Past Tense

Read in Solidarity with the People of Iran

Hi historical fiction fans!

Normally I would talk about how excited I am that it’s finally fall and that a nice autumn breeze is starting to fill the air here in the Southern United States. But you’ve seen the subject line of this week’s newsletter. You know what’s going on. (Or, at least, I hope you will after reading this newsletter.) And it just feels disingenuous to talk about the weather. I hope you’re all staying safe. I hope you’re all staying strong. I hope you’re all being good to one another. Let’s get into it.

Bookish Goods

Bookish Calendar from Etsy, source:

Literary Desktop Calendar

Keep your love of books with you every day with this gorgeous literary desktop calendar from Obvious State. $12

New Releases

The Deception Book Cover

The Deception by Kim Taylor Blakemore (September 27, 2022)

A former child medium who has fallen on hard times looks to a woman who knows all the spiritualist trickery and deception that would help fill Maud’s parlor again. But Maud was once a true believer, and as those determined to expose spiritualism’s fraud creep ever closer, she must reckon with the choices she’s made–and the dangerous friends she’s tied her fate and fortunes to.

Shrines of Gaiety

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson (September 27, 2022)

Following the Great War, a glittering new nightlife takes over London, and one woman is determined to see her six children become the stars in the clubs of 1920s SoHo. But success breeds enemies, and underneath this world of dances and drinks, a dark underbelly of corruption and greed lie in wait.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling powerless when I see atrocities taking place throughout the world. And I find myself once again in that position following the death of Jina Amini (also known by her Iranian name, Mahsa), a Kurdish woman brutally beaten by the morality police in Tehran for improper hijab. Her death has led to mass protests, with people taking to the streets and cutting their hair. In response, the government has cut off internet access, arrested upwards of 1,200 people and killed dozens more, including children, according to Amnesty International.

What I’ve seen time and time again in the last few days regarding how to help the people of Iran is to keep talking about what’s going on; to amplify their voices; to not let the Iranian government and the world sweep this under the rug. So let’s keep talking, let’s keep supporting the people of Iran, and let’s read some Kurdish and Iranian historical fiction as we stand in solidarity with the brave people risking–and losing–their lives amidst this humanitarian crisis.

Take What You Can Carry Book Cover

Take What You Can Carry by Gian Sardar

An aspiring photojournalist in Los Angeles follows her Kurdish boyfriend home to northern Iraq for a wedding where she hopes to acquire a better understanding of his childhood and heritage. But the reality of a town patrolled by the military and under constant threat takes her by surprise. Still there is so much love and beauty here, and when she captures a tragic moment on film, she must find the courage to stand up even with all their lives upended and on the line.

Note: This book takes place in Iraq, not Iran, but deals with Kurdish history, which is inextricably tied to the ongoing protests in Iran as Jina Amini was a Kurdish woman.

The Stationery Shop Book Cover

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali

Amidst the upheaval of 1950s Tehran, a dreamy teenager finds reprieve–and love– in Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood stationery shop, full of books and pens and colorful ink. But just before Roya is to marry her betrothed, Bahman, violence erupts, the result of a coup that changes the course of the country irrevocably. Sixty years later, after moving on and immigrating to New England, Roya finally comes face to face with the man she once loved and can ask the questions she has always held in her heart: what happened to you, why did you leave, and how could you forget me?

To Keep the Sun Alive Book Cover

To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari

On an orchard in the small Iranian city of Naishapur, a former judge and his wife tend to their fruit and generations of family on the eve of the Islamic Revolution, watching first hand as corruption and extremism change the face of their country.

More Iranian historical fiction to check out: The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, The Immortals of Tehran by Ali Araghi, Disoriental by NĂ©gar Djavadi, and Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading The Gospel of Wellness by Rina Raphael. What about you?