaatje or Anita Desai, Laleh Khadivi's The Age of Orphans tells the story of a Kurdish boy forced to betray his people in service of the new Iranian nation, and the tragic consequences as he grows into manhood. It is the story of the twentieth-century everyman, cast out from the clan in the name of nation, progress, and modernity, who cannot help but yearn for the impossible dreams of love, land, and home.

REVIEWS

Praise for The Age of Orphans

"This is a stunning debut . . . unflinching, gorgeously poetic, intimate yet with a wondrous sweep of history. To read the tale of Reza Khourdi is to take a journey deep inside the darkest cavity of the heart."—Cristina Garcia, author of the National Book Award finalist Dreaming in Cuban

"Laleh Khadivi is genuinely gifted and ruthless with that gift. We are all so fortunate that she is, for it takes both talent and ruthlessness to delve this deeply into an epic life.”—Dorothy Allison, author of the National Book Award finalist Bastard Out of Carolina

"An arresting, powerful, transformative, unflinching, epic, and deeply affecting novel."—Chris Abani, author of Graceland

"[With] a lyrical style reminiscent of . . . Michael Ondaatje . . . The Age of Orphans evocatively captures the desperate longing for home, family and a life erased. It's an affecting tale."—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"Khadivi limns the emotional and physical brutality of the tribal-suppression campaign and Reza's splintering psyche in language both fierce and poetic."—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"In 1921 Persia, after a battlefield massacre, a Kurdish orphan is conscripted into the shah's army and given a new identity. Khadivi's debut spans almost six decades, during which the boy, renamed Reza Khourdi by the authorities, first proves his loyalty and his brutality and then—on the ground that his knowledge of Kurdish deviousness will be invaluable—is promoted to captain and sent to his hometown, Kermanshah. Reza's task is to be ruthless in stamping out revolts. The homecoming reignites old emotions, reminds Reza of the innocent falcon-loving mama's boy he once was but can never be again—and threatens to crack his facade and cost him the authority that is his dearest, almost his only, possession. Before his return, Reza marries a Tehrani woman, Meena. Their tragic, loveless marriage yields six children, until Reza—his wife is eight months pregnant with their seventh child—one day poisons her tea. When her brothers come up from the capital and confront him with the overwhelming evidence of his crime—Meena's blood contains cyanide, arsenic and bleach—Reza, in the book's most chilling scene, makes a ceremony of surrendering and has himself locked up by his adjutant, the jailer in the town's one cell, which has never before been used. The magistrate, another underling, takes down the brothers' evidence, laughing all the while. The next morning, Reza has himself released. The historical material has unmistakable power."—Kirkus Reviews

"Khadivi’s writing . . . is luminous in this tragic story of an 'orphan of the earth,' which is rendered in prose that is by turns graphic and poetic."—Booklist

"The 2008 recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, Khadivi offers a remarkable first novel that does not shy away from harsh subject matter. This first installment in a trilogy about three generations of Kurdish men is set in Persia in the 1920s as Reza Shah Pahlari comes to power. The story tracks the life of a Kurdish boy who loses his family in a massacre and then is taken in by the very soldiers responsible for making him an orphan. Reborn as Reza Khourdi in honor of the shah, the youth is so well indoctrinated by the shah's military that his superior officers decide to reward his performance as a soldier by giving him a command post in his homeland. Reza returns to the region with his new wife to fight his own people, Kurdish rebels, and continue their brutal subjugation in pursuit of the shah's vision of a modernized Iran. Khadivi excels at capturing Reza's spiritual torture as he subdues his personal tribal history, often at the violent expense of others. With her eloquent portrayal of Reza, Khadivi has created an epitomic character representing so many 20th-century and current cultural, ethnic, and national identity clashes. Highly recommended."—Faye A. Chadwell, Library Journal

"Ironic, beautifully written, brutal and ugly, Khadivi's ambitious debut novel follows a Kurdish boy who is tragically and violently conscripted into the shah's army after his own people are slaughtered in battle. Assigned the name Reza Pejman Khourdi—Reza after the first shah of Iran, Pejman meaning heartbroken and Khourdi to denote he's an ethnic Kurd—the boy suppresses all things Kurdish within him, fueled by a sense of self-preservation and self-loathing. Channeling fear and hate into brutal acts against the Kurds, Reza makes a quick climb up the military career ladder, eventually gaining an appointment to Kermanshah, a Kurdish region in the north of Iran. There, as overseer of his own people, Reza promotes Kurdish assimilation and the budding nation of Iran while mercilessly silencing voices of Kurdish independence. As he grows old with his Iranian wife, Meena, Reza's internal conflicts simmer, then boil over, with unexpected and terrible results. This difficult but powerful novel, the first of a trilogy, introduces a writer with a strong, unflinching voice and a penetrating vision."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

Laleh Khadivi was born in Esfahan Iran in 1977. In the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution her family fled, first to Belgium and Puerto Rico, finally settling in Canada and the United States. She graduated from Reed College in 1998 and moved to New York where she began to direct documentary films for A&E, HBO and Showtime. The Age of Orphans is the first novel in a projected trilogy that will trace three generations of a Kurdish family as they make their way to the United States and undergo the profound transformations of the immigrant experience. Based loosely on the life of her own family, Laleh

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BACK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


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  • Laleh Khadivi, winner of the 2008 Whiting Writers' Award, was born in Esfahan, Iran, in 1977, but fled with her family to the United States in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution. The Age of Orphans is the first novel in a projected trilogy that will trace three generations of a Kurdish family—based loosely on her own—as they make their way to the United States and undergo the profound transformations of the immigrant experience.
BACK