Sunday, 30 December 2012

Other Lives, Other Ways

A few weeks ago, I promised I would let you know how I enjoyed the book I was reading. It was an odd impluse buy. I was watching an episode of QI, was curious about the name of one of the panel, just couldn't catch it right, went to look her up, and discovered she'd written a book. Now, I knew nothing about this lady, Shappi Khorsandi,  other than that she was a comedian, and certainly she was pleasantly amusing on the show. But the book description intrigued me, so I immediately bought it:

A Beginner's Guide to Acting English

The book describes the way in which young Khorsandi experiences England as a young girl. Her story commences with her attending nursery school, The Kings' International Nursery School, with her brother, Peyvand. Throughout the book, she explains the ways in which the Iranian language differs from English: "They called me ‘poppet’. Iranians said 'jaan' or 'azizam'." She also takes pride in how her father took English classes and was praised for his affinity with the written word. She also felt he was able to be more humorous in Farsi. Other themes include her experiences with English food and customs, the war between Iran and Iraq as well as the hostilities that she and her family encounter. For example, she often becomes labelled as a terrorist.

Well, it's quite a bit more than that - this doesn't do it justice at all. It's an absolutely wonderful read, actually. I am always fascinated by the story of the immigrant, being one myself, but I had such an easy ride of it. I didn't have to learn a new language, I was extremely welcome in my adopted homeland and was at no time discriminated against for being different. In fact in almost 20 years the hardest thing I've had to face is needing to spell the word STRAW on the phone to make myself understood. 

Shappi's story is very different indeed, and yet anyone can relate to her early school experience. It is as things change in Iran that we learn so much from her perspective. It is incredibly powerful. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you have any interest in any aspect of what I've just described, are interested in recent history, are a people watcher - a student of the human condition, or simply love a good memoir, you need this one. 


  1. Thank you for your recommendation, Mel. I shall keep my radar tuned for it, as the circumstances converge. ;) ~ Blessings!

  2. Another one to add to my wish list...

    1. You'll love it, I promise. You'll laugh AND cry.