On Two Feet and Wings by Abbas Kazerooni
I guess it is only to be expected. The early refugees from Iran and Iraq are now adult, settled and wanting to tell the story of their escape. And those stories are going to be much more real if released as biographies. Look at Mao’s Last Dancer for example. Who knows if a dancer can really write, but certainly he can get published and read. This time it is a California lawyer who is telling the story of his escape from Iran after the Shah.
Abbas was only 9 when the laws changed to allow boys over 8 years old to be drafted into the army. Because his family had once been wealthy and worked within the Shah’s regime, Abbas was sure to be targeted. His only option was to escape to Istanbul and hope for a visa to England. Plans were put in place, but at the last minute, his mother was refused permission to leave the country. So Abbas boarded a plane alone and soon found himself a young man in Turkey. Suddenly he had to decide for himself who to trust, how to survive, and how to deal with bureaucracy. Fortunately, Abbas was an intelligent and inventive young man. He chose his friends well, far better than his father did. His age gained him support, especially when the consul had a son about the same age.
In retelling his story, Abbas may have placed the rose coloured lenses in his glasses, because compared to some of the other stories I have read recently about children alone in the big wide world, he was certainly very lucky. The heartbreak of leaving his parents is clear, and so is the debt this man owes a certain taxi driver and hotel owner.
Regardless of this, it was a good read. Not too harsh for younger children, and that is really a change. Most of these refugee stories are stark and cruel. This one focusses on the goodness of man, no matter where they are found.