National Geographic recently released Taking Cover: One Girl’s Story of Growing Up During the Iranian Revolution by Nioucha Homayoonfar. The author relives her childhood and shares her perspective of a changing Iran. Through her tales, we see a typical girl trying to adjust to unimaginable situations that most cannot even comprehend.
Nioucha was born in Pittsburgh to an Iranian father and French mother. In 1976, when she was five, her family moves to Iran to be closer to her father’s family. While the move across the globe is a major adjustment, it doesn't compare to how life changes in 1979 with the Iranian Revolution. The freedoms Nioucha had enjoyed such as listening to music and dressing as she wishes disappear, and the world becomes one with executions and brutal imprisonments.
The book does not get into the history beyond what the girl perceives. It wisely focuses on one girl’s perspective and the various emotions that she faces. Even as her situation becomes more and more difficult, her love of her city and family are evident. As a reader, everytime you ask “why are they staying?,” she tells you a touching story of her family that reminds you that it is easier said than done.
My favorite chapter is when her Iranian family celebrates Christmas to make Nioucha and her mother comfortable in their new world. While they may not have gotten the details right, their efforts are heartwarming as their ecumenical spirit is a stark contrast against the oppressive regime.
Growing up is hard, even without having to worry about being arrested for showing a piece of skin or strand of hair. But outrageous moments are surrounded by more typical stories of young love or attending school. It helps remind us that even as the world changes, individuals keep living their lives. When Nioucha eventually is able to leave, you feel a great sense of relief that she will soon know the imperfect freedoms of the United States. But you also sense Nioucha’s loss of leaving her friends, family, and home behind. She has to live her 1976 adjustment in reverse and there is no question that those kinds of things are harder in high school.
It is not a spoiler to reveal that Nioucha had a happy ending, as she was able to write the book. As a reader it is an emotional journey so I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for her to relive some of those memories. The tears of sadness and joy come easily, and I am glad she told her story. I cannot recommend Taking Cover enough.
FanBoy is a Disney dweeb who has worked at Disneyland and Walt Disney World