The Canvas: Excerpt from "They Said They Wanted Revolution"
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Type of Work34 p.
ProgramMaster of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction
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When I decided to tell the story of my parents, I realized that it required heavy research and investigation. My father’s execution, which took place on January 25, 1983, in Iran, and my mother and my own escape from that country, could not be divorced from history or politics. The story didn’t have emotional resonance without this context: they were part of a group of Iranian revolutionaries radicalized at Berkeley during the height of the anti-Vietnam War era. Since all revolutions are born out of history and politics, my research had to be expansive. And because all revolutions are personal, it also had to be focused. I had to create a chapter, early in the narrative, that gave the reader a background in Iranian and American history from 1953 into the 1970s. The excerpt, reproduced below, attempts to ground the reader, so they have a clear sense of time and place. At the same time, I had to tell a complicated history quickly as not to bore or overwhelm the reader. Since I am neither historian nor political philosopher nor US-Iran policy expert, I had to begin my research at the beginning. I had to get my head around the entire history, so I started with secondary sources. I read great big books, including several biographies of the Iranian monarchy, histories of the CIA and America’s Middle East policy and more. I tried to choose authors who were objective, as well as others with a clear points-of-view. Next I turned to academic journals and graduate dissertations. From there I went after primary sources. I scoured old newspapers, legal cases, and the national security archives. I searched archival news footage and watched documentaries. I contacted presidential libraries and university archives. I read through my mother’s oral history and interviewed family members and friends. Then, to verify each account, I went back and crosschecked facts. In the end, it was research that transformed this memoir.