A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea
By Dina Nayeri
(Riverhead Trade, Paperback, 9781594632327, 480pp.)
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
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A magical novel about a young Iranian woman lifted from grief by her powerful imagination and love of Western culture.
Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect illegal Life magazines, television shows, and rock music. So when her mother and sister disappear, leaving Saba and her father alone in Iran, Saba is certain that they have moved to America without her. But her parents have taught her that “all fate is written in the blood,” and that twins will live the same life, even if separated by land and sea. As she grows up in the warmth and community of her local village, falls in and out of love, and struggles with the limited possibilities in post-revolutionary Iran, Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold. Somewhere, it must be that her sister is living the Western version of this life. And where Saba’s world has all the grit and brutality of real life under the new Islamic regime, her sister’s experience gives her a freedom and control that Saba can only dream of.
Filled with a colorful cast of characters and presented in a bewitching voice that mingles the rhythms of Eastern storytelling with modern Western prose, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a tale about memory and the importance of controlling one’s own fate.
Dina Nayeri was born in Tehran during the revolution and immigrated to Oklahoma at ten years old. She has a BA from Princeton and a Master of Education and MBA from Harvard. She is a Truman Capote Fellow and a Teaching Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
"A feel-good family tale."—Cosmopolitan
"Ambitious . . . There’s a kaleidoscopic quality to Dina Nayeri’s prose, evoking the beat of Eastern storytelling, while its cadences remain resolutely American. . . . The novel’s message, however, is universal: we must do all we can to control our own fates."—The Daily Mail
“What a tremendous gift [Nayeri] offers us throughout the book, an opportunity to connect with the richness of Iran, while simultaneously enlarging our understanding of the human experience.”—Baltimore Times
"Set in the 1980s and early 1990s in a northern Iranian village, the novel draws out a rich and sensual old-world life. . . . Told through memory, fantasy, and conjecture, the rest of the novel is as much about storytelling––its art, lies, comforts, truths, pitfalls, and saving grace—as it is about anything else. We see a complex—albeit sad—“new Iran”: a country that is post-revolution, in the throes of war, and constantly falling short of its characters’ expectations and dreams.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
"Nayeri’s highly accomplished debut is a rich, multilayered reading experience. Structurally complex, the overriding theme is storytelling in all its forms, and the fine line between truth and lies. Each one of the large cast of characters is fully realized and sympathetic. Saba is a captivating heroine whose tragedies and triumphs will carry readers on a long but engrossing ride."—Library Journal (starred review)
“From the imprint that brought you Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner; the sort of embracing and embraceable culturally far-reaching fiction Riverhead does best.”—Booklist
"[An] elegant aspirational novel of life in post-revolutionary Iran. . . . Richly imaginative . . . Lyrical, humane, and hopeful."—Kirkus
“Charming and engrossing, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a vivid and evocative story about the places we love, the places we long for—and the places we can only imagine.”—Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles
"Pure magic: lyrical, captivating, funny, and heartbreaking. Entering the world of the intriguing Saba Hafezi and her friends in a seaside village in northern Iran, I lost my heart.” —Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation
“Captivating. It reminds us how storytelling can save our lives. A brilliant debut.”—Michelle Huneven, author of Blame