Acclaimed poet Nilofar Shidmehr’s debut story collection is an unflinching look at the lives of women in post-revolutionary Iran and the contemporary diaspora in Canada.
The stories begin in 1978, the year before the Iranian Revolution. In a neighbourhood in Tehran, a group of affluent girls play a Cinderella game with unexpected consequences. In the mid 1980s, women help their husbands and brothers survive war and political upheaval. In the early 1990s in Vancouver, Canada, a single-mother refugee is harassed by the men she meets on a telephone dating platform. And in 2003, a Canadian woman working for an international aid organization is dispatched to her hometown of Bam to assist in the wake of a devastating earthquake.
At once powerful and profound, Divided Loyalties depicts the rich lives of Iranian women and girls in post-revolutionary Iran and the contemporary diaspora in Canada; the enduring complexity of the expectations forced upon them; and the resilience of a community experiencing the turmoil of war, revolution, and migration.
NILOFAR SHIDMEHR is a poet, essayist, and scholar, and the author of six books in English and Farsi, including Between Lives and Shirin and Salt Man, a BC Book Prize finalist. She writes and delivers lectures on women’s rights, migration and diaspora, and social and political issues in Iran. A specialist in literature and cinema of modern Iran, she teaches in the Continuing Studies program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, where she lives with her husband.
PRAISE FOR NILOFAR SHIDMEHR AND DIVIDED LOYALTIES:
“Showcases an impressive range.” — Vancouver Sun
“Divided Loyalties offers an in-depth view into the complex traditions, taboos, and social mores of Iranian society from the 1970s to the present day.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“A masterpiece, uniting a feminist and political discourse with the questions of identity and migration in astonishing prose … If one has not already, now is the time to read Divided Loyalties.” — Empty Mirror
“Nilofar Shidmehr’s stories are not only engaging and challenging, but truly revolutionary.” — Temz Review
“Divided Loyalties should be required reading.” — Refinery29
“Shidmehr’s sentences are complex and packed with information, at once crystal clear and highly nuanced, metaphoric and ruthlessly specific, held together by powerfully resonant central images that reverberate retroactively and knit together many levels of reference and meaning … These are stories of ordinary lives, starkly rendered and held in tender suspension, often between a ‘home’ which is beloved yet toxic, and an ‘away’ that is lonely and insulting in its oppressiveness. Panoramic yet intimate, they enact a kind of investigative surgery, each one plunging beneath the surface of a situation and penetrating it to the cellular level before re-emerging only a few minutes or hours later to reveal the context surrounding what has come to pass.” — EVENT Magazine
“A deeply felt portrait of a particular place and its people … The stark, protean beauty of Shidmehr’s writing recalls the shape-shifting work of Denis Johnson’s collection Jesus’ Son … Shidmehr’s is a necessary, feminist voice that is at once defiant and humbling.” — Quill & Quire, starred review
“Iran is a complicated country with thousands of years of history. In Divided Loyalties, with a deft hand, Nilofar Shidmehr takes us through the suffering of its people over the last four decades. An important book that sheds light on how a people can survive their darkest years.” — Marina Nemat, author of Prisoner of Tehran
“Shidmehr narrates the lives of her characters with as much fluid intensity and grace as they are lived.” — Musharraf Ali Farooqi, author of Between Clay and Dust
“These complex and intimate stories of Iranian women are like nothing I’ve ever read before. Nilofar Shidmehr’s perspective is wise, unique, and compelling.” — Farzana Doctor, author of All Inclusive
“Divided Loyalties weaves rich and complex stories spanning decades of Iran’s contemporary history and provides an intimate glimpse of lives scattered across different worlds. The stories of the characters in these pages speak to the universal experience of love, loss, and longing.” — Payam Akhavan, author of In Search of a Better World
“A stunningly intimate portrait of the lives of Iranian women. Tenderly observed and hauntingly portrayed, Nilofar Shidmehr’s stories of love, loss, and exile shine with a rare grace.” — Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of Among the Ruins
“Nilofar Shidmehr is a master storyteller. Divided Loyalties shows girls and women at the intersection of place and time during pre- and post-revolutionary Iran. Each of these carefully examined lives is a fierce flame that will startle and burn in the memory long after you’ve finished this book.” — Maureen Medved, author of Black Star
“Each story in Divided Loyalties is like a new window into Iran’s complex post-revolutionary history, its hardships as well as its beauties, its griefs as well as its unwavering will to survive. A touching, fascinating read.” — Sahar Delijani, author of Children of the Jacaranda Tree
“Nilofar Shidmehr’s collection of short stories is accurately titled. The divided loyalties that torment these Persian women, whether they are still living in Iran or have emigrated to Canada, is her painful subject matter, and Shidmehr examines every nuance of it in fiction that is fierce, meticulously observed, beautifully crafted, and authoritative. A stunning work.” — Keith Maillard, author of Gloria and Twin Studies
“Nilofar Shidmehr offers to readers deep stories of complex Iranian women characters. They are compassionate, strong, and determined. This is a beautifully written collection with poetic language.” — Monia Mazigh, author of Hope Has Two Daughters
“Shidmehr’s intimate tone adds a special poignancy to these stories of women harbouring secrets.” — Rabindranath Maharaj, author of The Amazing Absorbing Boy
“In bold and uncompromising prose, Shidmehr’s stories move between Iran and Canada, and compel us to reflect on complex issues of class, gender, and racial inequities.” — Nima Naghibi, author of Women Write Iran: Nostalgia and Human Rights from the Diaspora
PRAISE FOR NILOFAR SHIDMEHR AND SHIRIN AND SALT MAN (collected poems):
Finalist, Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (BC Book Prizes)
PRAISE FOR NILOFAR SHIDMEHR AND BETWEEN LIVES (collected poems):
“These poems speak plainly of mothers, of daughters, of lovers, but always beneath each simple story is the pulse of an intelligent, sensuous desire. These poems are feminist, moist, fragrant! Each word bursts, ripe in the mouth, like pomegranate.” — Sonnet L’Abbé, author of Killarnoe and A Strange Relief
“Shidmehr’s direct voice and unflinching gaze put her among such great activist poets as Martín Espada, Dionne Brand, and Pablo Neruda. With a clear gaze and arresting imagery, Shidmehr brings to light the violence and injustice of women’s lives in Iran and in the diaspora. Fully wrought and deeply personal, this is a necessary book by an accomplished writer.” — Elizabeth Bachinsky, author of The Hottest Summer in Recorded History and I Don’t Feel So Good
“These poems are the untold stories of contemporary Persian women’s lives, lives portrayed with intimacy and lyricism, despite their subjugation. These are poetic meditations that only a poet simultaneously intimate with a place, and exiled from it, can offer.” — Rachel Rose, author of the award-winning collection Song & Spectacle