The Cypress Tree by Kamin Mohammadi: Book Review

‘We Iranians are like the cypress tree. We may bend and bend on the wind but we will never break’ 

 What it says on the back:

Kamin Mohammadi was nine years old when her family fled Iran during the 1979 revolution. Bewildered by the seismic changes in her homeland, she turned her back on the past and spent her teenage years trying to fit in with British attitudes to family, food and freedom. She was twenty-seven before she returned to Iran, drawn inexorably back by memories of her grandmother’s house in Abadan, with its traditional inner courtyard, its noisy gatherings and its very walls seeped in history. The Cypress Tree is Kamin’s account of her journey home, to rediscover her Iranian self and to discover for the first time the story of her family: a sprawling clan that sprang from humble roots to bloom during the affluent, Bibi-clad 1960s, only to be shaken by the horrors of the Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War and the heartbreak of exile, and toughened by the struggle for democracy that continues today.


Mohammadi’s vivid narrative brings the sound and taste of Iran to the reader, she brings the history of Iran to life in a way that at least I have not seen, read or heard before and provides a first-hand insight to the experiences of the revolution and Iran’s development to a near Middle Eastern superpower. Even to those like myself who are widely read on Iran, Kamin brings something new to the fore. She writes from a personal perspective, of what she felt, heard and experienced around her, with the Iranian culture illuminating from every page. You find an understanding of Iran and Iranians through each sector of society from upper to lower classes, which for a half Iranian herself was enlightening. The exiled second generation Iranians all know what happened in 1979 but rarely do we get an articulate first hand insight as this.

Mohammadi writes with charming Farsi interspersed in her story, and you soon hear yourself reading like an Iranian. There is definitely something about Iran that gets under your skin and does not leave you. In the words of Mohammadi:

‘Our culture and our history continue to enrich the souls of new Iranians born to families far from home, and from Los Angeles to Perth, a  new generation of Iranians are growing up with a longing they can hardly understand, a heart beating with the yearning to visit the land of our ancestors, to lie under a tree in the soft sunlight and become intoxicated by the fragrance of jasmine and orange blossom – to repossess our own personal paradise’.

I could not help but feel a little envy as I read her story and how so immersed in Iranian culture Kamin was while growing up and continues to be. The Cypress Tree is a book that provides an opening to Iran that people in the West have never encountered until now. It’s a book for politicians, for teachers; for Iranians; for non Iranians; for anyone who wants to know the real Iran.

Effective change can not come in Iran without fully understanding Iranians themselves and especially their patriotism for their country, despite who is currently governing their land. The Cypress Tree brings that understanding to our fingertips.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ruby slippers
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 20:32:48

    I have never heard of this book and would love to read it. It sounds interesting. Thank you for making it known and writing a blog about it! X


  2. Ruby slippers
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 20:38:19

    Actually I’ve just read the quote again about bending in the wind but never breaking. I like that philosophy, it will be good for everyone to keep that in mind through the trials of life to keep us going. X


  3. Hassan Azarian
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 02:08:52

    when I read Cypress Tree, I had some feeling that those words are not just a word , I could see those moments, I could feel it even I can say I could touch those moments. As many time I read it, I find some thing new . lovely, understanding , touching and graet books. Thanks to all , specially to Kamin Mohammadi who wrote that book. Hassan Azarian.


  4. shaman
    Oct 08, 2011 @ 11:23:49

    I do not get the impression that the author is half Iranian. If anything her wholeness of being Iranian is what makes the book so powerful!


  5. alphabetgames
    Oct 08, 2011 @ 18:57:48

    Kamin Mohammadi is full Iranian yet she grew up in England and wrote Cypress Tree while searching for her Iranian roots. That is why I believe her books appeals so much to the exiled Iranians in the West, particularly Britain.


  6. Trackback: What I have been reading lately | Neil's Commonplace Book

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