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    total reorientation

    “[T]o really integrate into a culture, I can tell you that you have to disintegrate first, at least partially, from your own.” The creation of Kimia Sadr’s individuality set against her Iranian and French backgrounds, Disoriental, Négar Djavadi’s debut novel, is as fresh as a newly fertilized egg. Born in 1969 in Tehran, Kimia Sadr is the youngest of Darius and Sara’s three daughters. Kimia is born for a second time in French, when she is ten, after her mother and sisters follow Darius to exile in Paris. Instead of Kimia, she becomes Kimi, with a chance to make up an identity all her own. She tells her story from front to back, beginning in the waiting room of a Parisian in vitro clinic and filling in her history back to her family’s roots in Iran. Although her father refers to the French as “them,” Kimia candidly narrates in the first person, addressing, “you,” her (mostly) French audience. She grows up steeped in rebellion, her parents intellectuals and protesters against the imperialist regimes of the Shah and Khomeini. She, too, rebels against growing up, against becoming a woman, against the past, against speaking, against assigned roles. The intimacy of her tone - including conversational phrases like, “for your sake…,” “let’s linger for a minute” - shows how far she comes from pushing against, keeping her distance; her “love disability,” as she calls it, to welcoming new life. Disoriental is a total reorienting along free associations. The novel is difficult to categorize. Based on the author’s life, it is personal memoir and political history layered betwixt and between each other. But it is also a collage of indie music and cinema, books and subculture references. It is literature on drugs, a stream of consciousness dialogue that only makes sense taken as a whole. Juxtapositions structure the book: the conversational tone and Kimi’s proclivity for hiding, Kimi waiting in the in vitro office and her father’s escapades, her birth and her grandmother’s death, coming out to herself and the 1979 revolution, 9/11 and reuniting with her girlfriend Anna, leaving Iran and Iranian New Year’s. While seeming coincidences, these pairings inform each other, forging new meanings and a unique genre of storytelling. Toward the end, the novel becomes more linear the happier Kimia becomes. She becomes the person she envisions herself to be: a music mixer. She masters sounds as Djavadi masters a new style of prose. Disoriental delights and challenges the literary palette with a one of a kind tale of one woman’s coming of age amidst Iran’s tumultuous recent past.
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