By Afschineh Latifi
Photo by Heather Laszlo
Photo by Heather Laszlo
EVEN AFTER ALL THIS TIME: A Story of Love, Revolution, and Leaving Iran (ReganBooks; March 29, 2005; Hardcover; $24.95), is Afschineh Latifi’s emotionally gripping account of life before and after Islamic fundamentalists took power in Iran. At the heart of the story is her mother’s tremendous courage in risking all that she had, including her life, to make sure that her children survived and thrived. Afschineh’s tale is all the more poignant because she was just ten years old when her father was executed.
Growing up in Iran during the seventies, Afschineh, along with her older sister and two younger brothers, enjoyed a life of wealth and luxury. Her father was a self-made man who had worked his way up through the military ranks to become a colonel in the Shah’s army. Her mother, Fatemeh Jalilian, was both beautiful and intelligent, with aspirations of becoming a doctor. Deeply in love, their relationship was not the norm at the time. Rather than demand that his wife abandon her teaching career and dedicate herself to the household, Afschineh’s father was proud of Fatemeh’s accomplishments and encouraged her to continue working.
Living in a large home in an upper-class neighborhood of Tehran, Afschineh and her siblings were enrolled in the best private schools. They enjoyed skiing vacations, piano and dance lessons, horseback riding, and frequent visits to the movie theater and local amusement parks. All that changed following the Shah’s flight from Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini’s return from exile to rule the country.
Singled out as an “Enemy of God” because he was part of
the military elite, Colonel Latifi was arrested in February 1979. Over
the next few months, he was shunted from prison to prison. During that
time, his wife begged, pleaded, and bribed her way past insolent guards
in order to see him. Somehow they managed to smuggle small love notes
back and forth.
Compellingly written, EVEN AFTER ALL THIS TIME details the difficulties the girls encountered as they attempted to acclimate to America. Moving in with their relatives, who lived in Virginia, they once again felt like “geeky” outsiders. Learning English from cartoons and commercials, they struggled academically and socially at school. Adding to their misery was their uncle’s growing resentment over their presence in his home. As they navigated adolescence and young adulthood on their own, the sisters drew strength from their mother’s admonishment that they were “the daughters of a soldier; soldiers are brave, they don’t cry.”
Afschineh recalls that they had no choice but to take command of their lives. From finding part-time jobs, to getting their driver’s licenses, finishing high school, attending college, and eventually escaping their uncle’s hostility by moving into their own apartment, the sisters bravely handled each new challenge, but at a cost. The overwhelming responsibility of virtually raising themselves had stripped from them any semblance of a childhood. Yet, there were laughter and happy times as they made friends and established a small social network.
Simultaneously, their mother, who was still living in Iran, was forced to sell off all of the family’s belongings in order to survive. Continuously frustrated in her efforts to obtain visas for herself and her sons, she managed to remain optimistic and put on a brave front for the sake of the girls. Finally, in May 1987, Mrs. Latifi and the two boys made their way to America, joyfully reuniting with Afschineh and Afsaneh.
As they readjusted to being a family, many hurdles still lay ahead. Ultimately, Afsaneh became a doctor, fulfilling her mother’s longtime dream, while Afschineh got her law degree. Their younger brothers followed them into the medical and legal professions. In 1995, Afschineh returned briefly to Iran where she visited her father’s grave for the first time and began to make some sense out of all that had transpired since his death. Today, at 35, the same age her mother was when she became a widow, Afschineh is an attorney living in New York City.
EVEN AFTER ALL THIS TIME is the moving account of a family that, despite seemingly insurmountable odds, persevered and made their dreams come true. In the telling, Afschineh Latifi, her sister, and their mother emerge as women of indomitable strength, courage, and resiliency whose incredible story is certain to inspire readers everywhere.
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EVEN AFTER ALL THIS TIME
Afschineh Latifi Gallery