This stunning literary debut paints a vivid portrait of growing up, discovering love, and awakening to the reality of life in a nation on the verge of revolution in the 1970s. Rooftops of Tehran opens in a middle-class neighborhood in Iran’s sprawling capital city. The rooftop of the narrator’s house – the tallest in their alley − is the perfect spot for sleeping on hot summer nights. It’s also the perfect location for stargazing, sneaking cigarettes, talking about American movies, and confiding, analyzing and agonizing through the typical trials of being a seventeen year-old boy, including being in love. This is the spot from which the narrator quietly watches his secret love, his beautiful next door neighbor Zari, promised since birth to his friend and mentor, nicknamed Doctor, a man adored and respected by the whole neighborhood. It is from this high perch that the narrator witnesses the SAVAK’s brutal hunt and arrest of Doctor and realizes the oppressiveness of the regime under which he resides. And the rooftop is where the narrator and Zari ultimately find quiet refuge in each other after the shock of Doctor’s senseless fate ripples through their close-knit community and brings about terrible, unexpected repercussions.
With the candor only an Iranian can offer, Seraji’s narrative bares the enduring struggle between beauty and brutality infused into the centuries-old Persian culture while reaffirming the human experiences we all share: contentment, terror, love, helplessness, ferocity, and hope.
I have finished reading this book about a year ago and I was fascinated by. So much that after finishing I wrote to the author to ask if there is going to be a sequel to it. It is captivating and gripping in an innocent, gentle, yet somehow frightening way. You feel the urge to read on cheering for love, fearing for love, involved in so many shades and layers of mesmerizing Iranian culture and customs. It is a book that will leave you wanting for more, not because there is something missing, but because you get drawn into it so much you don’t want it to end. I wholeheartedly recommend everyone reading this book.