Review: We Heard the Heavens Then: A Memoir of Iran by Aria Minu-Sepehr

One of the reasons I love reading is because it affords me the opportunity to live so many different lives. Memoirs have more recently become one of my favorite things to read for the way they offer personal insights and, occasionally, an educating look at places and histories we may not be familiar with. It's a gift to be able to learn about different cultures and events through the eyes of someone to whom the experiences meant something monumental. In such a way We Heard the Heavens Then, Aria Minu-Sepehr's account of his young life in Iran during the 1979 revolution, captures the essence of what a memoir can bring to its reader: a unique look at history, a new understanding of a culture, and a powerful story.

More than a meaningful journey into his singular childhood, We Heard the Heavens Then serves as a feeling dedication to the life of Aria’s father, an esteemed general in Iran's Air Force. Through its pages Aria accounts his privileged childhood spent on an air force base, advancing the visual aspect of the story with his aptitude for the subtle, incidental wit of a child's perspective. He carries the delicate narrative through the beginnings of the Iranian Revolution when his life, as well as the lives of families and loved ones, became endangered. Wondering with every passing day if his father will be returned safely home or if the ill-fated inevitable will really occur, a ten year-old Aria balances new schools, cities, cultures and the tumultuous understanding of youth coming of age, all the while finding solace in hope during a time of harrowing unrest.

We Heard the Heavens Then affected me in a lot of ways. I felt in it the earnestness with which Aria wished to pay tribute to the country and people he loved, as he wanted to remember them. I was enthralled in the way he leads the reader to a better understanding of what his life was like during such a difficult time, as well as the lives of others around him in various social positions. But additionally, I felt in the book a son's intense desire to introduce the world, as much as he's able, to the greatest fixture of his life: his father. Aria colorfully illustrates the character of the man who paved his own understanding of the world, his own desire to do good things, and he leaves the reader impassioned by his efforts.

To surmise (something I'm never able to do, but I do try): We Heard the Heavens Then is a motivation to embrace life to its fullest, to stand for what you believe in, and to always hold on to hope. It's a book that will not fail, I think, to entirely captivate whoever reads it. And it's a reading experience you'll not soon forget.