Please join us for a reading and discussion with Rabeah Ghaffari—author of TO KEEP THE SUN ALIVE—who will be in conversation with Bill Figueroa!
The year is 1979. The Iranian Revolution is just around the corner, as is a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse. Meanwhile, in the northeastern city of Naishapur, a retired judge and his wife, Bibi, run an ancient orchard, growing apples, plums, peaches, and sour cherries, and looking after several generations of family members. The days here are marked by long, elaborate lunches on the terrace and arguments about government corruption and the rise of religious fundamentalism, peppered with tales of ancient Persia that foreshadow the seismic political changes to come. And yet life continues. Bibi, the matriarch, struggles to keep her family together. Her young nephew goes to university, hoping to lead the fight for a new Iran and marry his childhood sweetheart. Another nephew surrenders to opium, while his father longs for a life in Europe. Her brother-in-law evolves into a powerful Islamic cleric while her husband retreats into intellectual reflection. Told through a host of vivid, unforgettable characters, ranging from children to servants to friends of the family, To Keep the Sun Alive is the kind of compelling, rich story that not only informs the past, but also reminds us of the human aspirations that animate historical events.
“How do we recognize the moment our future has been written for us? In To Keep the Sun Alive, as the Islamic Revolution looms just outside the gate of an Iranian family orchard, Rabeah Ghaffari has built a world so lush, so precise that you will find yourself rewriting history if only to imagine it could still exist.”
—Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing
“A mother struggling to keep her family together despite the ravages of religious and political differences. A young man in search of love in the midst of social upheaval. An exile in Paris, condemned to wrest his beloveds out of dreams. Rabeah Ghaffari’s flawed and beautiful characters will tether you to the tiny, lush orchard in Iran where they begin and end their lives with uncommon grace.”
—Ru Freeman, author of On Sal Mal Lane
RABEAH GHAFFARI was born in Iran and lives in New York City. She is a film editor and writer, whose collaborative fiction with artist Shirin Neshat was featured in Reflections on Islamic Art, and her documentary, The Troupe, featured Tony Kushner. To Keep the Sun Alive is her first novel.
BILL FIGUEROA is a graduate student currently pursuing a PhD in the history department at University of Pennsylvania, with a focus on global Cold War history, and in particular the relationship between Iran and China. Currently, he is working on completing his dissertation on the impact of Chinese political thought on the Iranian revolution and the rise of explicitly Maoist Iranian communist organizations in the aftermath of the Sino-Soviet split.
This event is co-sponsored by the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania!