Cracked Pomegranate

by Fae Bidgoli (Regent Press, $24.95)

From early childhood, Iranian-born author Fae Bidgoli longed for freedom to make her own choices. As a young adult, she finally achieved her dream of coming to America to further her education. A 2003 return visit to her native country revealed a mosque on the site of her beloved childhood home, strengthening her resolve to speak out against the repressive society in which religion invariably trumps desperately-needed education and health, particularly for girls.

As Cracked Pomegranate unfolds, two 13-year old village girls, born a generation apart, hover on the brink of womanhood and marriage. The tale moves fluidly between the two adolescents in time and focus, from the older Fati’s difficult engagement to her mentoring of young Mina, portraying in their similar fates the abysmally-slow pace of progress for women in a patriarchal, religious culture.

Although not a literary masterpiece, Cracked Pomegranate offers a compelling window into the plight that still faces young women in Iranian villages. Mina is based closely on Bidjoli’s early life, while the tragedy of her mentor is all too familiar from news reports in the west: Fati is engaged to be married, a jealous suitor contrives a rape (albeit unsuccessful) and the innocent young woman is blamed. With the aid of some enlightened villagers (Mina’s parents), Fati narrowly escapes death by stoning.

The inequity between male and female depicted in this novel will make you seethe; you’ll also breathe a sigh of relief at your good fortune in being born into a freer culture. But as religious extremists in our own country mount a concerted attack on American women’s right to choose what happens to their bodies, the difficulties encountered by Cracked Pomegranate‘s heroines might not seem so foreign after all. (Abigail Lewis)

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