ROOTS IN IRAN was written, according to the author, Yasmine Mahdavi, “to her thirteen-year-old self,” a gift of strong and intelligent female role models who share her Iranian-American roots. Any preteen or teenager, however, might find this book useful both as a source of inspiration and encouragement, and as a source of information on people who have helped shape the world we live in. Mahdavi’s writing style is clear, concise, and straightforward, talking about each woman’s history, personal experiences, dreams and achievements in language that makes their life stories accessible and engaging. The women profiled come from a variety of fields, athletic, artistic, academic and civic, and kids with all sorts of interests and ambitions will find someone here to relate to.
The author appeals to adolescent attention spans and wide-ranging curiosity by providing regular, colorful sidebars containing information on a wide range of relevant topics, from the Iranian revolution to life on the International Space Station. Each story is accompanied by a colorful and creative portrait of the woman in question, done by women artists with roots in the Middle East – these are full of character and personality, and do an excellent job of bringing their subjects to vivid life. While the use of color in the book is often quite valuable in illustrating a particular concept being discussed, it should be noted that some of the sidebars are in a paler shade of red or purple that make them more difficult to read, and that the fonts can be very small, making the book less accessible to those with vision problems.
There are discussion questions in the back intended to help young readers relate the stories they’ve been reading to their own lives, and to get them to understand political, social, and scientific issues from a more personal perspective. Some of these are substantial, requiring considerable thought and argument from the student – others are a bit more simplistic, asking students to describe times they “took a chance” or “competed for something”. A few of the questions seem downright leading, asking kids, for example, “Do you think it is important to advocate for your rights and for the rights of those different from you?” and at least one of them, asking the reader to write both a defense of and an opposing argument for Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, might go a bit too far beyond “thought-provoking” and into “problematic”, especially for students who are themselves Muslim. Still, there are plenty of good and thought-provoking questions here to get kids thinking seriously about a range of difficult and sometimes controversial issues.
A useful, informative, and inspiring text for preteens and teen, ROOTS IN IRAN offers a wide range of intelligent, creative, and determined female role models, plus relevant information on related topics, from chess to soccer to Nowruz celebrations, all beautifully illustrated and presented in attention-grabbing fashion.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader